Last updated on February 27th, 2022
As far as copywriter skills go, growth is integral to everything we do.
Whether it is adding “offer optimization” to our process or mastering the art of helping course creators re-launch with confidence, we’re always looking to grow.
However, growth isn’t linear or one-dimensional and while growing by focusing on one niche may be the popular choice… how about you do something that’s counter-cultural.
Let’s be clear. Cross-skilling isn’t a new concept. It’s been part of the corporate manifesto and widely used for years.
In fact… We got up, close, and cozy with cross-skilling the very first time as cubicle champions.
Flashback: Mayank and I worked together in American Express. We started in the customer service department but thanks to a cross-skilling initiative that we were both selected for, we got to experience Training, Analytics, HR, Management, and more.
That is how I realized I love training and Mayank loves management. 👩🏻💻👨🏻💻
*cut to present-day*
Today, as entrepreneurs, chances are you are cross-skilled in many ways. You just don’t realize it.
So, let’s explain what IS cross-skilling.
Cross-skilling is the pairing of in-demand skills that complement your current service repertoire. This helps you to offer your clients a more well-rounded experience and increase your retention rate.
The BIG advantage of cross-skilling is…
… it supports your current niche and area of expertise while helping you bring more tangible value to the table – allowing you to raise your rates and charge more per project.
For too long, freelancer models have been plonked into cut-and-dry categories:
1) the generalist – aka Jack-and-Jill of all trades
2) the agency/white label model or
3) the dominant trend du jour… niching
Niching may be the long-standing Blair-Waldorf-style Queen Bee who rules the school.
BUT cross-skilling is the queen of cool Serena van der Woodsen who walks in like she owns the place – full of quiet confidence.
Cross-skilling offers copywriters an easy-going but strategic middle ground.
Breaking away from strict devotion to your primary niche so you can better serve and support your dream clients with a more holistic service experience.
Pssst! Want to catch the Cross-skilling Cold Brew Conversion replay of my chat with Kathy Young, of Rekindle Communications? Click here
Ready for a change from the same ol’, same ol’?
Read on and learn how cross-skilling can help you add more to your copywriter skills:
- Upgrade your client experience – Create a more holistic and comprehensive client experience for your BFF client who needs more support.
- Grow your project pipeline and up your retention rate – Increase your project scope and intentionally widen your skillset.
- Raise your rates – When you demonstrate tangible value, it gives you the grounds to confidently raise your rates and charge more per project.
- Position like a pro – Sharpen your competitive side and spice up stodgy positioning statements by combining skills that play to your strengths and give your clients the extra support your clients need – stat.
Cross-skilling is more than just making sure that Susan from accounting has vacation coverage; it’s a way to ensure workforces remain agile and flexible enough to endure (and survive) organizational shuffling and restructuring.
YOU, as a freelancer, can easily apply this concept to your business.
Essentially cross-skilling strengthens your copywriter skills with another layer of service to your main offer.
BUT, like all things growth-related, cross-skilling needs to be intentional.
You’re not “collecting” additional skills you can provide and execute at half measure. You’re curating a skillset to serve clients better!
Treat your clients to the Disney client experience
“Whatever you do, do it well.” — Walt Disney
Not everyone loves Disney… but Disney understands the value of the customer experience. Our daughter, for instance, STILL remembers the ice lollies we had only because they were Mickey-shaped.
Disney takes great pains to maximize efficiency and ease while doubling down on delight at every step.
Now, cross-skilling doesn’t promise a pull-out-all-the-stops Disneyfication of the client experience…
…BUT it does take a page from their book by creating a robust support structure to nurture stronger client relationships. And maximizing efficiency, ease, and excitement! 🤩🥳
How do you do this?
Customer Delight Served in Three Different Ways
Being a specialist in more than one area means you can approach a problem from more than one angle while STILL shining like a superstar in your zone of comfortable genius.
PLUS… you have the flexibility to weave in moments of I’ll-pay-you-now delight for your fave clients. ❤️
Let’s say, you’re a virtual assistant who specializes in social media management BUT you’ve now cross-skilled in writing engaging email newsletters.
The next time a favorite client’s retainer is up for renewal, you can let them know that you can now help them with their weekly newsletters for say, $250/email. Ka-ching!
An additional $1000 to your monthly retainer.
Looking Deeper Into Deliverables
Being able to look at your client’s business (from more than one vantage point) means:
✅ You understand the client’s business better- their goals, plans, and challenges.
✅ You approach their business as a strategist, not an order-taker.
Providing another layer of service means your perspective is better informed. You can give critical feedback and analyze your client’s business as a whole (not just your slice).
A sales copywriter with UX skills who can “speak design” and work closely with art directors and design teams gives your client one less thing to worry about, and it lets you seamlessly provide exceptional support.
Looking beyond the deliverable means you show up as an equal with a mindset to help solve more than one headache for your clients.
Increase your Project Scope and Client Lifetime Value
(AKA the stuff copywriter dreams are made of)
As the scope of your services and skills grow, so too will the average length of your project AND increase the lifecycle of your client relationship as you become more involved in multiple areas of their business.
Whether you’re providing social media copy and creating the graphics OR creating web copy and helping with list nurturing – it’s miles easier to slip into another role when you’ve already laid the groundwork (and it’s a no-brainer for your client).
You want to be seen as a profitable asset – not an expense.🙌🏼🙌🏼
When you show up as a trusted resource, the turnover of your sales pipeline extends and becomes naturally renewable.
Clients feel like you are there for them for the long haul. They’re ready to invest in you because you’ve proven yourself to be an asset.
Future-Proof Those Copywriter Skills with Cross-Skilling
If you’re hesitant to switch things up or belong to the “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought, there’s another reason to adopt cross-skilling – future-proofing.
With the significant influx of remote work and more people seeking alternatives to the in-office 9-5, it’s become HARD to get noticed.
In an article for Fast Company, Tomas Pueyo, Vice President of Growth, Course Hero, talks about the issue with crowded competition:
“Fifty years ago you just needed to be the best in town to be successful,” says Pueyo. “Competing with 100,000 people might be hard, but it was doable. Today you’re competing with seven billion people. You’ll never be the best; the only way to stand out is to create your unique combination.”
Layering and combining your skills is another way to temper the staggering competitive volume.
Do a search for brand copywriter.
You’ll see about 21,100,000 results.
Now, do a search for brand copywriter and funnel strategist.
That number goes down. By a lot.
Now add-on something else, like brand and sales page copywriters and funnel strategists.
Yes… I know It’s not empirical evidence by any means and that number will fluctuate, but there’s a clear trend.
Layering and combining tailored and well-matched services (or skills) narrows down the search pool AND prevents you from getting overlooked in additional support areas.
For example, online course creators generally need sales pages, but often that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
At Content Bistro, we often do more than big tickets items such as launch copy, emails and opt-in pages. ALL our packages come built-in with strategic support, offer optimization, and marketing and sales.
PLUS we offer collateral conversion copy (aka blog post writing, long-form posts, webinar outlining, social media captions) as add-ons.
Do we offer these add-ons to everyone? No.
Do you find them on our site? Nope.
But we want to feel good about the work we do, AND we want our clients to feel they have everything they need to be confident about their launch.
Having an area of specialty (and sticking to it) is good. Adding a skill that complements your speciality is GREAT!
Side-Step Scope Creep with a Suite of Skills You Get Paid For
Two words that stir up a cocktail of anxiety and dread in the depths of your soul.
We want a clear, defined container…
… but let’s get real, work and life are messy.
Launches and working with clients is no different.
Projects grow, pivot, and change direction. They don’t always follow a linear, step-by-step progression.
Soon you see Slack messages like “Hey, could you also write up a couple of social media posts to go with that opt-in page? You can use what you’ve already written.” and you groan because now you have to bring up the “This will be an additional $X” conversation.
What IF you pre-empt this “messy middle” in your proposals and indicate that while you can help them with A. B and C, they cost extra.
So, if and when, a client asks for something you’re skilled at but they haven’t paid for… you can easily refer them to the proposal and contract.
Raise Your Rates with Rockstar-Like Confidence
Most freelancers have the inevitable and unenviable task of setting their own prices and raising their rates.
Determining your market worth, how and when to raise your rates is already complicated enough, made even more so with a heady mix of imposter syndrome and all the background internet noise telling you to “charge your worth.”
What exactly is the top floor limit to your rates? Especially if nothing has changed from your client’s perspective? What’s the value?
Cross-skilling helps you pinpoint that value.
You can charge more per project because:
- You provide more than one set of expertise or service option.
- You are offering additional assistance and newly acquired skills for your client’s benefit.
- It’s not all talk. You can demonstrate and execute the extra value you bring to the table.
- You bring substantial value by servicing a support area you know they need.
Simply put, cross-skilling puts you in a stronger position to raise rates.
Now that you know what cross-skilling CAN do.
Let’s talk about what cross-skilling isn’t.
Don’t Confuse Cross-Skilling With…
Being a Generalist
Cross-skilling isn’t the same as a generalist.
Cross skilling is not skill grazing.
A generalist, by definition, has a functional and multifaceted range of knowledge but is average in all things.
So, although you’re broadening your scope, you are doing so intentionally.
You’re going wider with related but specific services and skills not indiscriminately casting your net as wide as possible.
Being a “hobbyist”
You can be a copywriter passionate about calligraphy, foster dogs, AI futurism, and fintech – which, sure, might be awesomesauce for your brand – BUT, if these things don’t relate or overlap on your client’s radar, it’s not cross-skilling.
Cross-skilling is about building skills that overlay the primary niche and is tailored for clients in your field.
Upskilling and Reskilling
Upskilling (in a nutshell) is HR parlance for continued professional development – going deeper and improving in an already familiar area (so you can sharpen your skills and stay competitive).
Reskilling is usually a term used for employees learning another set of skills to help them pivot/enter into a new career or industry or keep pace with the employment landscape.
Not all skills, passions, or competencies get to play.
Cross-skilling is more about careful curation vs. uniform inclusion or an open casting call.
Now that you know what is and isn’t cross-skilling let’s look at HOW you can use cross-skilling as a way to upgrade your copywriter skills.
How to Upgrade Your Copywriter Skills with Cross-Skilling
Cross-skilling is a system of deliberate layering like lasagna.
Just because you have multiple aptitudes and “layers” doesn’t mean you should include them all.
You need to put a pin in your natural zone of genius and marry services you can offer with your client’s top needs.
Before you start collecting certifications and jumping headfirst into a kitchen sink full of skills and courses, you need to start with a steady and focused assessment.
Start with your core offer (or core brand value)
You want to start with your main offer, service, or specialty and build on that.
You create another layer of expertise – it doesn’t have to be on the same level of mastery as your primary niche or service.
Still, you should have intermediate working knowledge and proficiency.
Reflect on your perfect-fit client… who are they?
What do they need when after you complete a project you would typically do for them?
What are their “big plans”?
Consider their common problems and questions and link them back to your core offer (and examine for potential service gaps).
Play to your strengths and take inventory
It’s time to take inventory and KonMari your skillset. You don’t want to offer services you’ll dread AND you need to make sure they are in demand.
- What skills are collecting dust?
- What can you improve?
- What X-factor potential is hiding in the skills closet?
Review what you’re uniquely qualified for and examine things you pick up and grasp quickly:
- What areas do you feel passionate about and enjoy?
- What related skills play to your natural strengths – even with minimal experience?
- How much time can you reasonably invest in sharpening up or learning new skills?
You want to provide support in areas your clients want, but you also want to lean on skills that feel right for you too.
You want similar skills. Not samesies
Once you start to narrow down your list, make sure your services are related but distinct.
You want to find a comparable skill or support area that makes sense and is in sync with your area of specialty.
At the same time, going too granular or offering services that sound indistinguishable can backfire.
The difference should be clear and obvious.
You want to make it easy for clients to decipher the difference between your offers so they can understand the full value each service area brings.
Look for the overlap and find that sweet spot
Cross-skilling means mixing and matching a few of your favorite things – talent, interest, and strengths with support items and additional projects you know your clients need.
It’s cross-referencing the playlist of your greatest hits with your client’s most wanted help-me support wish list.
Consider: What projects are on your client’s back burner and what is urgently on their to-do list? What recurring problems, tasks or themes do you see emerging?
Try to imagine how your current or new skills can qualify you to solve more than one problem for your clients.
Consider what’s currently an issue for them and what they might be unaware of. And how filling that gap can help their business.
Focusing on that area of overlap will help limit your options, so you don’t start an exhaustive laundry list of skills to acquire.
Want to know the best part once you establish your cross-skilling combo?
Cross-skills don’t have to be offered to every.single.client.
You don’t have to hang up a sign advertising your cross-skilling combo.
You don’t need to present it as your “new niche framework” to everyone.
You can be selective and keep it in your back pocket for those extra-special prospects who want to WOW on your next discovery call or share those additional line items in your proposal for dreamboat clients who you love and want to continue working with.
You can treat it as an add-on offer or a secondary set of services and let your main offer be the hero of the day.
You get to decide.
How Kathy Young used cross-skilling to position herself as her clients’ “go-to” copywriter
“I felt like they weren’t getting enough support.”
^^ THAT’s how Kathy Young of Rekindle Communications felt.
She felt like she was “passing off” her clients when they needed help outside her immediate area of expertise.
Frustrated by the single-serve experience she was creating, Kathy wanted to help with their continued success in a more meaningful way.
Kathy was acutely aware that freelancers and service providers are “only a piece of the puzzle.”
She knew that even as she niched down, she still wanted to stay on their radar as a resource in other areas as well and if she was going to contribute to the bigger picture, Kathy needed to understand it better.
That’s why in 2021, Kathy joined Ready to Sell, so she could sharpen her strategist mindset and offer launch copy services in tandem with website copy.
Kathy wasn’t interested in swapping out specialties.
INSTEAD, she wanted to be a profitable resource for her perfect-fit clients. #greatgoal
Extending client relationships came more naturally with an increased scope of services.
She could have conversations about future work and needs earlier – by positioning herself as their “go-to” copywriter.
“It’s been good for me to continue relationships with clients,” says Kathy, “So they don’t have to find a specialist every single time they need something.”
It’s a win for her and it’s a win for her clients.
Her clients don’t have to find someone new and go through the onboarding process repeatedly with each new project, and Kathy lays the foundation to build client relationships on-demand.
Kathy calls the extra support you bring “good business etiquette.”
“Niching is super valuable, but also knowing if you want to continue those relationships you should be mindful of good business etiquette practice… so you can see their success, not only within their scope but in other areas as well.”
Cross-skilling helps Kathy approach projects and relationships with a more well-rounded perspective which creates a more elevated client experience. “If you want to continue client relationships, you may have to build outside your scope.”
Be like Kathy and give your clients an opportunity to continue working with you. Join us in Ready-to-Sell when it opens next!
Is niching part of the “no clients” problem?
Is it time to untangle yourself from niching?
Type in “niching” in Google and you’ll find a baker’s dozen of headlines praising the virtues of niching (and all the failures that come without one) in your search results.
You’ll see things like:
Why your freelancer business won’t succeed without a niche
Why finding your niche is key to your business’ success
To stand out as a freelancer, you need to find your niche
Why most online businesses fail (spoiler alert – you need a niche)
A niche strategy is often referred to by experts as “the” answer to your business needs.
In copywriting circles, it’s the default stock advice for freelancers: pick a niche and quickly plant your flag in it.
Niching DOES have legs to stand on for days.
Focusing on one particular aspect allows you to go deeper in your knowledge well, so you aren’t forever swimming in the shallows.
BUT we gotta be honest about the limitations and hard truths (and the myths of exceptionality).
“Mastery of one skill doesn’t qualify success”
The market is teeming with competition and niching alone isn’t enough.
In Darius Faroux’s blog post, Skill Stacking: A Practical Strategy To Achieve Career Success, he talks about how we “as a society, admire and glorify winners” and shares the benefits of having multiple skills and the pitfalls of singular mastery in one area, “If you’re a one-trick pony, your opportunities are limited. But if you have multiple skills, you’re simply more valuable.”
There’s a lot of “riches in the niches” – but that doesn’t mean those riches are for everyone.
James Clear is now synonymous with habits.
Brene Brown – vulnerability.
Cal Newport – deep work.
It’s an uphill battle to be at the top 1%.
Few of us are that good, most of us are not Michaelangelo.
Simply defining your niche doesn’t cut it and “owning it” doesn’t predicate success.
True genius and greatness are rare, and as much as Mayank might declare tennis to be his sport of choice, he knows he’s no Federer. 😂
Beyond genius and talent, there are multiple factors that get in the way: systemic inequities, issues with access to resources, unseen limitations and gaps to education and training, less-connected networks, and different seasons of life.
That’s why a more tactical play of strengths and cleverly combining your skills can help to make uneven playing fields seem more level.
Use cross-skilling to widen your client attraction net – strategically
With a large borderless online market, it is challenging to stand out. 🤷🏻♀️
Success via niching isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Tim Herrera of New York Times explains, “The idea is that instead of focusing your efforts on becoming singularly great at one specific skill or task, you should strive to get proficient at a few related skills that can be woven together into a wider skill set that does make you singularly good at your profession or some general life ability.”
Anyone, within reason, can find or, with a bit of ingenuity, create their niche. But there has to be an honest discussion about the limits of niching and whether it’s for everyone.
Putting your eggs in one basket
Building your business on a single commoditized skill or career is risky. If you niche-down to the bone, you need to be aware of potential vulnerability. Think of cross-skilling as a type of business insurance.
Seth Godin said, “no niche is too small if it’s yours.”
However, niche viability, scale, and client retention aren’t always down to your own dogged ambition or exceptional talent.
Our clients are only as healthy and viable as the industry and market they operate within.
Industries like real estate, health, and finance go through cyclical transition periods.
More recently, during Covid, industries like hospitality and tourism and small brick and mortar businesses have taken a severe nosedive.
Is your skillset growing with your client’s business?
The other drawback to niching?
Niching narrows your competition pool (to varying degrees) and the service you provide, which, positionally, can be a good thing and save you from distraction, but typically, there’s more than one thing your client needs.
An intense hyper-focus in one area means you might hang your fave clients out to dry at different points and stack the odds against yourself. 😱
A shorter project cycle
When the lifespan for your project is squarely focused on the turnover of one specific problem to fix, the retention for each client is shorter.
Once the project is done, it’s done.
Let’s say, you help busy corporate coaches write and optimize their LinkedIn profiles. You’re going to have a naturally shorter project and retention rate – because that’s all you do. (And if that’s your jam, awesome!)
But if you curate your cross-skills to help clients with:
- Their About page on their website
- A content strategy specifically customized for LinkedIn
- Competition research, or
- Articles and even, Linkedin updates
Now you’re cooking with fire.🔥
You will see a significant uptick in interest and retention rates.
Niching, on the whole, isn’t “wrong,” but neither is creating some breathing room and operating outside those confines.
You need to figure out the best fit for you and what works for your clients.
Copywriter skills and client care: A match made in freelancer heaven
Finding great clients is rock climbing-level hard.
It’s demanding, tedious and painful.
But, more importantly, it’s also risky.
For both client AND copywriter.
When you find a great client, you want to offer them that reassurance that they can lean on you for additional support.
Cross-skilling gives prospects and clients the assurance of accessibility and extra support. At a fee, of course.
When you up the ante and raise the value stakes, you also chip away at their hesitations by minimizing their risk. 🙌🏼
Clients don’t have to deal with a revolving door of specialists and they have significantly less to manage, process, and onboard.
Those are compelling reasons for them to move forward and work with you.
You STILL show up as an expert in your niche or your industry. BUT you now approach projects with a different lens. 🧐
Bringing a more inclusive but particular set of skills shows your client care factor without diluting or weakening your core specialties.
It almost mimics a retainer model with a replenishing catalog of work and projects without a binding month-to-month contract.
With that said, cross-skilling is NOT for everyone.
Some niches don’t play out that way.
Not everyone wants to prolong project pipelines; some freelancers work best in intensive, short spurts.
Perhaps your work is too time and labor-intensive.
Perhaps you enjoy the novelty of new clients and like short-term relationships just fine.
Your niche deliverable could be very much in demand as it is, your days are packed with work you love and you can’t even imagine diversifying your skillset without scaling and the help of a small army to manage the workload.
Or your season of life is too busy and your schedule doesn’t allow for more.
I hope what’s clear enough by now is that there is no one right way.
What’s important here is that you try a strategic way.
You know how you work best and what feels right for you.
For instance, for us, we have a brand ethos squared on helping our clients in every way that we can and taking advantage of all the skills and knowledge we have at our disposal.
Cross-skilling isn’t anti-niche.
You build it on your main specialization, and it evolves to be a little more client-friendly with a secondary level of expertise.
Cross-skilling can be a business game-changer for those who want to continue and upsize their scope of work without retiring their specialist card.
Cross-skilling is an extension of niching, a middle ground that still pays homage to your niche area, but it isn’t so narrow that you can’t help the clients you love working with or take care of them.
This year it’s a new way to freshen up old frameworks.
Pivot your expertise with an extra layer of support and accountability while growing your business.
Want to add sales copywriting and launch strategy for live AND evergreen funnels to your copywriter skills? Be the first to know when Ready-to-Sell opens!!