The General Specialist

From a conversation between me and Janet Chang

From: Janet

When he says “The right expert is worth it, but expensive, and may not be needed full time”… made me think of this:

Theory: The more of a specialist+expert you are, the more part time you can be on a project/team/company. On the flip side, generalists may be more valuable full time.

If someone had the choice between a part time specialist and part time generalist, they would choose the specialist, if they had the money. And successful people have the money. Semi-successful people who don’t have quite the amount of money might just hire a full time generalist. And then once they get successful, they hire super-good specialists. This is true for Ramit and Tim. Ramit first hired a few people to help him on Earn1k, and now look, he has enough to pay salaries to top performing specialists. Tim first hired Charlie to do everything as “director of operations”, but then he’s hired Ryan (a specialist) for PR, and a pro parkour guy for that 4HB video trailer, and the video people (not Charlie, who is actually a decent video guy) to do the trailer, when he had the money.

Conclusion? Either be a part time specialist or full time generalist.


  1. Do you think this is true? Why?
  2. Which would you rather be?
From: Eddy
I think it’s true, but there’s also a lot of grey area. For example (being honest, not braggy), I’m among the best copywriters I know (though I’m nothing significant compared to the legends). I could be called a low level specialist.

However, I’m also good at analytics, SEO, A/B testing, managing basic employees, negotiating, networking en’ mass and one-on-one (for launches and for friends respectively), etc. And I’m learning more about running businesses and about Growth Hacking (and the myriad of skills that it entails).

So I think the ideal, for an entrepreneurial/consulting/whatever, is to do something like this:
1) Build one core skill until you are a specialist.
2) Build a bunch of skills around that skill that are mutually beneficial when done together (SEO & copywriting, for example).

3) Now focus on one of those skills that you enjoy and become a specialist in that skill too.
4) repeat from 2
And now you’re gathering a bunch of skills that you’re amazing at, all of which compliment eachother. And you have a ton of smaller skills you can leverage to help those bigger skills reach their goal.

Alternatively (or, perhape, in tandem), I think, you can become a specialist in reaching a type of result, and using jack-of-all-trade skills to always reach that one result.

– Eddy


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