Every freelance writer knows this. Sometimes you get hired to write on topics you know a lot about. Sometimes you get work on topics you know little about. And then there are times when you get hired to write content on niches and topics you know nothing about – but you still have to take the work and do it.
I have done my share of articles on topics I knew nothing about and got paid for a job well done. And I am thankful for all the research skills I learned when I was in high school and university.
In uni especially, we had to do presentations – sometimes on subjects we knew zero about. So, a lecturer would have us spend a few days doing research in the library, compiling all the work, then making a presentation in class.
It was the same thing with coursework / term papers. We would get assignments on things we knew nothing about, then had to spend quite awhile in the library reading and taking notes before compiling the coursework and submitting before the deadline – a few days deadline sometimes (but usually a week, two or three weeks).
How freelance writers usually end up with work on topics they know nothing about (know little about)
I will just tell you my story. There was a time I was sending cold pitches (emails trying to land direct clients) and got this client in the WordPress / blogging niche.
They sent me work, to write an article about quizzes (and to touch a bit on quiz solutions in the WordPress space).
I knew a lot about WordPress, but this was at a time when quizzes (as a way to increase engagement / traffic) were just getting popular because of the BuzzFeed phenomena (and viral sites). I knew nothing about quizzes, but I knew quite a bit about WordPress.
So, I took the work, researched the bits I knew nothing about, and completed the article. The client in fact suggested some examples I could use while creating the article.
So, this can happen sometimes. A client can bring in something new (a topic you know little / nothing about) and tie it to something you already know a lot about.
Later down the road this client asked me to write some short articles on entirely different topics (some in the health / wellness space).
And I took the work and did it. This was repeat work I was getting. And the client was paying well. And I liked working with them. So, freelance writers sometimes find themselves in a similar territory. You stay working with a client on a topic / niche you know about, then accept more work from them (on entirely different topics) because you like working with them – and enjoy doing online research.
These are just some of the ways freelance writers end up writing content on topics / subjects / niches / industries they know nothing / little about.
If you find someone that treats you well and pays you well, I guess you will do what most freelance writers do, take the work, do a little research, put the article together and get paid.
What you want to do if you take the work
You don’t want to be intimidated by the new topic. If you are fine doing some research, and trust in the skills you have built over time, just have an I can do this attitude.
Once you’re done with that bit, you will want to spend more time re-reading the client’s instructions to get a better grasp on what they want. Usually they will accompany their email with links to other external resources you can refer to while working on the task they have outsourced to you.
Open these resources in new tabs on your web browser – and just read. Take notes whenever you can – in your notebook or a text editor on your smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Then go back to their article title. Create an outline (subheadings / H2s) in a text editor / word processor and start writing. You can skip the introduction and conclusion. These two, you can write after filling all the subheadings with enough content.
If the client tells you to link to external sources (which they usually do) make sure to link to all the sources you reference.
Areas where you might waste a lot of time
The research phase. If a client wants a 2500 to 4500 article but give you links to four or five external resources to read, just figuring what should go in the article you eventually write can lead you to wasting several hours reading things you won’t even use when it comes time to writing the article.
Plus reading, sometimes can feel like work – because you are busy in front of your computer doing something. But remember the client only wants an article in the deadline they set. So, just read enough. And then get to writing.
Putting the article together. Once you have done your research, another challenge you will face is that of actually creating a quality piece of content per the instructions given to you. They will want an original piece, which means no copy pasting.
You will have to write everything in your own words, while crediting the sources you pull some of the information from. Doing this is not easy. So, just block a few hours after doing your research and concentrate on writing. Do nothing else but write. If you can, finish the article in one sitting. Then worry about polishing it and improving the quality later.
Adding graphics and screenshots. If you are asked to write a tutorial post, you might find yourself wasting a lot of time coming up with the right screenshots for the post. It is not easy when you have to write an article giving step-by-step instructions while also adding some visual elements in there (screenshots for example) to guide the reader.
So, make sure you have more than two ways to create screenshots – use the software in your computer / software you buy & browser extensions. And figure out all the right images / screenshots you will need before you start writing (go through the process you will be explaining in the article before you even write a single word then you will know what you need and what is just a waste of time).
Editing and proofreading. So, eliminating spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors. Yo can save yourself some time by not doing all the work yourself.
Use the spell-check feature in your word processor (such as Microsoft Word). Also use tools like Grammarly to help you spot and correct errors. Grammarly has a Microsoft Word extension and web browser extensions for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome as well.
Formatting an article or book the way a client wants. To save yourself time here, just make sure that you adhere to their instructions when writing.
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