Freelance writers know research is essential when writing an article. Clients expect you to present facts knowledgeably so that the piece educates the reader. However, the chances are you need to learn about the subject matter before you can write the article. Here are some top tips on how to become a research expert.
1. Be Selective in Your Research
While it can be tempting to dive right in and read as much as possible about airplane aerodynamics, or lobster farming in the Philippines, this isn’t an efficient use of your time. Instead, freelance writers should concentrate on the critical elements of your story.
If it’s why an airplane is faster than its rivals, then read about the difference in the aerodynamic shape, thrust, altitude, etc. Don’t read about planes in general.
If you deep-dive into every topic, your research will never end. Laser-focus on your specific story angle and don’t get side-tracked. When you identify your subject matter, voraciously read previous articles and blogs about your topic until you have a firm understanding of the subject.
2. Use Google Alerts
Set your Google News alerts to tell you when something exciting is happening in that specific industry. Also, look up relevant trade magazines, and use Google to search for keywords related to your article within those brochures.
By keeping up-to-date with the latest information, you can inform a knowledgeable audience with new and valuable information.
3. Study Competitor Websites
Your client has a viewpoint on how to do the best job in their field. While it may be an excellent stance, there could be other valid opinions. Read what their competitors put on their websites. You’ll gain a better understanding of the industry as a whole, and you could even freshen up your client’s blog with some original content.
4. Read Relevant Forums
Customers are often the best source of information, and many like to talk on online forums. Use these sources to identify trends, such as complaints about customer service in the industry or if they want to see the introduction of new technology to improve efficiency. You can now ask your client what they think of those comments.
From their response, you can write blog pieces and articles that address customers’ concerns. From your newfound knowledge from both the client and their customers, you can explain the excellent processes your client has in place to ensure customers are at the heart of their business. Your research should bring value to your client.
5. Ask an Expert
Proceed with caution with this tip. You only have to look on Linkedin to see that just about everyone is an industry expert, thought-leader, or guru, in just about any subject you can think of (refer back to lobster farming in the Philippines).
However, there are plenty of genuine experts out there. I tend to find they are not self-promoting, so ask your client if you can speak to a well-thought-of staff member. Alternatively, read an industry blog and contact a writer who helps their fellow professionals with good advice.
Be up-front and honest about why you want to know more about their profession. People like to help others, and you can easily find a real expert who is happy to give you 20 minutes of their time.
6. Read Online Reviews
We’ve already looked at using customer comments to understand how they view the market and potentially your client. However, some knowledgeable professionals write for trusted industry publications. It is their job to take an unbiased view of the product or service, compare it to the prevailing industry standards, and give a balanced opinion.
A good reviewer can often provide insights that you may not get from a customer unfamiliar with the industry as a whole. Professional trade writers are also more aware of the trends that occur in the sector over time and can provide an overview and a deep dive into the topic.
The media is another excellent source of information. Because they are obliged to fact-check their stories, this is a quick way to get reliable industry data. However, even if the publication is reputable, always confirm your information with at least two authoritative sources before publishing.
7. Use SEO Tools
SEMrush, Google Analytics, and MozBar are just a few of the many SEO tools that freelance writers can use for research. Although each one is slightly different, you can type in your seed keyword, see a list of related keywords, and learn how often people are searching for those terms.
These tools are ideal for gaining insights into online searches within your client’s industry. You can get a lot of this information for free, but if you want advanced analytics, you often have to pay a fee.
Final Thoughts About Research Tips for Freelance Writers
Research is a crucial aspect when creating valuable content for a client. Using these tips, you can get a firm understanding of any subject and write articles that inform the reader.
Clients expect you to do this as a minimum, so don’t skip this part. It’s just as important as the writing itself.
This blog post was written by nDash Community member Scott Duncan. After 10 years of writing in the insurance and healthcare industries, where he collaborated with several global brands, Scott now freelances with clients who wish to reach their customers on a human level. Jargon and grey language are out, relaxed, but professional formats are in.