Are you struggling to “make it” as a freelance writer? You’ve probably read lots of advice about how to maximize your chances of success and in fact, it’s a topic we’ve covered in some detail before, right here on this blog, talking about things like the importance of communication and discipline.
All of those bits of advice still hold true, but there’s something else you should be very mindful of as well: Freelancing is a numbers game. You have bills to pay. The exact amount you need will differ from the exact amount I need but at the end of the day, we both have a specific number in mind. More than that number and we’re fine. Less than that number and we’re in trouble.
Getting TO your number is all that matters from a practical perspective and that means you’d better get fast. Both fast at writing and fast at researching.
Getting faster at writing is mostly mechanical. Your fingers know where the keys are, and the more hours a day you spend pounding the keys, the faster you’re going to get. Research, however, is a different sort of skill. Some people accidentally find their way to good research habits that also happen to be fast, but that’s not a sure thing. Here then, is the method I use to research a new topic quickly and efficiently. Use this any time you’re asked to write on a topic you know very little about, and need to get conversant in the subject matter very quickly.
Let’s say you’re writing about septic tanks. Maintenance, common problems, different types of, etc.
Do a Google search on septic tanks, common septic tank problems and septic tank maintenance. Three searches.
Open the first ten search results of each search in a new tab so you’ve got 30 new tabs open.
Skim each page very quickly, spending no more than 90 seconds on each page. In practice, you’ll probably spend less than a minute on each page and that’s fine.
Mentally throw out any information you read that’s not supported, referenced or mentioned by several other pages you look at.
Make more mental notes about common or recurring themes as you read each page. These common themes represent the common body of knowledge surrounding the topic you’re researching. This is where most of the content of the article you will write will come from.
Overall, you’ll spend about half an hour on research and based on that, you’ll be able to write dozens of articles on the topic. It would be vastly overselling it to call yourself an expert at that point, but you’ll be able to write good content and sound like you know what you’re talking about.
As a side benefit, since you’ll probably be writing about a number of topics you may not be overly familiar with, after about a year’s time, you’ll be an absolute monster at any trivia game you play. Try it and see for yourself. It’s an amazingly fast and effective research technique that can get you up to speed on just about any topic in no time at all.
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