Are you using research to stand out and earn better-paying writing assignments?


It is a fairly known and accepted fact that the number of freelancers and writers continues to rise exponentially. In this situation, it is crucial to stand out from the crowd and to demonstrate your expertise in every word that you dish out. Your writing should be stellar in all respect, and one way to do that is to thoroughly research everything that you are writing.

Coming from a journalistic background, it is an inherent part of my writing process. To be honest, I don’t know any other way of copywriting. However, feedback from my clients or of my agency, Deepworkz Media Services, shows that this has become my differentiating factor. It is one of the key reasons that we work with industry leaders in the technology and personal finance domain.

Organizations who want a comprehensive article/blog/whitepaper do not shy away from paying extra for it because it not only positions them as a thought leader and continues to generate value for a long time. Further, it has a much better chance of being recommended and shared on social media platforms.

Anybody can adopt the journalistic method of researching to take your writing to the next level and to get your dream clients. Here are a few things to keep in mind while researching and writing:

Five W’s and One H

Every journalist knows that the copy has to answer all the questions that a reader might have. The way to ensure that is to include the answers to the five Ws (Who, What, When, Where and Why) and one H (How) in the article. This technique is used by the journalists to interview, research and ultimately to write the story.

In my experience, the content writers tend to focus on including Search Engine Optimization (SEO) keywords and overlook the fact that the article or write-up needs to go beyond the SEO to deliver value to the reader. That is possible only if we are not short-sighted by SEO words and provide a complete article which answers all the questions that a reader might have.

It is easy to structure the research on the topic with these questions. This way it ensures that you provide cover the topic from all angles and provide a comprehensive view.

However, more than anything else, the five W’s and one H help in generating ideas and also in structuring the article. Once you have done the research and have all the required information, it is important to structure it well. I discuss this at length in my forthcoming course on Using Journalistic Principles to Power-Up Your Writing.

So focus your research on the topic by finding answers to each of these questions. But how do you research?

Well, Google and other search engines are key to researching and helping us find the relevant answers. Here are a few ways to ensure that you deliver a well-researched article, which will make your client come back to hire you again and again:

Search Engines: Google is your best friend while researching, but it can be your worst enemy as well. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information available on the search engine, and sometimes, one might even lose track of the original search.

Research is a crucial part of writing but you should know when to stop. You will need to decide when you have enough information to stop researching and start writing.

Ensuring credibility: Before you decide to use the information, ensure that it is from a credible and reliable source. As far as possible, try to opt for Government sources for info, which are accepted as the most credible sources of information. However, it is not always possible, and there might not be any Government data on your topic. In that case, go for third-party research from reliable sources. What third-party means is that a particular piece of research is not sponsored by one of the affected parties. For instance, a study on data speeds, if conducted by a telecom service provider, is likely to be biased in their favor.

Though it goes without saying, Wikipedia is not a credible source of information. And yes, social media platforms are also not to be trusted unless and until they are giving information from prominent Government sources or from prominent and reputed publications.

One can use the information available on reliable journals like the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune, The Washington Post, The Financial Times and The Guardian, among others as a source of your research.

Identifying Experts: As part of your research, you might need to identify the experts who might have written on that topic or might be involved in researching it. With a plethora of content on virtually everything available on the internet today, it is tough to find out the genuine experts.

 Here I would like to mention Google Scholar, which is a good tool for a writer. It gets you quality content from journals and might help you in discovering genuine subject-matter experts. Once you are sure of experts, you can also Google them to find out more relevant information related to your topic. Here at this point, you might be required to interview the expert but this depends on the scope of the content piece that you are working on. I am working on a detailed piece on interviewing to gather information and adding to your research.

In the end, I would like to highlight that most of the well-paid writing assignments demand thorough research. Even otherwise, research is an integral and crucial part of the writing process. Right from identifying the topic to write on, sending well-researched query letters and pitching blog ideas, developing research skills is a prerequisite to help you stand out from your peers and more importantly, to get better-paying assignments.

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