Yikes! Blasphemy! An article you don’t care about you say!? I care about every article I write, or I don’t write it… Yeah yeah yeah. I’ve heard all that before. If you’ve been a freelance writer for any amount of time, and you’re honest with yourself, you’ve had to write about topics you really don’t care about. If that’s not the case, you’re truly lucky and, I believe, in the minority. One of the reasons freelance writers get paid is because we’re writing something that someone else needs, so by its very nature, a lot of it will be on topics we are not passionate about.
So then, the question is, how do you write a high quality article when you don’t know or care too much about the subject? To make it more difficult, how do you write an article for a website or magazine which has an audience of people who are enthusiasts about that topic? If you can’t write in an engaging way, and make the readers believe you are as passionate about the topic as they are, you’ll quickly get called out on it. With that in mind, I’m writing out my ‘method’ for writing these types of articles.
The first thing I look at when writing an article (actually, before I even accept a job) is how I will manage the time it will take to write. This will factor in to how much I charge the client. If a client is asking me to write a 1000 word article on a topic I know little or nothing about, and he wants it to be extremely high quality, I will have to factor in not just the time it will take to write, but also the research time. I will likely charge $150-300 for this article, but the results will be something he can post on the front page of his site.
Some clients, however, just want an article that will make sense to the readers and sounds good. For those, I’ll charge significantly less because I don’t have to spend much time learning the language of that topic, so to speak. Almost every niche group has its own language, and being able to ‘speak’ it is important for the highest quality articles. The bottom line, however, is that you need to estimate how much time it will take to write the article so that it meets the quality requirements. Then, charge the client that much (and be willing to walk away!).
Once you’ve got the information you need from the client, it is time to start your research. The first thing I typically do is a Bing search for the topic I’m writing on. If the client has given me a title, I’ll search for it. Reading what other people have written on this subject is a great way to generate ideas, and get a basic understanding of the style of writing that will work best. Spending 10-30 minutes reading articles from authority sites in that niche will help you to prepare for writing your own.
As part of this research, don’t be afraid to ask your client questions about the topic. They are likely going to be experts, or at least very knowledgeable, about the niche. Don’t be afraid to show them that you don’t know everything about it. They are typically hiring you for your writing skills, not your existing knowledge of a subject. For example, I would be that I can write a better article about the history of NASCAR than most people who have been following the sport their entire life, even though I have never seen a single race.
For me, getting started on these types of articles is the hardest thing. Before I write that first word, I feel like it is going to take me forever, and I look for any reason I can think of to procrastinate. I have to force myself to at least write one paragraph, and then I find that the words start to really flow much more easily. If you suffer from this as well, find things that motivate you to get going. Remember, this is work and you’re getting paid for it.
If you have a ‘day job,’ there is little doubt that you don’t always love what you do, but you have to do it so you don’t get fired. The same is true of freelance writing. If you don’t get started, you’ll end up getting dropped by the client. Even if you’re tempted to stop or take a break, just push right through it. Get at least a bad article written, and you can edit it and improve it later.
Edit & Improve
For me, this is one of the most important steps with these types of articles. When I write an article I’m interested in, I typically don’t have to do much editing or improving, but that is not the case with articles where I don’t care about the subject. I’ll take my first draft, and go through and check on facts, try to think of interesting things to help flesh out ideas and even add something with current events. This stage is absolutely critical for turning what would be a fairly bland article into something that lovers of the topic will enjoy.
When you deliver the completed article, make sure to mention to the client that you are willing to make adjustments where needed. In many cases, I’ve had clients love everything except one paragraph or section. I can adjust it based on their specific instructions, so everyone is happy. Most good clients won’t mind if things take a little longer, as long as the end product is good.
While this is my process for working through articles I don’t care about, it will definitely vary from person to person. Hopefully what I’ve written will at least give you some ideas on how to handle these types of situations, and help you improve your overall writing in some small way.