As a website content writer, you will find that, more often than not, you are asked to write on topics you know nothing about. While that can be intimidating, especially at first, it’s completely doable, and gets much easier over time. Before long, you will be able to become conversant with any subject in a very short period of time.
Curiosity: It Killed the Cat, But It Feeds the Writer
If you’re here at all, it’s because you have the curiosity and research skills to find freelance opportunities.
The trick is to apply those same skills to giving yourself a crash course in your client’s topic. Any time you have a question about anything, either in your working or personal life, search for the answer. The more you do this, the better you become at finding information you need, fast.
Assemble a List of Reliable Sources
Every time you find a good source for information, bookmark it or make a note of it. Then, next time, you can head there first instead of spending time on search engines. There is a wealth of information available on the web, but it doesn’t always float to the top of the search engine results. By having your own library of bookmarks, you can research more quickly.
Wikipedia’s Unreliable, But Wikipedia Footnotes Are Gold
A website content writer who does all their research on Wikipedia will probably not get a lot of respect. This is because Wikipedia is edited by the public, leaving it vulnerable to vandalism and entries that are not properly fact-checked. But, at the bottom of every page is a goldmine for writers everywhere: a list of the references used to build each entry.
One very quick way to gather information quickly is to scan a Wikipedia page to get a mild familiarity with a topic. Then, scroll to the bottom and start checking out the first-hand sources. Many of these are authoritative sources from .gov, .edu, or other respected domains. This handy resource saves you a lot of time that you’d otherwise spend sifting through Google results looking for reliable sources.
Become a Sponge
Back in journalism school, a copyeditor once told our class that the most important skill to bring to the job was a wide, if shallow, pool of knowledge. Because copyeditors are responsible for fact-checking, having a passing familiarity with everything from music trends to nutrition to geography helps them do their job effectively (they’re also killers at Trivia Night).
A website content writer is required to be a virtual dispensary of often useless facts. These tidbits form the lattice that you use to build in-depth knowledge. And, the trick is to always be building it. Subscribe to every knowledge-based Facebook feed from Scientific American to PBS to Wired to Mental Floss and spend a few minutes reading at least their headlines every morning. Engage in a little off-hours Wikipedia freefall, reading from link to link. In short, make learning your hobby.
It can take a long time at first to gather the knowledge you need to write authoritatively. But, over time, you will find that everything you search melds with everything you already know, and you’ll become a stronger and faster writer because of it.
Lara S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.