How to Draft a Helpful Outline

Posted on June 5, 2015 by Dan S

outlineProviding a well-constructed, clear, and concise outline with an article pitch to a writer for hire is a great way to get exactly the content you want. Writing is a very open-ended trade that may produce content that’s very different than what you were expecting, but well within the guidelines of the topic.

For example, if you requested an article on IT Security about how to keep hackers out of your business computers, a writer may come back with an article about using multi-level software and hardware firewalls to keep uninvited guests off your network. However, you were thinking more along the lines of a list of best practices to impose on employees. Situations like this can be avoided by including an outline with the content assignment.

An effective outline makes it so the person requesting the content and the writer for hire are on the same mental page with what the requested content is supposed to cover. The outline also makes writing the content a much easier process for the writer because he or she won’t need to spend as much time thinking about the structure and flow of the content.

When you are structuring an outline, think of the main points you’d like the content to cover first: between three and five points is usually enough to work with.

Next, take these main ideas and organize them from most important to least important instead of in a natural flow between subtopics.

This structure, commonly used in Journalism, is called the “inverted pyramid.” This will help the writer in many ways because they’ll know which subtopics to spend the most time covering and which one or two subtopics they can cut from the content in the event that the more important subtopics require more words than the maximum content length permits. The writer may end up moving subtopics around after the initial draft for better flow. This can help with turnaround time too as it helps avoid a situation where a writer has to cut a large section of content from earlier in the draft to make room for a more important topic that comes up later.

If you researched the topic before deciding on the content prompt, you may be able to help the writer out by including links to the articles and other content that inspired you to request original content. Including your research sources can help the writer get a better feel for the theme and general idea you’re looking for, which gives them a base to expand upon. The research phase can be a tedious part of the content creation process and there’s a good chance the writer will come across the same content you did when developing the pitch. So instead of having two people do the same work, just include the content links so the writer can get to writing faster. This can also help the writer come across content that was shared with you or found outside of web searching means. If you are including links, it helps to use content that comes from reputable, established sources. This doesn’t mean you’re limited to just major websites and .edu site content, but look for things like authority links to author biographies that clarify credentials.

Spending a little time putting together a solid outline for your hired writer not only helps them turn around the content faster, but it also reduces the likelihood you’ll have to request changes or ultimately reject the content.

Writer Bio: Dan S is a former news journalist turned web developer and freelance writer. He has a penchant for all things tech and believes the person using the machine is the most important element.


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