Research Tips for Writing Blog Posts as a Freelance Writer
How to save time when compiling useful, credible sources before writing.
Research is often more than reading through the top five results after a Google search. Depending on the complexity, researching an article can be a huge time drain.
If you want to deliver comprehensive and insightful content for your clients, dig deeper. The following tips on researching can help you secure credible sources and save time doing it.
6 Tips Freelance Writers Can Use to Make Researching Easier
The quality and volume of the research you do upfront will affect future stages of writing and editing. Coming up:
- Interview experts with HARO.
- Reference data cited by your competitors.
- Rely on government websites.
- Find journal articles on Google Scholar
- Keep a running sources list.
- Maintain a research archive.
Interview experts with HARO.
Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a free service that “connects journalists seeking expertise to include in their content with sources who have that expertise.”
I go to HARO when I want to add colorful quotes from real industry experts. It’s pretty simple and intuitive to use. After creating an account, you can create an inquiry that includes the following information:
- Media outlet (the website you’re writing for)
- Summary of what you’re seeking. For example, I once used HARO to connect with an experienced business consultant.
- Requirements (industry, years of experience, etc.)
- Due date
After submitting, you need to wait for HARO to approve the query, which may happen as quickly as the next business. Then, watch the pitches roll in.
Once, I created a query requesting an interview with a seasoned consultant. I received over 30 pitches. Here’s a sample of what my inbox looked like:
Reference data cited by your competitors.
Do a quick Google search for the keyword you’re targeting. Chances are, your competitors have already done some research and cited useful data. Think surveys, studies, polls and more.
When writing an article about business emergency funds, for example, I stumbled across this QuickBooks article. In one paragraph, they referenced data collected by JPMorgan and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York:
While doing research for cybersecurity for businesses, this article by The Balance popped up. They also included useful data: a 2018 cybersecurity survey by the Ponemon Institute.
While you shouldn’t be relying on your competitors to inform and fact-check your article, you can use them as a shortcut for finding primary sources.
Rely on government websites.
Government websites are generally good sources for credible information. Depending on the industry, you may be using government websites a lot. When writing about small business financing, for example, I often rely on articles written by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
However, sifting through government websites is often a drag — and inefficient. Instead, go to Google and use the following search format:
site:.gov [search term]
If I searched “site:.gov equipment financing”, my search results would yield relevant articles from any website with “.gov” in the domain. This will save you tons of time (especially when your client accepts only primary sources).
To narrow your results, you can search within a specific government website. For example, searching “site:irs.gov business mileage deduction” would yield results only within the Internal Revenue Service website.
Find journal articles on Google Scholar.
If your client’s industry leans academic or medical, then Google Scholar can be useful for finding relevant journal articles. In my experience, however, many articles are locked behind a paywall. You may need to do some digging to snag a free-to-read journal article.
If you do, the page should include a link to view the free PDF version, like below:
Keep a running sources list.
Even if your client doesn’t require a list of sources you use, it’s a good idea to keep it on hand. Each time you record notes from a new source, add them to your list. This can be so useful for fact-checking and sourcing during the editing phase.
I have a client where I have to cite every assertion I make. Having my list of sources on hand saves time and headaches.
Maintain a research archive.
Don’t reinvent the wheel. If a helpful source helped you once, it will likely help you again with future freelance writing jobs. You may have cited one statistic from a useful study for a previous article. However, there may be more information from that same study worth referencing in a future blog post.
I have a simple method for compiling my research: Chrome bookmarks and folders. I love my tools simple and it gets the job done. I’d separate useful articles and studies by their topic. For example, I’d have a separate folder for small business financing, B2B product reviews and marketing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are freelance writers credible?
It depends. An 18-year-old freelance writer writing about marriage advice, for example, may not be the ideal messenger. However, if an article is well-written, properly informed and accurate, then the content itself should be credible.
How can I improve my freelance writing?
Volume and analysis. By increasing the number of jobs you complete (volume), your writing sharpens with experience over time. By studying the reasons behind your clients’ revision requests (analysis), you better understand the weaknesses in your writing.
What are examples of credible sources?
Generally, you’ll want to reference recently published material to avoid citing obsolete data. When doing online research, domains ending with .gov or .edu tend to be reputable. If you’re interviewing consumers, you may also want to request evidence for their claims — a college student talking about their student loans can show you a copy of their loan statement, for example.
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at danmarticio.com.