Do You Study Before You Write?

When I first started freelancing, writing was not my path of choice. I thought to myself, “it’s a static, unattractive domain, which cannot give me the possibility to develop and grow into something better.”

Rather than write, I focused my attention on my primary skills (I work as a quality assurance specialist at a software company). But I soon found out that there weren’t too many jobs available for QA experts. So I decided to give writing a chance, first reluctantly, and then with more and more confidence.

Of course, I had to start from scratch. Besides my English skills, I had few assets that could help me in my newly discovered career path. Slowly, I built up that foundation, and as I gathered steam, I found it easier and easier to get good writing jobs. Without the courage (madness, luck, call it what you like) of stepping out of my comfort zone, I never would have learned that I can write pretty well and make some money doing it.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Writing blog posts, articles, creative pieces, and technical documentation is a great way of learning new things. Most of us are not fortunate enough to only cover subjects that we love or know well. From time to time, we have to step out of our comfort zone and study something new, so we can write about it.

New Things I’ve Learned from Writing

I’ve learned a lot of new things from freelancing as a writer.

For example, I wrote more than 25,000 words about Denver and the beautiful state of Colorado. I’ve never been there, but I did my best to research all things related to the Centennial state, from the Denver Broncos football team, to the hundreds of microbreweries that make Colorado a hotspot on the maps of beer aficionados. I grew fond of this great American state, and I dream of actually visiting it one day.

Well, you may say–how does knowing stuff about Colorado help you in your day to day life? It doesn’t. But other things I’ve learned while writing do have added value.

Another example of something I’ve learned about is real estate. I’ve read entire books on the subject, blogs and forum posts, just to be able to offer competent advice on anything related to real estate. I now know what a lease-to-buy contract is, how to conduct due diligence before making a deal with someone, and how to spot the best targets for house flips.

Another gig landed me a business proposal, which who knows, I just might accept. It’s about offering training for a wildly popular enterprise planning software. Yes, I had to learn about that before writing about it too, and it was one of the toughest things I ever had to study.

On the more prosaic side, I also know how to fix nicks and scratches on old furniture (tip–crayons!), how to pick the right plants for my north-facing living room and even how to calibrate lathes. I know, glamorous. :)

And there are the things that give me headaches just when I think about them. You never know what writer’s block is until you have to write 12,000 words worth of product descriptions about dragon figurines, Tinker Bell dolls and military themed watches.

The Importance of Research in Freelance Writing

Some consider that people like me, namely freelancers paid to write about subjects they don’t really master, spoil the internet, and… pretty much everything. It’s the raging debate on shallow content and fluff writing.

In fact, I agree with them. I stay away from writing fluff as much as possible, and only write about subjects that I have learned about, if not mastered. This is why I invested so much time into studying real estate and apartment plants. Unfortunately, not everyone thinks is worth to sacrifice precious time to learn something, before churning out the paid-per-word article. And others just don’t care.

When I draw the bottom line, I look with pride at all the new things that I learned as a freelance writer. Every subject I write about improves my knowledge, my culture even, and makes me more prepared to handle challenges. Maybe someday, a writing gig will be the key to the next shift in my career.

Your Turn

I bet I am not the only one who feels this way. Most of you probably have to study something before writing about it.

Let me know what interesting stuff you learned from your freelance writing jobs. Do you think that it’s worth it to sacrifice time and energy to study a certain subject for your writing job? Is writing a good way of improving one’s perspective on life?

Working as a freelance writer has been great for me. In the last year, I grew both personally and professionally, and today I feel more confident than ever that I can make it as a freelancer. How about you?

Image by Sterlic