Research is a crucial part of freelance writing. Learning about an industry you’re not particularly familiar with can be either fun or taxing. The difference lies in how you approach it.
Oftentimes, you have to write with authority even though you lack the business experience. Clients don’t want to deal with content that needs multiple rounds of revision because of generic or incorrect information. Or imagine the reader pointing out something that is factually wrong; your client’s credibility would be ruined. In this article, we will look at 5 steps to research your client’s industry efficiently.
1. Visit the client’s website
This is an obvious and solid first step to take. Look up:
- The mission statement
- The range of product and services offered
- The customer base
- The size and scope of the organization
Read case studies and testimonials to better understand the customers’ problems, apprehensions, and criteria for satisfaction. If the website has a blog section, you’re in luck: it’s a goldmine of information about the industry.
2. Research the client’s customer base
Depending on the project and the client, sometimes you will be given extensive material, which means less research for you. But more often than not, you will be given limited resources and it will be up to you to learn as much as you can before you start writing. Search for these aspects:
- Who are they? Consumers or businesses?
- What are the problems and frustrations that your client solves?
- What benefits do they derive from doing business with your client?
- What makes them hesitant or reluctant to purchase your client’s product or service?
3. Research the State of the Industry
Since your client doesn’t operate in a vacuum, it’s important to get a larger view of the industry and learn where the market is now and where it is headed. To do so, look for the following:
- Current trends
- Noteworthy statistics from recent studies
- A recent event that made headlines
- An upcoming disruption in the market, and how it can affect customer behavior
Write down your key findings and review them so that you can add useful insight into your writing.
4. Research the Industry’s Key Players
Learning about the major competitors will help you figure out what makes your client different and worth choosing. Below are some pointers:
- Who are the leaders?
- What keeps them at the top of the industry? Being a historical powerhouse? Innovation? Peerless customer service?
- What are some of their best practices?
- What is the position that your client holds in the market?
Remember that you don’t need to do an exhaustive research on each competitor, just key facts to contextualize your client’s operation.
5. Learn to Pinpoint Essential Information and Skip the Trivia
You don’t have to meticulously read every piece of content you find. The internet has an infinite supply of information, much of which is redundant or irrelevant. Don’t waste your time reading a 60-page report. Getting lost in a sea of information can compromise your ability to meet deadlines.
Learn to filter the relevant from the noise. To do that, you have to quickly assess whether the content at hand is worth reading. Skim through headlines and subheaders to see the key points at hand and decide whether they are relevant to you. Focus on finding information that can be of interest your client’s customer base.
You don’t need to master the nuts and bolts of an industry to write about it. But you have to be a curious person who enjoys learning new things and is able to quickly assimilate new concept. Researching industries can be fun and over time you will have accumulated a lot of knowledge. Just remember to:
- Not plagiarize content
- Verify the credibility and accuracy of the information you use
- Back up your claims by citing authority figures (government entities, non-governmental organizations, influencers…) or linking to a reputable source
Some industries, like finance and healthcare, can be harder to research than others since a lot of technical knowledge is involved. By gaining experience in these industries, you can brand yourself as a specialist that clients can trust.
If you feel ready to put your writing skills to good use, why not drop us a line? We’re looking for writers willing to lend their voice.