Audiences won’t tolerate boring content. Recent changes to search engine algorithms don’t reward writers who just repost old news. To get shared on social media and to show up near the top of search engine results, you’ve got to write strong stories. When the very best clients want to hire freelancers, they look for writers who can engage readers with fresh information and compelling questions.
- Fact-check up front.
Despite Google’s best efforts, search engine rankings don’t always guarantee accuracy. Just ask your favorite financial or gadget bloggers. Rumors and hoaxes get rehashed so often that mainstream news organizations sometimes mistake them for reality. Instead of blindly reblogging another writer, confirm the events at the backbone of your story. Look for new angles and connections that have developed since your sources’ articles were published. Not only will you avoid embarrassment, you’ll open up new directions to take your conversations with readers.
- Go beyond the press release.
News sites and content catalogs post the same tired quotes that get bundled with press releases. Those announcements come with phone numbers for a reason: organizations want to get the word out about their position, their products, or their services. Be brave, and call the listed contact for a quote beyond the quote by asking some follow-up questions. They won’t bite. Your probe could uncover insight that other news organizations miss.
- Find two fresh sources.
After you live in the online freelance writing business too long, you’ll forget that plenty of people don’t spend all day on the Internet. Some of your best potential sources have stayed off the grid, working in positions that make them harder to find on LinkedIn or Twitter. Contact companies and schools to discover subject matter experts who don’t spend a lot of time in the spotlight.
- Tweet for suggestions.
Unless you’re tracking down a scoop that could be the next Watergate, it’s okay to take an “open kitchen” approach to research. Post status updates on your social networks about the articles you’re developing. Invite input and insight from your followers and their networks. You’re probably already one or two degrees of separation from a source that can help you crush your audience’s expectations.
A portfolio of work that exhibits all four of these actions can earn you a crack at the best paying freelance writing jobs. Just a small amount of extra effort on your next post can earn you a place in your audience’s bookmarks or on their social media timeline.