As a freelance writer, it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of over-researching. ‘You can never have too much information!’ You might say, and you’re not exactly wrong, but you can spend too much time researching and end up wasting your precious working day. It’s important to get in more time actually writing, instead of all the bits leading up to it.
Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you are doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
This quote by E.L. Doctorow sums it up. Writing is the bulk of your work! Sure, Doctorow was talking about fiction pieces, but the same logic applies.
Of course, it might be pretty important to research, especially if you’re writing outside your usual niche. That said, how do you actually get the right balance between writing and researching. Well, it depends on a lot of factors, which we in explore in further depth in this article.
So, read on if you want to make sure you’re getting things done, and not just wasting time.
What field are you working in?
Let’s say you’re a writer that specializes in social media marketing. You already know a lot about marketing and business, and if you’re an established freelancer then you already know a lot about writing, too.
If you get hired to write about social media marketing, you’ll not to research very much, if at all. If you are asked to write about search engine optimization and blog writing, then a little more research might be required, but chances are you’ll know a bit of the terminology and basic concepts already. But if you land a job writing about the best dog training techniques, for example, then you’ll certainly need to do a hefty amount of research!
This is pretty much common sense, but you basically need to make sure that the time you spend researching ties in with your existing knowledge on the topic.
How specific is the topic?
Some writers are employed to write reviews, which are obviously a lot more specific than generalized blog posts. Specific posts like require detail, including statistics and particular words or phrases, meaning that you will have to do a little more research in order to really understand the topic.
In short, the more specific the topic, the more research required.
How original is the piece?
Have you been hired to write an opinion piece? If so, you should already be pretty well-versed on the topic at hand. And the clue is in the title: opinion piece. Sure, if you’re including stats and facts to back up your opinion then maybe a little research is required, but all in all a text like this would need less research.
On the other hand, if your piece is supposed to relay facts and only facts, then you will be more or less changing the wording from other studies already out there, which obviously relies more heavily on research.
Generally, research depends a lot on your confidence. The more you already know, the less you need to research. Furthermore, it depends on how much time you feel you need to plan.
In summary, there is no right amount of research, it’s down to what feels right for you. There are no set rules, but it is important to try and find a good balance so you don’t waste any time.