Ever wasted hours doing article research for a query or assignment?
It happens, especially if you don’t know where to look.
If you’re not getting anywhere with your approach to article research (which probably starts with Google for almost everybody), ask an expert on how to find the information you need.
And just where are you going to find an expert on article research? At the library.
Libraries (all 119,487 of them in the United States, according to the American Library Association) are packed with resources to help freelancers work smarter and faster.
And at every one, you’ll find a reference librarian who knows the ins and outs of article research better than you.
In a recent Freelance Writers Den podcast, we talked with Emily-Jane Dawson. She’s a reference librarian for the Multnomah County Library system in Portland, Ore. And she shared some of her best article research tips for freelancers.
Looking for information to beef up a query letter, pitch a prospect, or complete an assignment?
Check out these article research tips from a savvy reference librarian:
If you want to improve your article writing skills, the Central Intelligence Agency probably isn’t your first place to look.
Yes. I’m talking about that CIA. The organization that feeds the President and senior officials information to keep us safe. I was an intelligence analyst for the CIA for 8 years, and spent most of my time writing for top policy makers.
Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes at the CIA?
It’s not exactly like living in a Jason Bourne movie. But there is a lot of information that requires article writing skills to keep people informed. Along the way, I uncovered article writing secrets at the CIA that helped me go from analyst to full-time freelancer.
It wasn’t easy. In this high pressure environment, I quickly learned to kill my purple prose, prioritize readability, and create impeccable work under pressure.
Want to improve your article writing skills, land better clients, and earn more?
Here are a few tips from inside the CIA to help you be a better freelance writer:
Are you a writer in search of an article idea? These days, the big-earning article writers have loads of ideas for editors.
But if you’re someone who really finds idea generation tough, there’s another way to earn well. You can do it by getting more mileage out of your short stack of ideas.
Get out of the habit of coming up with one article idea, landing an assignment, and then moving on.
Instead, think in terms of spinning that one little idea straw into a big pile of gold.
How? Here are ten different ways:
Do you get jealous when other freelance writers talk about how they knock out a simple blog post in under an hour — because it takes you half a day? If so, it’s time to attack this problem and get it solved. To earn a good hourly rate from freelance writing (and end up with a decent income), you’ve got to be able to write assignments in a time-efficient way.
This is especially true if you’re looking to get into content marketing, where you might develop a dozen blog posts or other pieces of content a month for each of multiple different clients. I speak as someone who at one point was writing 72 posts a month, between client blogs and my own blog.
Your success in blogging for clients is highly dependent on your speed. If you’re slow, you won’t be able to juggle multiple content marketing clients and book enough revenue — and you may even be in trouble in terms of meeting your deadlines.
Fortunately, learning to get the writing done faster has been a longtime hobby of mine. My drive to speed up was forged during 12 years as a staff writer, the last five of which required filing a story for our online edition, five days a week by 10 am (in addition to the 3-4 articles a week we had to write).
How did I learn to cut my writing time down? Here are my seven top tips:
Writing short can be refreshing — like ice in your underwear.
It’s also a practical way to build a writing career.
Many magazines today, from Smithsonian to Seventeen, have lots of small articles and light pieces in their brightly designed front pages. It speaks to the reading tastes of the Internet age: colorful and chunky.
For writers — especially ones trying to break in to a magazine — these areas (called “front of book” or FOB) can be a quick source of good money and wider opportunities. Here’s how: