How to write a great blog post on a topic you know nothing about

A few years ago I turned down a freelance job writing for a video game company, because I didn’t know enough about the topic to write an educated blog about it. As you’d suspect, that turned out to be a huge mistake, and the person who got the position became a permanent in-house writer for this very lucrative company. Writing about a variety of topics is the bread and butter of freelance writing, and knowing how to write a great blog about a topic you know nothing about is essential.

1. Research

This is where the majority of your work will take place, even more than the actual writing. If you’re a blogger, you (hopefully) already have some writing talent; it’s not about how to write as much as what to write, and once you know that, the process of creating will be much easier.

Start with plugging your topic into Google, and spend 30 minutes reading through the results that come up. When you see something particularly interesting or relevant, copy and paste it into a blank Word doc or whatever blogging platform you’re using. Keep reading and copying, until you have several large paragraphs (or pages, depending on the complexity of the topic).

 research

2. Create an outline

This is the learning process. Once you’re done researching, go through your draft and find the main point of each paragraph. Turn each point into a headline. You now have a pseudo-outline for your blog post. Don’t get stuck overthinking things at this point; where there’s a hole, put X’s or “blah blah blah’s” – you’ll come back to it shortly.

3. Flesh it out

Once you have the outline, it’s time to dig into each paragraph. You only have other people’s words at this point, but they can be a great guide to get the creative juices flowing. You may need to do a bit more research, but it won’t take long to understand each relevant point, until you can describe and elaborate on them in your own words.

 

4. Ask Questions

This is a great time to ask for clarification points from your client. Don’t worry – it’s ok to ask questions! Your title is Writer, not CMO, or Video Game Designer, or whatever discipline you’re writing about.  Your client won’t be upset that you’re asking questions, and should be happy to elaborate.  Record or document everything they say on the subject; they are a goldmine of useful knowledge, and you should use their words whenever possible.

 questions

5. Reorder

Now that you have all the info you need placed into relatively structured paragraphs, re-order them so they flow smoothly and make sense. This is a great time to write the opening and closing paragraphs, and give the piece a title. This is also the stage where I plug any pictures or infographics into the piece.

6. Edit, edit, edit

Your blog post is 95% done. It’s time to unleash your inner grammar Nazi. Go through the post with a fine-tooth comb, fixing any errors along the way, checking your SEO, making sure any hyperlinks point to the correct location, and that every semicolon is in the right place.  That said – remember, done is better than perfect.  Artists are their own worst critics, and writers are no exception.  Get the thing written, read it twice for accuracy, and move on.  The best way I’ve found to “perfect” a piece is to read it out loud to someone else – I usually catch most errors that way.

Freelance writers need to have an arsenal of tricks up their sleeve to create something from (next to) nothing, and knowing how to write about any topic will help you stay competitive.  Your portfolio will diversify, your connections will expand, and you might learn a thing or two along the way.

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