Do You Have Industry Experience? Write About It!
Write about what you know.
That’s the number one recommendation always given to aspiring novelists. But it’s just as applicable to writers of non-fiction. Freelance content writers, for instance.
It makes sense. There are advantages for you and also for potential clients.
When you have industry experience, you know what you’re talking about. You’re comfortable with the subject. Sure, you’re probably a great researcher and given a little lead time you can learn and write about virtually anything. But if you’re trying to make a living, remember this: the more time you spend researching simply to understand your new client and their industry, the longer it will take you to complete their project, therefore the less you’re pulling in per hour.
Writing within your comfort zone means you can get more work done. Better. Faster.
You’ll be doing clients a favor, too.
When you write about what you know, there’s no learning curve. Believe me, clients do not want to train you. If you can’t readily grasp their topic and write in language that speaks to their audience, you are not the answer to their problem. As John Henderson so aptly puts it, “You can’t engage with people you don’t understand.”
You can’t expect them to pay for writing that’s off the mark, either factually or in voice. Their readers can detect if you’re unsure of your topic, especially if you’re writing something that’s detailed or technical. On the other hand, if you sound like one of them, you’re an insider. They’ll be more comfortable with you.
But it’s more than knowing the right words – the technical terms, abbreviations and jargon. Writing about what you know shows you understand the industry or profession – the players, the trends, the best practices and the issues that keep them up at night.
The lack of learning curve means you already have the knowledge to quickly sort information to identify what’s most important and what’s off-point or totally irrelevant. That means you can more easily and reliably meet deadlines. You can even become more of a working partner, offering your clients advice and suggestions about valuable content topics.
You know more than you think you do.
Attracting writing clients is like looking for any job. So think “transferrable skills.” If you have experience with accounting or strategic planning, that knowledge translates to any type of business, not just the one you worked for.
Think about your areas of special expertise – professional, but also personal. What you know isn’t confined to previous jobs you might have held or industries you’ve worked in. What about the rest of your life? Your hobbies, your family, your personal experiences.
Industry knowledge can give you a real boost for B2B writing, but for B2C subjects, the rest of your experience is just as important. You’ll have an easier time – and do a better job – if you know what you’re talking about. If you don’t know nothing about rock climbing, for instance, pass on that job blogging about climbing gear.
Talk about what you know.
If you’re hoping to attract more writing work, you have to let prospective clients know what you can do for them. That includes making sure they understand all the areas of expertise you have in your experience arsenal.
Tell them about your varied writing experience, too. After all, they are hiring a writer. If you’ve written lots of different types of material – advertising copy, marketing brochures, website content, reports, whatever – that demonstrates your ability to convey information in different formats, in different tones.
And if you’re good at presenting technical content to non-technical audiences, tell them that, too. Years ago I worked for a niche-market electronics manufacturer. When I rewrote their user manuals, distributors all around the country called to say thanks, because customers could finally understand the instructions that came with their equipment.
You’re writing for the Internet. And what do we know about the Internet these days? Building relationships and building trust are key. How better to lay the foundation for that than by demonstrating that your experience and insight relate directly to your prospective client’s industry? Experience counts. If you have the experience, they can count on you.
So what are your areas of expertise?