When you’re looking to hire a freelance writer, how important is it for the writer to have previous experience developing content for your particular niche? It depends. How technical is your information? How motivated is the writer to learn about your topic?
In the twenty-five years that I’ve been a professional writer, I’ve written for a wide range of clients and have provided content on a variety of topics. On occasion, I’ve had to address the issue of whether my experience qualifies me to write about a particular topic. Nonfiction writers make money by providing clear, concise, and accurate content as quickly as they can. This is the reason many writers stick to a few chosen topics; once they have mastered the learning curve on a particular topic, it’s easier for them to meet the client’s needs. However, this is not true for all writers — especially those of us who like the challenge that comes along with learning something new.
I began my professional writing career as a scriptwriter for GTE Lenkurt — the largest independent telephone company in the United States during the days of the Bell System. Fresh out of grad school with a degree in Instructional Design, my job was to create training videos and other collateral designed to teach employees things like Crystal Filter Assembly and everything you ever wanted to know about microwave radios. While my formal education did provide me with a procedure for extracting information from specialists in any field, I can assure you that I knew absolutely nothing about the telecommunications industry when I landed this most coveted position.
Two years later, I left GTE to produce a telethon for United Cerebral Palsy Association. I wrote all of the segments for the five San Francisco Bay Area affiliates. At the time, I knew nothing about Cerebral Palsy, but it didn’t take me long to get up to speed. Five years later I owned my own writing business and was developing brochures, articles and videos about everything from the fastest motorboat on the planet (well, at least it was at the time) to a video series for Stanford University on Cardiac Recovery.
Because most writers are a curious lot, we are comfortable learning about a variety of subjects. Most of us do this at an astonishing pace because we know how to ask subject matter experts the right questions and craft their answers into insightful, intelligent prose. If you’re looking to hire a freelance writer, and the only thing they don’t have is experience in your particular field, then ask them if they are interested in your topic. If they are, then you probably have the beginning of a beautiful working relationship. As a bonus, keep in mind the fact that if you’re paying a flat rate per article, the burden to learn about your business is on the writer.