How to Write When You Know Nothing About Your Topic

8713536236_b78418ba99The beauty of the Internet is its ability to connect people to the information or product they need. As a modern writer you may be called upon to craft copy about a plethora of topics of which you may not be familiar, but for which you might be expected to produce expert level work.

So how do you magically become a subject matter expert on orthopedic prosthetics when you’re barely even sure what that entails? Here’s what I do when a client asks me to write about a topic with which I am unfamiliar.

Communicate With the Client

Make sure you have a clear understanding of what the client is expecting from the finished product. Obviously, they shouldn’t be looking for you to produce an academic journal on cold fusion if you don’t have a background in that area, so don’t be afraid to ask additional questions.

Ask your client if he or she could produce some examples of work that they would like you to emulate. Are there specific industry topics you should focus on? Ideally these things would be communicated to you; however, especially when work is outsourced, it’s easy for company insiders to forget that you aren’t as up to speed with the business as they are. Asking questions in the beginning saves time for both parties.

Research

Now that you’ve hopefully gotten some more information on what kind of work your client is expecting, it’s time to do some research. Check out websites from other leaders in the industry. It’s a bonus if they have social media sites such as Twitter because then you can see what kinds of topics they are  following or talking about.

If your client has a website, glean as much information from there as you can. If your client doesn’t have a website, you should turn to Google to find more information on the topic. Be prudent when using Google, make sure where you’re getting your information from is a trusted source.  Just because a site is first in the list of search results on Google doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. Sometimes you have to research your research.

You Won’t Be an Expert – Do Your Best

You can’t be an expert in just a day or week, but you can do your best in your area of expertise: writing. You were hired because you can write and make things sound good, so do that as best you can. Don’t spend too much time researching. If you’re really unclear on what to write, research as much as you can then give your best work quickly so that you can at least turn something in. Edits or revisions can be made later on.

Don’t let an unfamiliar topic stop you from the practice of writing. It’s challenging to take on new subjects when writing, but with some reading comprehension and confidence in your abilities things should fall into place.

What steps do you take when you are asked to write on an unfamiliar subject? Share your thoughts in the comments! 

Photo Credit: Keegan

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