Diana Kelly Levey

How Much Time Should Freelance Writers Spend Researching Articles?

A woman conducting freelance research on her laptop

January 30, 2018

A few years back, I received this freelance writing question on an Ask Me Anything (AMA) I hosted on AMAFeed.com, where beginner freelancers sent questions on freelance topics.

Freelance question: How would you go about researching a new piece of content? How long would it take?

My response: It depends on what the freelance assignment is and who it’s for.

How Long to Spend Researching an Article Pitch

If I’m coming up with the idea myself for an article pitch, I poke around the internet to see if it’s been written before and, if so, who published it.

Then I spend time thinking about and researching a new spin on the topic I can take that someone else hasn’t done.

I also might search through some of my regular freelance clients (usually health, fitness, sleep and wellness) to see if they covered that topic already, and if not, how I can make it work for their audience. (Learn how to get better-paying freelance clients this year.)

That’s a long way of saying, it may take 30 minutes to an hour of research for an article pitch that would result in a 500- to 600-word article assignment. If I’m familiar with the freelance client’s website and what they’ve been assigning  — and know my idea hasn’t been covered — I might spend about 15 minutes or so writing up a freelance article pitch that includes research if I don’t need to get too in-depth for the editor.

I try not to go too far into researching something if I don’t think I can sell my freelance idea to an editor. Unless I’m simply just having fun learning about the topic and chalk it up to enjoyment and knowledge gained.

Ready to take your freelance career to the next level and get higher-paying assignments? Get my new e-book 100+ Tips for Beginner Freelance Writers!

Check out these freelance pitches that sold and learn tips to get more freelance assignments. (BTW, here’s how to come up with article ideas fast.)

How Much Time to Spend On Research for a Freelance Article That’s Been Assigned

If I’ve been assigned to write a freelance article by an editor, I make sure I have the scope of the project and what I think they want to see in the finished piece (which includes and email with some bullet points and the type of people to interview as well as the word count range).

Once an editor assigns me an article, I might spend about an hour or two researching the background information if it’s a medical topic I’m not familiar with — like the best devices for depression — or something complicated, like that time I wrote about high-security revolving doors for Bloomberg Businessweek.

If I’m writing a straightforward article that I’m familiar with and mostly up-to-date on the research — like a weight loss foods piece — I might only need to spend an hour doing research before I write the piece. (You might also find it helpful to know how much time freelance writers actually spend writing.)

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