How to Write Effective Content For a Client Who Requires References and Citations

Photo by Andreea-Maria Juganaru on Unsplash

report from Forbes shows that a third of US working population would have done freelancing of time in their life. Freelancing has been the most viable option for many at present. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely triggered this situation even more. With more and more workforce wanting to break the 40 hrs/week schedule and the monotonous 9–5 day job routine freelancing has become very competitive. With such a massive number of freelancers in the market, it has become quintessential for each one of us to find our niche.

Finding your niche

Note: If you already have found your niche and feel this is irrelevant, please skip to the next subheading

First things first. Even before knowing your niche, you need to know the various freelancing jobs in the market. On a very broad scale, there are approximately 7 types of freelancing jobs, namely,

  • Writer
  • Web Design/Development
  • Graphic Designer
  • Accounting or BookKeeping
  • Photography
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Administrative jobs (A virtual assistant for your client in scheduling meetings, maintaining the calendar, etc.)

In this broad classification, freelance writing alone has many types, like copywriting, writing sales pitches, landing pages, press releases, and many more. Try not to get lost in this ocean of generic writing, and find a specialty topic that you are good at or enjoy writing so you can sustain the heavily competitive market.

Every form of copywriting has its own difficulty level. End of the day the satisfaction of your client and readers matters. When you have a clear idea on how to approach a topic and enough facts to support it, then your article would have a minimum guarantee, it then all depends on your writing style and flow.

Every niche has certain defined guidelines to satisfy its clients. My niche being “Academic Writing”, involves tons of research and lots of references and citations. In this article, I shall provide you a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective article with lots of references and citations.


Step-by-step guide for any writing that involves research

Step 1 — Target audience

Knowing your target audience is primal. You should understand if you are writing for a blog with a defined section of people, student community or public. Knowing your target audience helps you in researching the relevant details. For example, if your target audience is university students/grads, then you need to refer to many academic journals if the public goes for online legit publications. Mostly, the client is very descriptive in their requirements, if not please ask.

Step 2 — Critical Analysis

This is the vital step in writing. My first client was kind enough to teach me a lot during the process of my writing. One main advice he shared with me was to critically analyze any given fact. For example, when I was writing a strategic management report on one of UK’s top clothing retail business chain, I had to discuss the company’s current management process that had a lot of good initiatives for surviving so long in the market as well as what needs to be changed to meet the constantly changing market around them.

Critically analyzing a process helps you in providing the best recommendations. In my case, when I critically analyzed the management process of the retail giant, I was able to recommend how the company can make economical as well as effective changes to the already existing process to sustain in the highly competitive market.

Step 3- Use google scholar for your research

Research is the key to add credibility to your copywriting. When you pick notes from your research, it is necessary to use legit sources. It is advised to avoid Wikipedia, blogs and other random articles.

Google scholar is always the best search engine to get legit information. The journals and documents are well categorized, giving you all the relevant information .

When you choose your reference documents, make sure to always look for the latest journals to stay relevant in time. It is quite easy to pick the latest, because the search engine provides you an option to choose time range of the research documents. Be specific in your search criteria. For example, if you want to know the various factors affecting the growth of Starbucks, try to refine your search criteria by specifying if its external, environmental, political factor; be specific. You need to be very precise else you might be lost in a sea of irrelevant findings.

Step 4- References and Citations

This is one of the important step that your client might look for. If the references and citations are not well provided, your work might fail the plagiarism check. These are very, very important to make your work legit and not lose your credibility as a writer. You are not reinventing the wheel here; you are just summarizing something that has already been said by someone, so make sure to give credit for the owners by referencing it properly.

References can be in-text or just a list of references. Suppose you are quoting somebody, it is necessary to specify the author’s last name along with a year at the end of the quote. There should always be a full list of the referenced articles at the end of your writing so your readers could always refer to and make sure you add your references as and when you quote so you do not miss on anything.

There are tons of document on the internet about how to provide a reference list. Certain clients are very specific on their referencing style; my client mostly wanted Harvard referencing style. Please make sure you adhere to the expected styles. The weight for these referencing is quite high so make sure you handle with care.

Step 5 — Set the tone for your essay

This is a common step for any writing. There should be a tone set for your writing. Avoid using heavy words or jargons in your writing. For example, I used the word “prowess” to express the strength of a company and my client immediately asked me to remove such words and use appropriate words to maintain the tone. This looks trivial but definitely adds relevance. You can always go for such fancy words or jargons if your client provides you the freedom to.

Step 6 — Give a clear summary/abstract about your writing

Summaries/abstracts are the important paragraphs that would attract your readers into your writing, so make sure you are precise and provide the key points about your write-up. Do not add any information that you have not covered as part of the writing, in short do not give any false hopes to your readers.

Make sure your writing has a clear introduction and conclusion about the company or the product. This helps both the client and the readers know how you started and how well you covered the topic.

Step 7 — Meet the word limit to the dot

This is a requisite in most of the writings, but when it comes to academic or technical writing, this is very important. Meeting the word limits helps our writing to be on point and not go overboard. In such type of copy writing you will have to cover various topics. Unless you stay on point and be precise, you would not be able to meet the word count. So, make sure every section of your writing addresses only the relevant points.

Finally, review your writing with the instructions provided by your client and check if you have met all the criteria. The content definitely matters but there is enough weight given to all the other aspects of your writing.

Academic/Technical writing might not be everybody’s first preference, I agree. But every writing has an audience. Involving yourself in such genres in the early stage of your freelancing career might increase your analytical and creative skills. It is a no secret many invest a lot of time finding their niche to get their first gig, but if you try to attract your first client with a skill set that you already possess, then things might fall in place soon. Academic writing might be a good place to start with if you are good at researching and critically evaluating any given situation.

Hope this guide gave a good understanding on how to approach a write -up that involves extensive research and references.

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