My first writing gig was a concert review.
Great! I thought, This is what it means to be a working writer. It’s all freebies, fun and cool stuff.
Over a decade has passed since that concert and I’m now a business journalist. On any given day I’m usually writing about tax, trade, business and/or financial services.
In short, things that my 20-something concert-going self would’ve avoided like the plague.
But I like it.
Well, the pay cheque helps. But, more than that, I’ve found a way to take these dry subjects and make them interesting.
It’s a survival thing because it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to write well about something that bores you to tears.
If you’re not interested, neither is your reader.
Every freelance writer is going to come up against a topic that doesn’t grab them. It happens if you want to make a living at this gig.
So here’s a few tips for the next time that happens.
1. Find the humanity
Every good piece of writing is a story, so you have to find the humanity in your piece.
The easiest and quickest way to do this is to line up a good interviewee. If they’re passionate about their subject, articulate and knowledgeable then they’ll tell the story for you.
Aside from business writing, I do a lot of environment-focused features and those are my favourites. I’ve interviewed archaeologists, marine biologists, meteorologists, even the guy who invented the first SCUBA suit, and these people drew me in to some very technical subjects because of their obvious passion for them.
Find the person in your story, and you’re halfway there.
2. Read around the topic
I’ve often fallen into the trap of mistaking boredom for ignorance. Don’t do this.
If you’re bored by the subject of your writing, perhaps you just don’t know enough about it.
Carve out some time to read around the topic. Start small (the internet has a beginner’s guide to everything) and educate yourself on the finer points.
Most of the time, you’ll come across something that snags your interest and that’s your entry point.
3. Know your audience
Thinking about the reader is very helpful when you’re disinterested and stuck.
I recommend a quick brainstorm, asking:
- What does the reader want to know?
- What do they need to know?
- How can I help them understand this?
Trying to make it interesting for others is a good shortcut to making it interesting for yourself.
4. Be yourself
Every writer has their own style, don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your work – even if it’s a piece about tax reform (especially if it’s a piece about tax reform).
Good writers (in any genre) build up a following by having their own voice. Whether your audience is interested in accounting, law or finance, they’ll respond to that voice.
Don’t be intimidated by heavy topics. Dive in, put your own spin on them and let your style come through. It’ll make the whole process a lot more enjoyable for you…and your readers.
5. Avoid jargon
Writing in a niche field like business can lead to something I like to call jargonitis.
Jargon spreads like a disease and, having been at this for many years, I have to watch myself carefully for signs of infection.
Using too many buzzwords and industry-speak stifles your own voice.
It’s boring for your readers (who’ve heard these terms a million times before), it’s boring for you and it’s actually counter-productive when it comes to explaining and analysing complex concepts.