How to Deal with Wacky Content Requests

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Guest blog by Dee Mason

As a freelance writer, I get a lot of different requests almost every day. I’ve written for a whole host of industries – from pet shops to abattoirs – and I’d be hard pressed to list them all. Because I get so many content requests, it’s inevitable that some of them will be a little more ‘out there’ than others. When I get one of these more unusual content requests, I’m faced with a choice: do I politely decline and move on to more conventional pastures, or should I challenge myself (and sometimes my preconceptions) by tackling the topic head on? Over the years I’ve developed a few different angles on answering this question, which I think will best be explained with a little examination of the types of content requests to which I’m referring.

Keeping things professional

Like any creative industry, the topics covered by freelance writers like myself are on a broad spectrum. Wacky content requests are therefore par for the course. What I normally do whenever I get any request for written content is try to learn exactly what’s involved. This gives me some measure of whether or not I feel I can take on the job. So, for example, if a new client wants 1000 words on toilet cleaning, I have to be able to decide on whether or not I can actually write that much on that topic. Following this logic, you can see that dealing with wacky content requests can be a tricky business. As a professional I can’t allow myself to take on more than I can handle, but at the same time I am highly adept at researching topics thoroughly. It’s when the topics start to get really off-the-wall that I need to think harder about whether or not to take the job.

I remember one particular occasion just like this: I had been working with a specific client for about six months writing various feature articles on sportswear. This was no problem at all, and I really enjoyed the work. However, as our contract was coming to a close, the client politely enquired as to whether I was able to write jokes about (believe it or not) ice lolly sticks! Now if that’s not the definition of wacky, I don’t know what is. So how did I deal with it? Well, I decided to muck in and give it my best shot; after all, it’s not every day that a writer gets to create a little laughter!

A matter of ethics

It’s not all fun and games when it comes to wacky content requests, though. There has been more than one occasion when I have been asked to write content which is either ‘adult’ in nature, or even verging on the illegal. In cases such as these, I always made sure that I remained professional. Turning down work for ethical reasons is one thing, but judging others based on their work requirements is something different. As a writer I understand that everyone’s needs are different (especially with the Internet around), but I firmly believe that you should only take on work that you agree with ethically. Otherwise the work will read unconvincingly, and that can affect your professional reputation.

The very nature of wacky content requests is that they are a little out of the ordinary. For this simple fact alone, you need to be a little more open-minded in your treatment of them. Never judge someone when it’s not your place to – especially when they’re offering you work. If the topic of the job contradicts your morals or beliefs, always be nice and simply move along. Likewise, if you think the idea is so zany that it might just work, welcome the job with open arms. As with anything else in life, you should tackle each situation as and when it comes along. I can’t give you a definitive answer to how you should deal with wacky content requests, but I can guarantee that, if you work in the creative industry, you’ll come face to face with one sooner or later – so be prepared.
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Dee Mason is a freelance writer and has had more than her fair share of insane assignments over the years. She regularly writes for a number of sites and publications, including (more recently) a quality furniture manufacturer in the US.

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Copyright 2011 Eric Bank, Freelance Writer

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