Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

The freelancer’s guide to repurposing ideas

March 25, 2019

Share this article:

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on email
lightbulb with idea bubbles
Finding new angles on topics you’ve already covered can help freelancers improve their income. (Photo by Pixabay via Pexels, Pexels License)

For many freelance writers with bylines across multiple publications, the key to success is not in thinking up a million disparate ideas but in finding ways to put a new spin on the ideas they’ve already covered. By finding multiple ways to write about the same idea they get more mileage out of everything they write and speed up the research process.

Here’s a look at strategies for breathing new life into old ideas.

Zoom in

If you’ve covered a topic in a broad, sweeping manner, consider zooming in on a specific aspect of that topic. Maybe you wrote about neurodiversity in the workplace (a movement that stresses how people with learning differences such as ADHD or autism can bring skills to the workplace that their neurotypical coworkers may lack), but you didn’t have the space to get specific on how companies are adapting their recruitment processes for neuro-diverse candidates. That could be its own story.

Zoom out

Or perhaps you could take the opposite approach. If you wrote about a local company that’s brewing beer out of stale bread,  you might zoom out to look at the broader trend of reducing food waste and how other companies are carrying out this mission in other ways.

Change the point of view

If you wrote for a human resources magazine about how to recruit and interview Gen Z employees, you could flip the POV by writing about that topic but from the job candidate’s point of view for a general interest publication or a job search website. What does Gen Z need to know about the hiring process at a startup versus a mid-sized company or a large national company? How can they stand out from the pack?

Add new information

If you’ve covered a topic in the past, there may be new wrinkles that warrant revisiting the topic. If you previously wrote about a local company that was acquired, how is the company faring a year after the acquisition? What’s changed or stayed the same? If you previously wrote an explainer on 529 college savings accounts, are there newer options or provisions of the law that consumers should know about now?

Check your contracts.

Some publication’s freelance contracts prevent writers from covering the same topics for a specified time period (for instance, 90 days after the magazine is taken off newsstands). If that’s the case, you should negotiate to define the topic as narrowly as possible so doesn’t limit your ability to write for other publications. But if you’ve already signed the contract and you can’t negotiate, follow whatever terms you already agreed to.

Pitch to non-competing publications.

Don’t sell a story on the same topic to competing publications. Even if you write different stories, your editors may not appreciate seeing your byline on a similar article in a competing publication. Instead, look for non-competing publications. For instance, you could write about the benefits of branded merchandise for a coffee industry trade magazine and cover tips for launching a branded merchandise line for a website that caters to gym owners. Coffee shop owners and gym owners probably aren’t reading publications in each other’s niches.

Don’t recycle quotes.

To avoid overlap between stories, find fresh quotes (and write new transitional text) for each story. You may have material left on the cutting room floor of past interviews. You could also schedule additional interviews or interview completely different sources. Also try to find the newest statistics on your topic each time you cover it.

More Like This...

Woman in bedroom on laptop computer

Retirement options for freelancers

Freelancing has its perks – including freedom. One of the downsides is the missed opportunity to participate in a company retirement plan that matches your contributions. But if you’re fretting

man sitting at coffee table counting money with budgeting

Navigating through finance as a freelancer

Freelancing is a double-edged sword: it comes without the security and benefits of a full-time job but allows for greater flexibility to pursue a wider range of opportunities and lifestyle

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.