What makes a question a ‘frequently asked question’? Is there a certain number of times you have to hear it before you know it’s a standard question in your particular topic area?
Jen Stakes Roberts and I made a series of videos answering common questions as a promotional piece for EnhancedFreelance.com. We knew that we wanted to answer common questions that freelancers regularly face in a way we could easily link back to our site. But picking out the questions to answer was not the simple matter you might think.
We’ve chosen a very targeted audience: freelancers who have been in business for a while but have somewhat stalled in going forward. There are definitely common questions that we hear a lot, but not all really tied in with what we’re working on for the site. For instance, it’s not unusual for someone in the market we’re targeting to have some very important questions about tax laws — but that’s not a big focus for the site. Since we work with an international group of members, a video about taxes would have been hours long to cover anyone and I would live in fear of giving someone the wrong advice for their locale.
We also wanted interesting questions: it’s not always that easy to keep a viewer’s interest for the entire length of a video, at least online where there are so many other options. Interesting, at least in this context, means something that the audience wants to hear about. While sex and drugs seem to work for tabloids, things don’t have to be quite that exciting to still be interesting to a particular audience.
The questions we chose are ones that we’ve gotten in several different contexts. I have a bit of a leg up on this particular situation: I’ve done numerous agony aunt columns for freelancing sites, giving me a very clear picture of not only the types of questions that freelancers have, but what stages of a freelance career bring those questions into focus. If you don’t have a stock pile of questions sitting in a dusty corner, however, there are two starting points that I would suggest: Quora and LinkedIn Answers. Just read through the questions that appear regularly in the category you’re considering writing or talking about. You’ll get a quick snapshot of what people find confusing right away. It would be ideal to do more research, of course, but that isn’t always possible.
For our promotional piece, we chose five questions:
- How much time does a freelancer need to spend on social media?
- What should you do a client asks you why your rates are so much higher than an automated service or a freelancer based overseas?
- What should you do about protecting projects from people who might steal them?
- What should you do when you’ve got more work than you can handle?
- How can you find ways to keep earning more money as a freelancer?
I’ll admit that at least a couple of these are what I would consider personal soap box issues — I have strong feelings about the answers and data to back them up. That makes it a lot easier to write up a script and film a response that sounds natural. But that’s only a last-step filter for choosing what questions to use when you’ve already got several options. And, hopefully, you’re working on a topic that you’re pretty passionate about in general and have lots of opinions anyway. If you aren’t and you’re trying to establish yourself as at least enough of an expert to answer standard questions, you’re probably going to have some problems.
If you want to find the big questions in your niche (for marketing efforts or otherwise), start by eliminating topics that you can’t easily answer in the format you’ve chosen. Look for interesting topics that can hold attention. Look at places that regularly post questions for a starting point.
And enjoy our first video:
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