I recently had an assignment where, due to unclear instructions from my editor (who didn’t really know all the details themselves, just a name to contact), I ended up having no idea what I was doing for an assignment. It was not until I talked with my interviewee during our interview did I learn what the article was supposed to be about. I ended up feeling clueless and unprofessional, especially when I found out that the topic I thought was what I was building off of was completely opposite of what they thought it was going to be, making my list of questions useless. I ended up having to reschedule the interview, explaining that my editor had been unclear and that I needed to sit down and make up new questions to ask. Thankfully the person was understanding and I was able to reschedule our interview (which went well). It was definitely not a fun experience, and, sadly, it is one you may encounter in your freelance writing adventures as well. So what should you do when you have no clue what you’re doing for an article?
1. Be honest. If you have been completely caught off guard as to what to do (like I was) when talking with the person you are supposed to interview, tell them. Try to see if you can reschedule. Explain that you were not properly informed of what you were assigned to write about and need to figure out what to ask. People appreciate honesty and will hopefully be willing to adjust things if you need to.
2. Contact your editor. Email, text or call, but just talk with them as soon as possible. If the information they gave you was incorrect or unclear, get in touch with them and try to clear up what you can. They might be just as out of the loop as you are, so they may also help give you direction as to what they want the article to be.
3. Do your best. If you are unable to reschedule or rethink and have to work on the fly, stick with basic questions and build off of them. Get as much as you can and try to work with it. Be open to opportunities to ask additional questions. In the end, sometimes all you can do is try your best and make something happen.
4. Be professional. Even if you are mentally screaming in your head about how frustrating this assignment is, be as professional as you can with the people you are working with. Don’t bad mouth the publication you write for or your editor if they made a mistake. Merely explain to the person you are interviewing that things were missed in communications with your editor and you need to adjust your questions. Working well under pressure helps give you a good reputation as a writer, so just keep cool and be calm.
5. Just get through it. Yes, it might be a difficult assignment, but you can get through this. Do your best, be as professional as possible and have a little celebration planned for when you get the assignment done.
Hopefully these tips will help you whenever you end up with a difficult assignment where you have no idea what you’re doing. If you went through a tough article as well, I would love to hear your experience and advice in a comment below!