This set of silly sentences I shared last Saturday (alliteration fully intended) wasn’t the only thing I found while recently inspecting some old files on my computer. I also uncovered a whole cache of articles I have written for various magazines, newspapers, and websites over the years. Sadly, many of these publications are no longer in existence.
Something you learn early on in your freelance career is to reuse your work whenever possible. Sometimes this means selling the same article to different (non-competing) publications if you have retained the relevant rights (more alliteration…I must be on a roll today). Other times, it means reusing your research to write several similar articles for different audiences.
For example, I once wrote a somewhat “technical” article about food poisoning for a readership of lab technicians, and shortly thereafter wrote another article on food poisoning for a popular Muslim website with a completely different tone, focus, and slant. If I had taken the time to do so, I could have potentially written many more articles with my food poisoning research while the information was still fresh in my mind, perhaps approaching parenting magazines, travel publications, cooking websites, and others with an interest in this topic.
Time permitting, I will discuss how to successfully resell and “reslant” articles in a future post.
Today, however, I want to discuss another way to recycle your work, which involves updating your old articles with new information. To illustrate, I will use the example of an article I wrote back in 2006: Muslim Students Go Abroad to Study Arabic (PDF).
As one might expect from the title, this article described the experiences of several people who went abroad to study Arabic. Specific details were included, such as the names of the institutes they attended, the cost of each program, and how satisfied the students were with their investments of time and money. Nearly fourteen years later, there is no real central resource to exhaustively compare available overseas Arabic-language programs, and much of the information in my article is now outdated. For example, it is no longer possible for most people to travel to Syria or Yemen, which used to be popular destinations for studying Arabic. Times have definitely changed; however, new programs and opportunities exist for students, including reputable programs in various Arab Gulf countries not mentioned in the article (such as this one at Qatar University, although this is not meant to be an endorsement).
On the other hand, some institutes, such as the Qasid Institute in Jordan (which is mentioned in the 2006 article), have continued to develop and flourish along with other long-standing programs in countries like Egypt and Morocco. Besides this, however, a whole new world of online learning has unfolded since 2006, before the popularity of YouTube, mobile apps, Skype lessons, and language-learning sites like Duolingo (again, however, this is not an endorsement). A new article would ideally mention some of this new technology – or maybe that information could be spun into a “companion” article of its own. A related article could also discuss the best Arabic-learning opportunities for children and teens.
One thing I know for sure is that people regularly continue to express an interest in traveling to learn Arabic, making this a popular topic with the potential to go viral.
Does anyone out there have a pros cons list of Arabic language programs in the Middle East?— Joe Bradford (@joebradford) February 25, 2020
I know a few people looking to go but they’re trying to weigh a few considerations: accessibility, efficacy, safety, dogmatism, etc
Writing a new article would mean interviewing new people and researching current opportunities to learn Arabic, which would involve quite a bit of work. At the same time, it would be relatively easy to write since I already have experience with the topic. I know how to structure the article and which questions to focus on. It would not be an exact replica of the old article but might contain some of the same elements, such as a side-bar listing popular programs. With the advent of social media, it would also be a lot easier to find people to interview; in 2006, I struggled with this and had to rely on friends and colleagues for referrals.
Have you ever revamped some of your old work in order to make a freelance sale several years later? Share your experiences by leaving a comment!
Oh, and if you’ve studied Arabic as a second language, I’d love to hear about that, too.