Writing Better Articles: Outlining with the Questions People Ask and The Questions They Should Be Asking
Some of the best advice I've ever read on outlining came from the book “How to Write a Book for Beginners" by Ryan Stephens. This advice had to do outlining a nonfiction book, but it’s applicable to any kind of nonfiction writing.
Ryan asked his friend about how he outlines his books. He told him it's as simple as this: answer two types of questions. There are the questions people actually ask and the questions they should be asking. In the case of a nonfiction book, you want your chapter titles to be the questions people ask. Then, the subheadings are made from the questions you find people should be asking.
The best part about this advice is that it works for article writing, too. As someone who used to be rather allergic to traditional outlining, I find this simple approach refreshing. But while it looks simple on the surface, how easy is it to know what questions to ask?
What Questions Do People Actually Ask?
Fortunately, good old Google Autocomplete can give us a treasure trove of what people actually search around a given word or phrase. This is a helpful place to begin your research. Or is it?
The funny thing that came to my head as I set to writing on this topic is this: what if the best questions people want to ask aren't even being typed into Google? This is a good thought that I don't think I've ever thought before. It's funny how when you start asking yourself questions how you come up with more questions.
This is how I knew that Ryan's friend was really onto something when he said you should outline using questions. For so long I've often used dry subheaders and even really dry titles just to get the keywords in there. Before reading that Ryan Stephens book I didn't even really consider writing nonfiction books. But the idea dawned on me that I should seriously look into it.
But did I Google it? Nope. I searched Amazon for free Kindle books on writing. That's right. People still look for answers in books. Who would've thought? Believe it or not, though, there isn't a book readily available for every topic. Even if people write a hundred thousand articles on a topic, it doesn't mean there's a good book on it. So, why does it matter if you can't find a book on Amazon for a question you have? To me, it screams opportunity. As a writer, this smells like fresh blood does to a shark.
So, now we've established that people search Amazon sometimes before they even think about Google. That's not a tip you see everyday. But there are a lot of places to look for answers to your questions. You can't possibly check them all.
So, How Do I Find the Right Questions to Ask?
The best way I've been finding questions to ask is not doing keyword research. I certainly still do some initial keyword research, because you can find some good opportunities to target your content that way. But when you set yourself to answer a question, you should never limit yourself. The best way to know what questions to ask is to ask yourself what questions you would ask.
If you have a topic or question in mind, write it down. Then, ask yourself the questions you would ask in order to be satisfied that your question has been sufficiently answered. But, how do you know I'm asking the right questions when outlining my article or book?
I'm loath to say it, but I'll say it anyway because it will help illustrate a point. There's no such thing as a stupid question. Some will rebut that with: until you ask it. Others will follow up with: only if you don't ask it. I'm inclined to agree with the latter rebuttal.
So, What’s the Best Way to Find the Questions People Actually Ask?
It turns out we are not all brilliant masterminds who have billions of unique thoughts everyday. But I do have good news. The genius is in making the connections between thoughts and ideas. Anyone can do this if you work at it. So, yeah, if you're thinking something, it's highly likely someone else has thought the same thing. But, if you're acting on it, then you're doing something creative. That's important.
As someone who usually skips outlining entirely, why do I suddenly seem keen on taking a step back and really ask some hard questions? Because by asking questions, I find myself asking even more of them. Eventually, I'll recognize which ones seem the most important to answer. Then, I set to work.
What people actually ask is what you'd probably be asking yourself anyway. Yes, seeing what people actually ask is important through some research, too. But when you are trying to write something, you turn the idea faucet on and let it flow for a bit. Then, when you’ve come to a point where you need to turn to answers, this is when you know you have a whole bunch of good questions.
So, how do people even look for answers in the first place?
Should I Google It?
Or, in place of Google, insert your favorite search engine. Keep in mind people use Amazon and YouTube to look for answers, too. Google can be a great tool, but that is all that it is. Finding the answer your seeking may in fact be a click away. But it may not be. And even if there are results, will they satisfy you?
In my experience, if it's not a simple question, most of the time you'll find irrelevant results or feel underwhelmed. Don't blame Google. No one has answered it well enough yet anywhere the Google spiders can find. For writers, this is fresh blood!
But not everyone asks Google their burning questions. And not too many people actually type into Google “should I Google it?” when they’re figuring out how best to find answers. Choosing to use Google is an internal decision. There are so many other search engines out there and while Google is the most-used, not every good question people ask will be easily revealed to you that way.
Should I Look for Answers in a Book?
Turning to books to seek an answer to your question may seem quaint to some people. Actually, if you are even considering this, though,I applaud you. There’s solid reasoning to this decision making process.
By no means is the Google searcher is being lazy or anything. But there are some questions that would seem to require some digging. You can do this through Google, too, of course, but hitting the books means you want more than online articles can give you - no matter how good they are..
And, I hate to break it to you. What you read online is not always accurate. I also hate to break it to you that what you read in a book isn't always accurate. However, books seem to be much more trusted. Why is that?
Yes, it's true that books tend to be more robustly researched, edited, and scrutinized. But, online articles can be too. And since pretty much anyone can self publish not only e-books, but print books too, there isn't too much difference between what you find online or in books, right?
Actually, here's the key difference. Books are longer. Even short ebooks are longer than most articles published on the web. Books require more effort on the part of the writer, and a lot more research. If you’re turning to books to answer your questions, you're no longer just a searcher, but a researcher. Likely, you’ll have visit your local library or buy books to seek answers. If anyone goes to that much effort, it must be important..
This is where we must bridge the gap to what people should be asking.
What Questions SHOULD We Be Asking?
Many questions people are probably only asking internally, but not actually searching. Others have questions that may require more research than many people actually want to do. So, because we writers are wonderful human beings, we go do the hard work so others may benefit.
Or we're self absorbed jerks who want to get paid the big bucks for becoming the top expert on subject X. Either way, same result.
The questions that require digging, the ones not answered well or at all through the results of a Google search, are the ones we should be asking. Those are the ones we should be writing about and answering. Yes, it can be hard work, but the end result is going to be something pretty cool that probably hasn’t been done before.
How Does Listing a Bunch of Questions Help You Outline an Article?
It's quite ironic that when I first began writing this very article that I neglected to even outline it. But as I went along, I realized that I had something pretty profound here. At first, I began to ramble and lose focus. Fortunately, I righted the ship. I started taking a step back and just asking the questions before I just took off being the rambling fool I often am.
Or am I?
Turning the more common questions into chapter titles helps you get into the mindset of your audience. If you’re writing an article, this is how people are going to discover it in search. If you’re writing a book, people will find these in your table of contents, if you choose to make that part of a free book preview (which you should). You also show your audience (and potential publishers) that you have your finger on the pulse of your audience for a certain given topic.
People also like it when you’re asking questions that echo the ones they themselves have been asking. You position yourself as an authority by asking the right questions.
While turning your article or book into an FAQ of sorts isn’t a terrible way to go, you want to get down to creating something more. That’s where the subheaders come in. They’re quite useful in keeping your audience’s attention and allow skimmers to get some value from your work without reading closely. By turning your subheadings into questions, you force yourself to really answer them.
While asking these questions are really helpful in outlining and focusing yourself on the questions you need to answer, they’re good to keep in the final version as well. Many people, myself included, have long had many subheadings that read as statements or more like commands. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, asking questions instead adds a new dimension to your writing. Not only do people appreciate that you’re asking good questions, but you make your readers ask more questions of themselves.
By asking the right questions that people really ask and those that we should be asking, your writing will be a lot more focused and you’ll find yourself driven towards writing good answers more quickly and more often. The questions people ask and the questions they should be asking can serve as the backbone to any piece of nonfiction writing that you’re doing. Once I started writing this way, I can say I write more quickly and more effectively than ever before.
Plus, I started asking a lot more questions. Is that ever a bad thing?
Most web writers will get questioned about their price at least once, but usually quite often. Who doesn't like a bargain? But your writing's worth is dependent upon what you make it. Here's why.
Discounts Are Fine, To A Certain Point
It's fine to have sales or deals for new or regular clients. But you still should keep the worth of your writing in mind. The lower you are willing to go, the less valuable people will see your content as being. Give discounts, but don't go so low that it's not worth both your time, as well as the value the client will get from it.
The Proof Is In Your Work
Quality web writing is getting more difficult to find. More and more people are discovering they can put their words online. This is a good thing, as far as communication. But those looking up specific information need accuracy and quality. This is where you come in as a web writer and prove to your client that your work is worth top dollar. Sometimes it takes that client paying a low quality writer less and finding out the hard way that they should have continued coming to you. I’ve had clients return after doing this more than once. It’s like the old saying goes “You get what you pay for.” Some people charge less than they’re worth, but in many cases, quality writing will cost more because of the time and energy put into creating a quality piece.
Word Gets Around
Remember that business owners talk to each other often. This includes many topics, but who they hire for writing and other services essential to success is very common. If you charge one client a fee that is significantly less than you usually charge, other business owners will learn this and expect the same deal. The reason for the deal often doesn’t matter. Keep things consistent and accurate where your prices are concerned. You want the word to get around regarding your quality, instead of your low price.
Price According To Actual Value
The lower your price, the less value is likely to be given to your content. Remember that word gets around. So, whatever one business owner feels it’s worth may be what others are saying as well. In order to keep your value high, you need to keep your quality high and price your work accordingly and consistently. Obviously, there is some customizing involved in most web projects, based on topic matter, research, word count, and so on. But try to be as consistent as possible and consider the value of your time, as well as what the client will potentially get from said work.
Your work is worth what you make it worth. So, be sure to price it accordingly, limit the bargaining to a reasonable point, and show your clients what your worth via quality.
There are so many resources out there for web writers. But many of them cost money or are just not what you are looking for. As longtime career web writers, here are some FREE resources we have come up with, based on what we know web writers need.
Freelance Writing Gigs
Who wants to spend hours and hours searching online for legitimate places to submit posts and get paid? Apparently, we do because we did it for you and compiled a long (and growing) list of Freelance Writing Gigs that we update regularly. Categorization is based upon topics accepted. There are even symbols to denote the gigs that are known to pay the highest.
FREE Writer's Profile & Online Resume
The main thing a professional writer needs is a place to display a professional bio, experience, and resume, along with a place for potential clients to contact them. That's where our FREE Writer's Profile & Online Resume comes in. Fill out a simple form to get yours today!
WWM Blogging And Beyond
This is a free Facebook support group by Write W.A.V.E. Media that is open to anyone who blogs, writes articles, writes books, or any other kind of content. We also welcome those who are just getting started or are considering it. No question will be turned away. We also encourage writers to share their work with each other. Join WWM Blogging and Beyond to get writing help and support today!
FREE Writer's Forum
There are a good number of writer's forums out there. But we still decided to make our own Write W.A.V.E. Media Writer's Forum because most of the ones we found didn't fit what we were looking for. Sign-in is super easy. Just use any social network or the forum sign-in. Rules are simple and easy to follow. Posts are public, so if you just want to read in order to learn something quickly, but not sign in, that's fine, too. This is a very new forum with few members. So, if you have questions, please post them, so we can grow together!
Become A Writer!
If you are new to online writing or are wondering how to become a writer, let us help you for FREE!! Our free writer's resource, Become A Writer, has links to all of the free information you will need. Don't worry, this is NOT one of those places where the links are free, but then you have to pay. There is never a fee involved. You should never have to pay to receive work.
Writers Helping Writers
To go even further in our efforts to help fellow professionals, we developed Writers Helping Writers, which is our mission and resources for other writers, like ourselves. Network with fellow writers to help each other succeed by gaining and sharing access to valuable resources.
Guest Post Submissions
Are you ready to show off your work? Maybe you already have before, but you have some non-exclusive posts collecting dust. Put those posts to work for you! Use our free Guest Post Submissions form to get your content posted to our popular network of sites. We are not asking for your content without offering you benefits. So, we want you to be sure to include links to your existing work, affiliate links, as well as ad codes in your submitted content. More perks are included, as well. Details are on the submission page and in the Submission Guidelines. We accept all topics from lifestyle, to hobbies, home improvement, parenting, media, science, technology, news, plumbing, gaming, art, entertainment, book teasers, education, literature, and so much more. There isn't a topic we don't accept, as long as the work is quality.
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Thought Leadership Associates Blog
Thought Leadership Associates was developed to bring together thought leaders to discuss tips and advice related to being a successful thought leader and entrepreneur. Read the info shared on the accompanying Thought Leadership Associates Blog to learn how successful experts do what they do. We take guest submissions for this and all of our blogs if you have valuable info to share.
Writing Tips Blog
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Many factors go into determining work and payments from business owners and other clients. These can differ depending on several things. While following this guide may not guarantee that you will receive more work with higher payments, you may see greater opportunities by adhering to the following suggestions. The key is not necessarily to increase every single payment, but to maximize the opportunities available, as well as maximize your long-term benefits from said work.
What types of content are eligible for payment?
All of it! Whether you are soliciting jokes, articles, blog posts, recipes, web page content, product descriptions, photography, or any other creation, it deserves payment if it’s quality material. The key is to submit to the most appropriate venue for best results.
Focus on a specific issue
When you have a tight focus on one topic, readers are more likely to be looking for your content. Think about the things you look for when searching the Web. For instance, instead of general tips on pet adoption, you may want something geared specifically toward the pet you are considering adopting. “Where to adopt a poodle in Denver” should perform better than “How to adopt a pet,” as an example. Write your articles on specific subjects that will be relevant and useful to readers looking for that topic.
Follow assignment details
If you are hired for an assignment, be sure you follow the exact instructions. That means if the instructions say something different from any advice herein, defer to the assignment. When editors and business owners see that you can follow all assignment details reliably, they may be more likely to offer you future opportunities. Remember that, while you should be creative, the content you’re creating is not for you. It’s for the person you are creating it for. Therefore, it should be the way they want it. It’s good to suggest corrections of facts that might be wrong or improvements that might help the client or their website. But again, if they do not agree, unless you are breaking the law or doing something you are strongly against, just do things the way the client wants.
Do your research
When you need to back up your content with facts, be sure these facts are from reliable sources. Also, make sure to cite those sources properly, according to submission guidelines and any additional assignment guidelines. Using multiple highly-trusted and relevant sources also helps to build credibility. Wherever possible, use sources from your client’s website, in addition to the others. This helps them build more relevant inbound linking.
Examine the intended website
If you are submitting to a new client, study the website you are interested in writing for. Think of topics that could work well there but are not yet covered. Having an idea of what could potentially align with a particular property can give you a greater chance at getting accepted. Being unique is key. That means that you don't want to submit something you already see covered on the property. Instead, try submitting something that works well alongside existing content, provides a new angle, or has not been covered at all but could appeal to that property's audience.
Consider the audience behind the topic
Are you writing about parenting? What stages? Think of the age of the kids you're writing about - and then think of what ages the parents are likely to be; they are your most likely audience, and you should cater your content to them. The tone and style used in your article should be something readers can identify with. For instance, if you are writing an article for kids, using complicated business terms is not going to keep them reading. Acceptances of paid submissions are more likely on content that shows attention to detail in this and other areas.
Personalize the experience
When you write an article or blog post, readers should see the real person behind the story (unless your client is not interested in first-person accounts). At the same time, you don't want to ramble about something that has nothing to do with the subject matter. Find that perfect level at which the article provides the information needed with relevant personalization where it fits in with the main point of the article. For instance, if I'm writing an article about picking the perfect daisies, instead of telling a long story about a time when I picked daisies, I would mention how I determine which daisies to pick. I would do that in a way that readers can tell I am knowledgeable and passionate. But it would also need to be something readers can benefit from to answer their questions. When you can use your own unique experience and style, readers can relate more easily. But at the same time, you don't want to say so much that they get bored and click away.
Focus on evergreen material
Focusing on evergreen material is one way to maximize your earnings, as most business owners can use long-lasting content. Evergreen content is that which will draw a reader's interest for long periods of time, such as unique ways to solve common parenting issues. Evergreen slants can also be applied to trending topics. Some editors may value those topics that have a longer shelf life. This is not to say that other content will not be valued, as articles with a shorter shelf life can be useful as well. They each have their own place and are both great ways to maximize your work in different ways. Getting the most out of paid opportunities often involves taking advantage of more than one way to earn.
Pay attention to spelling, grammar, and style
Category and vertical style guides are used for many assignments that offer pay. For the best chances at getting those assignments accepted, be sure to follow them closely. This also goes for any and all other instructions mentioned within the assignment details. Proofreading, even after using spelling and grammar checkers, has always been a lifesaver for me when writing for any venue. Yes, I am a great editor. But, I am also human, so it’s best to double and triple check. Read silently, out loud, and even have a writing buddy take a gander. Programs can miss little things, such as skipped words or typos that are actual words, but not words you intended to use.
Optimize your content for the Web
Studying The Yahoo! Style Guide is a great way to learn basic html, grammar, editing, formatting, and style as it all pertains to writing for the Web. Most content that is submitted to potential clients must be publish-ready. While some venues may have an editor, never rely on editors to fix poor writing. If your writing needs to be thoroughly edited, it is much better to study up so that your submissions are more likely to get acceptances than rejections. You can then submit at a later date when your skills allow you to submit content that is more in line with the platform's needs.
Good Web content displays certain qualities. Apart from being interesting, it must be easy for a wide audience to read. It also must be easily found by search engines. Keep your articles concise and informative in an easy-to-scan format. Web readers often look for something that answers their question quickly and accurately in an engaging manner. For more on writing for the web, again, The Yahoo Style Guide is an invaluable resource.
Maximizing payments on your content is about taking advantage of the many ways to earn. It's also about covering your bases all-around. A solid article is not just well written, but also speaks to the intended audience, giving them exactly the information they expected and needed in a clean, easy-to-scan format.
So you want to become a better article writer? Here is my simple three-step process to do just that!
OK, there you have it. Now go forth into the world and write your heart out!
Right, there’s a bit more to it than that. Isn’t there? Obviously, being highly literate definitely helps anyone. But as an article writer, constantly taking in new ideas is very important. Too often, we as writers just get stuck for what to write. The funny thing is, you never actually run out of things to write about. It’s just that any writer can get stuck on how to write about what they want to write about.
Appease the Skimmers
Especially in the online world, most readers do exactly what we writers don’t want them to do. That is, they skim. So, what do you do to appease the skimmers? People like sub-headings and little blocks of text that drive home important parts. Sometimes when reading an article online, those little blocks of text even allow us to share this bit of wisdom as a 140-character tweet. Then, you can make a button for anyone to share it with the world. It makes you look so smart!
Basically, something like 80 to 90 percent of online readers aren’t going to read every single word you write. It’s not quite that way for ebooks and traditional paperback and hardcover books. But even then, you still have to make your reading easily digestible. Whether it’s a good thing or not, most readers just don’t sit there and digest writing one word at a time. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
You’ve probably heard the saying, easy reading is hard writing, or something to that effect. No one is quite certain who said it first, but it’s true. If you’re writing online, it’s even harder. Why’s that? Because it’s harder to stand out among all of the millions of articles being published daily. So what you have to do is please both crowds: the skimmers and the close-readers. Yes, the majority of your readers will probably be skimmers when it comes to search engine traffic. But for the serious, critical members of your audience, your attention to detail will not go unappreciated.
You Can’t Make Everyone Happy. Just Make Sure They Can Learn Something.
While it’s important to find that balance of making your writing easy to skim, but also detailed and engaging enough to be search-engine friendly and useful to anyone who reads it, no matter how closely. Essentially, you want every reader that comes across your writing to take something away from it. This doesn’t mean making everyone happy. Don’t spend every last second furiously checking a thesaurus. And don't get stuck rewording the same sentence a dozen times until it sounds “perfect.” Make your points as well and as concisely as you can and move on to the next topic. Don’t get hung up.
So what if you do get hung up? What if it’s an assignment and it keeps getting sent back for revision? Well, if it’s worth your time, then just make the edits that you can and move on. The worst thing that can happen is to get burnt out on one piece. As a writer, that is very bad. Writers need to write. This is why writer burnout happens.
Some clients, venues, and some readers are simply never going to be satisfied with anything. Once you keep that in mind, you’ll understand which clients and venues are worth working for and which aren’t. Micromanaging as an editor may be fine in some cases, but sometimes you just write what you can. You can’t beat yourself up over any one piece. There will be plenty more to be written.
Learn All You Can, Even If You Don't Think You Need It
You've probably heard of always trying to venture outside of your comfort zone in both reading and writing. It's a good idea. Even reading fiction can give you article ideas! Diversifying your knowledge can only make you a better reader and writer. It can also help you to think of topics that you may never had considered before. Also, by reading all sorts of things, it opens you up to more writing opportunities.
Basically, to become a better writer, you need to read and write a lot. Sometimes you just have to write for the sake of putting thoughts together. It doesn't have to always be an assignment. In fact, reading and writing are like intense exercise for your brain. By exercising your brain more often, not only will you become more literate, but a more intelligent and thoughtful human being, as well.
by Richard Rowell, Article Writer for Hire
As a writer, research is an integral part of the creative process. There's always something more to know about any given topic. As a freelancer you can find yourself writing on topics that you may not be an expert in. But even if you are an expert in given fields, research is still important. It's not just for credibility or finding a way to reach a certain word count. Research should always be for your own edification.
Sometimes being an expert on a topic means that you should fall back on research in a different way. Is there a question that you may have asked yourself that you haven't seen answered? If you have the freedom of deciding on the exact topic for an assignment, researching those sorts of questions becomes a great focus point. It's likely that others are asking those questions and if they weren't will be glad you asked it and answered it as best as you could.
Whenever you go about writing something outside of your comfort zone, research can sometimes be difficult. Sometimes the research becomes the most painstaking and stressful part of the writing process. But it need not be. The research should not simply be treated as a necessary evil. You never know what your research could teach you that will become useful information later on in life.
Are you looking for a way to speed up your writing productivity? Think you've tried everything in the book on working faster? Perhaps you've even considered the possibility of networking household devices together for this purpose. Does using multiple computers speed writing productivity? Perhaps my experience with this method will help you decide if it will work for you.
Why Should I Set up Multiple Computers?
Setting up two or more computers may help speed up productivity for some article writers. You might delegate all internet activities to one and all the writing to another. This can help save the time it takes to switch back and forth from web pages to writing documents. It may seem like a small amount of time. But if you write articles for a living, that time really adds up. Even if you are not doing any web research at the moment, you could still make use of multiple computers. Splitting writing documents between two or more computers might be easier than flipping back and forth between documents on just one computer.
How to Set Up Two or More Computers for Article Writing
When setting up multiple computers to increase article writing speed, there are several factors to consider. First, be sure the computers are in very close proximity to each other. The computers also need to be angled in a way that makes it easy to transition from one to the other. For instance, if one computer is facing toward you and one is facing the complete opposite direction, you will need to move your chair or computer every time. If you will need to move across the room to switch computers, this will not be convenient either. It may even waste time instead of saving it. You can even network the computers that share the same operating system to save you from transferring files by disk. If the computers do not have the ability to share a network, you can also use cloud storage, such as Google Drive or OneDrive. A USB flash drive is also a very fast option for sharing files back and forth.
Tips for Using Multiple Computers
Results may depend on the person. Some may get stressed at the thought of multiple computers. Others, like myself ,may naturally fall right into it. Signs that it may work for you include the ability to quickly navigate one computer between documents and websites, being a multitasker, and having the ability to work in changing situations. Signs it may not work for you include having little knowledge of operations on just one computer, getting stressed easily, and not being able to perform in varying situations or under pressure. Like anything else, it will only save time for the person who feels comfortable doing things this way.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Drawing and Keeping Interest as an Online Article Writer
If you expect to make money in online article writing, you need to develop an audience. First, you need to draw readers in via promotion, SEO, and the like. But once they are there, you need to figure out how to keep readers interested. Otherwise, they'll just click away and possibly never come back to read you or your articles. So, how do you keep web readers interested in your articles?
Be Unique for More Interest
If your articles sound like everyone else's, readers will think so too. You need a unique flavor and angle that no one else has covered. Being unique keeps people interested. Give them something different to read about. For instance, if you're writing about a medical condition, just a description of the condition is something that can be found anywhere. Add in your personal experience with it in a specific aspect, that will give the reader some extra information and entertainment.
Keep Readers Interested With Passion
If you don't care about what you're writing, that will most likely come right through. When you write, you need to show readers that you are passionate about conveying the facts or thoughts. It's possible to do this even in news or other topics that you research. Choose only subjects that interest you or subjects that you know about. Writing what you know or have an interest in helps the passion shine through in your writing.
Use Your Expertise to Draw Interest
Drawing even further on writing what you know, be an expert in your chosen topic each time. This doesn't mean you need to stick to one niche. It's alright to write on a variety of topics. But each writer should have certain topics that they write about often. Also, within each article, where possible be sure the reader understands your expertise. Make that clear in the first paragraph. For instance, begin a sentence with the phrase, "As an educator of 30 plus years" or some other experience indicator.
Be Yourself to Keep Readers Interested
Relax and just be yourself. You do not need to write like everyone else. Your own voice should come through your articles. This is possible whether you write in first, second, or third person. Of course, in third person, you can't say 'I' but the style in which you write can still be uniquely yours. When you just relax and be you, readers may take more interest because the writing won't feel so forced.
Pay Attention to Your Readers
When readers leave comments or send messages about your content, pay attention to what they say. When people blog about or otherwise mention your content, keep your ears open. Pay attention to the feedback and write related articles based on that. Sometimes, in addition to sharing experiences or thoughts about the article, people will ask questions. Answer those with another article and let them know via the comments or any other way you can contact them.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
When first starting to write for online venues, many writers are unaware they need to edit. Sometimes there is an editor, but oftentimes this is not true. Therefore, it is safest (and most of the time your responsibility) to self edit your articles before submission.
Writing for Content Sites
Most content sites require self-editing. Some do have editors on hand that may make changes. But for the most part, the work you submit should be ready for publication. Many content sites only have people who review your work to determine if it's fit to publish. They don't have time to edit your work, nor will they do so.
They'll just decline it and move on to the next piece. Also, on some of these sites there is the option to self-publish without review. Even though some may allow you to edit afterward, you should always edit before hitting that publish button. This avoids having readers (and potential clients) see those initial typos and errors.
Writing for Private Clients
When writing for private clients, it's pretty much expected by most that your work is ready to use. When someone hires you to write content, they don't want sloppy work. They want something they can just pay for and use right away. That's why they chose to hire a professional. That's you.
By making sure you self-edit everything, you will keep clients happy. Happy clients often return to the same writer and may even recommend that person to friends and business partners. By not proofing and editing your work, you are potentially hurting your writing reputation and career.
Maintaining a Good Writing Reputation
Sure, typos are going to slip through sometimes. But, as a professional writer, you should always do your best work. Even when you know there is an editor, you should submit clean copy that can be published as is. This way, they may not need to correct as many errors. Yes, that means more work for you - in more ways than one.
It may initially be just a little more effort on your part. But in the long run, it can create more opportunity. Also, self-editing is a requirement in some situations, as mentioned above. Writers who are completely or mostly self-sufficient will likely earn more gigs and clients than those whose work requires more tweaking before publishing.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
If you freelance for a living, there may be days where you just don't feel like writing. On those days, it's hard to get into a rhythm and you may find those days turning into weeks and so on. It can be discouraging when you don't have the same inspiration you once had. But you can get it back by taking advantage of timing.
Don't feel like writing? Don't. This may seem counterproductive. But, try it. If your brain just does not want to write and you have no inspiration, sometimes you just can't force it to produce quality work. If you have a deadline, try taking a walk and then coming back to it. Otherwise, take the whole day off and just have fin. Don't think about writing. Sometimes your eyes and your brain just need something else to focus on besides words, thoughts, and the computer screen. Whatever you get out and do may actually get your brain working on things to write about.
Take advantage of inspiration. When the inspiration does take over, let it. Just keep writing. Unless you have something important to do, don't let those moments pass you by. As I write this, it's 3 a.m. and my brain is still in inspiration mode. I'm not saying you need to stay up that late if that's not feasible for you. I happen to be wide awake and I do write during the graveyard shift sometimes. So, it's no big deal for me. The point is to take advantage of those moments when your brain and fingers are being extra productive, whenever those moments occur for you.
Schedule writing when you'll actually be free to write. This can be a big issue for many freelance writers. Friends and family often don't think of what we do as a job. They think that because we do this at home, we can drop everything and go wherever they want at any time. If you just cannot get it through to your family and friends not to interrupt you at a certain time, try rescheduling your writing around that. I know that you should not have to accommodate them. But it might make things easier for you. Inspiration flows more easily without interruptions.
Take note of your most productive times of day. Whenever inspiration hits you, write down the time from beginning to end. Do this every time for a month. See if you can find a pattern and switch your writing schedule to write at that time on your work days. Some people write the best in the morning, some in the afternoon. Then others, like me, write the best very late at night on into the morning. Writing at your magical time will help boost your productivity and inspiration levels.
Take time off. I know this from personal experience. The weeks that I take one or more days off to have fun with the kids are more productive than those I take less time off. Why? When your body is tired, it also has an effect on your mood. Most freelance writers will agree that it's much easier to focus when you are in a good mood. For me, outdoor adventures and homeschool field trips with the kids will do the trick. As long as we are doing that every week, it keeps our family happy and it also keeps me ready to write.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
As a mentor among my online writing peers, I often get asked which route to go when it comes to freelancing. People want to know if they should take on private clients, write for content sites or contributor communities, or start their own niche sites. I have tried several different strategies. What's best for online article writers? I recently made the decision to slow down on certain work with private clients and dedicate myself mostly to my own venue, which also happens to be a contributor community. I am the happiest when mentoring peers and providing content for the Write W.A.V.E. Media network. I see the most income for the least amount of stress when I focus solely on projects that help others and make me happy, as far as writing goes. While this works for me, the best choice will vary for each person.
Know your work habits.
In any online writing, you need to be able to work independently. But if you are working for clients or content sites, you may need to pair that with teamwork. If you don't work well with others, you may want to go solo and write for your own blog or domain. But even then, you might still need to deal with people in one way or the other. If you like to be the only one to correct the work and will accept no changes to your material, you're better off writing for yourself. But keep in mind that even if you don't have to bend for editors, you still need to consider what your readers want.
Pay attention to your writing style.
What style and voice is present in your work? Can you change it up some to fit what clients want? If not, you may be better off either finding clients or content sites that align with your style or writing for your own venue. Check out contributor communities and content sites to see what the top writers are doing. Does it look like something you'd be interested in doing? If not, move on to the next or create your own venue that matches your style. When writing for private clients, I learned that analyzing their needs based on their audience and existing content helped me provide the best content for them. If you'd rather write freestyle without analyzing things, your own website may be the best option, providing you will still cater to the audience.
Consider your schedule.
Managing time and deadlines will be of more importance when writing for content sites and private clients. You'll need some sort of schedule when writing for yourself. But it will likely be more flexible that way. Some private clients may prefer to speak with you about projects during certain hours. Usually it will be normal business hours. If you cannot commit to that or are unavailable during the day, content sites, contributor communities, and your own domains may be the better option. Most contributor communities do not require you to be available during specific times. There can be deadlines if you claim certain assignments, but it is up to you at what time you write the material.
Think about your goals.
Are you looking to get your byline featured across multiple sites? Would you rather keep your name to its own venue? Do you not want your name out there at all? What are your revenue goals? Writing for private clients can sometimes involve a great deal of ghostwriting, which means your byline will not be featured with the content. Content sites generally feature your byline with the content. Some also offer opportunities to be featured on high quality web properties. It could take more time to build up a reputation on your own venue. But if that is what you prefer, the hard work can pay off, if done right.
The best fit for you is the closest to covering your main desires.
Consider all of the above, as well as any other factors that are important to you. Then, decide which option most fits that mold. You could be like me and choose a combination of two methods, choose just one, or go for something else together. Regardless of which choice you make, be sure it is one that aligns with your individual goals and dreams for the future. Remember that not everyone will have the same needs. Just because one plan works for your friends does not mean it will do the same for you. Align your writing career with your unique plans for the best results.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Tips From a Workaholic Supermom
Creating a writing schedule that works is all about making something you can stick to. Is your writing schedule working for you? Or do you wish you could get more done? Just want to try something different? Try prioritizing in various areas and losing extra commitments.
Figure Out How Much Time You Need for Work
If you have a goal of 10 articles per day, figure out how long it will take you to write them. Be sure you will have at least that much time to work with. If you prefer, the time can be spread out throughout the day as long as it fits in somewhere. If you don't have any idea how much time it takes you to work, you may not reach your writing goals. Scheduling the proper amount of time can help gauge writing productivity.
Determine if You Need Set Hours
Some people do not need set hours. For instance, if you are generally at home all day, setting particular hours may not appeal to you. Doing a little work here and there may be a better option. Yet others will need an exact time. This may be due to personal preferences. It can also be a way to let family and friends know you take your writing seriously and do not wish to be interrupted.
Schedule and Prioritize Other Tasks
Instead of, or in addition to, scheduling the writing, try scheduling other tasks. This way, you know exactly how much time you have left to work with. If it's not enough, cut out things that are less important. Create your task schedule in order of importance.
Don't Commit to Things You Cannot Do
I know firsthand how difficult this can be. But do not take assignments you cannot do. Also, do not take a larger number of assignments than is possible in the allotted time. I'm well-known for writing large number of articles at once. Some writers can do this and some cannot. Also, just because you have in the past does not mean you can work this way all the time. Know your happy medium between having enough work to pay bills and having so much work you can't sleep. Take it from one who knows.
Make Sure You Have Breaks
If you don't make room for breaks, your schedule will ultimately fail. Everyone needs rest. Yes, I do have to remind myself this as well. An effective writing schedule will include adequate rest time so that the writer is energized when it's work time.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
If you are in a bind and need to get large amounts of articles done quickly, what do you do? Perhaps this is a common thing for you and perhaps it is not. There are various things a writer can do when large numbers of articles need to be written quickly.
Sort by topic, rather than client. If some of your article topics are similar, write those sequentially or at the same time. Save them to separate folders for each client so you don't lose track. But you can do articles for various clients all at once. This is especially helpful if their deadlines are the same or close.
Do all your research first. Research your topics before writing. This makes it easier to just sit down and write. You get bonus points if you took notes in your article document during research. Medical info and other extensive topics can require a good amount of research for accuracy. Bullet point what you discover under subheadings. Then, when you write the article, you only need to turn those points into sentences.
Group by article type. If you have several list-type articles to do, it can help to do those first. Those may be easier than other formats. Articles with bullet or numbered points can go quickly as well. You also may wish to group them according to word count. When large numbers of articles are due quickly, it's a better strategy to get all the easiest ones out of the way first. This way, if you do fall behind your goal, it happens with less articles.
Write intros and subheadings first. Go through all your article files ahead of time and write all the intro paragraphs and subheadings. This way, you can run through and fill them in faster. If you already have the subheadings labeled, you pretty much know the points you need to make. You then only need to figure out how you're going to say it. This speeds productivity trick. I've written an article with this type of pre-outline in less than 3 minutes.
Write what you know. If the topics are up to you, avoid too much extra research and just write about what you already know. When writing topics you have firsthand knowledge of, it's easy to just spout off info quickly. This is extremely beneficial if you're also a fast typist. It may take a touch longer if you aren't, but it should still help considerably, compared to articles that require extensive research.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network
You're in the midst of a writeup and everything's going great. You just got an amazing quote from the perfect source. But suddenly, you've forgotten the rules surrounding that. Does the period go after the quotation? Or does it belong within? That depends on your sentence. In my years of experience in web writing, this has been a popular question. This tutorial combines my experience along with the time I've spent studying the Yahoo! Style Guide. The following is meant to help readers solve that and other mysteries surrounding punctuation and quotations.
Example of correct placement of a period when quoting a source:
--Tina Baker stated that "fries are better than chips when accompanied by hamburgers".
Because the noted quote was the end of a sentence containing it, the period belongs outside the quote. Had the quote been by itself, the period would have gone inside the quote.Example of correct placement of a period when the quote is a stand-alone sentence.
--Yesterday I spoke with Dr. Allen. His comments: "Looks like we're going to have to do surgery. This a rare occurrence."
Since this quote contains complete stand-alone sentences, the punctuation belongs inside the quotes.
Proper Punctuation When Quoting Exact Text
If there is a string of text that must be typed in an exact way, the punctuation belongs outside the quotation. For instance, if you want to put emphasis on a phrase, you would put any following punctuation after the quote. Some get confused on this because it may not look right to see a period after quotations. However, this is the correct way to construct such a sentence.
Examples of correct placement of punctuation when using exact text:
--To submit that assignment, click on the button labeled "submit".
--To check your daily views, first click on the "content" tab.
When In Doubt With Exact Text, Try Boldface Instead
If you are confused about the exact text and where to put the punctuation, consider using a boldface font instead. If you put emphasis on the text with bold characters, that avoids the need to use quotes.
Examples of using boldface to avoid quotations:
--To submit that assignment, click on the button labeled submit.
--To check your daily views, first click on the content tab.
Exclamation Points and Questions Marks Used With Quotes
When using question marks and exclamation points with quotations, unless that punctuation is a part of the statement being quoted, it belongs outside the quote. If a person exclaims something and you quote that, the exclamation point belongs inside the quotation. But if your sentence including the quote was an exclamation, it belongs outside.
Examples of correct placement of exclamation and question marks in quotes:
--Tommy said he "ran 150 miles today"!
--When Amy saw that yummy taste concoction, she exclaimed "It's all mine!"
--I ran into Brook today and she asked "How do you find the time to write so often?"
--Do you enjoy those sweet pickles - you know, the ones called "bread and butter"?
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
My writing peers often ask me how I get so much done in a day. How do I keep track of everything? What scheduling system do I use? How do I plan my articles? The truth is that I write more articles in a day by eliminating these unnecessary steps. Here's how and why.
Fancy schedules take up time better spent writing. Some of my work is assigned and some I submit at will. Assigned topics are already right in front of me in the account of the site who assigned them. Why should I waste more time by printing that info out or filing it elsewhere? I can just look it up right there in my account. It takes about the same amount of time to open a file on the computer as it does to log into my account at this site. By eliminating the step of writing up and saving this information, I can write more articles.
Over-analysis of a project wastes time spent on the final product. When I first started writing articles for a living, I spent way too much time analyzing how I would write each item. Instead of plotting and planning, just do it. When I know I have a project that needs to get done, I just get it done. Of course I still need to make sure the work is up to par. But I can do that in my proofreading, editing, and fact-checking. I look over what the client wants, do any research that needs to be done, study their website if necessary, and then just write. Even if my initial writeup is not in the requested style after my first draft, it's easy to rearrange and edit as necessary. Once the writing part is done, the rest is easier to do. Leaving more time in the day to get other writing projects completed.
Write first. Edit later. One mistake I used to make is to edit too much while writing. Sure, go back and fix a typo or two. But don't waste too much time proofing before you're even done with the work. I find that if I just let the writing flow and edit when it's finished, the work gets done much faster. The more articles I can write, the more money I make. Therefore, I let the writing flow when it's flowing and I save the edits for later. As mentioned above, what's written first can be easily changed or edited. It's easier to edit something down than it is to keep writing and rewriting.
Only make outlines when necessary. I have a particular style that I write most of my articles in, unless the client asks for something else. Other than copy/pasting that style template into each document, I don't outline much for most of my articles. Sometimes I'll fill in the title and subheads ahead of time. This is especially true if I know I want to make certain points or if there is extensive research involved. Otherwise, I find that if I just jump right into the writing instead of outlining everything, I get more articles done in less time.
Write what you know. This is my number one time-saver tip. Unless the client is requesting a researched piece, writing what you know eliminates the time of looking things up. For instance, I am an expert parenting writer. Unless I am looking for proof of facts, I use my own life experiences to write pieces readers can relate to. This helps me write more articles and it also helps me connect with my audience. When my firsthand experience needs to be backed up with expert advice, I have specific trusted sources on my bookmarks toolbar for my most common topics. This way, I can just click a button, search, and find what I need.
When you spend more time writing than planning and analyzing, it's easier to get more articles written in a day. I challenge all my writer friends to try this out and see for yourself how many more articles you can write in a day when you don't sweat the small stuff and just dive into the work. For me, this method means less stress, more productivity, and a decent return.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
Are you pressed for time, but need to write a large number of articles? Try writing them all at once. I know you may be thinking "How in the world can I write multiple articles at the same time". It's definitely possible. This is how I write much of the time. But certain strategies will help to get it done efficiently and quickly. Since I am a workaholic momtrepreneur, I am constantly pressed for time and striving to write as much as I can in the quickest way possible. Both my children and my writing dominate my life, but I like things that way. Perhaps my experience will help you succeed at writing more articles at once as well.
Use All Your Writing Documents at Once
If you plan on writing ten articles, open and save your document for each one. Keep them all open during your writing process. You can flip back and forth as needed. If I am particularly into a certain topic, I might keep writing that one.
But for the most part, I will go back and forth to keep the process interesting. I determine when to move to another article by various factors. Being stuck on thoughts is a good time to move to the next article. Also sometimes an idea will come up for one of the other articles. That's another indicator to switch topics.
Make Outlines (or Templates) for All the Articles
Before getting started, consider making outlines or templates for each of the articles. This way, it's easier to determine what you need to fill in. That alone can speed up the writing. Example templates or outlines might include the title, subtitle, a space for intro text, and subheadings.
I sometimes change my subheadings after or during writing the article. But they are good for remembering what points you want to make in each section. When you don't need to think of the points during writing, it's easier to focus on the topic at hand. Doing the subheadings ahead of time also helps ensure you make all the points you wanted to.
Use Multiple Computers
Yes, I realize this gives away my workaholic status. But for those with capabilities, it really does help speed up the writing process. If your computers are networked together, it's even faster, but a flash drive can do the trick if they aren't. I often use my laptop and a mini notebook computer at the same time. When I had desktop computers, I would utilize those as well. I've used at most 4 computers at once, but two is my usual number when using this strategy.
Position the computers very close to one another so that switching back and forth is very simple. One computer can be open with articles and research for one client, another can contain the work for another, and so on. Or you can split up big projects for one client onto more than one computer. If the computers are portable, try doing this in a fun setting, such as the backyard or park.
Bulk Similar Topics
Writing similar topics at the same time can help increase productivity. For instance, if you are writing about a particular parenting method, you may write five articles. Each could describe how to apply that method to certain groups or situations. If you are writing about homemade household products, you might have an article on the benefits, another on the best materials, another on how to make it, and so on.
When you are writing an article and have ideas that branch off your main idea, use those as separate articles. Don't try to put too much information into one. It's better for readability and you'll also get more articles from doing this. In most cases, more articles equals more money.
Don't Stress - Just Write Instead
Yes, I know this one may be hard. If you are writing multiple articles, you may either have a goal or be on deadline. But stressing yourself out can reduce productivity. Stay calm and focused. Instead of thinking about your articles in numbers, just write them. Remember why you got into this in the first place.
You likely love to write or have some other good reason for choosing this as a career. Have fun and focus on that original inspiration instead of the fact that you have a large number of articles to write. Just write.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network
Lyn Lomasi & Richard Rowell are life & business partners. Owners of Brand Shamans & the Write W.A.V.E. Media network, we are your brand healing, soul healing, & content superheroes to the rescue!
Running our network of websites, tackling deadlines single-handedly, and coaching fellow writers, brands, & entrepreneurs to be thought leaders is our top priority.
While rescuing civilians from boring content and brands, we conquer the world, living the RV life and managing our Intent-sive Nature with our awesomely crazy family while recounting The Nova Skye Story, along with Kymani’s Travels.
We also strive to one day cuddle with lions and giraffes. Until then, we’ll settle for furry rescue kitties and doggies.
We support many causes via our business ventures, such as homelessness, support for trans youth, equality, helping starving artists, and more! A portion of all proceeds from Intent-sive Nature goes toward helping homeless pets in local shelters.
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