How are you at writing articles? For many Barefoot Writers, articles can be the easiest way to break into writing for a living, since the tone is often more conversational. And, thanks to the web, the demand is never-ending. But there are a few other reasons you may want to consider it …
- They can quickly help you gain credibility in your field.
- They can drive quality traffic to your website or sales page (or your client’s).
- You can get paid very well to write them (both individually and on retainer!).
If you haven’t yet chosen a writing opportunity just yet, this is definitely one that will give you the most carefree entry into the life of a Barefoot Writer ….
What Exactly is an Article?
First, let’s talk about what I mean by “article.” When I’m talking about articles, I’m referring to a writing style that’s considered editorial — meaning they tend to be more informative, rather than selling something.
However, like good copy, they still can be persuasive … especially if the article is persuading the reader to agree, get excited, or take any sort of action. And like good copy, the best articles are concisely written, target a specific type of reader, and address a problem or desire the reader is having.
The main difference between sales copy and an article — besides the missing call to action — is that an article will often include action steps or advice the reader should follow, and will always offer something valuable to the reader.
Although I must say, some of the best copywriters can even make reading sales copy valuable.
But what makes article writing such a great opportunity for Barefoot Writers, beyond the demand, is that the length of an article can range anywhere from 400 to 1,200 words, and can often be written in less than a couple of hours. (I even know some writers who can bang them out in under 30 minutes!)
Getting Articles Published
Clients will often pay you good money to write articles for their own websites and newsletters. Articles quickly build up site content which helps improve search engine results, increases site traffic, and makes the site more useful to visitors, ideally resulting in more sales.
Sometimes though, clients will hire you to write articles, and then get them published so that they can use the articles to drive web traffic to their websites. You may also choose to write articles to promote your writing business and position yourself as an expert in your area of expertise. In either case, you want to know how and where to publish them. So, let’s take a look at a few of the options …
1) Article Banks
These are websites where people publish articles on a wide variety of subjects, and are typically used when you’re looking to boost search engine rankings, because the articles can include links back to your website. The key is to publish a lot of articles to generate a lot of links, and publish with the highest-quality article banks, which include:
2) Trade Publications
Industry trade publications help you reach a target audience and are viewed as high quality, making it easy to establish yourself as an industry expert. An online search is usually the best way to find them by searching for [Your niche topic] + “magazines,” “newsletters,” or “directories.”
Unlike article banks, you’ll need to have your article accepted by an editor before getting it published. So once you’ve found the trade publications you want to target, visit the website of each publication and note the structure of the articles featured. Then, pitch your article idea to the editor, whose name you can usually find in the first few pages of the magazine.
When pitching your idea, be sure to include something to grab the editor’s attention, and then follow that with a list of benefits the article will have for the magazine’s readers, an estimated word count, and a short line about why you’re qualified to write the article.
3) Guest Posting on Blogs and Websites
One last place you can publish your articles is on websites and blogs within your industry. The links carry a bit more weight than they do in an article bank, which means any links back to your site will have a stronger positive effect on your page rank in the search engines.
Start by researching your target audience and visit websites related to that industry. Note the websites that publish articles and which ones would be a good fit for the kind of content you write. Next, contact the site owner to ask about guest articles. If they’re open to it, submit a few ideas, and be sure to let them know that you’d like to include a bio with a link back to your site.
Once you’ve chosen a publishing route and know what kind of article you’re writing and to what kind of audience, it’s time to sit down and write a knockout article.
How to Write a Good Article
I used to struggle a lot when I first started writing articles, but once I learned how to prepare myself before writing, they got a LOT easier.
Now, to make it easy for you to get started, I’m going to share with you a process I go through every time I sit down to write one.
To illustrate, I’ll use an article I wrote on offering packages to upsell clients.
Before we get started, you need to realize that writing good editorial is a lot like writing good direct-response copy. Don’t get me wrong; every article you write doesn’t have to sell something. But, it should provoke a useful thought or feeling in your reader — one that you’ve intended the reader to feel.
Which takes us to the steps in this process …
1.) Define the Specific Thought, Feeling, or Action You Want To Stimulate In the Reader
Just like you do when writing good direct-response copy, you want to think about the purpose of your article. Do you want the reader to feel inspired? Consider changing his career? Visit a website or buy something?
Right up front, you need to know where the article is headed. And then, ensure that every word written supports that intention.
In the package deal example, I wanted the reader to think about how they could package their skills to make more money from each client they worked with, and think about what skills they would like to learn in order to create even more valuable packages in the future.
2.) Outline How the Article Will Help the Reader
This step is similar to defining the benefits of the product or service you’re selling in a sales letter. It’s critical, because along with helping you write the article, the list of benefits will reveal if the article is even worthwhile to write!
How many benefits?
A good rule of thumb is to try and name at least six. Of course, you can do more, but if you have trouble naming six benefits, the article probably needs to be rethought.
Going back to my package example, here are the benefits I outlined for the reader:
- Have confidence when upselling.
- Make more money from each client.
- Get ideas for different types of packages he can offer.
- Build revenue at a faster pace.
- Make money with fewer clients.
- Become more valuable to his client.
- Make more money in less time.
- Showcase his other services, with little risk on his part.
One tip worth noting here: You can mention all of the benefits in the article, but pick one to start the article with, and then end with the same one.
(If you’ve taken AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you should be seeing the similarities by now, and can expect to get really good at writing articles fast!)
3.) Include Useful Instruction on Your Topic
The next step in this process has you identifying some sort of instruction you can give your reader. Just like with a sales letter, you want to engage him, and useful instruction will ensure that happens.
In my package deals article, I show the reader how to put together, price, and pitch three different types of packages to their clients. The examples I give engage the reader by making him think about which of the packages he can already offer, and which ones he could offer once he acquires more skills.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every article needs to be a “how-to.” The instruction could just be as simple as explaining how a marketing process works, or providing examples of what others do when faced with a similar situation.
4.) Pinpoint How Your Reader Will Identify With the Article
As much as you want to engage your reader, you also want him to identify himself as someone who will benefit from the advice or instructions given in your article.
In my article, the reader identifies with the piece by thinking about the next time he prices an assignment …
All he has to do is get his foot in the door with a client, and then follow my instructions for offering a package. He can actually see it happening to him.
5.) Answer the Questions Your Reader Will Have
This final step is not only a critical part of good editorial, but when done in advance, it will help you write your article a lot faster.
Simply outline Frequently Asked Questions on the topic, and then make sure you answer them in your article.
Before writing my package deal article, I identified two questions that my reader could possibly ask:
- Will I risk losing the project if I try this?
- What if the client says no?
Then, when I sat down to write the article, I made sure they were both answered to put the reader’s mind at ease, and not leave him hanging.
Closing Thoughts …
The next time you sit down to write an article, make a worksheet that follows this process, and fill in the details before you actually start writing. I guarantee you’ll write the article faster, and your copy will be a lot stronger. Strong enough to get published!
Which brings me to my final — and very important — point about writing articles. There are literally thousands of clients in virtually every industry possible who are hungry for good editorial. They use it to communicate regularly with their own customers and to improve their page rank on the search engines. This means they have a constant need for article content they can post on blogs, send out in emails, or publish in newsletters.
And, the pay is great. Though fees range by complexity of topic and client size, the average fee for articles between 400 and 1,200 words is between $100 and $400. Fees for articles and editorial for online or print magazines range from $250 to $1,000.
Best of all, because of the recurring nature of a client’s editorial needs, it’s often beneficial for both you and your client to negotiate a retainer deal. For example, you might agree to write one article a week for a monthly fee of $1,000. Once you get a couple retainer deals set up, and assuming you’ll only need 2-4 hours to write each article each week … well, do you see how the cash can start flowing?