When I mention writing articles as a way to establish your expertise online and increase traffic to your web site, my clients typically exclaim one of two things: 1. They remind me how much they hate to write; or 2. They tell me that they have no ideas of anything they could write about.
Many people who hate to write love to speak. Instead of writing an article, you could actually speak about a topic, digitally record it, and have it transcribed and then sent to a freelance writer for editing. If you want to have your article recorded and transcribed at the same place, check out http://www.idictate.com. For a freelance writer who'll edit your transcription, or to find someone who will write articles for you, check out ELance, http://www.elance.com and post your requirements and your budget at their site.
Please keep in mind, however, that when you hire a ghostwriter, your "voice" may be lost in the writing shuffle. Some of the more successful newsletter publishers write just as they speak, so I feel as though I get a true sense of who they are as a person as I read their material. In order to truly begin to create online relationships through your writing, you'll want to involve yourself somewhat in the ghostwriting process so your uniqueness and personality are adequately conveyed in your articles.
The most common complaint I hear, however, is from clients who tell me that they lack a focus for their writing, or are at a loss for a topic for an article. Many of my clients marvel at the apparent ease with which I write an article for my newsletter each week. Trust me -- it's far from effortless! Many times I'll begin writing an article about one topic, and another stronger topic emerges. I'll then completely change my focus and write about the second topic instead. I'll admit it's not always the easiest process, but the glowing reviews I receive from readers about my articles make it all worthwhile.
There are some days when I sit down to write and I haven't a clue where to begin. That's when I start to review my "magic box" of writing tricks, and see what emerges. Here are the strategies that I keep in the box:
1. Write down 5 problems you've helped clients solve. As a service business owner, clients hire you to solve a specific problem they're having. What are 3-5 most recent problems that you have helped solve? You can create an article that is a case study (with your client's permission, or making it generic enough to hide the client's identity) that becomes a learning experience for your readers, based on the original problem and the solution you provided to the problem. Many problems that clients present to you are problems that commonly occur, so your readers will love the "heads up" you give them about a particular issue.
2. Tell a story about a recent experience you've had that can become a lesson for your readers. One of the most interesting newsletters I read, David Frey's Marketing Best Practices, http://www.marketingbestpractices.com, usually contains an article about a piece of collateral marketing material that David has received or seen. He shows a picture of the actual marketing piece, his reaction to it, and writes about how his readers can use that technique in their business. I love to read about what he's experienced and how I might incorporate that technique into my business.
3. Create a Top 10 list. I like to write most of my articles in the form of a Top 7 or Top 10 list because it's an effective writing method that lets readers scan your article for information, and read more closely those points in which they want additional information. It's an ideal format for writing for online venues, as reading information on the Internet is different than reading a hard copy publication. Internet readers tend to scan information rather than thoroughly reading it, so short sentences and paragraphs and bulleted or numbered items in an article facilitate that process. And, if you can come up with at least 7 points about a topic, you can easily go in and fill in the blanks, and presto, you have an article. How do you think this article was written?
4. Talk about a problem or issue you're facing and how you're dealing with it. Many writers hate to get very personal with their readers and don't want to share the intimate details of their lives. However, the more "real" you are with your readers, chronicling your highs and lows, your valleys and your missiles, the better your reader gets to know you and begins to like and trust you. You become a "real, live" human being to them who faces similar issues that they face. I get the most response to articles in my newsletters when I talk about my real-life experiences.
5. Write an article for one of your clients, based on a recent conversation you've had. Many times I'll write an article that's an expansion of a conversation I had with a client. The article focuses on a topic of the conversation, not the conversation itself. When I do this, I'll get emails that say, "I feel like you were writing this article just for me!"
6. Write a response to or get inspired by something you have recently read. I'm a voracious reader and subscribe to more publications that I have time to read. However, there are a handful that I do regularly read, and it's to those that I look for inspiration. Sometimes I may write an article on the same topic but put my unique spin and perspective on it, or I'll write a rebuttal article, disagreeing with the point of view in the original article. Or, in some cases, I'll get inspired and get a whole new idea from what I've read and write about that new idea.
7. Respond to frequently asked questions. If you've been in business for awhile, there are probably a number of questions that you answer over and over again. Instead of having to respond to the same questions constantly, write an article that answers some of your frequently asked questions.
8. Put yourself in the beginner's seat. As I talk to people, I often forget that the info that I consider to be "common knowledge" and very basic is, in fact, new information to them. Picture yourself as a newbie once again. What do you know now that you didn't know then? What questions did you ask? What knowledge do you have that you think everyone knows? Getting back to the basics can help bring all of your readers up to speed.
9. Write on a topic that you want to know more about. There are some things I'd like to try but haven't yet tried, so I'm unable to write about my personal experiences with an issue. However, that doesn't keep me from being curious about it, so I'll do some research and see what info exists about a topic. When I do research, I write an article about what I've discovered so that others can benefit from my research.
10. Solicit your readers and web site visitors for ideas. I've seen a number of coaches/consultants set up pages on their web site in which visitors can ask a pressing question. I have just started to do this with http://www.askdonnagunter.com This is an effective way to find topics for your article writing, as well as a way for you to get in touch with your reader's needs.
Add these strategies to your writing "magic toolbox" to give you the push you need when you think you just can't write another article. Once you've found your focus, the words will start to flow, and before you know it, you'll have that next article for your newsletter or web site.
Copyright 2006 Donna Gunter
Online Business Resource Queen (TM) and Business Coach Donna Gunter helps self-employed service professionals learn how to get more clients online at http://www.OnlineBizCoachingCompany.com To sign up for more FREE tips like these and claim your FREE gift, TurboCharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit, visit her site at http://www.GetMoreClientsOnline.com Read about running an online biz at our blog,