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6 Surprising Truths About Guest Posting on Blogs

By Patti FoyGuest Blogger Surprise

Anyone else out there new to guest posting on other people’s blogs? I just did my first guest post recently, and whew, it feels like I broke the ice. I felt pretty well prepared since I’d studied up a little about how to go about guest posting.

But things didn’t unfold exactly as I’d envisioned and I got to learn a few lessons along the way.

For illustrative purposes — or even just for fun — you can find the articles I mention here:

Guest post part 1 The Rich Rewards of Fostering Dogs and here’s Part 2.

The “companion” post on my blog: How Warm & Fuzzy Can Be Potent Medicine.

What I discovered:

1) Writing a big honker may not impress your host.

My host said any word length is fine and before I knew it it was up to around 1800 words. When I sent it to her, I told her I’d be happy to cut it down or whatever she needed, but she took it upon herself to split it up into 2 parts and told me that after posting part 1. She seemed perfectly fine with that, but still. redface

Not only was it a little embarrassing but I wanted it all to be as easy as possible for her. Besides that, I would have structured it all slightly differently for two posts, done an introduction for the second, etc.

2) Many guest posts aren’t gotten by pitching.

I was under the impression that if I wanted to guest post, I’d have to approach someone and beg — er, I mean pitch my idea for a post.

But I was surprised to be invited out of the blue to guest on someone’s blog. I’d commented on her moving guest post and we developed a little rapport. I checked out her blog and although not my aesthetic, it had its own charm.

I’ve since found out that it’s very common, maybe even more common than pitching, to be invited to post on someone’s blog.

The moral of this story is to continue to get out there and get around, ideally with people you genuinely click with.

3) Your host’s blog topic may be very different than yours.

Especially in light of the fact that people invite you to guest post based on just seeing you around, you might find that their blog topic has little relation to yours.

This was the case for me but I was happy that her topic was something I’m passionate about. I easily figured out how I could post on her topic (dogs) and my topic (personal development) in the same post. That was fun.

Of course the reason to do this is so that some element of what you offer on your blog is there for your host’s readers to see, and thus attract them to your blog.

4) Once you hand it over, it’s out of your control.

After I accepted, my host said she’d like to put my post on her other blog that has more traffic than her dog blog. Well, more traffic’s a good thing, but this other blog was even a little less my aesthetic than the first one. (Just to be clear, I’m not claiming her aesthetic is “bad”, just different.) I wasn’t going to be picky because I have all of 14 subscribers and hey, it’s a guest post. And more traffic? Okay!

She asked for a small bio photo of me and when all was said and done, she used it as a full-sized image so it was all fuzzy and just looked bad.

I politely sent her a higher resolution in case she wanted to replace it. She removed it completely. Oops. It was a favorite photo (of me and my dog) and I was sad to see it go.

She arranged the other photos and text in an unexpected way. Let’s just say it’s not how I would have done it and it wasn’t apparent from her other posts that it would end up like that.

This was a good exercise for me to just lighten up. So, still good!

I’ve since learned that it’s common for hosts to edit their guest’s posts to some degree. Of course this makes sense, and even is to your benefit sometimes since hosts know their readers and what they want much better than you do.

Sometimes they ask, and sometimes they don’t.

I know one guest who was quite upset about some of the changes her host made to her post, feeling she ruined it. And I was shown yet another example where the host clearly dampened much of the post’s appeal by changing important parts (in this case, the title).

Still, just knowing all this will make the letting go much easier next time. (Oh wait, that’s this time! But it’s Carol — piece of cake!)

5) Posting about your guest post on your blog is good — if you can time it right.

I did a “companion” post on my blog the next day on both our topics (with an emphasis on mine, of course) with a thank you and links to her blog. This worked well because visitors from her blog liked my post and my blog and the crossover/combination approach helped make that happen.

Also, besides the fact that I wanted to, it only seemed right to do some back-linking to her blog (and magazine) as a thank-you, and I did it in that companion post.

6) It’s good to build the connection into a continuing relationship.

Besides that we genuinely like each other, she liked my post a lot and wants to also publish it in the next edition of her new online magazine. This is a good thing, it’s pretty snazzy.

If I were a bigger blog, or if my host’s were bigger, I’d be able to also share how it affected my stats. But alas, I barely saw a burp. So in the end, this exercise was good for practice and the nerves but not so important for traffic. Good enough for me. Maybe by my next guest post, I’ll be in a better position to benefit from the traffic to my blog.

Patti Foy writes about vibrant living through the use of practical vibrational tools and techniques at her blog Lightspirited Being.

Photo: Trippography

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Are Guest Posts on Blogs Just a Big Waste of Time?

Are Guest Bloggers A Waste Of Time?Don’t you hate it when two people in a field, both of whom you really respect, have opposite opinions? That’s the boat I’m in with guest blogging, which is our theme topic this week.

The first one — Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta — used guest blogging to become a super-successful blogger and print author, and continues to highly recommend the strategy in his A-List Blogger Club. The other one — conversion ninja Derek Halpern of DIYThemes and Social Triggers — tells me it may be a big waste of time.

In any case, Derek told me, guest posting ain’t what it used to be. I tend to agree.

Since the theme of this blog is making money from writing, you’d think I would never want to guest post anywhere for free. But I’ve found it a useful marketing activity that’s brought me writing clients as well as more subscribers for my blog. That said, it doesn’t ordinarily change your life overnight.

I personally recall feeling boggled about the whole idea of guest posting when I started blogging. I watched training videos on Copyblogger’s Jon Morrow’s site Guest Blogging, describing how he would get 300-400 new subscribers off of a single guest post.

I ended up guest posting on some very busy sites in the past year, including Write to Done, Copyblogger and DIYThemes, but I never saw anything like that big of a result. Granted, my site wasn’t ideally set up to capture visitors and turn them into subscribers at first, but even after I worked on that, I’d be lucky to get 100 subscribers off one guest post. Usually, I got less than that.

Given our limited moments here on Earth, is guest posting a waste of precious time?

My take: Guest posting is definitely less productive now than it was a few years back. But it’s still worth it.

As Derek pointed out to me, when Leo started guest posting, nobody guest posted. All the big bloggers were writing every single post themselves. It was utterly novel and fascinating that Leo’s post would suddenly appear on these sites! So it got him a lot of attention — and a lot of new subscribers, every time.

Today, many popular sites publish almost nothing but guest posts. The person who started the site might turn up once a week, or even once a month. So when your guest post appears, it isn’t as intriguing to readers as it was several years ago. If the content’s amazing, some folks might click over and check you out. But it’s much less of an event that you’re guest posting.

Guest posting is more of a long-term marketing approach now, of slowly spreading your name around to new audiences. I think it can still be worth it, but it’s definitely not a magical ticket to instant riches anymore.

Having considered my two experts’ advice and my own personal experience, here is my advice:

  1. Choose your guest-post outlets carefully. It should have an audience that closely matches the one you want, and very large traffic. I found posts I did on sites with under 20,000 subscribers weren’t worth the time.
  2. Try to have multiple guest posts publish at once. This was Derek’s recommendation, and I think it’s a good one. If you have multiple guesters on a single day or even within a few days of each other, it could help create excitement as the posts spread around Twitter and other social-media platforms, and bring more readers to your site.
  3. Write a related post on your site. Knowing that guests will be coming, try to prepare a post that relates to the guesting topic in some way. Maybe it expounds further on the same topic, or it’s a related topic you know those readers will like.
  4. Prepare your site. I can’t say enough about how important it is that your site be inviting and make it easy to subscribe.
  5. Guest post a lot. Even back when Leo started, he relates in his A-List training videos, he guest posted relentlessly. Sometimes he had a guest post every weekday. That frequency also helped get him noticed. In today’s more competitive blogging environment, many guest posts are even more important.
  6. Engage readers on the guest site. Respond to comments, offer encouragement — this is your chance to get this other blog’s readers interested in what you offer.

Do you think guest posting is worth the effort? Leave a comment and let us know.

Coming up on guest blogging week: A guest post about guest posting, naturally! Subscribe and you won’t miss it.

Photo via stock.xchng user raly

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10 Amazing Women Bloggers and How I Found Them

Writing Blogger Hard At WorkFor today’s installment of guest-posting week, I want to talk about some of the benefits of posting that are a bit intangible, but very real. For me, these fringe benefit can be a good reason to guest post. Guesters can give your freelance writing career — or your quest to be a big-earning blogger — a major boost.

Many writers resist guest posting because it takes a lot of time and has an uncertain payoff. But I don’t think of guesting purely as something where I’m hoping for immediate monetizing.

Instead, think of it another way — as a great way to create relationships with influential new friends who might help you improve your blog.

The best way to get a guest post in my experience is to get noticed and asked. You get to know people, they get to know and like your work, and then they ask if you want to guest for them.

How can you connect with wonderful bloggers and skyrocket your own blogging career? Some ways that have worked for me include:

  • Social media (for me mostly LinkedIn and Twitter)
  • LinkedIn writer forums such as LinkedIn Editors & Writers and Writer’s Mafia
  • A-List Blogger Club

I haven’t talked much about A-List in a while, so here’s an update on how the social aspect of the club Club is helping me. I’ve already written about technical stuff I learned in A-List that helped make my blog more enticing. But there’s more to A-List than just an archive of courses from the club founders that you can read and listen to and watch.

Hanging out in A-List’s private forums exposed me to a whole world of fantastic bloggers I had never heard of before. Recently, they all seem to be women — maybe just who I’m gravitating to right now. I don’t think I would have known any of them otherwise.

If you want to have a great blog — especially one that makes money — here’s a piece of no-brainer advice: Read a lot of great blogs.

Not just one or two. Get inspired! See the different writing styles and approaches bloggers are using.

Personally, I’m so focused on writing-writing-writing all the time. It’s been transformative for me to read bloggers who’re writing about something else — minimalism, the quest for happiness, sexuality, cooking. It opens up my world and makes me think of new ways to approach my own topics.

One easy way to find other wonderful bloggers, I’ve discovered, is to circulate in a community where everyone is really serious about their blog. One where they’ve paid an admission fee to learn more about blogging. It was a revelation to me when I joined to discover how interesting everybody in A-List is, and how much I could learn one-on-one from the members — they’re all over the world, blogging about many different things, and some of their blogs are just amazing.

The schmooze factor

Reaching out to a popular blogger you’re on a list or in a club with often gets a response. It’s a great way to meet bloggers you might guest for — and guesting for smaller sites is a great way to get in training for scoring high-profile guest posts.

I’ve ended up speaking live and forming friendships with writers I’ve met through A-List. You grow your support network, find possible places to guest post, and start getting useful, free suggestions on how to improve your blog.

So when you consider guest posting, think about the whole package of what guesting can bring you. You’re forging a stronger link with another blogger and helping each other succeed. It feels a lot less lonely, and my experience is you get where you want to go with your blog at lightspeed instead of snail-speed.

Given what I’ve recently learned about how much fear cripples many writers who’re trying to make it as freelancers, I think the power of finding camaraderie with other quality bloggers can’t be underestimated. Feeling that support can make a huge difference in the course of your whole career.

10 Great Women Bloggers I’ve Recently Discovered

To give you an idea of what I mean, here are 10 fantastic women bloggers I’ve discovered recently, mostly through A-List. Most of these blogs are written by A-List members or were recommended to me by A-Listers. A few came from other people in my social networks.

Cat’s Eye Writer — I had a longtime writer friend recommend fellow Seattle writer Judy Dunn’s site to me shortly before we became Top 10 Blogs for Writers winners together. I felt savvy for having already discovered her very practical, grounded advice site for freelance writers.

The Daily Brainstorm — This site is a collaborative, spinoff project from A-List, and A-Listers Barrie Davenport and Katie Tallo are at the helm (A-List co-founder Mary Jaksch is one of the founders here, too). The Brainstorm’s new free report for subscribers, 23 Ways to Rock Your Mind, gives you a taste of the quality inspirational material they crank out on topics from personal growth to food, money, and shopping.

The Happiness Project — You may know that,  as author Dennis Prager put it, happiness is a serious problem. We live longer than ever, have a better quality of life than any generation previous, and yet so often, we’re miserable. Gretchen Rubin’s great site builds on her book of the same name, providing inspiration for accentuating the positive each day.

HoboMama — Lauren Wayne’s natural-parenting blog has a strong sense of voice I find refreshing. My kids are too old for me to carry them around in a sling anymore, and some of them came from foster care too late for that anyway. But there’s something about her style that makes me want to start all over and hand-grind my own baby food and all. I did breastfeed one adopted baby (yes you can!), so I’m hoping I get some points for that. She’s not actually a hobo…I think.

Hyperbole and a Half — I have absolutely no visual skills, so I’m always in awe of people who can tell a compelling story in pictures. I’m also easily impressed by people who can write funny on a regular basis. Blogger Allie (who describes herself as “heroic, alert, caring and flammable”) does both, telling stories of her childhood in a winning, bare-bones cartoon style . I gather she recently got a book deal off her blog, and well-deserved, I say. I challenge you to read this post about eating a whole cake without busting up.

The ParmFarm — Amy Parmenter is one of the first bloggers I noticed on A-List. Her helpfulness on A-List drew me to check out her blog, which is an uplifting place to hang out. As her tagline says, “Stop by. Grow.”

Pioneer Woman — If you want to see how to make your personal blog pay, this is a nice example. Ree is a self-described desperate housewife who did a Green Acres out of city life to live with hubby on a farm, and chronicles her adventures in country living on the blog. She also loves to cook, and sells her photography and cookbooks on the site. Her tagline (“Plowing through the country one calf nut at a time”) gives you an immediate sense of her frank, funny attitude. A fresh look at a way of life that few Americans pursue anymore…served up with a side order of tasty-lookin’ vittles!

Rowdy Kittens — Though the name wouldn’t tell you, A-List member Tammy Strobel’s blog is about simple living — her ebooks are Smalltopia and Simply Car-Free. I came to her blog originally after seeing her case study on A-List about how she earns affiliate commissions through her Products I Love page (a strategy I adored and immediately adopted). But I stayed for the interesting, inspirational posts on how we can make do with less, save more money, work less, and spend more time enjoying the simple beauty of life on Earth.

Toy With Me — Warning: This site is not G-rated. But if you’re looking for a frank, pro-woman look at modern sexuality that will make you laugh until pee dribbles down your leg, take a peek at this blog. Another great blog to look at for monetizing — blogger Crissy The Queen of Everything (as she prefers to be known) sells vibrators. Proudly. I could never pull this kind of tone off in a million years, and my husband would divorce me if I wrote about our sex life this way, but she doesn’t just make it work — she makes it rock. Read How My Hair Caught on Fire During Sex without laughing, I dare you.

Virgin Blogger Notes — This blog was started by Jean Sarauer, who was in the process of departing A-List to write a novel as I was arriving last fall. But good news — her blog was snapped up by A-List co-founder Mary Jaksch. Now it’s serving as an unofficial guest-posting training ground for A-Listers who’re hoping to guest for bigger sites, including Mary’s Write to Done or A-List co-founder Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits. If you’re baffled by blogging, this is a great place to hang out.

Next up on guest-posting week: I evaluate two social-media bigwigs’ opinions on whether guest-posting is the ticket to instant riches or a total waste of time. Subscribe and you won’t miss it.

What little-known yet awesome bloggers do you read for inspiration? Leave a comment and let us know who they are and how you found them.

Photo via stock.xchng user thesaint

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16 Success Tips for Guest Posting on Blogs

The Red Carpet Of Writing Blog SuccessYou may have heard that guest posting on popular blogs is a good way to get your blog noticed. This week on the blog, we’re going to delve into this topic in-depth, debating whether guest posting is a good use of bloggers’ time, and discussing best practices for making your guest posts successful.

Today, I’m sharing my own guest-posting experience and offering some tips based on what I’ve learned.

The short version: Guest posting can open a lot of doors, but guest posting can also be a big waste of time. Many factors determine whether you can capitalize on your guest post.

For instance, I was super-excited to get my first post on Copyblogger. The post did super-well for Copyblogger, getting 900 Retweets and ending up in Copyblogger’s Best of 2010. Sounds like a big win, huh?

But that first day it went up, I got some traffic, but almost no additional subscribers. So I got to be a social-media celebrity for a day (“Look Ma, I’m on Copyblogger!), but I reaped not one dime of revenue from that exposure, and it didn’t even seem to build my audience for monetizing later.

Kinda sad, huh? But lesson learned: One big guest post will not necessarily change your life.

By contrast, about six months later, when Copyblogger announced the Top 10 Blogs for Writers winners, I got more than 100 subscribers in a day and saw the biggest increase in traffic to this blog ever. What made the difference? Here’s what I’ve learned about landing guest posts and making those posts pay off for your blog. I’ve divided my tips into preparation, pitching, and posting tips.

Prepare:

  • Get your blog ready. My biggest mistake was that my blog wasn’t set up very well to capture visitors’ interest when they came over from another blog. I didn’t have a good subscription signup box, and I didn’t yet have a free offer for subscribers. Both, I’ve learned, are pretty critical to converting casual visitors into subscribers who stick around. Also, my blog was kind of cluttered — I’ve since removed many elements to make it less busy and easier to find things.
  • Consider building a custom landing page. This didn’t do so great for me, but I know it’s worked well for many others. Instead of sending visitors from another blog to your home page, send them to a hidden page you’ve set up just for them that provides an introduction to your site and maybe makes a special offer. A great example is Stanford’s custom landing page on Pushing Social.
  • Create a tagline link that helps you. My first time, I just sent people to my current post on the home page. This can cause your site to crash, with everyone piling on. It’s better to send them to one of your most popular posts that’s now off the home page, or to a special free offer, or to both to split the traffic.
  • Have something to sell — but don’t expect immediate results. If you don’t have a product funnel — a big-ticket item such as a membership site, consulting or e-courses, with smaller products such as an ebook as teasers — you can’t easily monetize the additional traffic you get. Slathering your site with ads may be a turnoff. You might affiliate-sell some things though, so think about what you would feel good about offering to your audience. You want to have stuff you can sell ready, but don’t be surprised if your new visitors don’t buy anything immediately. It’ll take time for them to trust you enough to want to buy from you.
  • Consider guesting on a small site. A great way to get the hang of guest posting for the big leagues is to do some guest posting on smaller sites. You’ll get the experience of writing to a different audience and dealing with an editor without having a million eyeballs on you your first time out.

Pitch:

  • Promote yourself. I’ve discovered many guest posts happen when prominent bloggers notice a new blog and ask the author to guest on their site, as opposed to pitching the site. Copyblogger associate editor Jon Morrow taught me this social-media truism: The next great bloggers aren’t made, they’re appointed — by the current crop of prominent bloggers. So be sure to spread your blog posts around in social media — you never know who will read them.
  • Study your targets. Look hard at what’s on the site you want to guest for, especially the most popular posts. Then write a strong query letter designed to hit their sweet spot.
  • Target bloggers on Twitter. A great way to line up guest posts is to write a post on your own blog that you know the author of a popular blog would like. Then send it to them on Twitter, as in: ” @DarrenRowse : You might enjoy my post Top 10 Blogging tips (and then the link). ” Don’t leave it to chance for a celebrity blogger to discover you — make it happen.
  • Send killer queries. Many of the big sites such as Problogger have writer’s guidelines and openly solicit guest posts. Write the heck out of your query, like you’re sending it to a top national consumer magazine.

Post:

  • Write your best. Yes, you’re not getting paid. But that shouldn’t be your attitude toward guest posting. Know that savvy guest posters make tens of thousands of dollars off their guest posts by driving visitors to their products, so there is real money-earning potential. When you get a guest shot on a prominent site, it’s a big opportunity. Also, many of the big sites like long posts — Copyblogger’s requirement is 1,000 words. If you’ve never written for publication, this is going to be a scary leap. Know that even the pros at the top sites spend a lot of time writing their posts — Jon Morrow told me he often spends 10 hours on a single post.
  • Consider your topic carefully. Your first guest post for a site is an introduction to that audience. It’s gotta rock, so people on that site become fans of yours and start following your work. As it worked out, I actually wrote my second post on Copyblogger first. After Jon Morrow and I looked it over and thought about it, we decided to start over and have me write an entirely different post to introduce me to their audience. It was the right call, but a ton of extra work.
  • Think scannable. List posts are always good for big sites, and they’re hard to screw up structurally.
  • Be ready for anything. Some guest posts seem to take forever to go up, while other sites may just throw up your post five minutes after you send it — that happened to me on Write to Done. So make sure you’ve got your seat belt fastened and your site is ready when you hit ‘send’ on your post.
  • Engage their audience. Especially on the day your post goes up, you should be checking the site frequently and responding to comments made to your post, just as you would if it was on your own blog. This will endear you both to readers and the owners of the site where you’re guesting.
  • Follow up immediately with another pitch. Don’t think of your guest posts as one-shot deals, but as the beginning of a relationship. Keep it rolling, and with each post, you’ll often see more traffic come to your site.
  • Create an “As seen on” sidebar. Once you start guest posting, you can let visitors to your blog know you also appear in some prominent places by adding logos from the bigger sites where you’ve guested. This adds useful social proof that you are well-read online.

Final thoughts on guest posting:

I’ve made great new relationships from guesting, and I enjoy doing it. I’ve learned how to get subscribers from it. But:

Two things are even better than guest posting for growing your blog’s audience, and take less time. They are:

  1. Get mentioned on a big site with a link to your site
  2. Have one of your site’s blog posts retweeted by a prominent blogger

My experience is those two events got me the biggest traffic jumps. Of course, often those two things happen after you — you guessed it — do some guest posts on popular Web sites.

Have you tried guest posting? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience.

Consider subscribing if you enjoyed this post. Next up on guest-post week, I’ll discuss the unexpected fringe benefits of guest posting on others’ blogs.

Photo via Flickr user dlnny

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Two Ways Freelance Writing is Like Weight Loss

Becoming A Freelance Writer Is Like Losing WeightBy James Patterson

It’s January and, inevitably, gyms and Weight Watchers locations around the country are filling their coffers with money from new members making yet another resolution to finally lose that weight. And, just as inevitably, most of those eager people will abandon their weight-loss goals once again and go back to their old habits.

I guess you could say I know a little bit about what it takes to lose weight. Between October of 2008 and May of 2009 I lost a total of 65 pounds, or almost 27 percent of my body weight. I trained for and ran a half marathon. I became a different person.

It’s no coincidence to me that, at the same time, I started my freelancing business. Looking back, almost all of the principles you have to understand to lose a significant amount of weight are the same ones necessary for developing a successful freelancing business. I want to talk about two of them here.

There’s No Secret….Well, Actually There Is

Friends and family who see me now notice my weight loss. When I tell them I’ve lost 65 pounds, I almost universally get asked “Well, what’s your secret?”

When I tell people I work from home, work 25 percent fewer hours and make 25 percent more money than I did in my old 9-to-5 job, I get the same question. “What’s your secret?”

The truth is, there’s no one magic secret that successful freelancers are holding back in order to hoard all the good clients.

When people ask me that universal question, I like to play a game with them. I say “Actually, I do have a secret. It’s a secret that most people don’t know about and fewer are actually willing to use.”

Their eyes get wide and they get curious, then I tell them the answer. “It takes lots of really, really, REALLY hard work. That’s the secret.”

It’s true. Whether it’s freelancing or losing weight, you have to work hard. Those who do, and persevere through the discouragement and the disappointment are the ones who have success.

Those who give up when the first prospect says no or give up when they can’t wake up early enough to go the gym are the ones who wonder why they can never build a successful freelancing career, or why they make the same New Year’s resolution every year to lose weight.

Team Up With People Who Support You

If there was one thing that made the difference between all the times I tried to lose weight and failed and this time when I succeeded, it was this. It was actually my wife who came up with the idea to sign up for a half marathon.

I thought she was crazy. I had never run more than a mile all at once since middle school. Now she wanted me to run 13.1? But there she was with me, every step of the way in the training, the sore feet, and there we were at the finish line together after we had both accomplished our goal.

We both lost a tremendous amount of weight and became regular runners. I couldn’t have done it without her.

If you’re trying to go it alone in the freelancing world, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to. Team up with someone who shares your goals.

Joining Carol’s freelance mentoring group was one of the best decisions I ever made and it’s had a direct impact on my bottom line. The support Carol and the group provides gives me the confidence I need to try new things and push myself past what I think I can accomplish.

In May, I’ll run my third half marathon. I’ll also celebrate my first anniversary of full-time freelancing. It’s a dream come true, and both accomplishments were worth every bit of blood, sweat and tears. Trust me, if I can do it, you can too.

What other major life accomplishments have you achieved that helped you in freelancing writing? Tell us about it in the comments.

James Patterson is a freelance health writer and public relations consultant at OnPoint Writing and Communications. His past clients include the National Institutes of Health, the President’s Cancer Panel and the National Diabetes Education Program.

Photo via Flickr user alancleaver_2000

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Why Writing Killer Headlines Will Change Your Life

Improve Your Writing Blog's Headlines

Read all about it: Headlines are important

When I did the free writers’ blog review day a few weeks back, one thing really jumped out as I went from blog to blog: The headlines.

In the main, they sucked.

Most weren’t grabbing me and making me feel compelled to read the posts under them. Many didn’t have any key words in them that would help relevant readers find and take an interest in them. Quite a few didn’t even give me a clear idea what the posts were about.

This upset me.

Headlines are just insanely important in our Internet-media era.

I’m not usually this bossy, but I want everyone reading this to stop what they’re doing right now and learn how to write great headlines.

It will be well worth your time, because writing truly outstanding headlines will change your life. Compelling headlines can rocket your writing career forward, whether you’re trying to monetize your blog or get an article assigned by a major magazine.

Hope you’re with me now.

I know that in the past, editors wrote headlines for many of us. Some still do, but in the main the days are over when you could write a general topic slug at the top of your article and that would cut it.

Understand that headlines work differently online, and in our current short-attention-span culture, than they worked in a newspaper 100 years ago.

To sum up, headlines are everything. If you don’t have a good headline, you will not be noticed, assigned, read, retweeted, clicked on, or “liked.”

It’s important to know how headlines work now and to master modern headline writing, because when you do, you will earn more from your writing. It’s just that simple. Many new doors will fling open and you will have more great-paying writing opportunities once you rock your headlines.

7 reasons why killer headlines will change your life:

  1. More readers. When your headline is irresistible and has good key words, you will attract readers and build your reputation.
  2. More assignments. If you can write strong headlines in your article queries, you will get to write more and better-paying articles.
  3. More subscribers. Your blog lives or dies by its headline in your subscriber emails and RSS feeds. The headline is often all they can see! If it’s not interesting, they move on. If that happens enough, they unsubscribe.
  4. Better writing. When you write a strong headline, your post organizes itself quickly and is easier to write.
  5. Faster writing. A good headline practically outlines your story for you, which means you write faster. Faster writers can write more each year, so they earn more.
  6. Better subheads. Once you get the hang of headlines,  you’ll also start writing stronger subheads. And these days, your articles and blog posts need to be scannable. Strong subheads will help you with this.
  7. You stand out. The vast majority of bloggers and writers don’t really understand headlines, and don’t write strong headlines. Learn how to do it, and you immediately look more savvy and professional than the average scribe.

I was very fortunate in that at my first staff-writing job, we were forbidden to turn in stories without proposed headlines. They would not be accepted. I was forced to learn to write headlines.

Over the years, I got better at it. Now, I often find my headlines are used by the editor (which is a real feat since many editors feel they must rewrite your headline to justify their jobs).

But I get the sense many others have not had the benefit of years of headline-writing experience. So here is a crash course:

Learn headline basics. In mentoring other writers, I sometimes review query letters. I often see queries like this: “I’d like to write about Healthy Living.” That’s not a headline, that’s a topic. A vague, ill-defined topic. As opposed to: 10 Tips for Healthy Living on the Road. Or maybe, Is Your Community Encouraging These Healthy-Living Habits? See how you can tell exactly what these articles or blog posts will be about? That’s what you want in a headline.

Understand the psychology. What makes humans click on a post? Figure this out, and your headlines will drive you some monster traffic. One thing that apparently drives our wee brains nuts is questions. One is a vagueness that can’t be answered without reading the post, as in a headline such as “Does your blog make these four key mistakes?” For more about this, read Why Do Some Headlines Fail?

Think brevity. Don’t make your blog headline go on for three lines. Think short and punchy. Delete any extraneous words.

Spend time on your headline. A headline shouldn’t be the first dashed-off thought you have. This is make-or-break up here on line one. Spend some time crafting and refining your headline. Write several and then think about which one works best.

Study great blog headlines. Many of my favorites are on Copyblogger. Scanning their popular posts bar is like a free course in headline writing.

What’s your favorite recent headline? Let’s share some great headlines in the comments to provide additional headline-writing inspiration. Personally, I thought there were some great ones in the last Top 10 Articles for Writers post I did.

Photo via stock.xchng user somadjinn

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