It’s what most freelancers struggle with: they want to write for magazines, but don’t know how to find ideas to write about. These tips for article ideas will improve your chances of getting published and help you make money writing…
First, one of my writing pet peeves: “Ideas for articles are everywhere! All you have to do is stand in line at the grocery store, and you’ll overhear a conversation that’ll lead to a fascinating article idea.”
Ideas may be everywhere — but recognizing great article ideas is the trick! It’s not just the idea that’s important; it’s finding the best slant, the most current research, the most compelling anecdotes.
To learn how a professional freelancer does it, read Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments by Jenna Glatzer.
And check out my tips for writers…
How to Find Ideas to Write About for Magazine Articles
Strong feature articles have to be timely, well-rounded, and relevant. Solid freelance writing ideas take work! I don’t believe that strong, salable freelance writing ideas are everywhere. That’s too easy…and writing isn’t easy.
Great ideas are like diamonds: they need to be sought and mined.
1. Use a phrase, idea, or person in a current article. For instance, I recently wrote an article about “how to love your job” for Reader’s Digest.ca. In researching that idea, I came across several unusual jobs. So, I pitched an article about “odd jobs” to Reader’s Digest. They bought it! See how freelance writing ideas snowball? Even a so-so article idea can lead to a strong, publishable article – if keep your eyes and ears open.
Ideas can be found in other people’s articles, books, blog posts, or poems. If you’re reading something and a question or though pops into your head, follow it up. That’s a great way to find ideas.
2. Read through your old articles. If you’re really stuck, peruse your old articles for possibilities. I love writing round-ups or “10 Things You Never Knew About…”, and there are usually tons of ideas in my past articles. Here’s a freelance writing tip for new freelancers: peruse those top 10 lists for ideas for articles that will work for you.
3. Look through past research – and find out if new studies are out. My research contains dozens of ideas for new articles: why women don’t fall asleep after sex, whether aromatherapy works for men, and new discoveries about depression. Successful freelance writers learn how to recognize new ideas in past research discoveries, and find ways to spin off previously successful articles.
4. Take a retreat, class, or workshop. Getting out of your normal routine will expose you to new people, new writing ideas, and new ways to look at life. In trying new things and taking risks, you’ll find ideas to write about for magazine articles — and you’ll sell those article ideas to magazines!
5. Skim science or news websites. I read ScienceDaily and Eurekalerts every day for new ideas for articles. While most freelance writers have their own method for coming up with article ideas, I daresay most tap into the daily news or recent research. And those studies can be cited repeatedly. For example, I used a research finding about aromatherapy and depression in three or four different articles, all with different spins.
6. Listen to TV or radio talk shows. Freelance writers can really tap into “the pulse of the nation” when they watch The View, Oprah, or The Today Show. Learning what’s happening on TV is a good way to find ideas to write about for magazine articles — but successful writers can’t chase trends.
7. Find a good press release feed or website. This another way to find ideas to write about for magazines: keep up with current press releases. They can be a solid source of article ideas.
8. Don’t ignore the daily routine. As much as I don’t believe that magazine article ideas are “everywhere”, I do admit that you can create articles that sell from your life. I’ve done it. My first article sale was to alive magazine, called “The Upside of Ulcerative Colitis.” It was about how to cope with a chronic illness, which I do every day. Though my first article sale came from my own life, I’m not a big fan of mining my life for ideas.
9. Visit forums and discussion boards. Another way to find ideas to write about for magazine articles is to visit forums and chat rooms. It takes time to go through the various discussion boards, but freelancers can find all sorts of ideas and questions there!
10. Make WIIFM your standard. WIIFM stands for “what’s in it for me”? This relates back to my writing pet peeve that “writing ideas are everywhere.” The ideas could be everywhere, but the paid assignments aren’t…unless you’ve looked through your WIIFM lens. To test the merit of your article idea, answer the question: “What’s in it for the reader?” You’ve gotta help or entertain them somehow, or you won’t make money as a freelance writer.
For awhile, I was hiring writers for Quips and Tips. It was a great experience because it showed me what editors go through when receiving pitches and working with writers. To learn what I learned, read Can’t Get Published? Freelance Writers, Stop Doing This…
If you have any thoughts or questions about these tips for selling feature articles to magazines, please comment below…
I'm glad you're here! My name is Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen; my husband Bruce and I live in Vancouver, BC with our critters. We can't have kids, and are learning to accept whatever life brings - both good and bad. I have an MSW (Master of Social Work) from UBC, and degrees in Education and Psychology. I hope you say hello and share your thoughts below. If not, go well....and don't forget to come back.