I started my freelance writing journey around nine months ago with some research and a journalism degree. I didn’t know anyone else in the field, or at least know them well. Since I’m someone who often turns to others when I need help or have questions, this endeavor scared me a bit. I knew I was going into a career I knew little about and would have to do a lot of work on my own.
I started by writing wha I liked, such as topics I was passionate about and messages I wanted to share. I sent pitches that now make me cringe when I read them, and my work was only available on the publications’ sites and my personal website. This worked, but only to a certain degree.
Since then, I’ve learned several strategies that upped my game and earned me extra money. I now feel more confident saying I’m a freelance writer, and I’m thankful I can have this career without worrying about needing a side job to pay bills. As you’ll read about below, one of my passions is helping others in ways I’ve needed help, so read ahead for five of my best unconventional strategies.
1. Focus on topics that consistently work for you, even if other writers say differently
When I look at some top writers’ work and hear their suggestions, it often entails writing articles on personal development. I commonly see topics like forming positive habits, increasing morning productivity, and happiness. Those articles are certainly helpful, and I’m glad they work for those writers. Since they appeal to such a broad audience, I understand why they’re popular. But when I try to write those kinds of articles, they don’t do all that well for me statistically. They’re also not the most fun for me to write because I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about those topics.
What does work for me, though, is writing about relationships and writing. When I look at my most viral articles last year, all of them were about relationships. And when I look at my next most successful articles, they’re typically about writing, from tips to helpful resources to comprehensive pitching guides. No one told me to write on these topics — I just wanted to.
So that’s what I focus on. While I used to write more on other subjects, like body positivity and mental health, and while I still do, I don’t as often. I’ve discovered my true passion and success is in relationship articles, and within that, educating and encouraging people who have struggled in similar ways. You may need to experiment a little bit to figure out what those topics are for you. While sticking with what works, I encourage you to try new topics as well.
2. Write both positive and negative headlines, and match them with encouraging, inclusive content
When I read various articles about creating successful headlines, one tip that stuck out to me was this: Write a headline that elicits fear in the reader. When you can cause readers to worry about themselves or something in their lives, you encourage them to read your piece for more information. Doing this can feel unethical at times, and you have to be careful that your headline doesn’t end up sounding like clickbait. But for those who are interested — when you do this correctly, it works.
If you choose to write a fear-based headline, I encourage you to leave out the shame tactics and piles of more anxiety-inducing information in the article itself. Further, what I’ve found to work, and what feels most ethical to me, is making sure the rest of the article is not only educational content but also empathic statements and tips on how to improve the situation.
Here’s an example of a headline and resulting article that worked and has reached over 46K views: “5 Signs It’s Not Love, It’s Enmeshment — and What to Do About It.” While the headline may cause you to worry you’re in an enmeshed relationship if you don’t know what that is, it also empowers you to know you can change it. Further, the article entails encouragement and personal anecdotes to help readers feel less alone.
Conversely, writing positive headlines can also bring in more readers. After seeing happy, successful articles about soulmates, I wrote my own version, “8 Signs You Finally Found Your Person.” It has around the second-highest amount of views with over 37K. Not only is that headline one that can inspire readers, but the article itself is full of affirmations. The affirmations serve two purposes: to further encourage those who have found “their person,” and to remind others of their worth. I didn’t want to exclude or discourage anyone, so adding those reminders was a simple task that did the trick.
3. Incorporate and explain interesting slang and vocabulary terms in your main topic
A few years ago, I realized why I was so unhappy in one of my relationships: I was being “breadcrumbed.” Breadcrumbing is when Person A gives Person B intermittent attention to keep Person B holding onto the relationship without Person A having to do much work or committing. Realizing I could put a word to my blob of confusion and unhappiness, I felt relieved. I felt less alone in what I’d gone through, and I finally understood what was going on and that it wasn’t healthy.
I wanted to educate others on this new-to-me term that explains a common phenomenon in an interesting way. Sticking to my primary focus on relationships, I wrote articles about breadcrumbing, such as the signs, my experience, and quotes that helped me. I also wrote about other dating terms that applied to me, like “paperclipping,” which is popping up into someone’s life randomly after breaking up with them to feed your own ego. Both helped me reach some of my highest amounts of money yet.
With your titles, topics, and article content, I encourage you to make other readers want to know more. Make them curious about something and relate it to their own lives. Write for your target audience, speaking to them about issues they may not know they’re facing, and what can help.
4. Write what you need to read as a writer
The article of mine with the highest amount of claps and comments right now is definitely “5 Websites That Pay Writers Besides Medium.” As a freelance writer, I know how much I’d like to have more information on publications I can pitch, so I decided I’d make an informational guide with just that.
In this article, I listed five paying publications as well as what kind of content they want, their submission guidelines, the next steps writers can take, the rate, and my experience with the publication, if applicable. And my oh my, did people appreciate it. I received tons of comments about how grateful people were for this article, and I felt thrilled. My article’s purpose had been fulfilled in which I was helping others, and I had the cherries-on-top reward of extra money.
I wrote more guides with a similar format, and while they didn’t do as well, many writers appreciated them, too. I knew what I needed to read as a writer, and as it turns out, many other writers and readers needed it too. So yes, again, write for your target audience. But when you’re also your target audience, take that into consideration.
5. Share articles through TweetDeck and a newsletter
I’ve heard from people in Facebook groups that sharing your articles on social media isn’t the most effective way to get views, and I agree. Writing content that people want to know about and writing it well should take precedence.
But at the same time, getting your name and your work out there doesn’t hurt. I created a Twitter account specifically for my writing and a newsletter th