You want to write a magazine article or blog post, but you don’t have many – or any – ideas. You don’t even know how to find good magazine article ideas! No problem; these ten tips will help you find good – and interesting – ideas for your articles.
Before we go there, here’s one of my least favorite tips on how to find inspiration: “Book and magazine article ideas 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 idea to write about.” Sure – ideas may be everywhere. The problem is recognizing GOOD ideas. It’s not just the idea that’s important; it’s finding the best slant, the most current research, the most compelling anecdotes.
Truth be told, the best way to find good ideas to write about for magazines is to tune your writer’s ear. And this takes practice. The more ideas you hear, the more articles and query letters you pitch, the more finely you’ll tune your instincts. My tips for finding – and recognizing – good magazine article ideas will help. But you need to practice until you find your footing in the writing world.
I became a successful freelancer shortly after I started writing because I read all the books on freelance writing. I made notes on books like Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments by Jenna Glatzer. I learned how professional magazine and online writers work with publishers, build relationships with editors, research market trends, and recognize which sections of a magazine are open to freelance writers. I also learned what kinds of articles are in demand, what to do if a publisher doesn’t pay my invoice, how to market my reprinted articles, and how to become an expert in my niche.
All it takes to be a successful freelance writer – or simply to find good article ideas for your own magazine, newspaper or blog – is to treat writing like a business. Learn everything you need to know about writing for magazines, and you’ll succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
How to Find Good Magazine Article Ideas
Great ideas are like diamonds: they need to be sought, mined, and polished. Strong feature articles have to be timely, well-rounded, and relevant. It also helps – a great deal – if you have a strong writer’s voice.
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.
If your old articles focus on a specific topic, read How to Get Your Magazine Article Published in a Niche Market.
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.
Do you have the “skin of a rhino”? Read 5 Ways to Keep Writing After Multiple Rejection Letters.
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…