Archive for the ‘Tips for Freelance Writers’ Category

Differences Between Journalism and Business Writing

Friday, November 21st, 2014

journalism writingThere are many different kinds of writing, and sometimes it’s hard to draw the lines of distinction. Some writing disciplines overlap, requiring similar skills, methods, or mindsets. But it’s often important to know the difference, especially if you’re a copywriter with clients looking for certain types of content.

While there are some similarities between journalism and business writing, the requirements and approaches are different. Here’s what you should know about each of these writing areas.

Business writing: It’s mostly marketing

The business writing category covers most types of copywriting assignments. Web content, blog posts, brochures, case studies, email campaigns, press releases, product descriptions, and even some articles are all considered business writing.

The main characteristic of business writing is its intention to sell. The piece might be peddling a product or service, an idea, an opinion or viewpoint, or even entertainment—but it’s usually written to convince the reader of something. By definition, business writing is biased in favor of the business that’s using the content.

A piece of writing with intent to sell typically requires a different writing style. There’s always some degree of hype involved, with varying intensity—the hype might be subtle for press releases, and blatant for email campaigns. Business writing employs “salesy” copy, with strong descriptions, interesting turns of phrases, wordplay, and calls to action.

Journalism: It’s mostly facts

The journalism style of writing is for reporting the news. Journalistic pieces present the facts to readers, backed by research and fact-checking. But there’s more to this type of writing than dry, fact-filled paragraphs—journalists must also be able to grab attention and engage readers.

One of the biggest challenges in journalism is maintaining a neutral viewpoint. Every issue has at least two sides, but journalists aren’t supposed to pick one. Instead, journalistic pieces must be written in a way that informs without bias, and lets readers make up their own minds on the issue.

Instead of hype-driven wordplay and sales-tuned copy, journalism writing uses clear language, interesting turns of phrase, and judicious quotes from verified resources. One thing journalism and business writing have in common, though, is the need for catchy headlines.

Writing on both sides

As a full-service freelance copywriter in Cincinnati, I can provide pieces in a variety of styles, including journalism. One of my regular assignments is writing articles for Adweek, an online industry news website. A recent piece I wrote, “CVS Pulls the Plug on Apple Pay”, is a good example of a compelling headline followed by a balanced article that reports on the issue—including the pros and cons of Apple Pay for retailers, and the fact that CVS may reconsider if Apple’s mobile payment system sees more widespread adoption.

Had this been a piece of business writing, it might have focused on how great Apple Pay is, and why more retailers should adopt the payment system.

Do you take on business writing and journalism assignments? What’s your approach to journalistic writing?

Freelance Writers: Should You Generalize or Specialize?

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

topic

In many respects, freelance writing is a unique industry with abundant career options. But on a basic level, there are two paths your freelance writing career can take: jack of all trades, or niche expert.

Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages. Which path is right for you? The answer depends on your goals, your interests and abilities, and the amount of effort you’re willing or able to expend.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of freelance writing on general topics versus a niche focus, and tips on deciding which path you should take in your freelance career.

General freelance writing: More work, less pay

The generalist path means you’ll take freelance writing assignments on just about any topic. You may find yourself writing blog articles about tax and finance one day, and website content for a business consultant the next. You could write about pet care, fashion, tech products, family issues, jewelry, web design, politics, and home improvement, all in the space of a week—and then work on completely different topics the next week.

As a general freelance writer, you’ll typically find that there’s plenty of work available. The down side is that generalists don’t earn big money. In order to make a decent living while writing on general topics, you have to produce at a higher volume.

General freelance writing can be challenging and rewarding, but there are tradeoffs. Aside from the lower pay, much of your work (or all of it) will be written on behalf of your clients—and they’ll be credited as the author, not you. This makes it difficult to develop a portfolio, especially considering some clients may not allow you to publicize the work you developed for them.

The key to success as a general freelance writer is to have a well-designed business website with a writing portfolio that showcases your versatile abilities, and to build a reputation as a reliable writer who completes quality assignments on time. Proving your worth can also help you get more work in the form of referrals from existing clients.

If you’re a fast writer who enjoys working with many different topics, this may be the career path for you.

Niche freelance writing: More pay, more risk

First, the good news: Freelance writers with specialties can typically command higher rates — sometimes much higher, depending on your niche. As a specialty freelance writer, your goal is to be considered an expert in your field, and therefore worth paying more. When you take assignments, you’re usually credited as the author.

The drawbacks? It takes time to build a reputation, there will be less work available (and more competition), and you could become “typecast” as a certain breed of writer.

There are many ways to establish yourself as an expert, but all of them take time. You can build a reputation through writing just in your niche—though you may have to start out with lower-paying jobs until you’re established. A professional blog on your topic can help to solidify your expert status. You can also network on social media and make connections in your chosen industry.

For niche freelance writers, available work is limited. You’ll also be in competition with other niche writers in your topic, and especially in the beginning, you may end up fighting for every job. As your reputation builds, landing assignments will become easier.

Finally, when you decide on a niche, it’s difficult to change topics. For example, you won’t be able to command the same high rate for tech articles if you specialize in women’s health. If you get burned out on your topic—or if the available work dries up—you’ll have to forge an expert reputation in a new topic.

Still, niche freelance writers can enjoy better pay for less work. If you’re willing to establish a reputation, you can make a great living writing on niche topics.

Secrets to Writing a Winning Intro

Monday, October 20th, 2014

“Yofishing-99318_640u can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London

Whether you’re writing a blog post, an article, or an entire book, sometimes the hardest part is getting started. You know your introduction needs to hook readers—after all, the job of your first sentence is to get people to read the next, and so on. A great headline will get people to click on your piece, but a great intro will convince them to actually read it.

How do you write an intro that hooks the reader, line and sinker? Fortunately, there is no single answer. When it comes to writing a winning introduction, there are plenty of effective approaches.

Lead with a relevant quote

Everyone loves a good quote, like the one that starts this blog post. When you open a writing piece with a quote, you’re borrowing the built-in authority of the source, while setting the tone for the information that follows.

Stuck for a good quote to use? BrainyQuote offers an extensive library of quotations, sorted by both topics and authors. There’s also a searchable database on The Quote Garden, and inspiring image-based quotes to browse on Pinterest.

Find something in common

Letting readers know that you have something in common can help them connect with you and what you’re saying. For example, if a freelance writer reads this blog post, he or she will most likely identify with the first sentence of the opening after the quote. We’ve all had trouble starting a writing project!

The second section of this blog posts also starts with a commonality: “Everyone loves a good quote.”

Tell a personal story

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a best-selling novelist. Sharing something personal, however briefly, enables readers to see you as a person. You don’t have to go back to your childhood in order to get personal with an introduction, either. Consider starting with a few lines about an experience, a professional challenge, or other life event that relates to the information you’re about to present.

Ask a question

Rhetorical, subjective, controversial, or thought-provoking questions can make great introductions to any piece. For example, this blog post could have started out by asking, “What’s the best way to grab a reader’s attention in 20 words or less?” And the response would be: Ask a question to which they want to know the answer, and then use the rest of your piece to respond.

State a powerful fact

The average attention span of a human has shortened to 8 seconds—which is less than the attention span of a goldfish. This fact is a very good reason to work on your introductions, because you don’t have much time to hook your readers. Opening with relevant facts or statistics is one of the most effective ways to set reader expectations and keep people interested.

What types of intros have you found effective in your own writing?

5 Simple Things Stopping You From Succeeding as a Freelance Writer (Before You Even Start)

Friday, October 10th, 2014

rejection copyIf you’re just getting started or thinking about becoming a freelance writer, the first step is identifying the ingredients for success. The obvious requirements are strong writing skills, a computer, and preferably a dedicated website for your freelance business. Throw in a LinkedIn profile for networking, some home office essentials, and maybe a few profiles on freelance job boards or message sites, and you have a solid foundation. But what else do you need?

The answer is…surprisingly little. Here are five things many aspiring freelance writers think they need in order to find success—that can actually hold them back from building a thriving freelance career.

Lots of free time

Many people hold off on entering the freelance writing industry under the assumption that they need to dedicate all of their time to succeed. Like any other venture, freelance writing is a business. But the great thing about freelancing is that you don’t have to take the full-time plunge immediately. In fact, it’s better to start out part-time and gradually build a portfolio that you can use to land more freelance gigs.

Most of the common excuses begin with “as soon as…” and end with “then I’ll start freelancing.” People fill in the blank with phrases like:

  • Quit my job
  • Cut my work hours
  • Save money to buy professional services (web designer, job board memberships, logo commission)
  • The kids start going to school

Starting right now, ignore these excuses. You can start freelancing any time, no matter how many or how few free hours you have—whether it’s getting busy writing articles you can sell, or sending pitches to publications or companies hiring freelance writers.

Full support from your family / friends

Some people stop short of launching a freelance writing career because of the disapproval (or imagined disapproval) of the people closest to them. You may believe your spouse will be upset when you’re spending time working instead of with him or her, or that your parents will nag you to get a “real job,” or that your best friend will think “freelance” means “you aren’t doing anything, so you should babysit my kids / run an errand / go to lunch or a movie with me.”

But you’re the only one who has to give yourself permission to be a freelance writer. It’s great to have support, but if there are some people who don’t understand what you’re doing, you don’t owe them anything. And their perceptions will likely change when all that hard work starts paying off.

Total mastery of all things freelance

As a fledgling freelance writer, you probably don’t know the secrets to writing the perfect pitch or query letter, or how to build a stunning freelance website, or the best prices to charge clients, or where to find the most lucrative gigs. And that’s okay.

Many aspiring freelance writers fritter away months or years researching the industry—when the best way to learn is to jump in and start doing it. Of course you’ll make mistakes along the way, but you’ll learn from them. Your skills will gradually increase, your professional network will grow, and you’ll reach your definition of success much faster than you would have by reading a stack of industry books.

Fear or hatred of rejection

This one should be a given—after all, no one likes being rejected. But when it comes to your freelance writing career, rejection is your friend. You will be successful only when you’re ready to embrace it.

Freelance writers who are getting rejections are sending their work out. If you’re not getting rejections, that means you’re not trying to sell your work—and you can’t make money in freelance writing by keeping your work to yourself.

Rejections can indicate whether or not you’re on the right path. Form rejections can tell you that your approach (or your writing) needs work. Warm rejections that invite you to submit future work say you’re getting close. And rejections with feedback mean you’re almost there, and may even be able to sell to the editor who rejected you, if you make the requested changes.

The need for perfection

When you’re writing a freelance assignment or something you’re going to query, you naturally want to craft the best possible piece of writing. But if you aim for perfection, you’ll never get to the query stage (or you’ll miss your deadline), making it impossible to earn money for that piece.

There is no such thing as perfect, especially in freelance writing. There is good enough, and sometimes there is great—but nothing will be perfect. And you don’t want perfection, anyway: you want solid, well-researched, and engaging content.

What’s holding you back from succeeding as a freelance writer?

Copyright Terms Every Freelance Writer Should Know

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

copyrightRegardless of the capacity you work in as a freelance writer, at some point you’re likely to end up signing a contract—or multiple contracts. While a good contract will protect both you and your clients from any confusion over the rights to the work, the contract itself may cause some confusion.

It’s important for freelance writers to truly understand what they’re signing before they agree to a job. Poorly worded or unfavorable contracts can end up limiting or erasing your rights, or even damaging your reputation down the line.

Here are some common copyright terms that often appear in freelance contracts, and what they’ll mean to you.

License: Who has what rights?

In terms of contracts, license is a very broad term that covers the rights being granted to a work. Copyright is actually a series of rights that automatically belong to the creator of a work, so a license lets clients exercise some—but typically not all—of the rights to the work, for which they’re paying you.

Granting a license means that you’re not giving away all the rights to your work. Your contract should specify which rights you’re surrendering to the client, and which you’ll keep for your own use.

Exclusive vs. non-exclusive: Who else gets the rights?

Exclusivity, or a lack of it, is an important element of a license in a contract. If you grant an exclusive license to a client, it means once you’ve completed the work, only the client can use it in the capacity specified by the license. Neither yourself nor your client can sell exclusively licensed work to someone else, and you need permission from the client to display the work on your own website, such as in your portfolio.

With a non-exclusive license, you are legally permitted to use the work yourself, or to offer the same non-exclusive license for sale to others. Keep in mind, however, that selling a piece you wrote for a specific client to someone else is usually considered poor taste, even if you technically have permission with a non-exclusive license.

Sublicensable: The client can sell the rights

If a work has a sublicensable license, this means the client can resell or re-license the work to others, and still use it themselves. An exclusive license is automatically sublicensable, since the client has sole rights to the work. If it’s non-exclusive and sublicensable, both you and the client can re-license the work.

One thing to note here is that with a sublicensable contract, the client doesn’t need your approval or permission to re-license the work to others—including sites you may not want your work to be associated with.

Transferrable: The client can give away the rights

Similar to sublicensable terms, a transferrable license lets the client give or sell the rights to the work to a third party—with the difference being they will no longer hold the license themselves. The license is transferred rather than shared, and the client has given up all rights to the work.

Once again, with a transferrable license your work could end up owned by a site or party you’d prefer not to be associated with.

Derivative works: The client can change the content

A derivative work is a new work based on an original. In freelance contracts, derivative work rights are usually requested so the client can either edit the work, or modify content to fit in an allotted space.

However, a derivative works clause can also permit the client to create translations, videos, and other modified formats of the work, if there are no restrictions on the right to create derivative work spelled out in the contract.

Attribution / moral rights: The client doesn’t have to credit you

Attribution or authorship rights in the United States deal with your rights as a content creator to be credited and given a byline for your work. Outside the U.S., this type of rights is often called moral rights.

If you are ghostwriting for a client, waiving your attribution or moral rights is often a standard contract clause that allows the client to claim credit for the work. However, if you’re expecting to be credited and receive a byline, make sure this clause doesn’t appear in the contract.

Additionally, moral rights can sometimes include the right to not be attributed if you choose not to be associated with the work, or the right to object to offensive uses. Read the moral rights clause carefully, if one exists, before signing.

Copyright transfer: The client retains all rights

Unlike transferrable licenses, a copyright transfer means that you are giving up any and all rights to the work, and the client will retain sole control and discretion. This can be an acceptable contract term—but only if you’re absolutely sure it’s what you want, and you feel that you’ve been adequately compensated for the work.

Keep in mind that in the U.S., copyright can only be transferred through a written contract, for which any freelance contract would most likely qualify.

Have you run across any unusual contract terms in your freelance writing career?

5 Things Successful Bloggers Do (That You Should Too)

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

blogIf you’re actively running a blog, whether it’s to promote your business or support your personal passion, chances are you want it to be successful. You want a high search engine ranking, a loyal readership, and some return on your investment—whether that’s increased visibility and profits for your business, or a revenue stream that buys you more than a cup of coffee every month.

While there is no “secret” to being a successful blogger, there are common habits shared by every blogger who’s living the dream. If you emulate these habits, you’re likely to find yourself with a growing blog that’s on track to reach your definition of success.

1. Successful bloggers love what they do

The idea that being passionate about your particular subject fuels success is such a cliché that many people have stopped considering it. Passion is supposed to be a given—of course you’re passionate about your business (or you wouldn’t have started it) or animal shelters, or vinyl records, or nanotechnology (or you wouldn’t be blogging about it). But do your readers know how passionate you are?

For successful bloggers, that passion shines through in every post, on every social media account, and with every guest blog or article. Your core readers will share your passions and love coming back, again and again, to find out what else you have to say.

2. Successful bloggers blog a lot

Once again, this “secret” should be obvious—but many bloggers don’t realize just how important it is to be prolific. The first benefit to writing a lot of blog posts is that the act of writing makes you better at it. The more you write, the more your craft will improve, and the higher quality of your writing draws in more readers.

Another advantage of prolific bloggers is on the search engine front. The more content you have, the more frequently your blog is indexed by search engines—and a continual supply of fresh content also gives more algorithm weight to your posts. Every time you post something new, search engines consider it more important. It’s a cumulative effect.

Finally, regular blogging—whether your schedule is daily, Monday through Friday, or just one or two posts per week—tells your readers that they can expect new content at certain times. This makes them more likely to come back and find out what’s new with you.

3. Successful bloggers are concise

With this habit, keep in mind that “concise” doesn’t necessarily mean “short.” You don’t have to restrict your blog post length to tweet-sized comments in order to be successful—in fact, long-form content can boost your search engine rankings and conversions (or subscription rates).

So, what is concise? It means making every word count, leading with a killer intro, and arranging content in an easily digestible format.

Successful bloggers mix long-form and short-form content, and break up longer content with short paragraphs, intriguing subheads, and bullets or numbered lists. Concise content delivers what readers are looking for without the fluff, in a way that keeps even 1,000-word blog posts engaging and fast-moving.

4. Successful bloggers stick to the plan

Blogs that are scattered, random musings on whatever the author happened to be contemplating that day rarely succeed—unless it’s the blog of a celebrity or notable industry guru, who can get away with saying anything because people will hang on their every word. For the rest of us, the path to success involves choosing a topic and sticking to it.

The best bloggers will relate everything to their core topic, even if it seems to be about something completely unrelated at first. What’s more, successful bloggers have a long-term plan, and they don’t let minor details get in the way of the big picture.

5. Successful bloggers are always learning

The biggest reason there are no secrets to blogging success is that things are always changing. There are always new rules, new formats and platforms, changing audience tastes, new SEO strategies, and myriad factors that grow and evolve along the digital frontier.

Successful bloggers love to learn and try out new things. It keeps things fresh for their audience, and interesting and challenging for them. They’re always on the lookout for the next big thing—and they’re willing to evolve with the times.

So if you’re passionate, willing to work, and ready to plan for now and the future, you can be a successful blogger. What habits have you found most effective for growing your blog?

I’m Not That Kind of Writer

Friday, September 5th, 2014

GhostwriterIf you’re a freelance writer like me, you’ve probably had some version of this conversation before:

You: I’m a writer.

Friend/Relative/Stranger: Really? What books did you write? Can I read one?

You: I…don’t write books. Yet.

Non-writer: How can you be a writer if you don’t write books?

You: I’m a freelance writer. I write web copy, blog posts, articles, white papers…

Friend whose eyes are glazing over: Are you going to write a book? I never could, but I have all these great ideas for books. Hey, you could use them, and we could split the money! Writers are rich, right?

You: Well, I do get paid for my writing.

Oblivious stranger: It’s easy to get rich if you write a book. Everybody’s doing it. Why don’t you?

You: The thing is, I really like what I do.

Person looking for someone else to talk to: Well, tell me when you write a book. I’ll definitely read it. Can you give me a free copy?

I’ve learned that it’s best to be patient with folks like this. They usually mean well. It’s just that if you’re not working as a freelancer, or working with freelancers, it can be hard to understand that while all books are writing, not all writing is books.

People who aren’t writers don’t think about the simple fact that every word they read, every day, had to be written by someone. When you’re reading a shampoo bottle, someone got paid to tell you that this shampoo is specially formulated to remove oils and gently detangle, leaving your hair clean and silky smooth. When you’re on the checkout page of an e-commerce site, someone got paid to explain where you should enter your credit card details, and how you can calculate your shipping costs.

And if you’re a freelance writer reading a shampoo bottle, you’re probably thinking that it’s lousy copy, and someone should’ve paid you to do a better job.

No credit? No problem.

Another concept that’s hard for non-writers to grasp—and even some writers of the fictional persuasion—is the idea that you usually write content that ends up giving credit to someone else. For most freelance projects, your clients hire you as a ghostwriter. You work hard to craft a compelling and well-researched article, or an entertaining blog post, and it’s published under another person’s name…usually your client’s.

What’s hard to convey is that you’re okay with that.

Ghostwriters are well-compensated for their efforts, because they get paid. It’s nice to have public recognition for a piece of great writing, but it’s even nicer to pay the bills, put food on the table, and occasionally see a movie—all without having to leave your house and suffer through commutes, office politics, and Casual Fridays.

So the next time someone asks what you do for a living, tell them you get paid to make other people look good. They’ll probably think you’re an image consultant or a vice president, and the conversation will move on to less confusing things.

Meanwhile, find other freelance writers who get what you do, and make friends with them. Then you can compare notes about which shampoo bottle copy sucks the most, and how you could totally write something ten times better.

Business Writing vs. Creative Writing: How to Balance Your Job with Your Passion

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Saying that you’re a writer can mean so many things. There are all types of them, from the occasional hobby writer to the award-winning journalist to the best-selling novelist. You may be a blogger or a freelancer, an article specialist, a short story writer, or the author of non-fiction books.

But if you’re writing professionally today, there’s a good chance you’re overlapping several of these categories. Maybe you’re a freelancer trying to finally get that novel finished in your spare time, or you write articles for pay while trying to get your blog about your life’s passion off the ground.

Whatever your particular blend of writing disciplines, it can be hard to balance everything.

How can you satisfy the business side of your writing life, and still find the time and energy to indulge your creative pursuits? With some planning and discipline, it really is possible to do it all.

Find your rhythm

Most people have a certain time of day when they’re more creative. For one person, it may be when she first sits down to work, while her mind is still clear and refreshed, and the day’s stresses haven’t started piling up. Another might have creative periods in the afternoon, once he’s handled a few pressing projects. Someone else may be a dedicated night owl.

The first step in balancing business with creative writing is finding YOUR time. When do you produce your best creative work? Pay attention to your output for a few days, and you’ll discover your natural power hours—this will be the time you’ll dedicate to your passions.

Creativity on a schedule

While it’s okay to follow your creative muse, it’s also important to understand that sometimes your muse needs motivation. If you wait until the “mood” strikes you to put in creative writing time, you may never get started. Or you might interrupt your business writing groove and never get it back.

Once you find your optimal creative time for the day, schedule your passion projects for that time—just as you would schedule assigned work. Muses are fickle, but if yours knows the clock is ticking, it will do you the favor of showing up for work more often than not.

Care and feeding of your creative side

When you’re constantly writing, either for business or pleasure, your well of creativity can run dry. One of the best ways to maintain balance and enthusiasm is to give yourself time to recharge.

Choose something you enjoy doing that doesn’t involve sitting in front of the computer, and make it a regular activity. Go for a walk, curl up in a chair with a book and a cup of coffee, or have lunch with friends. Once you’re refreshed, the work will be there waiting for you.

Embrace all of your writer hats

A lot of professional writers who are working on creative side projects choose to keep their passions under wraps. This can actually be a disadvantage. First, it’s exhausting to keep secrets—and second, many of your clients will actually be impressed with your creative pursuits, and may value your work even more.

How do you handle your varied and rewarding writing pursuits?

Draw Readers In: 4 Formulas for Writing Magnetic Headlines

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Whether in Google searches, on blogs, or on your Facebook page or Twitter feed, you’ve seen linked headlines that you practically felt compelled to click on and read more. Most people don’t spend a lot of time thinking about why certain headlines attract—but if you understand what makes an article or title intriguing, you can write powerful headlines that readers won’t be able to resist.

Here are four strategies for crafting magnetic headlines for your blog, guest posts, and feature articles.

Work in some numbers

Lists, statistics, big figures—numbers are a great way to grab attention. Lists are an especially popular headline format, and list-based posts or articles also encourage commenting and interaction as people share their own opinions of what should or shouldn’t get ranked.

Some ideas for number headline formats include:

  • Top X or Best X… (example: The Top 5 Little-Known Uses for Household Sponges)
  • X Ways To… (you can substitute other words for “Ways,” such as “4 Formulas” in the title of this article)
  • X [Group] Are… (or do, or have; example: 1.5 Billion People Own Smartphones, or There are 42.5 Million Dog Owners in the U.S.)
  • Percentages (example: Nearly 10 Percent of Americans Work from Home)

With the Groups and Percentages example, you can add a subhead that ties into your small business blog post or article. For example, if you blog about telecommuting, you might say: “Nearly 10 Percent of Americans Work from Home – Here’s How You Can, Too!”

Tie into current events

When something newsworthy happens, there are millions of people looking it up on search engines. Tying your headline to a current event will not only increase visibility, but also garners higher click-throughs and reader engagement.

Holidays are a popular tie-in. Of course, there is Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and all the popular holidays—but those don’t happen every day. How about tying into Car Care Month (April) or Pet Appreciation Week (June 1 – 7)? There are plenty of little-known holidays that can make compelling headlines.

You can also tie into breaking news, big sporting events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, and anything that’s making the rounds in the news.

Ask a question

Question headlines encourage readers to empathize with the question, want to know more, or find out the answer. For example, an article in Psychology Today asked, “Do You Close the Bathroom Door Even When You’re the Only One Home?”

A popular headline format is to ask a question that most readers will say yes to, but don’t want to answer that way. These articles or posts should explain how they can change their answer. Examples include “Are You Paying Too Much for Your Car Insurance?” and “Do You Spend Too Much Time at the Office?”

Make a statement

Headlines that take a stand—for better or worse—attract readers. From the intriguing to the controversial, statement headlines get people interested in what you have to say, and why you’d make such a strong statement. A few examples:

  • The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Period
  • Stress Relief in Just Five Minutes a Day
  • Save Hundreds on Your Monthly Grocery Bill

Of course, with any of these headline formats, it’s essential to follow up with compelling, well-written copy that matches the spirit of the title.

Do you spend enough time thinking about your headlines? What are the best or most effective headlines you’ve ever written?

Want to Be More Successful? Paint Your Home Office

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, freelance writer, or telecommuter, working from home means spending a lot of time in your home office. You probably make sure that it’s organized and quiet, but aesthetics are often put on the backburner for many home office workers—so it might surprise you to learn that a fresh coat of paint can improve your productivity.

Why wall color matters

The colors that surround you affect your mood, energy levels, and job performance. According to interior designer and therapist Christa O’Leary, “Our bodies react to color on a physiological level. The color red stimulates our appetite and increases our heart rate. The color blue has a calming effect on the nervous system.”

In addition to these human-wide reactions, colors also have a personal effect. You may consciously or subconsciously associate a color with a certain person, location, or event—and that, in turn, affects your work habits.

Choosing the right color for your home office

The color you paint your office walls should be based on the effect you need on your work. As a basic guide:

  • Blue colors and shades affect your mind
  • Yellow colors influence your emotions, ego, and self-confidence
  • Red stimulates your body
  • Green colors and shades affect your essential balance (mind, body, emotions)

The intensity of the color also has a strong influence on your state of mind. Bright, strong colors serve to stimulate the areas they effect, while paler shades with lower saturation produce a soothing effect.

So, for example, if your work involves stimulating your mind (such as accounting), you might choose to paint your office blue. However, it’s a common misconception that blue is best for creativity—yellow works better, as it can make you more optimistic.

Red can be a counterproductive color for a home office, as it stimulates your body to do something physical. And finally, if you paint your home office green, you’re likely to enjoy a calming and reassuring sense of balance—so if your work is stressful, such as customer service, this may be the color for you.

Bonus tips for painting your home office

Paint color is important, and using the right accent colors can be even more beneficial. While red is a poor choice for the main color, red accents can help you stay bold and confident—a good selection for salespeople or negotiators. Placing yellow accents in a primarily blue room can produce an overall calming effect with energizing focal points.

The type of paint can also matter. Glossy paint tends to generate higher energy, while flat paint can create a soothing environment. It’s a good idea to use environmentally friendly, low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint, especially in a room where you’ll be spending a significant portion of time.

How long has it been since you’ve painted your home office? What colors would you choose?