Self-Promotion with How-To Articles

A full-page ad in Forbes magazine costs over $50,000. In a trade magazine, it's at least $3,000 – and in your hometown newspaper, it can be more than $1,000.

But what if you could get a huge ad for your own freelance copywriting business – spread across a whole page – free?

That's what writing "how-to" articles can do for you. And they're not only easy to write, they'll also build credibility for your business better than the biggest, splashiest ad ever could.

Here's what you do…

Ideas for how-to articles are all around you. A good way to come up with something that should be of interest to potential copywriting clients is to consider topics that begin with words like these:

  • How to … (do what?)
  • How We/I …
  • How to Avoid …
  • The Way Not to …
  • The Key to the How-To:

Fortunately, this is an easy one. Just offer a new slant on an old idea.

Take a look at the women's magazines at the checkout counter in the supermarket, for instance. Every single one, every single month, has the absolute best secret for how to lose weight! You'd think the idea would have been pounded to death by now … but they all manage to grab people like me by the eyeballs and hold us captive until we cough up the $4.95 ransom to find out how to do it.

Even marketing publications do it. In the past year alone, I've seen three different articles by three different writers on how to choose the right copywriter. They all discussed the same idea, but each had a different perspective. And I've seen three or four others discussing how to create a powerful offer.

Of course, you can't steal AWAI's materials (or anyone else's for that matter) and publish articles about how to write offers or great headlines or anything like that. But you can certainly talk about your own experience writing sales copy or discuss your background if you have any experience in a certain matter.

Fee- vs. Free-Writing

There is an ongoing debate about whether or not people should write for free. You'll have to decide that for yourself. Personally, I don't give away articles to consumer publications or websites where I receive no benefit except the famous "world-wide exposure" they dangle in front of new writers.

However, I do offer free articles to business and trade publications and sites in my prospects' industries for two reasons: (1) because they get my name and expertise in front of the people I want to target for business, and (2) prospects will be a lot more impressed by one clip from Western Business News than by a whole slew of articles on websites they've never heard of.

And getting published in trade magazines is easy. They don't have the competition that a publication like USA Today or Cosmopolitan has. And, often, they aren't on as tight an editorial schedule. Still, writers tend to overlook them since they are niche-oriented and generally don't pay as well.

Send a trade editor well-thought-out queries … offer the articles for free … and watch him jump at them. In no time, you'll have developed a valuable relationship with that editor that could easily lead to paid assignments. You'll be seen as an expert in your field, and business will start rolling in.

Get Even More Advertising From Your Articles

Once your article is printed, you can squeeze much more out of it than just the initial publicity. You can use copies of your articles on your website, include them in promotion packages for your business, send them to local newspapers for possible spin-off stories in their business section, and use them for reading materials in your office if you get any walk-in traffic. (Make sure you offer only first rights to the trade magazine so you don't run into reprint issues.)

A bakery I know of has every article that has ever been written about it blown up, framed, and displayed on a wall in the eating area. The "article art" is eye-catching and offers an interesting way for customers to entertain themselves while waiting for breakfast. People gravitate toward those "pictures"! It's self-promotional advertising that thousands of customers per year can't help but notice whenever they come into the shop.

Now … how can you put how-to articles to work for you?

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


Click to Rate:
Average: 4.7
Published: December 8, 2003

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