7 Steps to Writing a Great “How-to” Article
– From Idea to Completion to Broadcast …

It’s definitely not hard to do.

In fact, just about anybody can do it.

Even I learned how to pull it off … and it’s safe to say I’ve never been hailed as the second coming of Shakespeare, either. (I got a “D” in English – several times – in both high school and university, just to let you know … )

What am I talking about?

Getting proficient at writing “how-to” information.

According to master copywriter and marketer Bob Bly, “how-to” information is hot, hot, hot these days …

“The market’s demand for ‘how-to’ information on everything from investing to love-making is absolutely insatiable,” he writes.

In fact, “how to” just might be the two most profitable words in the English language. Just take a look at the nonfiction bookshelf in your local bookstore … on magazine racks in grocery stores … in your mailbox … in your email in-box … or on TV.

Yes … “how-to” information is just about everywhere these days … and it continues to sell like hotcakes!

Why Not Start Writing the Simplest Form
of “How-to” Information Yourself …
and Make a Lot of Money to Boot!

If you can write “how-to” information in its simplest form – the “how-to” ARTICLE – you can really start making a name for yourself. And a lot of money, too. What’s more, writing “how-to” articles is not nearly as challenging as you might think.

That’s because they don’t take long to write. They’re fun to write, too. And if you string enough of them together and make a book … a course … a seminar … a website … or another type of information product, you’ll not only make a name for yourself, but you might just make a fortune!

Take the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, for example – written way, way back in 1936. This landmark self-help book became a massive bestseller right from the start (a massive 17 printings just a few months after its release) and sold over 5 million copies by the time of Carnegie’s death.

It continues to sell like gangbusters to this day. Over 50 million copies have been sold to date. And it’s essentially a series of article-length chapters telling you “how to” do something better.

It made Dale Carnegie a wealthy person. The same can happen for you.

So if YOU can write high-quality “how-to” articles that solve common problems, you’ll be sitting pretty someday soon.

How do you get started?

Here are seven steps you can take to write top-notch “how-to” articles right away.

  1. DETERMINE YOUR AUDIENCE

    Who will you be writing to? Teenage video game enthusiasts? Sophisticated investors? Single parents? Cat owners? Cigar smokers? Aspiring graphic designers? Wannabe actors?

    To write an effective “how-to” article, you need to develop a clear picture of who you’re writing to. Don’t write to “the masses.” Imagine you’re writing to a single person. Even better … to someone you know very well!

    Do your level best to determine the following:

    • Age
    • Sex
    • Occupation
    • Education
    • Income
    • Lifestyle/Hobbies
    • Beliefs
    • Feelings
    • Desires

     … and anything else you can think of to “flesh out” your reader into a real, living human being!

    TIP: If you’ve got a photo of someone who fits your target audience, tape it to your computer monitor or somewhere else close by. Then, when you’re writing your article, imagine you’re writing to that person. It sounds strange … but trust me, it really helps!

  2. NAIL DOWN YOUR ARTICLE SUBJECT

    Once you know who you’re writing to, you need to figure out WHAT you’re going to write about. What problem or challenge do you wish to address? Does your reader desperately want to escape the 9-to-5 grind? To buy a home without going broke? To make the perfect pepperoni pizza? Figure out what your reader’s problem or challenge is … and your main idea for solving it.

    Also, if you’ll be addressing more than one problem or challenge in your article, which of them is the most important? Make a list of every problem you believe your audience faces … and then prioritize that list.

    Once you’ve done that, you’ll know what you want to focus on when it’s time to research and write your article.

    TIP: While taking AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, I learned that there are some general problems/desires that people, in general, possess. For example:

    • To make money
    • To save money
    • To save time
    • To increase energy
    • To gain pleasure
    • To avoid discomfort
    • To gain convenience

    These are only a few “desires” your target audience may share. And yes … they are very general in nature. However, you can use them as springboards and inspiration for more specific subject ideas.

  3. RESEARCH YOUR ARTICLE

    This is where “the rubber meets the road,” so to speak. Apart from knowing your audience, it’s the most important step. You must do your homework and dig up as many “golden nuggets” of information as you can.

    For example, if you’re writing an article on how to toilet train your cat (yes, it’s possible), you’re going to have to do some extensive research:

    • Go online and gather as much information on toilet training cats as you can. Search pet websites … news websites … blogs … whatever you can dig up that you feel would have value.
    • Find out which experts have toilet trained cats successfully.
    • Learn as much about these “cat toilet-training experts” as you can.
    • Get in contact with these experts, if possible … and interview them.
    • Get permission to use their name and comments in your article.
    • Go to the bookstore and find books on pet training.
    • Jot down notes … or go ahead and buy the book.
    • Interview any cat owners you know.
  4. OUTLINE AND STRUCTURE YOUR ARTICLE

    Do this right, and it will make writing your article simple.

    This is when you take all the research you’ve compiled and give it order. Structure. A beginning, middle, and end.

    Here’s the gist of what Jim Edwards, author of the fantastic article-writing resource Turn Words Into Traffic, recommends about taking a systematic approach for outlining and structuring a great “how-to” article:

    • Write down the main topic or concern which will serve as the subject of your article.
    • Write down the five main points which will make up the thrust of your article.
    • Write down any quotes or references which apply to your article.
    • Write down any and all additional points which you should include in the article.
    • Write down the conclusion your article should lead people to after reading it.
    • Organize your article points into a structure. Put them “step-by-step.”
    • Write!

    This is just a summary of Jim Edwards’ detailed structuring strategy. His ebook goes into much more depth. Check it out when you get a chance. I highly, highly recommend it.

  5. WRITE YOUR ARTICLE

    Now’s the time for you to take the structure you created and give it some good ol’ “flesh and bones.”

    Write your article out … from start to finish.

    TIP: Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time through. Just get all the words down. Don’t censor yourself! This is the time for the creative part of your brain to take over.

    Just follow the structure you created and trust your writing. If you’ve done proper research, you’ll do just fine on your first draft.

    And even if it turns out to be a jumbled-up nightmare of a draft, no worries! You can take the next step toward “getting it perfect” when it’s time for you to …

  6. EDIT YOUR ARTICLE

    This is when you give your article some polish. Go through it again. Notice if any areas need more explanation … or if other areas need “tightening up.” If possible, have one or more people whose judgment you know and trust read your work and provide feedback. Ask them to point out any areas that are confusing or boring.

    Sometimes, this can be a challenge. But when you find the right people to give your work a “critical eye,” hold on to them for dear life! Their feedback will prove to be invaluable … I promise you!

    TIP: If you do ask for feedback, don’t take the reviewers’ comments personally. Sometimes this isn’t easy to do. But it’s one of the only ways you’ll grow as a writer … by getting good, honest feedback from someone else. So take any perceived “negative” comments with a grain of salt. Check out this article on how to conduct a “peer review” of your writing without any criticism …

  7. BROADCAST YOUR ARTICLE

    Your article is ready to go! Now it’s time to show the world. The thing is, where are you gonna put it?

    If you’ve got a blog (which you can set up for free at WordPress.com), you can post your articles there for starters. Then, you’ve got the challenge of attracting people to your blog.

    If you want to take things one step further and REALLY get noticed, I’d recommend signing up for a free account at EzineArticles.com. EzineArticles.com allows you to publish your articles for free … and get noticed by hundreds of thousands of readers each and every month.

    What’s more, you can use this site to build a reputation for yourself. All you’ve got to do is create a “signature” for yourself at the end of your article. You’ll need your own website for this … because you’ll be using your signature to attract readers back to it and further demonstrate your expertise.

    What’s a signature? It’s a few sentences that tells your reader a little more about you … and how they can find out more about what you do.

    For example, here’s a signature idea I quickly compiled for AWAI’s Ultimate Travel Writer’s Program:

    Imagine if you could slide out of bed knowing your “work” for the day would be to scuba dive along the Great Barrier Reef … shop for the perfect cup of coffee in Paris … or kayak from island to island in the sleepy San Juans. If you ever dreamed about the romantic life of a travel writer, here’s a very unusual opportunity to actually live it!
    Learn more here …

    You can do something similar … to attract people back to your website.

Follow these steps for writing your own “how-to” articles and you could soon be well on your way to fame, recognition, and wealth … Dale Carnegie style!

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 »


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Published: January 27, 2009

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