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As a freelance writing business coach, I usually recommend that new writers start out by adding articles to their portfolios. Articles are some of the most common writing projects out there, and if you can provide good sample articles to potential clients, they can get a good look at your style and voice.
What should you write about?
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. The goal is not so much to show how much you know about any particular subject. Freelancers are famous for being able to do quick research to be able to write intelligently about nearly any topic.
What’s more important than the topic is having an understanding of what your prospective clients are looking for, why they need articles in the first place.
My guess is that 9 out of 10 clients who order articles are using them for article marketing – a very effective, relatively inexpensive way to draw traffic to their websites. Basically it works like this: they submit articles to an article directory, webmasters re-publish these articles, people search for info on that specific topic and find the article, read it, follow the link to the website, and eventually buy something.
From that quick description, what do you think clients are looking for?
· Articles that are well-written. If the article is a literary disaster area, nobody is going to want to read it, much less follow it to find out more!
· Articles that are interesting. If readers, known for 3-second attention spans, click away after the first paragraph, they’ll never end up on the client’s website, much less buying anything.
· Articles that are conversational. Unless you’re specializing in technical writing, the articles your clients want most read like people actually speak (okay, depending on the person in question – no profanity or obscure slang, please).
Now, for the “pad your wallet at the same time” part
If you’re going to create articles for your portfolio, why not do it in a way that can earn you some money while you’re at it? There’s an entire realm of internet marketing called affiliate marketing. You can try your hand at it and build your portfolio at the same time. Basically, you pick a product or website that has an affiliate program in place, and join the program. Then you write articles to promote the product. Publish them (and include them in your portfolio!), and before long, you’ll have people clicking and buying because they read your article.
I can’t recommend Anik Singal’s report enough for learning how to do this. He’s not a freelance writer, so he didn’t think about the potential goldmine we writers are sitting on (after all, we don’t have the expense of hiring a writer!) or about multipurposing these articles by using them in a portfolio while they’re also out there on the internet earning money. But his $5 report (still can’t believe that price!) also answers questions like:
· How do I find a good product to promote with my articles?
· How do I know whether it’ll actually make money?
· What do readers want to read?
· How do I write a great title, article, and resource box?
· Where should I submit these articles?
The cardinal rule of writing for yourself (don’t try this with work for clients) is: write it once, use it in as many different ways as you can. Sounds like a plan!