Great writers build great blogs, whether their own or for their freelance writing clients. There are two key factors that go into creating a great blog post:
- Catchy headline that makes *the right* people want to read
- Well-written content that delivers on the promise of the headline
In other words, the foundation of a great blog post is the idea, and then the delivery has to match the promise of the idea.
If you’re a freelance writer, you probably already know how to write about a topic well. But how do you come up with the great topics to begin with?
This question is about a little something called idea generation, and there’s good news for you.
Idea generation is a skill
The ability to come up with great new ideas is something you can learn and develop over time.
Think of idea generation like a muscle — the more you practice it, the stronger you’ll be. And just like with any muscle — or habit, or practice, or whatever — there are some recommended exercises to help you build it. But getting really good at coming up with ideas is something that requires consistent practice, repetition.
I’m not saying you need to spend hours a day on brainstorming ideas — far from it! Who has the time for that, anyway?
What I am saying is that you need to have some sort of routine or habit for coming up with ideas. It might look something like this for you:
- First thing you do on Monday when you start to work is write out a list of 10 possible ideas on a topic or niche
- Capture some mindless time and turn it into thinking time (like when you’re folding laundry, sitting at practice, or on your way to pick somebody up from school).
- Spend 30 minutes on the first Saturday of the month brainstorming.
The exact day, hour, and amount of time you spend coming up with ideas doesn’t necessarily matter. What matters more is that you make a regular practice of it. The more deliberate you are about this, the better your ideas are going to get and the easier it will be to come up with new ones.
Pro tip: If you really want to rock it at idea generation, commit to making a list of 10 ideas every day. Pick a keyword or topic and just let the ideas flow. They don’t all have to be good ideas — but when you’ve got to come up with 10, some of them will definitely be winners.
6 ways to come up with great new blog post ideas
There are all kinds of sources for inspiration — just ask anyone who’s seen an episode of Project Runway. Blog post ideas are no different. Sometimes all you need to do is keep some feelers out and look around for ideas. Other times, it makes sense to go about it a bit more deliberately.
If now is a time for deliberate action, you can try any (or all!) of these six proven methods for coming up with new blog post ideas:
- Ask the audience. If you’re writing for an audience that you’re allowed to tap (for example, within the blog post, or in an email to the list), just ask them what they want from you! Possible ways to phrase it include “What is one thing you would love for me to create for you?” or “What are the two biggest questions you have about XYZ?”
- Check out the top shared posts. This involves using a tool — a website called BuzzSumo.com. Head over to BuzzSumo, type in a keyword or phrase in the search bar, and see what results pop up. That list of 10-ish blog post titles is the top 10 blog posts using that keyword with the most social shares. Not the ones with the most traffic or whatever — the ones with the most social shares. This tells you what people like to share, and it can be a gold mine for new ideas.
- Look at a few TOCs on Amazon. Head over to everyone’s favorite (or not) bookseller. Search for a key term and check out the books that are being published on that topic. If skimming the titles alone doesn’t send some new ideas to your brain, then dig a little deeper. Can you see a Table of Contents in the preview window? Great ideas in there. How are the reviews? What do people like and what do people wish it said? More ideas.
- Think about what you want. Is there a question you’ve been meaning to look into? A new strategy you want to learn? Something you’ve been meaning to clear up? All your questions that need answers can become great blog post ideas.
- Fill in the gaps. Take a look at your blog content (or the content for a specific client who needs new ideas). Are there any gaps in content? Is there an obvious question that hasn’t been answered yet? When you skim your post for places to put internal links, do you ever think “man, I wish I had a link for that phrase right there”? Those gaps are some great new ideas practically begging to be written.
- Turn to pop culture. What’s going on in the world, and how can you relate it to your topic? Can the latest socialite’s antics teach us what to do (or not do) in our own lives? Is there a key lesson buried underneath the special effects in the latest blockbuster? Is there a hobby you pursue in your personal life that you can bring into a blog post? Can you find a way to link two completely different topics into one cool idea?
These are just some ideas to get you started. Think about your given topic in new ways and see what comes up for you!
One last thing to remember
Ideas can strike anywhere. Always be prepared to capture them!