Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Finding Inspiration for Freelance Articles

It's easy to get inspiration for articles when you work for a newspaper and your editor is telling you what to do, your inbox is stuffed with press releases and your voicemail is full.

But how does a freelance writer working from home stay on the ball? One of the challenging aspects about being a freelance writer is that you want to shy away from the obvious stories that might come to you through a press release or advertised event. Why? Because likely these story ideas are already being covered by staff writers in your community.

So, where can you go for inspiration?

Friends and relatives: Just about everyone we know has some unique quirk, whether it's an interesting hobby or an unusual career. Sometimes you can mine people's pasts for great stories. I once read an article about one of the first female bus drivers in a major city. Male passengers would refuse to get on the bus when she opened the door. If I was to pass this person on the street, I wouldn't give her a second glance, but I found her story fascinating.

Your own hobbies: Your hobbies may seem pretty mundane, but what attracted you to them in the first place? Do you like hobbies that emphasize risk, such as extreme sports, or creativity, such as music and art? In either case, there are a wealth of different angles you can explore, new trends, interesting personalities, insider articles relating to technique or performance, etc.

Overheard conversations: Coffee shops and buses are great places where inspiration can strike. What are the issues of the day according to the average person? Listen to what people are talking about. It may actually be different from what is on the front page of the newspaper. Often you'll hear people complaining about things that affect them in a day-to-day way - an unfair policy at the nursing home where their grandmother resides, an excessively bureaucratic insurance requirement or the high cost of outfitting kids with everything their school claims they need.

Mine your growing expertise: Freelance writers have one benefit that staff writers don't always have, and that's the ability to specialize in a certain topic or beat. If you have covered a lot of stories in one area, you may find your knowledge of the topic, the issues and the major players provides you with an endless list of ideas that you can explore and tailor to different types of publications.

Wherever you get your ideas, it's important to take notes so that brilliant idea that occurred to you while you were making breakfast doesn't get lost in the day-to-day flurry of activity. Keep a notebook handy and inspiration will always be at your fingertips.

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