As a freelance writer, I’m always racking my brains for new story ideas. Once a week, I block an entire day off to research new ideas and write queries. With pen in hand and a pot of coffee brewing, I tap out story idea after story idea, then delve into online research, finally coming up with a query letter sometime between lunch and dinner. The process can be time consuming and daunting as sometimes my brain muscles have to really stretch far to pull out a fresh idea.
Recently, however, I discovered a brainstorming strategy that had me turn one assignment into two, cutting down on my research time and allowing me to earn more money by doing less. It happened like this:
When writing a product review for an organic shampoo, I researched the product’s web page and discovered that the product was created by a Russian immigrant who began making the shampoo using recipes she’d gathered from the countryside when she was travelling around the country as a competitive swimmer. I submitted the product write-up and then contacted a magazine I’ve worked with that runs stories on successful immigrants.
I proposed a profile story on the former competitive swimmer turned shampoo business-owner. The editor accepted it immediately. While the original assignment was a small 100-word blurb that paid $50, the profile story was a much longer piece ñ 1,300 words that paid $200. Two different stories – two paycheques – same source.
This success changed the way I look at all of my assignments. Recently, when writing an article for a local newspaper on how to save money on back to school supplies, I used a source who had written a book on how to teach kids to make smart money decisions. While interviewing the author, our discussion wavered from saving money on school supplies to how to teach money management to kids. That turned into another article for a national parenting magazine. I had already interviewed my main source, so the rest of the article required very little background work.
This tactic has now become my go-to strategy in my brainstorming sessions. I’ll look at the articles I have coming up, or those I have recently written, and think about how I can use the same sources for other articles. It’s saved me not only time, but brain effort as well. Next time you’re brainstorming new ideas, go through your files and think about how you can use old sources to get new assignments.
Lisa Evans is a beauty, lifestyle and travel freelance writer. Visit her at http://lisa-m-evans.weebly.com/.
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