How to Get Epic Content Ideas for Freelance Writing

Have you ever wondered how prolific freelance writers keep coming up with one great idea after another? Whether it’s for a blog post, a magazine article or a short-and-sweet tweet, the wordsmiths have to get their ideas from somewhere.

It turns out that it’s not necessarily a one-time thing. Gasp, freelance writers actually set up systems that keep the ideas flowing and constantly evolving. 

Stephanie German stops by today to give us an insight into such a system – one that she uses religiously. Read on never have to worry about running out of ideas again!

“I’m never supposed to run out of content.”

That is often the thought that runs through the mind of freelancers. Whether you are a writer, graphic designer, life coach, web designer or other creative freelancer, you have probably bought into the idea that you are supposed to come up with content on a whim.

Take me for example. As a writer, I often think I should be able to sit down, come up with a subject, and the creative juices will flow with ease.

The Reality

This isn’t always the case.

In fact, unless the idea has come to you and you can sit down and work on your craft immediately, it usually doesn’t hold true. And it can become even more frustrating for me when I have to write an article for a client on a specific topic, but I cannot seem to find the words to type.

I realized shortly after I finished the 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success course that if I wanted to be successful as a writer, I had to figure out ways to come up with ideas within my niche.

I couldn’t stop there though. I had to come up with an active way to keep track of my ideas – a process that I could use to pull previous ideas when the inspiration is not what it should be.

3 Strategies to Get You Inspired

Here are three strategies to get ideas for freelance writing. Use these three methods and you’ll be able to come up with content ideas in no time!

1. Pay Attention to Your Everyday Life

You may think your life is boring, but as you start paying attention to it, you will find great inspiration. When you read an article, you are most likely looking for information on how or why to do a certain thing. You’re also often looking for encouragement and inspiration.

As a writer, it is everyday events that will connect you to your audience.

So draw from your everyday life – including your personal life and current career. If you are a stay-at-home mom, you may have figured out how to survive with four kids under five (but I don’t know how!). Write about that.

Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur. Write about the difficulties of being a business owner or how to create that sign up link on Mailchimp.

I had an amazing idea come to me when I was vacuuming the other day. Never did I think vacuuming would spur on my creativity, but it did!

And here’s the thing, your audience wants to connect with you. You’re your own “special sauce.”

Action step: Try to be more aware of your everyday life and that alone will help you come up with ideas.

2. Go on Adventures

Most of us like our routine.

And routine can be really good. But when you’re in a creative field, you might need to add a little adventure to your everyday life for inspiration to strike.

It’s time to step outside of your comfort zone.

Go to that local event that you have always wanted to go to or visit that museum. Take a spontaneous trip to the beach or to the mountains. A great idea will come to you when you least expect it.

Adventures don’t have to include traveling long-distances or spending money. An adventure could happen by doing something as simple as taking a different route to work and exposing yourself to new things.

Action step: Look at your calendar and plan a time to be spontaneous! Plan a time to go on an adventure. I dare you!

3. Read Articles in Your Niche

Reading articles in your niche, being a part of Facebook groups or connecting with others on Twitter will help spur on ideas.

In some instances, an entirely new idea will come to you. In others, it may mean fleshing out the idea further or taking a specific topic discussed in the article and developing it using your own unique position, experience and voice. Ideas will be spurred on by good content that you consume.

Action step: Plan a time several times a week to read articles to your specific niche. If you find a publication you really you enjoy, sign up to receive their content so it is sent directly to your inbox.

Capturing Your Ideas

Let’s face it, many of our thoughts and ideas are fleeting.

So you must have a way to capture your ideas. Here are three ways I capture content, that you should use too!

1. Daily Brain Dump

The reality is that you probably have a ton of ideas in any given day, but you aren’t capturing them. I bet you come up with enough content for at least five articles. Every day.

You should write out all of your ideas as they come to you. If you can’t do that, then set aside time each day to get your ideas out of your head. This, in turn, creates a list of ideas. When you cannot come up with an idea for the graphic you need to develop or the article you need to write, you’ll have this brain dump list to fall back on.

Action step: Take time daily to get all of your ideas out of your head. You never know when that idea may resonate with what a client has hired you for.

2. Set Up a System to Keep Track of Ideas

You need to establish a system to keep track of your ideas. I carry a black notebook with me everywhere I go to capture ideas. I usually have my cell phone with me as well.

For me, there is something about writing down the ideas instead of typing them in my phone. If you like to use technology to capture ideas, Evernote is a great free resource to use.

Action step: Pick a tool to keep track of ideas and use it to your advantage.

3. Hand Write the Idea (or Maybe Even the Article)

This one works if you capture your ideas in a notebook. I have found that if I have the time, writing down my ideas allows me to flesh out the concept further than the initial thought. I often have a chance to come up with sub points that support my main idea.

If you are able to capture the idea immediately, do it. Right then and there. Draw a sketch of that logo swimming around in your brain or write a draft of that brilliant article that’s begging to be poured out.

If an idea comes to me, and I am not at work or have kids climbing all over me, I try to write out the majority of the article idea as soon as it comes to mind. I just did this both last Tuesday night and in the middle of the day on Wednesday during my lunch break.

Action step: Write down as much of the idea as possible when it comes to you.

In Conclusion

Constantly generating new content ideas for freelance writing can be discouraging. But it doesn’t have to be.

As you find ways to generate more ideas, make sure you consistently find a way to capture those ideas. By using the above methods, the next time you sit at the computer to write for your client, you should have a bank full of ideas to choose from.

Leave a comment telling us what are other ways you use to generate new ideas (and capture them)?

Stephanie GermanStephanie German is a coach and freelance writer specializing in productivity, intentional living, and leadership. She is passionate about helping others learn to thrive and prioritize their busy lives. She’s married and has her hands full with 2 little ones. Check out her website, From Here to There, to learn more and connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo credits: Death to the Stock Photo

18 thoughts on “How to Get Epic Content Ideas for Freelance Writing”

  1. Good points Stephanie! I definitely think it’s important to write down those ideas as soon as they come to you before they get lost in the attention shuffle.

    Sometimes I’ll troll relevant forums/comments sections for ideas on what people are looking for.

  2. Wow! I completely agree that paying little more attention and living mindfully and taking actions to write down as soon as the ideas flashes in our mind, we might end up getting huge reservoir of ideas. I like to type and I use evernote quite frequently. I will implement most of these tips.

    Here is my two cents:

    1. I have my plan for reading great books, and I do read like crazy, I maintain one notebook to note down key message from each chapter, note down nicely structured sentences, powerful quotes, and examples. This helps me a lot.

    2. Whenever I read any interviews, or newspaper, magazine, I try to find out some ideas which I can develop further.

    3. Studying and analyzing my past mistakes also helps me with Dos and Don’ts ideas.

    So that’s it.

    Thanks Stephanie, for the wonderful article.

    • Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t thought about reading the newspaper…I’m guessing that’s because I don’t really read the news anymore (yikes, did I just say that?!). I need to be more mindful when I am reading books. As you said, you can come up with great content from what you read.

  3. This is somewhat a problem for me in freelance writing. But, I have more trouble coming up with unique angles for content. I think I come up with a unique idea, but it turns out it’s not so unique. I know everything has already been done/written, and yet I’m still supposed to find unique angles for already written content. That’s where I need more help. But still, it’s a great article with plenty of tips for content ideas!

    • Nida,
      I don’t think their are many unique ideas left, but there is only one of you. The perspective you bring to an idea is what makes it unique. You should read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. http://amzn.to/1WTZChe She addresses this exact thought.
      It was an excellent read.

  4. These are great ideas Stephanie. I especially like “Go on an adventure”. Just a month ago I was far behind in work and stressed out. I was getting nothing done. I grabbed the family and got in the car for a little ride for a few hours through a part of the desert we hadn’t visited before. It was fun, left us all refreshed, and definitely gave me ideas to write about.

  5. Great ideas Stephanie! My favorite take away was “you are your own special sauce.” Love that!

    Thanks so much for sharing. I like the brain dump concept.

  6. Doing chores like cleaning or even showering are some of my favorite ways to get ideas. I can just let my mind go and *bam* an idea flashes into my head.

    • It always amazes me when ideas come to me when I’m doing something mindless! Then I have to go find my notebook right away. It happened to me on Saturday too…I was folding laundry and had to run to the other room to write down my idea.

  7. Excellent post! I’ve often suggested to clients to keep the record button on the home screen of their phone so that when an idea/thought/etc comes reveals itself can be quickly captured. At the end of the day, when listening to the recordings, maybe even more ideas pop up!

  8. This is very good—-especially the part about reading articles in your niche and hand writing the ideas.
    Sometimes, starting out with just a couple of sentences, more paragraphs will automatically grow. Reading articles in a person’s niche, which is a form of research, can trigger ideas although I recommend looking over the finished article to make certain there’s no generic information that a person could look up themselves, but your own unique interpretation.
    Thanks again, Gina.

  9. Great article! I’m going to practice brain dumping, I have so many ideas I need to write down. Another idea I like is having a small notebook to write ideas in, especially if I’m at work having something small is subtle and out of the way!

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