Monthly Archives: April 2014

You are browsing the site archives by month.

Podcast Episode 72: Additional Income Streams for Freelance Writers

Graph With Stacks Of Coins

Graph With Stacks Of Coins (Photo credit: kenteegardin)

Freelancing can be a bit scary at times, and the lack of guaranteed income puts many people off even trying. Those who have already embarked on full-time self-employment will also find that their income can go up and down, and time off sick or a trip away can cause it all to grind to a dramatic halt. Because of this, it can be a good idea to have an extra income stream or two, but many writers have no idea what they could do to gain any kind of passive or residual income. Tune in to get some great ideas!

Show Notes

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, do ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!


PW: Hello, and welcome to episode 72 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me’, the podcast where two freelance writers tell you all the tricks of the trade. We are here to save you from mighty embarrassment and mortifying mistakes, and guide you to the very top of your chosen profession. Freelancing is a funny old world, and we want to help you along the way.

Tune into the podcast every two weeks, and if you go to you can subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode. So, whether iTunes and RSS Podcatcher or Stitcher Smart Radio are your platform of choice, we’ve made it really easy to sign up and be the first to hear our latest words of wisdom. On that site you’ll also any links we mention, and links to our own websites and social media feeds, as well as the A Little Bird Told Me Facebook page, too.

I am Philippa Willitts…

LH: And I am Lorrie Hartshorn, and this week we are going to be looking at some relatively quick and/or easy ways to boost your freelance income. Business development when you’re a freelancer can feel like a bit of slog sometimes, in fact most of the time. So it’s nice to have irons in a few fires just going on while you’re doing your usual work.

Now while these suggestions that we’re coming up with today aren’t necessarily passive income and residual income streams in the traditional sense of the terms, what we wanted to do is look at a few ways to give you inbound queries, a bit of a pick-me-up, without adding loads of extra work to your plate. Because of course we could say, “Do more work. Do more stuff. Do more expensive projects.”

But when you feel like you’ve got a full plate anyway, but you’re still not quite making enough for you – you’d like to just earn a bit more, or you’d like to build yourself a safety net – these are the kinds of ideas that we’re going to be looking at today. And because a lot of these streams can be set up and maintained when you’ve got a spare 15-20 minutes here and there, they are a good choice for freelancers who are struggling to get started and are looking for some quick action.

Because I hear this a lot from freelancers who are just getting into the swing of things, like “I’m doing stuff, but it’s just not quite happening enough yet.” So these kinds of things that you can tackle to get started and then forget about.

PW: Definitely. And also because of the kind of come-and-go nature of a lot of freelancing work. You will have times when the money’s rolling in, and times when it seems to go dry. So having some backup passive or residual income can really help you out on those occasions. Plus, there’ll be situations where you might get ill or you might want to take a holiday, and it’s nice to have a bit of extra coming in.

LH: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s one of the big things that understandably makes people hesitate about going freelance – it’s the potential lack of stability and the lack of a regular income. And I say understandably because it is. If you’re a freelancer you don’t have the regular salary, and you don’t have maternity pay or sick pay or holiday pay.

So these kinds of passive income streams and residual income streams and low-maintenance income streams are a very good thing for taking on some of that strain, especially if they can look after themselves most of the time. So it’s well-worth considering what you can do alongside your everyday work activities, just to create that little financial safety net or a little bit of a financial boost for yourself.

So these additional income streams don’t necessarily have to be writing work it’s the first thing that I’m going to say. You might be thinking that I write all day every day. And I do creative writing, not as a residual income stream, but just as a hobby, and I do get that thing of “I’ve written all day. And now I’m going to sit down and write something creative and wonderful and lovely.” And it can feel overwhelming sometime.

You might find that carrying out content writing work all day is just enough, and you fancy doing something a little bit different. Alternatively, you might go the other way and think, “Well, writing’s what I do. I don’t mind doing writing all day, so I’ll stick with what I’m good at.” And it’s up to you entirely, but you can consider all kinds, so don’t limit yourself. Have a good think about your skills, your hobbies, your pastimes, and try and come up with something that fits in with your life and your interests.

PW: In many of the ideas we suggest your writing skills will certainly come in handy.

LH: Absolutely. I mean, we do have to love up to the whole freelance writing podcast thing, so we’re not going to go too far off.

PW: That’s it. So don’t forget, in whatever additional projects you might decide to take on, you do know how to write persuasively or informatively or cattily or whatever it is you need. Another point to make at this stage is that this single episode is not enough to tell you how to do all the things we’re going to suggest.

LH: True. We probably don’t know how to do them all.

PW: What is true, though, is that the internet is full of detailed advice, so if we discuss an idea that you love the sound of, find some reputable sources online for step by step how-to guide.

LH: Absolutely. And you can always come and have a chat with us and the other freelance writers at our Facebook page, and that’s at We have lots of lovely people on there and they’re getting a little bit les quiet now, which is great.

PW: We love it.

LH: We love it. So do feel free with any questions or discussions.

PW: And so, without further ado, we’re going to start looking at some of the additional income streams that you can get as a freelance writer.

LH: Yeah. The first thing that I’m going to suggest is something called ‘hourlies’ and that’s on Now People Per Hour, like many freelancing sites, is mostly for people bidding on jobs. Potential clients go on there, post a job that they need doing – say they need that fence painting or they need a blog post writing – and then freelancers will come along and bid on that. Sometimes the client will put in place the suggested price, sometimes they won’t. And like any freelancing website, it can be quite brutal. It can be a little bit hunger games.

PW: I think it’s slightly better than some of the others, but not always, I would say.

LH: Yeah. I mean, the prices tend to start a little bit higher on People Per Hour. I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it’s because it is a UK site.

PW: Could be.

LH: I don’t know if it is a UK site, but it feels that way. It’s international, certainly. But for whatever reason, as Pip says rightly, prices are a little bit higher and it’s a little bit less brutal. But like anything, it’s getting that way more and more.

And I’ve spoken to freelancers in the past who said, “I just can’t be doing that. I can’t be doing, having to search for things and to apply for things, because it’s very much a number’s game if you act that way sometimes. If you source work that way, and you’re chasing projects that come up, you have to be on the go and ready to respond, and you have to tailor your response. So it can be very stressful, particularly as with it being a numbers’ game, you’re not going to get most of the work that you apply for.

PW: Yeah. That’s the kind of work for me that I can never be bothered really, because, like you say, if you put together a really detailed proposal…

LH: And you have to, don’t you?

PW: Yeah. Then you’re going to spend a lot of time doing that, and you’re going to get very little of the work because of the numbers of people applying, and because a lot of people will make a judgment on price regardless of the rest of the proposal.

LH: Well, this is a good point, as well. Even if you do get the work, you are going to have to be very competitive on price. Because – I think I said it in a previous episode – we’re all human. You go on a website like this looking for somebody to fulfil a project for you, and it’s hard to opt for a more expensive person. It’s counterintuitive, particularly when you see other people. Maybe you don’t understand freelance writing so much if you’re a client, and you see other people saying, “Well, I’ll do it for £5,” and then someone else just says, “Well, I’ll do it for £30,” it’s very hard to know why you should opt for that £30 person.

So back to PeoplePerHour – hourlies, then, what these are. These are set-fee project fees you can set up on your own profile. So if you go on PeoplePerHour and you set yourself up a profile as a freelance writer, you can establish these hourlies which, for example, if you were me and Pip, they might be say a 500-word SEO blog post for X pounds. And that way, if somebody sees your profile and you optimize your profile nicely, with lots of information and keywords and things like that, if people see that and they think, “Right, well, X pounds sounds good to me. I like the look of this person,” they have to buy that from you before you start the work.

PW: And the parameters are set. You know exactly what you’re getting, you know exactly what you’re offering.

LH: Yes. You don’t have to do anything. You can set up an hourly and you can leave it. People may come and buy, they may not come and buy, but you will fare – there’s no debate, there’s no discussion, there isn’t a negotiation stage, and if the client wants to buy that piece of work from you, the money has to go into an escrow account. They have to pay up before the thing happens. And of course, they could dispute at the end, but then you would get the PeoplePerHour customer service fee for getting involved. Generally, you don’t get ripped off if you’re providing somebody with an hourly, as long as you fulfil the job that you said you were going to fulfil within the time frame that you said you were going to fulfil it.

PW: I know you have a lot more PeoplePerHour experience than do, because I know you hired various people from there before, whereas I used it a couple of times and both times I bought an hourly. The first was that guy to migrate two of my websites. That was a PeoplePerHour hourly, so he had a set fee for migrating a website from one host to another. And so I bought two of his hourlies, gave him all the information he needed for my two websites, and he did it.

And there’s also a time limit, as well. You set your own time limit when you set up the hourly, so one of the things I liked about this guy was that he promised to do it within 24 hours.

LH: That’s really good.

PW: Whereas if it’s–. Say you’re offering “I will write an e-book for you,” and that’s a big project, you would put along the time limit. But I like that kind of clarity on both sides, really. The buyer and the seller are very clear about what’s being offered.

LH: Absolutely. And I think one thing you just brought up actually is a point worth making. Just because it’s called an hourly it doesn’t mean you need to do it in an hour, and it doesn’t mean that it needs to be a task that could be fulfilled within an hour. You could put a £500 project on there, and say “My hourly: for £500 I’ll build your website.” It’s just a set-fee project.

PW: The name ‘hourlie’ has always bugged me.

LH: But I like hourlies because you can set them up and just leave them, and then if you get people coming along and saying, “Yes, I’d like to buy that,” then great – you get an email to you your inbox. You don’t even need to go on PeoplePerHour to keep checking your hourlies and see if anybody’s interested. So it’s a good thing to have on there. It’s a good inboud marketing technique, I think.

And you can also embed graphics on your website, so if they’re in the sidebar of your website, you can have a little button that says, “Buy a press release from me now for X pounds.”

PW: And if I remember rightly, then if somebody buys through your link like that and then PeoplePerHour don’t take their commission…

LH: They don’t take commission if it’s an external link.

PW: So you get the full amount, as well, which is nice. And so that’s one option. Another option is affiliate websites. Now these aren’t as easy as they were perhaps a few years ago. Affiliate websites now have to be a lot better than they used to be.

LH: Thank goodness, frankly.

PW: Yeah. There was a time when somebody could throw up a five-page website about fridges, add to them Amazon affiliate links, or AdSense, add code and cash in, but no more. Google is a big decider these days, and after their Pandora and Penguin updates in particular, affiliate sites need to be bigger, they need to be well put together and they need to be well maintained.

However, that’s not to say it can’t be done. I have a few and they do okay. I’m never going to retire on that income, but considering this is work I did several years ago and have barely looked at since, it’s nice to get the odd check in the post as a result, really.

LH: Yeah, absolutely. And I think I’ll interject here – in case people don’t know what an affiliate website is…

PW: Yes, that’s a good point.

LH: An affiliate website is a website where you sell a product that has an affiliate program, and what that means is that somebody else will have developed a product – sometimes it’s software, sometimes it’s an e-book, sometimes it’s something else, something tangible.

It’s Time For Changes in Affiliate Marketing

It’s Time For Changes in Affiliate Marketing (Photo credit: Bob Massa)

And what you can do is you can set up a website singing the praises of this project and trying to encourage people to buy it. You use what is called an affiliate link, and if people click and they buy the product through that link you get a commission on the product. Now the commissions on products can be very, very generous, particularly if they’re not very exciting products. You’re looking at 60-70% commission on some, say the big financial trading products. For example, financial trading books, financial trading software because they’re hard to sell.

So this is something for writers who really love getting down and dirty with sales copy. You have to be persuasive in sales, and informative. And you have to take an angle when you’re writing content for an affiliate website, thinking, “How am I going to persuade people to buy this?” And it’s not always a question of “Come and have a look at the product X. It’s amazing. Do you want to buy it?” As Pips pointed out, really good content is super important to Google, and things like how-to lists, things like informative editorials.

People want more value from their content. They’re not going to be persuaded by just a little bit of sales speak anymore. You can’t just stick an ad up on a website and expect it to make money. You have to give people worthwhile content, and as Pip’s already said, affiliate websites now tend to need a bit more maintenance.

PW: For most people, if you’re thinking of setting up an affiliate website, first of all you need to fill it with great content. Say you want to make money using Amazon affiliates around a particular product. You need to create a decent website, all about that product, that mostly isn’t salesy, but that does it right. So most people starting with Amazon or AdSense is the best place to start.

With AdSense it’s a bit different. You don’t get commission when somebody buys something. You get commission when somebody clicks on an ad on your site. So they don’t have to go on to buy. All they have to do is click. Often people then move on to sites like Clickbank, which sells big money products, and these often have 50%, 75% or even 100% commission. So one sale by Clickbank can be worth several hundred AdSense clicks or dozens of Amazon purchases.

Other places to consider are E-junkie, Commission Junction, Affiliate Window – there are loads of them. We’ll link to all of those in the show notes. But there are lots and lots of options.

LH: Yeah. It’s well worth having a think about it, because if you can find something and you think, “Actually, I know loads about that really obscure product or service. I might definitely write about that in an informative way.” If Google doesn’t have much content on there at the moment about – come on, Pip, think of an obscure product for me. Singing fridges – fridges that sing when you open them – not sure they exist. They probably do because internet.

So if you’re an expert on singing fridges and you realize there’s not much content on Google, that’s going to make you more searchable. So if people are searching for singing fridges and they can’t find information about these singing fridges on Google, and you come up with a gorgeous website, write all about them and then pop your commission links on there, then you’re going to do quite well.

PW: Yeah. And if you like the idea of building a website around a single product like there is on E-Junkie or Clickbank, another opportunity would be to use all your best content writing skills to create your own products. You can build this similarly – very authoritative site like you would with an affiliate product, and you can use your best sales copy skills to promote the product. But it’s your product and so you’ve got ultimate control over what happens. You can even recruit your own affiliates who can then create websites all based around selling your product for you. And unlike selling other people’s stuff, you decide the price, you decide how it’s presented. You can make sure that it’s great quality, as well, which isn’t always guaranteed with certain Clickbank products.

So if you want to look at affiliate websites or at creating your own products, think about, as Lorrie suggested, what you already know about. And from there do some keyword research and some market research to work out precisely what angle to take. So perhaps you’re brilliant at gardening. Find out exactly what people want to know and create an e-book or a membership site or an online course about how to grow petunias or how to stop killing your roses or whatever other information people are looking for.

LH: Absolutely. And you can twist it around slightly, and create I suppose what you’d call a database site really, couldn’t you? If you could write about say how to grow petunias, you might find that you could interest garden centres and petunias specialists in having some space on your website and having their details on that. So if you’ve written a brilliant piece of informative copy about these petunias and about all these gardening things, think outside the box, to use a cliché. It’s not just that you can attract people who want to buy your product or who want to buy a membership to your tutorials or your e-book. You can also attract people from the other side, as well.

So the third option that we’re going to look at is selling ad space on your websites or blog. This you have to be a little bit careful about, because with affiliate websites, they’re generally anonymous-ish. I mean, your details have to be on there somewhere. But it’s not a question of it interfering with your brand, because generally your affiliate website will have nothing to do with your business, your freelance writing business. If you’re going to be selling ad space on your website or blog, then you need to be careful about whom you sell the ad space to, because you don’t want to end up damaging your own brand by having somebody spam you on there.

If you have a professional website, as in a work website, freelance writing business website that gets decent traffic, and you understand traffic and you know how to leverage traffic, then it’s also an option to sell that traffic to somebody else. So you can give people static ad space, you could have a header bar or a footer bar, or a site bar advertising spaces, and you could sell those, offer those at different prices.

Alternatively, what some prolific bloggers do – and some not so prolific bloggers, actually; I’ve seen this work for people who have medium-traffic websites – is to sell reviews or advertorials. They make it clear usually by something branded on their own website, like paid posts with a little picture, that they’re getting money for this, and that this isn’t a completely disinterested blog post that you’re reading. But a lot of the time people like indie authors will sometimes pay bloggers to give an honest review of their latest book. Now that could be something you could do.

PW: Yeah. I was just going to say there are legal issues. If you’re being paid for something you have to disclose it legally.

LH: Yeah. You see people and they make it quite attractive, don’t they? They come up with a little slogan or a little title, and then have a link to a page from that picture or from that title that takes you to a page to say, “Full disclosure – I’ve been paid for this,” or “This product was sent to me for free. This was a sample product.” I know mommy bloggers do it a lot, don’t they?

PW: Yes. And fashion bloggers, as well.

LH: Yes. You get a fashion house or a baby product company sending sample products just as you do with people sending review copies of books to bloggers and saying, “I’d really appreciate an honest review,” sometimes just in return for the product, sometimes there’s some pay on top of that.

PW: If you’re considering selling ad space on especially your professional website, you have to think very carefully about it, because on the one hand, as Lorrie said, it is some income and, depending on your traffic, if you’re getting in the tens of thousands a week, it could probably get some decent income from it. But the point of your website is to help persuade people to hire you. And once people are on your website you have to be really careful about actively encouraging them to leave it, which is what you’re doing if you put ads on there.

LH: True.

PW: And so it could be a goose that lays golden eggs situation, where you might get 15 quid for an ad, but then lose 500 quids’ worth of business, because the client that came onto your website got distracted by your side bar ad and went off elsewhere.

LH: True. If it’s so well written as an advert that they just hop off your website, I would say (and this doesn’t fully mitigate the situation!) become a master of putting in hyperlinks that open links in new tabs! There’s an option certainly with WordPress when you insert a hyperlink, and you can just – with the HTML coding, as well – where you insert a little tiny bit of extra code or you click on a button if you’re on the sort of non-HTML interface where it says, “Open link in new tab.” So that opens a link in new tab on the browser that the person is using, and it also keeps them on your website. So they’re not just pinging off to have a look at your advertising instead of your website, as Pip’s quite rightly pointed out.

PW: Another option to consider is a website called Constant Content. It’s a freelance writing website, but it’s quite different from the vast majority of others in that clients or customers can request articles. But the majority of what fills up Constant Content is its writers writing about anything and everything they want and adding it to the site, and then buyers can come, search through the site, find the article they want and buy it.

LH: It’s a bit like hourlies in that sense.

PW: Yeah, but you’re doing the work upfront.

LH: You do do the work upfront, which is why I have a love-hate relationship with Constant Content.

PW: Indeed. As do many people, because you could be working and never sell your piece. One of the positives about Constant Content is that you not only set your own prices, but that they encourage fairly high pricing strategies.

LH: Yeah. They have a minimum, don’t they?

PW: They have a minimum, and they pay quite a cut, but that’s because they edit things very, very carefully. And so yeah, they edit very scrupulously, but it means that the buyers come to know that the quality on the site is very good. They’re not going to buy stuff that’s full of mistakes, like they might from other freelancing sites. I think there’s a way to use Constant Content that helps with the fact that you’re doing spec work essentially.

LH: Yes. I know which point you’re going to make and I completely agree, for the record. [laughter]

PW: Thank you very much. [laughter] There are people who are pretty much constant content writers, and for me that wouldn’t suit me, to write that much on spec, although, obviously, they write a lot and therefore sell a lot. So it works for some people, but for me the most efficient way I find to write for Constant Content is if I’ve done a lot of research for paid projects… I’ll give an example from a few years ago, so that it’s not kind of sensitive.

I was hired to write an entire website about a particular health issue – man boobs. And so I had done all sorts of research about this, and so I’d written the pages of the website that the client wanted, like what causes man booms, how to get rid of man boobs. But in the process of the research I learned a lot more than what was needed for that website.

LH: You’re like a manboobologist, aren’t you?

PW: Yes, and so I knew by the end of that piece of work that I also had plenty of information about alternative remedies for man boobs and how to prevent man boobs rather than get rid of them, and that kind of thing. So I didn’t need to do extra research; my brain already knew these things. And so then it wasn’t too much extra work to knock out a few more articles and submit those to Constant Content.

Similarly, there are things like we mentioned earlier, if you know a lot about petunias or roses or anything that you just are interested in your daily life, that’s a great way of finding sources for things to write about, but without adding tons of work in case this work doesn’t sell.

LH: And monetizing that extra info, because I hear this from people a lot. I heard it recently, in fact, again – people complaining and saying, “I’ve done hours and hours and hours of research for this piece of work,” and they only needed 1,000 words, “and I’ve got all this extra info. All these notes – what am I going to do with them?” And if you have that stuff and it’s something that you, Pip, came up with – I had not really considered before – I thought it was brilliant and I can’t remember if you called it this or whether I just labelled it as this in my head. It’s like mirror-imaging an article, like flipping an article.

PW: Yeah.

LH: I mean, do you want to explain what it was?

PW: No, go ahead.

LH: I never thought of it before, but let me try and think of an example. If you’d written about – we’ll use the man boobs as an example, then, but this isn’t something that Pip did, this is just a theoretical example – but if you’d written about six ways to prevent getting man boobs what you could do is sort of come up with an article about five ways or five things that risk, inducing, I suppose, man boobs. It’s not the best example, but if you flip the information… If you’ve written about how you get man boobs, then maybe you can write about how you prevent man boobs or things that you shouldn’t do or else you risk getting man boobs.

You can reframe so that the content is entirely original, it doesn’t risk reducing the quality or the value of the work that you’ve produced for somebody else, or clashing with that in any way or plagiarizing or self-plagiarizing. That work is entirely original, and yet it’s just using the same information. You don’t even need to have done more research. You can simply utilize the research you’ve done in a different way and reframe that.

PW: Definitely. Because there are ethical issues around just recreating a piece of work that you’ve already done for somebody who’s paid. And so, as Lorrie says, that mirror imaging idea, or just identifying themes that you studied but that you didn’t need to write for the other person. And you then submit it and, like with a lot of the things we’re suggesting, you can then forget about it. And then periodically you get a lovely email from Constant Content –

LH: You often do forget, too. And then I’ll get an email and I’m going, “Hurray! I’m getting a cheque.”

PW: Yeah, that’s it. You get an email from Constant Content saying one of your articles is sold, and you go, “Yay!” And because they encourage decent pricing, and because I often like very long things which illicit higher prices, I’ll then get an email and I’ve suddenly got 100 quid that I haven’t expected, or 150 quid, or if it’s a short, quick thing even just the odd 40 quid. It’s nice, it’s always a nice surprise when it happens.

LH: Didn’t it happen to you recently, before you went on holiday?

PW: Yeah.

LH: You suddenly got some incoming work and was, “Aaaah!” Bonus holiday pay.

PW: Paid for my holiday, thank you very much.

LH: Hey, free calls, lovely. Can’t complain. So yeah, if you’ve got the ideas there and you’ve got a quick typing pace, I would say go for Constant Content. I’m personally not a fan because I spend a lot of my free time doing creative writing anyway. So the idea of writing all day, then doing creative writing and then writing more articles – it’s just too much for me.

PW: That’s it. And all the things we’re talking about, some of them you’ll think, “What? You want me to create a whole website?”

LH: A whole e-book?

PW: About fridges? What are you talking about? Whereas other people will go, “That sounds perfect.”

LH: Yeah, and it’s the kind of thing you can do in half a day.

PW: Exactly. And so all the ideas were suggesting, really…

LH: Just whatever takes your fancy, really, isn’t it?

My Kindle II

My Kindle II (Photo credit: Pavel P.)

PW: Yeah, definitely. Our next idea is one that does involve more work upfront, but has potentially much higher returns, and not just financial ones. Platforms like Kindle, Lulu, CreateSpace have made publishing your own book easy and accessible. And whereas self-publishing used to have an exclusively bad reputation, there is now enough good quality stuff that it’s considered to be worthwhile enough that The Guardian have now announced they’re going to have a self-published book prize.

LH: That’s good.

PW: Yeah. So it’s starting to be taken seriously. There is still a load of rubbish that’s self-published, but frankly there’s a load of rubbish that’s traditionally published.

LH: That’s true.

PW: And so I think its reputation is improving, anyway. You’d have to put a lot of work in it at the start into the book, followed by loads more marketing it. But that could lead to years of royalty payments.

LH: Imagine.

PW: Yeah. And it can also give you other benefits, as well. Some people describe writing a book as the best kind of business card you can have. And there’s some truth in that. People are instantly impressed, they get an impression of you as somebody who really knows what they’re talking about. And this is invaluable when you’re freelancing, and it’s all about convincing people you can do what you say you do.

LH: Yeah. It’s extra clout, isn’t it?

PW: So if you have a specialist subject or a particular interest, do some research and see if there’s a buck in it.

LH: Absolutely. And it’s such a personal achievement, as well, isn’t it? A lot of people are very, very pleased to have written a book.

PW: You know, of course. I’ve never written a full-length book simply because I haven’t got the patience for it. I tend to take the short fiction, but writing a book can be wonderful. And the same goes for membership sites or series of tutorials, series of blog posts. Webinars, actually, if we can just branch out a little bit from the writing. Online lectures, tutorials, teaching people how to do things. If you’ve got a specialist subject it’s worth –. Because, of course, if you were going to come up with a series of tutorials, you’d have to put in a lot of research and effectively make lesson plans, and then usually you ought to give people some backup material. So you might end up actually writing something the size of an e-book to give to people as additional material if you’re tutoring them with something.

But if you have really in-depth knowledge – a lot of freelance writers do. They come from like science backgrounds and then get predominantly into science writing. You could write an e-book on how to do science writing, how to write about science, how to become a medical writer. Because there are plenty, plenty things that you’ll be able to write about that others perhaps won’t. You’ve just got to have a little bit of a think about what kind of saleable knowledge you have.

The next type of additional income stream that we’re going to have a look at is something that we’ve touched on already with the affiliate marketing, but it’s something that I have a little bit more experience in, and that’s leveraged income.

Leveraged income is making money on other people’s products and services. It can sound quite mercenary, but at the end of the day, it’s how pretty much all business is done. I, for example, write for a number of clients who are agencies, as a lot of freelance writers do. Now what those agencies will do is they will have clients. They will pay me a certain fee for my writing work, and then they will charge their clients more.

PW: Yes. I have the same. Yeah.

LH: So you can do the same. There’s no reason you can’t operate as a freelance in an agency kind of way. If you can find a decent service or product available for a reasonable – and I mean reasonable for both you and the supplier – for a reasonable price, and you can find a market for that product or service, there’s nothing to stop you selling it on.

PW: Yeah. And so as we’ve talked about before, possibly teaming up with people whose work compl-E-ment that of a freelance writer.

LH: [laughter] You can’t help yourself, can you?

PW: I always have to say it like that! And so it may be that if you’re working with a client who wants a new – while you’re providing their website content, they actually want a new website design as well. If you decide you want to take this responsibility for liaising between the two, it’s not a matter of no work. This can end up being more work if you’re not careful. But if you decided to take this approach what you could do, rather than saying “My mate, Sarah, designs really good websites,” you could say, “I can sort that out for you. I work with a very good designer.” And then you can be the go-between. Rather than Sarah billing your clients, Sarah bills you and then you bill your client for that little bit more, and you get some extra money out of it. But it’s not as simple, is it, as just kind of say may be the equivalent of an affiliate site where you just leave it to it?

LH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I do this with writing work, and I do it with other kinds of work. As Pip’s quite rightly pointed out – and she’s done quite right to point it out, because it’s a very pertinent point – you have to take responsibility if you are delivering a service. All your client knows is that that service is being fulfilled and that you are taking responsibility for it. So if, for example, my agency clients were to say to their clients, “Here’s the website content,” and it was no good, I’d written a load of rubbish, it would not be on my head, it would be on theirs.

And the same – I hire people to write blog posts for me. When I get those blog posts back I have to proofread them, I have to edit them, I have to format them, I provide images to go with them. I make sure that the SEO is up to scratch. I feed back to the writers. If there’s an error, if there’s a problem, if it’s just not quite up to scratch… So I do get to charge more, but you have to pay your suppliers a decent amount anyway.

So, as Pip’s quite rightly pointed out, it’s not a question of ha, ha, ha, I will just stick a mark-up on this and do no work, because that’s when you get bitten on the bum. If you send a piece of work over that you haven’t checked, it is Sod’s law that there will be a massive typo in the middle of it, or there’ll be something ridiculous and you have nobody to blame but yourself. And you cannot say, you cannot say that wasn’t you that wrote it.

PW: And the same – Lorrie does this as she says, a fair amount during her work, and she handles it really well.

LH: Ah, thank you.

PW: You do. I’ve done it on a very small scale with just kind of overflow work, really. And I find it incredibly stressful, I think because –.

LH: It’s very risky, isn’t it?

PW: It is, and I’m relying on somebody else to do something that I’m taking ultimate responsibility for. So if they don’t meet their deadline, well, I don’t meet mine. If they send me something that’s utterly awful…

LH: It happens a lot.

PW: Yeah. And that degree of relying on somebody else stresses me out.

LH: You have to know your own. And this isn’t aimed at you, this is for the listeners – you have to know your own processes. So as Pip’s, again, rightly pointed out, deadlines are a major risk with outsourcing. So if I send it, you have to be organized, you have to send over a piece of work with as much time to spare as you possibly can, and know that if it all goes to pot, that you have to find a solution for that, because otherwise you can end up losing the client.

The number of times – and this has happened to my agency’s clients, as well, when they’ve been looking for people. They’ll outsource a piece of work and then they’ll be expecting it back on the Friday – schoolboy error – and it will come due back to their client on the Monday. And they’ll get a load of rubbish on the Friday night or they just won’t get anything. So that leaves them – or, in fact, me – covering the piece of work over the weekend, in time for Monday morning. And now, if you’re outsourcing because you don’t have time to do the work, this can be a nightmare and it can lead to no sleep. But that’s your call. You have to opt for no sleep rather than letting your client down.

PW: And for me, although overflow work – I’m always going to need it at some point – but I think this way of working while it suits Lorrie really well, I just get so stressed that I just may as well have done it myself in most cases. And so I think there’s a personality thing. I’m a bit of a control freak. But if you can make it work, which Lorrie does, and which a lot of people do, and you’re happy to take that responsibility and realize it’s not as simple as just getting a 20-quid cut on the top of every piece of work. It does involve extra work. It can be a really good way to grow your business, almost exponentially really, if you can get it right.

LH: And it starts off organically, or at least it did for me. It wasn’t a conscious decision. As Pip’s pointed out, as with Pip’s experience, I started outsourcing work when one of my clients just needed too much from me. I could not fulfil – I think he needed about 40 blog posts a week. There’s no way I could fulfil that. So finding somebody decent to help me with that work was very, very difficult. You’ve got to go through kissing a lot of frogs.

PW: Oh, you do.

LH: So many frogs, and they’re really froggy frogs, as well.

PW: [laughter]

LH: Froggy awful frogs. No, they’re dreadful. You’ve got to kiss a lot of frogs. And sometimes it does cost you some money, because you have to pay people for test pieces of work and things like that. And you have to find somebody suitable. But then when that person’s on you have to brief that person, you have to send them the information that they need, proofread their work, edit their work, feed back to them, manage them, decide what you’re going to do if they go on holiday or if they can’t do the work anymore. There are so many things to consider, so…

PW: I was talking to someone the other day, completely different industry to us, and she was saying that she has two people that she can outsource work to. And one of them is very good, but charges her almost as much as she charges the client.

LH: Right. So an emergency case, then.

PW: And the other is pretty bad, but very cheap.

LH: Oh, no.

PW: So every time she needs to outsource work she has to decide – do I want to get very little of the money, but actually feel confident it’s being done well, or do I need more of the money, but know I’m going to have to go in and fix a lot of the problems? And a lot of outsourcers find themselves in that kind of position.

In all the ideas we’ve mentioned to far you can use your writing skills. But you might also have other skills that you could leverage for some passive or ongoing income. I mean, I design T-shirts, for example. And I put them for sale on sites where people could order them, and then I get a cut of the cost. So I don’t need to do anything once I’ve uploaded the designs. The site does all the work. And I can do really nicely for me, actually, especially run-up to Christmas is a big a one. And so sites like CafePress, Zazzle, Red Bubble – I’ll link to them all in the show notes. If you’ve got some decent Photoshop skills and some creative clever ideas, that’s the kind of thing you could perhaps think of. But there are tons of options.

LH: Yeah. This is good for people who are big fans of puns, isn’t it? Because you can do anything. It’s not just T-shirts. Obviously, you can do cups and mobile phone covers and posters, you know, artwork. People like prints at the moment, don’t they, so they’re over Instagram pictures, like inspirational quotes and stuff. Those can sell quite well on things like

PW: Yeah. I have some stuff on there. Not much actually, because it’s quite new.

LH: I love Society6, their creative writing prompts, actually. I go on there to get inspired.

PW: But yeah, I make a sale most days, for most of the year, and then, run-up to Christmas – numerous.

LH: Many, many, many.

PW: And these are T-shirts I designed several years ago. I do add the odd new one when I’ve got time, but, again, this is work that’s done and dusted a long time ago, that continues to buy me the odd beer.

LH: [laughter] Or a holiday, as we found out.

PW: Or a holiday. Or a beer on a holiday. I also have some photos up on Microstock Photography websites. The earnings can vary from decent to pretty low. Some people make a full-time living from it. Most people get pocket money from it, really. But if you already have some great quality shots, it’s something to try. Some Microstock sites also take video clips, so that’s something else you could look into if you’ve got those skills.

Obviously, T-shirt design and photography are particular skills. But look around if you’ve got other interests. Could you do some voice-over work? There’s all sorts of…

A little dexterity is helpful in working with ...

A little dexterity is helpful in working with knitting needles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LH: There’s Etsy, if you can knit wonderfully.

PW: Oh, I love Etsy.

LH: Yeah, collaging, beading, knitting, crocheting, anything really. Repurposing stuff, recycling stuff.

PW: Yeah, Folksy is a kind of Etsy equivalent based in the UK, as well.

LH: Watch out, though, that you don’t end up on regretsy. Because I love looking at that site sometimes. So funny. People sell the strangest things. I suppose, really, we should give a nod to eBay and Amazon at this point. People that I know go charity shop shopping. What’s that in American?

PW: Thrift shop.

LH: Thrift shopping. And then resell stuff. Again, a commission. If you find something lovely, if you know your antique, or if you know collectibles, you go around and have a look. You can sell books, things like that. And people sometimes just make a bit of commission on postage.

PW: Yeah. Or getting second-hand clothes and doing them up, adding a bit of embroidery or chopping them.

LH: Ooh, potato, prints. Potato prints – uh, how fun are they?

PW: [laughter] So yeah, if you’re still not thinking creatively there’s tons of options.

LH: I don’t want to be a writer anymore. I just want to print potato things all over everything, and sell them.

PW: Follow your bliss, Lorrie.

LH: [laughter] I’m going to make a fortune. I’m going to be Richard Branson of potato printing. So hopefully then that has given you a bit of a boost, because we know that business development can be a drag. We know it can be hard, trolling the net, looking for clients, thinking “I’m never going to get anybody else on board and I need some extra cash.” Hopefully, this’d just be a bit a bit of a boost, give you some ideas, give you a bit of inspiration, maybe help you see that actually you don’t have to limit yourself, because that’s one of the wonderful things about being a freelancer, isn’t it? That if you need to go out in the middle of the day and do an hour in a charity shop and then come home, wash the clothes and sell them on eBay. You can do that. You don’t have to stick rigidly to any one thing. You can just be a freelancer who does writing, as well.

PW: Yeah. Portfolio your career, that’s the thing, isn’t it?

LH: Absolutely. That’s such a nice term. I’ve not heard that.

PW: Yes, it’s growing in popularity for people who really do do a bit of this and a bit of that.

LH: It’s good for new moms and people who are getting back into work after having children, people who have been made redundant and they’re not too sure what they can be doing. It’s lovely to just try your hand a few things. And it’s a very modern way of working, because we don’t have jobs for life much anymore, do we?

PW: No. And if you have any other ways of generating additional income streams, then we want to know. So go to and tell us.

LH: That’s it. Tell us, because we’ve got some noisy people on there, but we would love some more noisy people and some more good ideas. So come and have a chinwag.

PW: And so now it is time for the much awaited and always loved Little Bird recommendation of the week, in which Lorrie and I share something we’ve seen or that’s caught our eye that we think might be of interest to all listeners. So, Lorrie, what is your recommendation this week?

LH: There is one blog post that I found, and I’m surprised, actually, one, that I found it, and two, that I liked it so much. Because it’s an ad agency in London. It’s in their business blog. So normally – I know that I do a lot of blogging for clients, including agency clients, but normally it’s the big sites like Copy Blogger and Mashable that have really interesting pieces of writing. But I thought this one was really, really good. And it’s called Ding Ding: 9 Knockout In-bound Marketing Tips to Help You Achieve Success. Now it’s a bit of a clunky title, but I liked the ‘Ding Ding’, so it got my attention.

What this looks at are, predictably, nine ways to boost your in-bound marketing. And there’s a wee in-bound marketing funnel infographic at the bottom which shows you kind of the path that people take from encountering you online the first time all the way down to acting on what they’ve read from you, which is hopefully hiring you or buying what you’re telling them to buy.

Aside from a really annoying typo in this, which I wonder if people will be able to spot it – I’m not going to mention it, but typos! Typos, they get us, don’t they?

PW: Oh, every time.

LH: It just has some really good standard tips that I still see a lot of freelance writers not following. They’re fairly basic, but they are all really good tips. The first one is “Keep landing pages simple.” And this are all the kinds of things – because it’s in-bound marketing it’s all kind of your content, your website, your blog, your videos, your social media feeds. So it’s a really good article for doing a bit of housekeeping, I think.

PW: Yeah. Checking that your systems are as good as they can be, really.

LH: This is it. Because people can be working and working and working, and finding that it’s just not working.

PW: Yeah. And you get stuck in a rut, don’t you?

LH: Of course you do. So things like this. I don’t exclude myself from this, at all.

PW: Oh, no, of course not.

LH: — very handy. The second point is “Educate them and they will come.” Does your content match or compliment…

PW: See?

LH: Ah, compliment with an I – compliment your consumer needs. The third is “Searchable content”, the fourth is “Your blog speaks volumes about you”, and it’s nice that they’ve actually acknowledged that the you on your blog – as the point we’ve made quite often – doesn’t necessarily need to be all of you, so yeah. Point six – pushing on – “Allow your audience to visualise you” – that was the typo that was annoying me. Seven – “E-books, white paper reports and webinars”. They’re talking about this authoritative content that we talked about earlier. “Infographics have unbelievable value”, and then they give you that in-bound marketing funnel infographic.

And it’s a really lovely spaced out article. It’s on a nice, clean background, and I just found it really accessible, really lovely. It’s got screenshots to show you what’s going on. It’s very accessible in terms of language. So I think the one point that would kind of finish on with this is that you and I have been freelancing for a while, haven’t we?

PW: We certainly have.

LH: And I think sometimes I hear from people – because we get a lot of emails from people who’ve listened or who’ve encountered us online, asking for information and advice and stuff – and I think sometimes we can forget how little you know when you start out, or you think you know. Because you actually do know it, you perhaps just don’t know the terms for it.

So something like this is very, very accessible, and it explains things like calls-to-action and explain the latest semantic indexing, making your content searchable – uses ‘searchable’ as a term. And that’s lovely because it tells you why you need to be doing these things you need to be considering. Because people can think, “I don’t know about SEO. I don’t know about optimization. I don’t know about social media.” But really a lot of it is common sense and just learning on the job. And I think this is a really good article for that.

PW: And presenting it accessibly is… I mean, as Lorrie said when she was introducing it, none of it is kind of vastly new information, but most of the information we read isn’t vastly new. So what makes something good is how it’s presented. Is it presented in a way that makes it feel new or that makes it really easy to understand? And maybe a term that you’ve been reading about for hours, you suddenly go, “Oh, I get it now.”

LH: I know what that is now.

PW: Yeah. And so yeah, it’s great.

LH: No, I thought it was fab. And I thought… Because, obviously – I say ‘obviously’ – obviously, having freelanced for yonks, I know the information in this article. So the fact that it caught my attention, that was enough for me to want to recommend it. Good. So, Philippa…

PW: I present my recommendation this week with some fiercety because of the earnesty with which I mean it. But don’t take that to mean that it’s a work of heavity, and don’t let that thought cause you any nervosity. Because I choose my recommendations with rigorosity, and so, with seriosity I want to recommend an excellent blog post on Mental Floss that follows some rather delightful abstract nouns that have somehow fallen out of fashion. And it’s our responsibility, little birds, to bring them back into use.

LH: Dear me!

PW: That took some rehearsal, I have to say.

LH: Oh, got it.

PW: I even had to write down the pronunciation in brackets after what I said.

LH: [laughter] I’ve got tears in my eyes. You got to rigorosity and that was it [laughter]. Okay, so let’s hear more about your rigorously researched recommendation.

PW: Well, it’s just lovely. It’s words that we haven’t seen for a long time, for many centuries in some cases, but have been identified as just having something about them, and it makes me want to get involved in some kind of preservation campaign to bring them back. Because they’re just lovely.

LH: I think some of them – I’ll just click through, looking at them – some of them are quite French aren’t they?

PW: Yes, indeed.

LH: Romance language-based, Latin-based.

PW: Yes, debonairity.

LH: That’s nice, isn’t it?

PW: It is. Outrageousty.

LH: Fabulous.

PW: So it’s so much more outrageous than outrageousness. Too bad it fell out of use after the 15th century.

LH: Gutted! Do you know this taps into something that I’ve been having fun with recently? And I genuinely think it makes me a bad person. But I have fun sometimes correcting people when they’re not wrong, and getting them to use really ridiculous nouns that don’t exist. And so somebody used the word “boringness” the other day, and I’m pretty sure that’s not actually a word. It probably is a word. I mean, I have to look that up. But I got him to use “boringitude” instead.

PW: Not boredom.

LH: Not boredom, no, “boringitude”, as in something being boring. And it was wonderful, and they corrected themselves. They were like, “Oh, I’m sorry, yeah, boringitude.” They make me so happy.

PW: You have such terribility, Lorrie.

LH: I’m dreadful. I’m admitting this with a certain level of nervosity, I have to say.

PW: Yeah. I’m not sure of the seemlity of this admission.

LH: It doesn’t show a very high level of graciosity, does it?

PW: [laughter] Listeners, we could do this for hours. We won’t.

LH: We probably will, after we finish recording this. I can see our emails changing.

PW: The hours we could do it with wouldn’t be fewty.

LH: For goodness sakes! [laughter]

PW: [laughter] It’s there, number four.

LH: I know, I know. It’s just the terribility of it all.

PW: [laughter]

LH: For goodness sake, we’re like a pair of drunks in the park.

PW: We’ve had some words.

LH: So silly. It’s like when children start learning languages at school, and they look at all the swear words. Only I think we’re less cool.

PW: Yes, indeed.

LH: Oh, dear. I like this recommendation. It’s really nice.

PW: It won’t help you in your work, that’s for sure, but it’s enjoyable. And to be honest, if any listeners manage to get one of these wonderful words legitimately into their copy, I will…

LH: Screenshot for us, screenshot a tiny bit of your piece of work, put a big red ring around it, and we will post that thing.

PW: It will get a special mention on our Facebook page.

LH: Absolutely. Lots of applause.

PW: And we will worship you.

LH: Yeah. We will love you for it. Fabulous.

PW: You can find the link at

LH: Just love it.

PW: Just love it.

LH: Just go, just click it, just love it.

PW: Do it!

LH: Ta da ta ta taa, I’m loving it! Beautiful.

PW: And so thank you so much for listening. Do head over to and subscribe. You know you want to be the first to hear next time. We have an episode out which will be Lorrie’s solo episode next time.

LH: It will. So do make sure you come along and subscribe. Any questions in the meantime, do come and have a chat with us –, and you can find all of our details at

PW: And so thank you very much for listening. I have been Philippa Willitts…

LH: … And I have been Lorrie Hartshorn, and we will catch you next time.


Podcast Episode 71: Content inspiration – 19 top ideas for when you run out of steam

What You Need To KnowSome days you will be bursting with ideas, ready to write about anything and everything. But we also all have those moments when the Word document is empty – and so is our internal bank of inspiration! This solo podcast episode is full of ways to get content inspiration, so have a listen, and enjoy!

Show Notes

There are several ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on A Little Bird Told Me.

Subscribe via RSS

Subscribe via iTunes

Find us on Stitcher Smart Radio

And finally, please ‘like’ us on Facebook to be the first to hear our news and to talk with us about what you hear on the podcast!


PW: Hello, and welcome to episode 71 of ‘A Little Bird Told Me,’ the freelance writing podcast that tells you all the tricks of the trade. You can find us on the web at, and from there you will find any links we mention in this episode and links to my websites and social media pages. From there you’ll also be able to subscribe to the podcast, and whether you prefer RSS, iTunes or Stitcher, it’s all easy to do from

I am Philippa Willitts and today I’m going to be talking about where to find content ideas when you get stuck. We’ve all been in that situation where we need to write a blog post or come up with an idea for an article and we just hit a complete blank. There are no ideas in our brain. It happens to everybody at some point or other, so I’m going to go through a list of many, many places and things that can help you to find new ideas and come up with something exciting to write about.


News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, without further ado, number 1: look at real life news. What is topical? What are people talking about? And see if there’s something that you can tie in to the topic you need to write about. So if you write for a tech blog, for instance, there something that you could use at the moment is the Heartbleed security flaws that are going on at the moment. Everybody’s talking about them, everybody wants to know which passwords they have to change, what they need to do to stay safe, and that is an example of something topical that will just give you an idea of what to write about.

Alternatively, if you write about health, there’s always an international day of a particular disease or an international month of a particular body part, so things like that. Check in with what’s going on at the moment, look at newspapers online, follow the news and see what inspires you.

Idea number 2 is related but not the same, and that is to look at blogs. What are the blogs in your industry talking about at the moment? This isn’t to say you need to copy them, it’s to say that you can use them as something to bounce off, to develop your own ideas. I use Feedly to keep track of blogs in all different areas, some just that I enjoy reading, some that are relevant for different clients and different niches. So if I want to know what’s been going on in a particular field, I will use Feedly to look at all the different blogs in that field and scroll through what people are talking about, until I get a new idea to write about.

Idea number 3 is YouTube. There are YouTube videos about everything, so if you do a search on YouTube for key terms related to your topic, you’re bound to get some ideas and inspiration from the kind of things that people have made videos about.

Idea number 4 is online courses. As you will know if you’re a regular listener, Lorrie and I are both strong proponents of keeping up your skills and learning new things on an ongoing basis to keep yourself able to offer competitive services. And if you’re doing a course in one of your areas of expertise, maybe you’ll learn something new that would also be of use to the readers of your blog or your client’s blog.

So, as well as using online courses as a way to keep your own skills and knowledge up to date, you can also use them to get ideas. Again, you’re not copying here, but maybe you’ve just watched a video on a particular topic and you think there’s an angle I could take with that topic that would be of interest to my usual readers.

The next idea is to search on social media. You want to see what people are talking about in relation to your topic, search for some keywords and see if there’s something you’ve missed, if people have something to say about a particular topic. Maybe this is a good way to find out what that is and see whether that’s something you can expand into a blog post or an article or a white paper, or whatever it is you need to write.

Topsy is a tool that can be very good for helping you to search social media and see what people are really talking about and what people are really saying. The links to Topsy and Feedly and everything we mentioned will all be in the show notes at, so don’t worry about trying to memorize everything I say. Just head over there when you’re ready and then all the links will be there.

Now an alternative to doing social media searches is to browse your social media contacts’ updates. Often people won’t use the keywords you might search for. Rather than doing a search for particular keywords, make use of your Twitter lists or Google+ circles to see what relevant people are talking about, regardless of whether they are using the particular keywords you might search for or not. This, again, can give you some great ideas for not just what people are talking about, but also what people want to know, because really what you need to write is something that people want to know, because then they will click through and read it.

Idea number 7 for finding content ideas is to look on the website – in the literature of relevant organizations. Look at the press releases they send out, look at their news feeds, if they have a page of news updates, and see what they’re talking about. If they’re talking about a particular topic it may well be that your readers, as well, or your client’s readers, as well, want to know the same information. So keep an eye on what maybe industry leaders are talking about, or industry regulators, or bodies or government departments related to your topic – all of that kind of thing. What are they talking about? What questions are they answering? And can you use those as jumping off points for your own content writing.

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français :...

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français : Icône pour les podcasts ou la baladodiffusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Idea number 8 – podcasts. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and they’re great for giving me ideas for things to create content around. From a podcast you can get really specialist information from people who are the absolute experts. And so take advantage of that. The more you listen to, the more you will learn anyway. And so why not also use them as inspiration to give you some ideas and get your creative juices flowing.

The next suggestion is a bit different, and that is to stop trying so hard. You know how it is sometimes, you think and think and think and there is just nothing coming into your mind. And then the moment you stop trying you’re suddenly full of ideas, like when you get in the shower or you start doing the washing up or you get on a train. You suddenly got more ideas than you can deal with, and that’s because you can push it too far, and that’s because… You know, there are times when you just need to give yourself a break, and trying to force a new idea will just get you nowhere.

So if you’re really, really stuck, take a break. Have a change of scene, go for a walk around the block, go get yourself an apple to eat, go have a shower, do something completely different from searching your brain and searching the web for ideas, and see if anything comes to you naturally.

Idea number 10 for content ideas is brainstorming. You might want to do this using a mind map online or a big piece of paper and a pan, but write down in the middle what you need to write about, what your general topic is, and then start connecting ideas from that. Write down any keywords that come into your mind. Connect things that are connected and then write down what springs to mind when you think about those keywords. Write down whatever comes into your head, whether it seems relevant or not. Get it all down on paper, and soon you will start coming up with content ideas that make sense for the platform you’re creating for.

Idea number 11 is a great website called Quora, which is a question-and-answer website. But what makes it different to, say, Yahoo Answers, is the depth the responses go to, and the quality of the responses. There is some incredible information on Quora that people – there are real experts and real specialists will respond to. And often when you’re writing what you need to know is what your potential readers want to know. And so by looking at Quora you can see the exact questions that people are asking. And you can get some tips on how to answer them by the answers that are provided.

In a similar way online forums can be a great way to get ideas for content. Again, if you’re looking to find out what your potential readership wants to know, then go to forums where people are asking and answering questions. If you write about SEO then go to an SEO forum, look at the most recent 20 posts and see if there are any themes in what people are trying to find out.

Do people want to know how to build natural backlinks? Do people want to know how they need to sort out the rel=”author” tags on their site and take advantage of that insight into what people are looking for and provide that information yourself.

Idea number 13 – unlucky for some – is surveys. You can look for the results of surveys that people have carried out in your topic area to find out all sorts of information and to get plenty of ideas for blog posts, articles, social media content – all of those things. Alternatively or additionally, you can create your own surveys, especially if you’ve got a decent social media audience, then this can be a great way of getting really detailed information about what people want to know, about what they think blogs don’t cover well enough. All that kind of thing you can find out by setting up your own survey. You could do that using a site called SurveyMonkey, or you can do it using a Google form which will just drop all the results into a spreadsheet for you.

Idea number 14 is to use to a brilliant little site called Google Trends. Now through this you can find out exactly what people are talking about right now. You can break it down based on geography, on time, and you can look at the results in different visual ways. You can see basically what the trending topics are on the web and find out exactly what’s topical, exactly what people want to know, exactly what people are searching for and take advantage of that to give yourself some ideas to write about.

Suggestion number 15 is to use a keyword suggestion tool. Now I’m going to mention two here, and they’re both free. One is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner, which is the replacement for the Google Adwords Keyword tool that people used to use. Now with this what you can do is type in some keywords related to the industry you’re writing about, and then it will tell you what people are searching for and how many people are searching for that thing, plus how much competition there is for that search.

So if you’re looking to write a post that you have a chance of ranking well in the Google search results, this is a great way of finding topics that a decent number of people are searching for every month, but that isn’t already highly competitive to rank for. So you might think you’ve got a great topic but only 20 people a month search for it. So using the keyword planner it will give you alternatives, different phrases, different words, so you can find the best thing to write about.

The other tool I’m going to mention is called Ubersuggest. And what this does is you put in a keyword and it tells you for every letter of the alphabet different things that people search for alongside that keyword. So if you type, for instance, “health and safety”, then what it does is it gives you a long, long list of the other things that people search for along with those terms. So, for instance, it’s giving me “health and safety jobs”, “health and safety games”, “health and safety institute”, “health and safety engineer”, “health and safety plan”, “health and safety in the workplace.”

And then it goes through every letter of the alphabet. So for A, it gives me “health and safety at work”, “health and safety authority”, “health and safety articles.” For B, it’s “health and safety book”, “health and safety blog”, “health and safety benchmarking” and so on, and so on, going through the alphabet and then on to numbers, as well, if they’re all things that are being searched about that include numbers, which this doesn’t have any results for.

And then for each of these results you can click on those and it will give you even further ideas. So for Y it gives me “health and safety York”, so I clicked on that and from there I get “health and safety York University”, “health and safety jobs York”, “health and safety executive York”, “occupational health and safety York”, all these kinds of things. And so you can drill down and get more and more specific. And this tool really is great for giving you ideas to bounce off. You know you need to write about a particular topic, and you’re completely stuck for what to do with it. Then try out Ubbersuggest. Again, the link will be in the in the show notes.

Suggestion number 16 is to look at the trending topics on Twitter and Facebook. These won’t specifically relate to your industry area, usually, but it will tell you what people are talking about. So if everybody is tweeting about Britain’s Got Talent or everybody on Facebook is talking about some celebrity gossip, then see whether there’s a way you can tie in those topics to your suggested area. There are always, always blog posts doing the rounds about… They’re usually quite spurious, but it gives you somewhere to start. Something like “what Gwyneth Paltrow’s divorce can tell you about social policy” or “what such and such libel trial can teach us about SEO”. It’s a controversial approach but it often will get plenty of hits, even if it feels a bit icky to write about sometimes.

Idea number 17 of 19 – Google News Alerts. You can set up within Google – you just do a search for Google Alerts – you can set up a system where whenever something new is written about a particular topic, Google will email you. Now this can be news topics specifically, or it can be any search results at all. And the way it works is you can set up to receive instant email notifications or once a day, or whatever timing suits you. And you can set it up for just new sources, just blogs, or anything on the web. You can also ask it to tell you everything, or to make its own judgment and only give you better quality things. But this way you can get things direct to your inbox that will give you ideas to write about.

I get news alerts on various topics that I write about. Because I use Gmail, I’ve set up filters so they skip my inbox and go directly to their own particular folder, so that then, when I need some ideas I head over to that folder and see what the latest is.

This is icon for social networking website. Th...

This is icon for the StumbleUpon social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the penultimate suggestion for finding content ideas is a service called StumbleUpon. This has been through various iterations in its life and, basically, it’s a way of finding new websites or new content without having to search for it. It can be entirely random or – and this is more relevant for finding content ideas – you can set it up in certain subject areas. So you might want health or technology or craft or whatever is relevant to you. And then, basically, there’s a button at the top of each page that says StumbleUpon. You hit it and it takes you to a random website in the area you specified. And then you can look at that site and then hit StumbleUpon again, and it will take you to another. Hit it again, it will take you to another, and so on, until you come up with something that inspires you.

As well as this, and there’s an alternative to hitting the StumbleUpon button, you can hit a Thumbs Up or a Thumbs Down button, depending on what you think of the sites it’s given you. And this is particularly good because StumbleUpon thing uses that information to try and only deliver sites to you that it thinks you will like. So you basically teach it what you like and what you don’t, and that can improve the results you get.

And my final suggestion for finding content ideas – number 19 – is your own website stats or your client’s website stats. You want to know how people are finding you. You want to know which pages are the most popular because then you know what people want, you know what they’re looking for. If a lot of people find you via a particular search query, then write a post responding specifically to that search query. If you’ve got particular pages that get far more visitors than your other. If you’ve got particular pages that get far more visitors than the rest of your site, then look at what’s on those pages and find out if there’s something, you could go into more detail to gather more of that kind of traffic.

You might get your stats through Google Analytics, in which case you get a lot of detailed information, or you might use a more simple plugin or third-party service. But whatever it is, you want something that gives you the ability to see how people find you, what’s the most popular part of your site so you can build from there and create more of the content that your specific readers are looking for.

And so that is my top 19 best ways to find content ideas. Do you have any others? Is there anything I’ve missed off? If so, head over to our Facebook page at and tell us. Comment on one of our updates, and let us know the places you find ideas for content when you’re running out of inspiration.

And so now it is time for the Little Bird recommendation of the week where I give a suggestion of something I’ve enjoyed, something that I think will be useful to listeners or just enjoyable or interesting. My recommendation this week is from Mashable and it’s an article called ‘How to Succeed in Business without Becoming an Alcoholic.’ And it’s got some really nice suggestions, and it’s really well written about different ways to keep your business a success without ending up in a position where you can’t do anything else, you can’t ever wind down.

And it’s quite simple. It’s not particularly necessarily new information, but it’s presented really nicely in a way that might give you some ideas if you find that you are working far more than you’re not, and you really need a break. And so, as ever, I will link to that in the show notes and I recommend that you go over and have a read from there.

And so that is the end of episode 71 of A Little Bird Told Me. Make sure you head over to and follow the links to all the places I’ve mentioned in today’s podcast. Make sure you also check out our Facebook page and feel free to check out my own social media feeds and websites, as well. From our Podomatic page you can also subscribe to make sure that you never miss an episode. Thank you very much for listening. I’ll be back with Lorrie next time for a dual episode, and we will see you then.