10 Ways to Earn More From One Great Article Idea

Carol Tice

How to Earn More from One Great Article Idea. Makealivingwriting.com

Are you a writer in search of an article idea? These days, the big-earning article writers have loads of ideas for editors.

But if you’re someone who really finds idea generation tough, there’s another way to earn well. You can do it by getting more mileage out of your short stack of ideas.

Get out of the habit of coming up with one article idea, landing an assignment, and then moving on.

Instead, think in terms of spinning that one little idea straw into a big pile of gold.

How? Here are ten different ways:

1. Develop evergreen topics

The first rule for wringing more cash from and article idea is to avoid breaking news. These stories go out of date fast, and don’t allow you time to find additional angles or audiences for them.

Instead, focus on topics that are likely to stay newsworthy for a long time. Think of big issues that you might write a series of follow-ups on. Marketing, relationships, entrepreneurship, personal finance, celebrities, food, media, and housing are all mainstays, for instance.

2. Turn your essay into a reported essay

These days, there aren’t many good-paying markets for personal essays. Few writers are able to earn much of a living in that niche.

But…if you’re willing to use your personal experience as an opening anecdote, and then explore the issue with experts,  you can write a reported essay. There’s way more opportunity there, at lots of the better-paying, national consumer magazines.

3. Re-slant for a trade audience

If you have an article idea about a trend in any type of business, you might earn more from it by pitching it to a trade publication for that industry, rather than trying to interest a consumer magazine in it.

For instance, you’re interested in the trend of wearable tech? You can try (and try) to get a feature assignment writing about that for a women’s mag…or you might more easily sell an article idea on the top ways to market wearable tech in your retail store for, say, Chain Store Age.

If you’re interested in marketing, human resources, merchandising, theft prevention, or any of the basic issues all companies deal with, then you’re in even better shape, as you could write one trend story on any of those topics and resell it to many trade publications, each in a different industry. (See ‘reselling’ below for more on this.)

Unfamiliar with trades? Google “<industry> trade magazine” and you’ll turn up the ones you want — or explore the amazing plethora of trade titles at tradepub.com.

4. Angle for a custom publication

Love to write about shopping? Maybe you’ve got an article idea that you could pitch to one of those magazines you find in retail stores. Interested in healthcare? Perhaps the magazine your local hospital puts out would be an outlet for your idea.

Custom publications are put out by businesses, rather than magazine publishers. And there are tons of them. The trick is that these serve a company agenda — so be ready to angle your article idea so it encompasses something that company offers, and wants to promote.

5. Sell reprints

Leaf through your Writer’s Market, and you’ll discover that many print magazines still accept reprints. Now that Google hates duplicate content, it’s a bit more challenging to get reprints paid online, so print magazines may be your best bet here.

Remember to think about noncompeting markets when you resell. If you’re writing for local or city magazines, you may be able to sell that idea to another city parenting or lifestyle magazine elsewhere, if the topic is universal and doesn’t quickly go out of date.

Reprints don’t usually pay nearly as well as a new article, so if you go this route, you’ll want to learn how to sell a lot of reprints.

6. Re-slant, rewrite, and resell

This idea is simple: find a slightly different angle for your article idea and sell it again, to a new market. Since it’s hard to sell reprints these days, this is often the next best thing. The big advantage here is this isn’t a reprint, and the resold article should still get pro rates.

One easy way to find a new slant is to target publications with a different audience. If you wrote a parenting piece for a local city paper, for instance, you might take that idea and sell it to a trade pub for baby-products retailers. That audience switch will recast your story, as retail buyers will want different information on the topic than moms did.

Another common approach is to sub out an expert or two for another expert who’s in your new target market. Presto! Freshness.

7. Post on your blog with an offer

Not all pay from article ideas comes from selling that idea to someone else. Another approach is to write your story and post it on your own blog, with a link or banner to a relevant product or service. This could either be something you offer yourself, or something you’re affiliate selling — say, Freelance Writers Den.

You’ll notice me taking this approach with this very blog post, which offers a banner at the bottom that links to the 4 Week Journalism School course I co-teach with Linda Formichelli.

Done right, posting on your blog with a link to something readers might buy can earn you way more than you might have received if you sold your idea to a magazine.

8. Guest post and link to an offer

This is just like the point above, except instead of posting on your own blog, you find a higher-traffic, popular blog and write a guest post. In this case, your link usually goes to a product or service you offer, as most popular blogs won’t let you use affiliate links on your guest post.

I did a bunch of guest posts with product links when my Small Blog, Big Income e-books were first coming out. For example, here’s a guest post I wrote for SmartBlogger on a related topic — Why Your Blog Needs a Tagline. Check out the tagline on that post, and you see how this works.

9. Nationalize a local story — or vice versa

If you don’t have article ideas, you can always steal them from the news. Then, change the scope of the piece to sell it as your own. For instance, if healthcare reform is all over the national news right now, you might pitch a local pub a feature on the impact on local families of a particular type (single moms, veterans, the elderly).

The reverse is also true. If you spot a local trend and write it for a local newspaper or magazine, you can then investigate whether it’s happening in other cities, too. Find a few more places it’s going on, and you’ve got a trend story to pitch to a national magazine.

10. Update or revisit your article idea

When you’re short of ideas, it’s time to flip through your portfolio (or look back on old blog posts) and see what you’ve already written. Often, those ideas could use another look. Stories done a year after a natural disaster, that update readers on impacted lives or rebuilt infrastructure, are a classic example. A company’s milestone anniversary can be a great opportunity for a new story — here’s one I did for Nordstrom’s 100th anniversary.

If you wrote about a trend, it can be great to go back a year or ten later and see if it turned out to be big, or fizzled. In either case, you can round up experts to discuss why. Or, spin that trend to the future and ask those experts to forecast the next evolution of that trend.

Keep your ideas working

My final tip is to get organized on how you track your ideas. Calendar followups for anniversaries or updates. Research which of your old ideas could be refreshed for a new audience.

Your ability to earn more from your idea is really limited only by your willingness to keep pitching it around. Don’t get discouraged by non-responses or noes. Keep turning that idea, updating it, tweaking it, and thinking of other audiences who might appreciate it.

How have you earned the most from your article ideas? Leave a comment and share your angle.

J-School: 4-Week Journalism Crash Course. Grow your freelance writing income. Usefulwritingcourses.com



  1. John Soares

    I had a monthly hiking column in several Northern California newspapers in the 1990s. The columns were all essentially individual hike descriptions from my hiking guidebooks and were thus very easy to create. I earned a couple of hundred bucks a month for content I’d already created — and I got a blurb at the end of the column that listed my books.

    • Carol Tice

      Love it! Nice example of repurposing. 😉

  2. Suzanne Boles

    Great ideas. One caution: Be sure you haven’t signed (or assign) your rights away to any of the places the piece is published or you won’t be able to do a resale of the exact reprint.

    • Carol Tice

      True enough — and fewer places take first rights only, too, so it’s definitely something you’d have to negotiate for.

  3. Tammy Farrell CPA CFE

    Great tips, Carol. Thanks. I’d certainly benefit by getting more organized with my ideas and see how I could apply them to different industries. Accounting tech touches everyone so that theme could translate well for just about anyone.

    Time for me to go make a list…

    • Carol Tice

      Accounting tech! I smell a trade-pub re-spin there…

  4. Helen McCrone

    Great tips, Carol. Writing articles is something I’d love get into. The trick seems to be finding a new angle on a topic, even if it’s been written about many times before. Reported essays and custom publications really got my attention, so you’ve inspired me to delve more into this area. Thanks!

    • Carol Tice

      Helen, that’s a common obstacle we hear about a lot in Pitch Clinic, that writers feel all the ideas are taken. But they’re not!

      You can always re-spin them for a new audience, update, or angle, as I demonstrate with one idea and its many possible angles here:


  5. June Capossela Kempf

    I am passing this article on to the writer’s group that I facilitate.I used some of these ideas to market two stories with different slants to two magazines that bought and paid for my work. So, I can attest that these hints really work.

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for sharing it, June! And glad these strategies have worked for you. 😉

  6. Udunma Ikoro

    Very helpful. I will work start immediately with some points listed in this article. Thanks.

  7. Francis Lui

    Hi Carol,

    Thanks for sharing your experience in writing ever interesting contents and ideas. I will be very honest to you, i hardly spend time writing any contents, after reading this article I’m getting some insights.

  8. Sarah Hailey

    Great post – some new ideas I haven’t seen.

  9. Reynolds

    Thanks for your post. From you I have some ideas to write something, sometimes I don’t know what I should write. These tips will be helped me. I learned more things about you. Great job!

  10. William Schietroma

    Carol this is a very interesting concept I have always keep many of my articles from ARTICLE BASE, in the past. However I wrote an article about my favorite Band Director from the70s and how much he believed in us at the time. So I was friends with the new Band Director on face book and posted this article on the Alumni site. She went to the media with the idea of talking about the former Band Directors who resided at the senior high and had these Directors family and friends come to Alumni days and the Article was entitles ITS MORE THAN JUST WINNING TROPHYS…

    • Carol Tice

      …And? Not sure if you had a question there, or just wanted to share that example of how ideas are not copyrightable, and can always be retooled for another pub. But if it’s the latter…thanks for sharing that!

  11. Steve Sande

    Hi Carol! I’ve read a couple of your articles (why you should stop blogging, answers to questions from freelancers) and I loved them! You mentioned tapping into markets that pay $0.50 to $1 a word. So far I’m only making $0.10 per word and clients are telling me I’m very high priced (though I’m writing high quality 2,000+ word articles with embedded original infographics and great research). Do you have a post on how to find higher paying markets? If not, could you tell me where to find those markets?

    • Carol Tice

      Steve…you’re simply swimming in the wrong pool…the pool of unprofitable companies that don’t value writers’ worth and don’t understand how important what we do is to their success.

      You might want to check out the Close the Sale bootcamp I have coming up — it’s a companion to an earlier bootcamp we did called Get Great Clients, which Den members can also access when they join for the new course.

      You can check out the ebooks tab up top for an ebook boil-down of that one. It’s got a lot of my resources for qualifying your own, better prospects.

      When it comes to articles, I personally used to take The Writers Market, ratchet up the online search tool to five dollar signs (top rates), and see what pubs came up. Pitch them, instead of low payers.

  12. Deborah Scherrer

    Great article Carol with helpful tips. I especially like #10 – with your suggestion to go back to previous articles on trends or events and research how things turned out or interviewing people on how their lives were affected by an event.

    • Carol Tice

      Deborah, I once went to a journalism training put on by the Reynolds Center, and they said the #1 most overlooked type of story in journalism is followup. We tend to run and gun.

      And nobody comes back and says: So was that politician ever jailed? Did that earthquake-ravaged town ever rebuild? Did the car accident victim learn to walk again? What happened to the workers who lost their jobs in that mass layoff, a year down the road? Did that EPA Superfund site ever get cleaned up, the way they promised it would?

      SO many great stories overlooked in the followup round.


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