How to Write Headlines so Irresistible that Big-Money Clients are Begging You to Write for Them

Carol Tice

Do I have your attention now?

That headline was pretty grabby, huh. Sort of made you have to click on it to find out how to get good clients.

That’s the magic of a well-constructed headline. It works like a magnet to suck readers onto your blog — and not just any readers, but exactly the readers you wanted. The ones who’re interested in just what you have to offer.

If you know how to write a compelling headline, it can also make editors love your query letter.

It can make businesses read your emailed letter of introduction and give you call.

Great headlines get you good-paying writing gigs.

Then, when other businesses and publications see the headlines you wrote for your clients, they call you up. They can’t wait to have you bring your writing savvy over to their website.

You’re done marketing your writing business. Your strong headlines do the job for you.

Why doesn’t everybody write great headlines?

It’s sort of an art form unto itself.

Lots of us who came up through journalism and newspapers weren’t trained to write headlines. That’s an editor’s job, we were told.

Others have been grabbing titles off content-mill dashboards, where the headline is pre-written by the SEO department.

Bottom line: Lots of writers don’t have any experience or training in how to write headlines. And their careers are suffering as a result.

I have reviewed hundreds of writers’ blogs, and I can tell you, bad headlines are an epidemic. I scan a typical blog, and I can’t even figure out the topic. Nothing makes me want to click through and read more. I’m not surprised when I see there are no subscribers, no comments, and nothing is getting sold.

So if you learn to write good headlines, you can really stand out.

What’s wrong with most writers’ headlines?

Three quick headline-improvement tips:

  1. Use key words. Headlines like “Watch out for the red flags,” or “Another day” (both ones I’ve recently read) don’t tell me what the post is about, or who it is for. So search engines don’t find it when I search on what I want to know. And I don’t read it.
  2. Tell me your topic. What will I learn about if I read your post? Your headline needs to tell me, so I’ll want to click over and read it.
  3. Leave a little mystery. The headline of this post told you there’s a way to write headlines that will bring you great clients, but it didn’t tell you exactly how.  You needed to read the post to find out.

I have a confession to make.

I didn’t write that headline — Jon Morrow did.

Jon is one of the best headline writers around. He wrote the Headline Hacks report on how to create sure-to-go-viral headlines that Copyblogger uses as a guide for its writers.

His blog posts often get 1,000 retweets or more. Maybe you read How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World, or A 7-Step Guide to Mind Control: How to Quit Begging and Make People Want to Help You. Yeah. That guy.

What’s the best headline you’ve seen lately? Leave a comment and share.

27 Comments

  1. Sabas Chapa

    Hi Carol,

    This is my first comment on your blog. I’d like to give a sincere thank you for giving me the ideas I needed to boost my freelance writing gigs.

    On this post, I cannot agree more. If a client has reached your website, then they have most likely realized that they need to get into the content marketing game. They have read a few blog posts and they know that headline writing, email subject lines, etc. are a big deal.

    Writing a killer headline not only draws them in, but it also shows them that you will do the same for their business/website.

    Unfortunately I will not be available tomorrow for the session with Jon. Do you know if there will be a video. audio, transcript available?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Sabas, and welcome to my blog!

      Ordinarily, my podcasts are members-only for members of Freelance Writers Den…but this one is kind of under Jon’s control. Haven’t decided how and to whom I’ll make it available yet, but if you’re interested I highly recommend signing up on the registration list, so that you get notices on how we might release it afterwards.

  2. Cathie Ericson

    I recently got a new assignment where I am writing headlines, subheads and ‘teasers’ for a Web site that offers weekly Web privacy lesson plans for educators and parents. It has been lots of fun to devise copy that is simultaneously clever and grabby.

    The newspaper I write for does its own headlines, but I have been working to improve my headline-writing skills by including a variety of samples for each story anyway. It is a good self improvement exercise and also helps me see what editors prefer (though of course it is subjective!)

    • Carol Tice

      Cathie, I was very fortunate in that at my first staff-writing job, we were NOT allowed to turn in stories with just a slug like “healthcare story.” Every piece had to have a proposed headline.

      Little did I know how much writers would need headline-writing skills in the future! I’m so grateful we were made to do that. Now that we all need to write headlines for our blogs, it’s been a real plus that I had so much headline experience.

  3. Kerrie McLoughlin

    I love your blog so much, Carol! You have inspired me with your six-figure freelancing so I’ve started putting how many hours I work and how much I made per hour week by week for this year on my blog. I want to show people how it fluctuates and how it increases slowly over time until you are a Carol Tice! Keep rockin’!

    • Carol Tice

      Well, I hope it’s until you are the 6-figure Kerrie. You can only get there by maximizing what YOU bring to the party — your uniqueness.

  4. Mellissa Thomas

    Tomorrow’s call will be an awesome resource, Carol.

    I had actually gone to his website from the previous article you wrote on headlines and downloaded his Headline Hacks report when he offered it for free.

    I’ve learned a valuable lesson from him – using his tactics doubled my pageviews.

    • Carol Tice

      Why am I not surprised? Jon is truly a headline genius. Think on the call I’m going to throw some of my recent headlines out and watch him improve them live! Can’t wait.

    • Carol Tice

      I’ve got it too! And I’m not surprised to hear that about your pageviews.

      I was lucky enough to have a short phone consult with Jon about 18 months ago, and the advice he gave me brought me a lot more readers.

  5. Alex Bramwell

    Am I the only person that thinks that really long headlines that say loads but are hard to read are sort of, well, a bit annoying and make your content look gimmicky?

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Alex — I see you’re running a spoof site about make-money-fast type blogs…which this one definitely isn’t, I can tell you! I’m the original 20-year overnight success.

      But are you being sarcastic with your question? Because you used commentluv to link to a 14-word headline you wrote…which I’m assuming is a joke headline.

      Anyway…you may not be the only person who doesn’t like that long headline format, which certainly isn’t the only one Jon uses. But there’s no denying that many posts with that headline construction do very well. It doesn’t matter if one grouch doesn’t like them. Headlines are about attracting a large quantity of the people you want to read your post, and long, descriptive headlines often succeed for that.

    • Alex Bramwell

      My beef is with the massive amount of very samey advice that is out there. The whole blog and blog about blogging scene strikes me as a pyramid scheme. If you create a great headline, and then tell everyone else about it, it quickly loses it originality and power.

      All I want to do is highlight the more absurd elements of the industry (books of awesomeness, top five unoriginal tips, etc). People need to spend less time reading each other’s blogs, and more time being original!

      My five (very sarcastic) cents,

      Alex

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