Whether you’re new to writing or already count several bylines to your credit, having a short list of ideas you’d like to explore helps get the process off to a good start.
If your mind is a blank slate (or is packed to the brim), don’t panic. Here are seven suggestions to help you start thinking of some compelling topics with enough substance for an article of about 700 words:
What questions do your clients keep asking? If you’re hearing the same concerns again and again, that’s a good indicator there’s a need for you to respond with an explanation. Ideal topics could include a perplexing industry regulation, something in the news or a trend in term sheets.
What mistakes would you like your clients to stop making? Sometimes attorneys have to undo or repair damage caused by a rash or ignorant decision. Can you think of a situation like this that you were asked to mitigate? Without naming names or being too specific, use that story to advise readers about the best way to handle a similar situation.
What’s in the news? As you scan blogs, journals and white papers, look for common threads. What’s your perspective? What would you advise? Even something as general as the ups and downs of the stock market can be an inspiration: You could offer advice on how founders should batten their company’s fiscal hatches in a down market—or suggest the best uses of surplus cash for companies that have some financial leeway.
How did you save your client’s you-know-what? How did your experience and counsel prevent someone from making a costly mistake or a bad decision? If you can share that story (minus names and personal details, of course), your piece can help others benefit from your wisdom.
Make a list. What are the five biggest missteps small businesses make? What are three ways a founder can stack the deck in her favor when she’s seeking a fresh round of funding? What are five signs a startup is a great candidate for a merger? Editors really like these types of articles, and, strangely enough, they seem to favor odd numbers.
What the heck is a ___________? Asking and answering this question about key person insurance resulted in a helpful article that TechCrunch used on its site.
What did you tell your friends at happy hour? Behind every business transaction are the personalities of the people who sign on the line or fork over the money. You can spin an anecdote while protecting the subjects’ privacy.
The best time to come up with possible topics is when you’re not under the gun to be creative. That would be … now. So make a few notes over the next few weeks so you can hit the ground running.