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4 Ridiculously Easy Steps to Write a Good Outline for Your Articles

A reader asked:

Hi, Bamidele. I can gladly say that you’ve been an inspiration in my life. I just started to explore online content writing and I’m experiencing some difficulties in forming a good outline for my articles. Do you have any tips and pointers that can help?

I’ll be sharing the format I use to outline my article below:

Step 1: Develop a Concrete Idea of What Your Article Will be About

start with a concrete idea

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Start by having a concrete idea of what your article will be about; I’m not talking about a “topic” here, but a concrete idea of what your article will be about; this will make it easy to form your outline.

For example “freelance writing” is a topic, while “I want to write an holistic article that will help people to quit their jobs to be a freelance writer” is a concrete idea.

You don’t need to have a title, or a headline, before developing your outline but you need to be clear about exactly what your article will be about.

Once you’ve decided on a concrete idea for your article, you can write it down or keep it in mind; what matters is that you have something that guides your outline, and eventually your article, so you don’t end up beating around the bush.

Step 2: Come Up With a Rough List of Points You’ll Write About

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A complete article usually involves several points, subheadings, bullets, etc. that pass across your message.

In most cases, you’ll find that you don’t have all of these points available before you start writing but it is essential to have an ample number of them available; this way, you can easily avoid “writer’s block” when you start writing.

For example, if I were to go further with my example on “quitting your job to be a freelance writer” I might come up with a list of the following points:

Article Title: Quitting Your Job to be a Freelance Writer

POINTS

The Evolution of Freelance Writing

Why Quit Your Job as a Freelance Writer

  • You want more time with your loved ones
  • You want to have fun and travel the world
  • You want to increase your income potential
  • You want to be your own boss and have freedom
  • You love writing and want to do it full time

Examples of Successful Freelance Writers Making a Full Living

5 Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Job to Become a Freelance Writer

  • Do You Have Enough Savings to Help You Through the “Tough” Times?
  • Do You Have Any Experience Freelance Writing? Are You Already Making Money?
  • How Do You Plan to Stay Productive?
  • What’s Your Plan For Attracting Clients?
  • What Happens if Life Gets in the Way

Conclusion

Step 3: If Possible, Include a Little Description With Your Points to Make it Easy to Write Them

description

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Sometimes, you won’t be able to get to work on the article you outlined immediately; so, even if your head is buzzing with ideas at the moment of writing the outline, and you’re so excited that you feel you’ll burst if you don’t write, you might come to your outline tomorrow and have no idea why you wrote a particular point or what a particular point means.

If you take a look at the points in my example, you’ll probably find it difficult to understand what some of the points mean; I have a clear idea behind why I wrote those points, but you’re probably wondering “how does most of these points relate to quitting your job to be a freelance writer?”. I’m very sure I might start to feel that way if I come back to the outline a month later.

To avoid confusion, and to make it easy to flesh out my article, I prefer to explain my points a bit if I won’t be able to write the article immediately; this way, it’s easy to flesh out a full article no matter when I get back to the points.

In this case, the basic outline I prepared earlier will develop to be something like this:

Article Title: Quitting Your Job to be a Freelance Writer

POINTS

The Evolution of Freelance Writing

From becoming a side job people barely take serious decades ago, how did freelance writing evolve to be something people now take really serious today?

I should reference this February 2014 study that shows that 87% of students with first or second class degrees now see freelancing as a highly attractive and lucrative career option.

The aim of this section is to help people understand why others will consider quitting a job to focus full time on freelance writing.

Why Quit Your Job as a Freelance Writer

This section should explain why people might consider quitting a profitable full time job to be a freelance writer.

  • You want more time with your loved ones
  • You want to have fun and travel the world
  • You want to increase your income potential
  • You want to be their own boss and have freedom
  • You love writing and want to do it full time

(The above points are self explanatory, so no need to further describe them)

Examples of Successful Freelance Writers Making a Full Living

The aim of this section should be to feature several successful freelance writers making a full time living from their craft. (3? more?)

I might reference the following highly successful freelance writers: Carol Tice, Linda Formichelli, Tom Ewer.

5 Factors to Consider Before Quitting Your Job to Become a Freelance Writer

  • Do You Have Enough Savings to Help You Through the “Tough” Times? (contrary to what most people think, freelance writing won’t always be rosy; for beginners, it helps to save until you’re well balanced to be making a living)
  • Do You Have Any Experience Freelance Writing? Are You Already Making Money? (You can’t just quit a lucrative job and jump into freelance writing when you have absolutely no idea how it works. How much are you currently making as a freelance writing compared to your current job; is it an issue where having more time will yield more income for you?)
  • How Do You Plan to Stay Productive? (Without a boss and a team to keep us focused on work, it might not be as easy to stay productive; how do you plan to address this problem?)
  • What’s Your Plan For Attracting Clients? (How do you plan to ensure you’ll always have a constant supply of clients once you start freelance writing?)
  • What Happens if Life Gets in the Way? (An accident, illness, loss of a loved one, or any other thing can happen; if you’ve quit your job and your income is down, how do you plan to deal with this without any “entitlement” from your freelance writing “job”)

Conclusion

This ends with a conclusion for the article.

On its own, this fully developed outline is 468 words; you can see how easy it will be to flesh out an article from this?

Step 4: Review Your Points

review your outlinee

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Once you complete step 3, your outline is formed; at this stage, you want to ensure that your points are coherent, and that nothing is missing or excessive in your outline.

You’ll have to review your outline and do some “addition and subtraction” to ensure points are added and removed, before you proceed with writing your article.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Research

Can you see how easy I outlined a potential article on “quitting your job as a freelance writer”?

Writing this particular article you’re reading about how to write an outline (at 1,300+ words), including the outline example I prepared with it, took me about 40 minutes total minus editing time.

Truth be told, it won’t come this easy for you unless you’re an experienced writer. The idea for the outline and this article came easy to me because I’m very knowledgeable about the subject of freelance writing.

It’s not uncommon to find yourself staring at the blank screen when trying to write your outline, it happens to me too, and in this case you just have to keep researching what has been written on the subject to help form your own ideas.

Use Google, Wikipedia, Q&A sites, etc. to see what has been written, to get new ideas and to better develop ideas already forming in your mind.

Also, try looking for studies and research that back up the points in your article and include them in your outline.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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