Freelance Writing Takeaways from FinCon12: Better Headlines with Len Penzo

One of the crucial aspects of freelance writing is the right headline. Here are some tips from Len Penzo.

This year at FinCon, I did myself a favor and attended a number of sessions related to freelance writing. There are a lot of fantastic writers out there in the PF blogosphere, and many of them offer great insights.

One of the sessions I attended was one on creating better headlines. The speaker was Len Penzo, and he specializes in writing headlines that really draw in the reader. I know that headlines are one of my weaknesses as a freelancer writer, so I hope that I can take what I learned from Len, and apply it in my own freelance writing efforts.

There are 4 Characteristics of Headlines that Draw You In

Len pointed out that headlines that draw you in have 4 characteristics:

  1. Convey a Message
  2. Compelling
  3. Specific
  4. Intriguing

If you want to draw readers in, it’s important to craft headlines that let them know what to expect — while intriguing them. Len said that you can really boost your ability to draw readers with a specific headline that intrigues. Something general like “Save Money” is too vague. Instead, adding specificity can help. “How to Save $1,000 by Christmas” is one that came to my mind when he mentioned specificity. That headline is also compelling and intriguing, and offers a very clear message.

Len also pointed out that adding adjectives can spice up headlines even more. Describing something as “crucial,” “amazing,” “surprising,” or something else can pique the interest of readers. Getting them past the headline is important.

6 Headline Formulas that Work

In addition to pointing out that some of the most effective headlines involve lists and how-tos, Len provided headline formulas that work well. Using these formulas can go a long way toward helping you write more effective and interesting headlines.

  1. Be Simple and Direct
  2. State the Big Benefit
  3. Appeal to the “How To” Instinct
  4. Pose a Provocative Question
  5. Bark a Command
  6. Offer Useful Information

Len also suggested that you write for people, and not just keywords. You need to speak the language of your audience, and be as concise as possible. You can’t completely ignore the search engines, but you don’t want to write headlines just for the engines, either. It’s a delicate balancing act, but chances are you can slip a keyword or two into a compelling headline that grabs reader attention.

What do you think about writing good headlines? And do you have any ideas for better writing as a freelancer?

0 thoughts on “Freelance Writing Takeaways from FinCon12: Better Headlines with Len Penzo”

  1. I really enjoyed Len’s session. I even watched it again on the virtual ticket. There’s so much information and tips we can take away as freelance writers. Thanks for breaking down his speech and sharing your point of view!

    1. His session was one of the most entertaining, as well as one of the most useful, from a writing standpoint. I’ve been watching some of the sessions I missed using virtual ticket. It’s a great way to see all the information available.

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