I’ll show you how to write one of the easiest articles you’ll ever pull off: a how-to article.
A how-to article is simply an article that tells your reader how to do something. I call this a “hold my hand” article, because as the writer, you’re holding the reader’s hand through each step of the way.
How-to articles are practical. They’re also specific, useful to readers, and editors love them.
To write a how-to article, all you need is to do something (and it can be almost anything), keep notes on what you did, and once you’re done, write out the who’s, what’s, when’s, where’s, why’s and how’s so someone else can duplicate your experience.
Let’s say you want to write an article about how to rent a bicycle in Paris.
First you’ll need to find some bike shops in Paris where someone speaks English, if you’re writing for an English-speaking audience.
You’ll want to check on prices and packages. For instance, daily rentals may be cheaper at one shop, but weekly and monthly rentals might be cheaper at another. Which shop has the best-maintained bikes and friendliest staff? Make recommendations. You might even recommend a staff person by name: “When you call, ask for Bruno, he’s friendly and speaks English.”
Do you need to tell your reader about insurance? How and where can you lock up your bike on the street? What are the traffic rules for bicycles and how do they differ from the laws in the country of your target audience? What about bicycling etiquette amongst the French?
And once I get my bike, where should I go? Are there certain areas of town better for biking than others? Is there a circuit you recommend, where I can see some worthwhile off-the-beaten-path sites, restaurants, bars? Is there a bicycling guide or map to Paris you could recommend? Is there a nice park tourists don’t know about where I can impress a date with a picnic and some wine? Is it legal to pedal after wine and cheese… and if not, can I put my bike on the public bus?
These are the sorts of practical questions that a how-to article needs to answer.
The very best how-to articles tell how to do something the average Joe couldn’t pull off without inside information.
Here’s an example: I once got a new rental car in Europe for a month and didn’t pay a cent for it, besides gas and insurance. I even had the choice of a convertible, though I chose the mini-van as I needed to move some furniture out of my apartment in Aix-en-Provence.
I drove that car all over France, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and back again. Then I wrote a few articles from that trip, like where to eat in Cinque Terre, the best hostel in Croatia, and so on. The how-to article about the car was the money-maker, as I was able to get that article published more than once. Save people money, or tell them how to do something seemingly impossible, and you’ve got an article you can sell and resell.
Writing this kind of article is a great way to launch your travel writing career from your couch, as you can write how-to articles about any number of things in your own local area. Get a few published, and build from there. You might not have resorts paying to fly you to Bali for a week on the beach just yet, but give it time. If you’re persistent, it can happen. You just need to get a few articles under your belt.
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]