|We’re making progress, my friend. 1,000 lines in. 1/10th to goal.|
I can’t say it’s been easy, but if these are the worst 10 posts I create, I think I’m in decent shape.
I’ll get specific below, but here are some lessons learned from the first 10 days of The Headline Project:
- The best lines come from your brain—not a formula
- I hate every line as I’m writing it. I think they’re all garbage. It’s not until I look back that I like them.
- I don’t need to write 100 lines in ONE sitting. That was dumb of me. You’d think I would have realized this earlier, but if I were smarter, I may not have started this challenge.
- I’ve unintentionally repeated similar topics. I had no idea I did this until I was done. (See above comment about being dumb)
- I need to learn some basic blogging fundamentals, like tagging, SEO & engagement. Apologies for any issues this may cause with searching. I promise I’ll get better.
I also need to learn how to condense this recap.
Commence skimming now. TL;DR version at the bottom.
Day 1: Brit McGinnis’s Weekly Spooky Newsletter
This one didn’t come out as planned, but I like the results. It wound up being more of a brainstorm for the blog rather than headlines about it. It’s because I relied too heavily on the formulas.
That being said, there are a few posts I’d love to read if anyone wants to write ‘em.
Favorites among the bunch are:
- Never underestimate a teenage girl with an axe
- How to increase your audience size by never showing the monster
- Why you should be terrified of mermaids
Day 2: WonderDads
I’m glad I can look back at this 8 days later with fresh eyes. I remember being disappointed with it. Now I see there are some decent lines here. Still not as strong as I wanted it to be. I may revisit this one later.
Favorites among the bunch:
- How to be a hero from the minute your daughter wakes up each morning
- How being a superhero makes you a better father
- How to turn your boy into a man of action
- You’ve already got everything you need to become a hero: a kid.
- Batman had Robin. You’ve got someone even better.
Hmm, I’m just seeing that 4 of my 8 favorites so far start with “How.” Interesting…
Day 3: Edward Scissorhands Topiary Service
This one was fun. I got to let loose and essentially create my own playground. Fewer formulas, more imagination. Not writing 100 all at once definitely improved the work, and I was able to edit the first half as I went. I didn’t delete anything, but I did rearrange words. (Even looking at it now, I’d like to tweak more.)
- Garden art for art connoisseurs
- Imagine your trees on the cover of Good Homes
- When Edward cuts, people watch
Day 4: Sunshine Cleaning
2 movies in a row. And 3 of 4 have been had cinematic tie-ins. I know. This was NOT intentional. Also, this one was NOT fun. Lots of learnings though.
I thought I could get silly because, even though the movie deals with biological clean-up, it’s funny. I brainstormed a bunch of lines I thought could work. Then, at line 19, I opened up some sites. Wow, did I miss the mark.
This is a serious, solemn business. Nearly everything I had written was inappropriate. I kept them because, well, that’s the project—but the next 81 were more properly targeted. It was a struggle. Clocking in at 1:36, this one took longer than the previous rounds. And it sucked my soul dry.
Favorite lines, even if some are inappropriate:
- The biohazard cleaning service used by local hospitals and emergency services
- We understand exactly what needs to be done without you having to ask
- For all the smells you cannot speak of
Honorable mention: Because the last thing you want to find 3 weeks later, is a toe.
Day 5: Dumore Improv
Yes! Writing about something I care about is so much easier! I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and there are some really solid lines. Allison, the founder of Dumore Improv, agreed. That was motivating.
Also, it’s the first post anyone commented on. I need to learn how to improve engagement. So not only will I learn about headlines, I’ll also learn about blogging.
…Because I have so much free time.
Favorite lines about improv:
- You don’t have a bad story. You’re just telling it wrong.
- Faking your way to funny
- How to be spontaneous without combusting
- Just because you talk a lot, doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
- After you learn to think on your feet, it doesn’t matter where you’re standing
I love that last one. Might be one of the best lines I’ve ever written.
Lesson learned: Don’t focus too much on being creative. Focus on writing concise messages.
Day 6: Plotly Graphing Software
This was completely outside of my element. It was very techy and super geeky. Unfortunately, the site has been updated since I posted so you can’t reference the old material. BUT, seeing the site now and finding some similar lines feels a little vindicating.
I made it a little more comprehensible to the everyman, which probably isn’t their target market. But it was for me.
Favorite Lines from Plotly:
- Show the story behind your data
- When your charts look good, you look good
- Create better charts in under 3 minutes
- You’re not still graphing in Excel, are you?
Honorable mention: So easy to use, even our pretend girlfriend figured it out (You wouldn’t know her. She lives in Canada)
If I were ever to be approached by a tech company, I think it would be best for everyone if I declined the gig.
Day 7: Family & Baby Photography
I almost took one of these jobs a while ago. This list made me glad it fell through. I am not the right person for feminine writing. I tried to play up the “looking back at these photos in the future” angle, but I don’t know that I nailed it. They’re not bad, just a little generic. (Please tell me if I’m being harsh on myself. It’s tough to tell!)
I also struggled with writing the word “beautiful” so often—but that’s what was in the reviews, so that’s what I stuck with.
- Show your baby to the world
- Capture that giggle
- One day, you’ll show your grandchildren what their mother looked like at their age
- My photos are known to make people cry. And I’m very proud of that.
Day 8: Local Lawn Care Services
I swear, I don’t have a thing for shrubs. I didn’t even notice the similarities to the Scissorhands piece. There wasn’t too much overlap though. Turns out, it was fertile ground (ha!) for headlines. I used 4 or 5 sites for reference and pulled a lot from testimonials. That was huge.
It helped that I feel these pain points every weekend while mowing.
Favorite lines about lawncare:
- You’ll never got an HOA letter again
- You work hard all day. The last thing you want to do is mow.
- The only thing we hate more than weeds are meetings that could have been handled over email
- Get your weekend back
- Spend time with your family. Not mulch.
SO much easier to write what you can relate to.
Day 9: Florida Sailing Club
This was fun, but I don’t know that I hit the mark. It’s so far removed from my world. Kind of easy to write. Kind of not. I’m not tuned into their target market at all.
- Teach your kids to sail and you’ll have a first mate for life
- Everyone loves a friend with a boat
- You’re the captain, we’re your crew
- Weekends are better on a boat
Mostly I’m just proud of avoiding the word “seaman”
Day 10: Custom Mouthguards
Yes, this is weird, but I know this audience. One of my first gigs was writing cold sales emails for exactly this. My work performed really well, but the owner didn’t like that I focused on benefits over features (whaaaaa?), so these lines have been bottled up for a few years. Felt good to get them out.
- Your teeth look better when they’re in your mouth
- No game face is complete without it
- It hurts to lose a tooth. Luckily, you’ll never know.
I’m pretty happy with it. Felt good to go out on a high note.
TL; DR RECAP.
Wow. This recap turned out to be a lot longer than I expected. The short version is; I still need to hone down my process of finding the right things to write about. I also need to find a better way to keep y’all updated with progress.
It’s WAY easier to write about things I’ve got a history with, or at least an interest.
Surprise learning: I think this will help me niche down to the right types of clients.
I’ve whittled down my formula list from 398(!) lines to about 40 or so. A few variations of those seems produce the best results.
Oh, if you’re wondering about my process…
I open an Excel sheet and type as many lines as I can off the top of my head. Usually anywhere from 10-25 lines. Then I start sifting through the website and reviews for themes or buried treasure I can reword. From there, it’s plug, play & edit with the templates. Literally just a few hundred cells with “______ for _________” layouts.
Once I’ve got my 100 lines, I randomly sort the list and edit. A few new ideas pop up as I go. Those tend to be the best of the bunch.
I’ll elaborate another time—but this post is long enough for now.
I’d love to hear your feedback!
PLEASE? It’s lonely over here. Tell me what you like and what you don’t. I love seeing you visit the site and it would be fantastic to learn a little about the person behind the email addresses.
Thank you for being part of this!