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Writing Mini-Profiles for Maximum Profit
by Lisa Beamer

Return to Targeting Topical Markets · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

There is a universal sense of intrigue that accompanies a glimpse into another's life. Who they are, how they live and why they do what they do fascinates us. Today's markets cater to this fascination through the use of profiles. Whether they are about the rich and famous or hometown folk who make good, profiles convey that which another has done in a way that allows the reader to live and learn vicariously through them.

While longer, indepth profiles are often published as feature articles, shorter "mini-profiles" -- averaging 200 to 800 words -- succinctly convey one dimension of the subject's story and are widely used in regular columns or departments of many magazines such as Good Housekeeping, Outside, and Pockets. Trade magazines, such as Progressive Engineer, also publish short profiles, as do local and regional markets, such as Minnesota Monthly, primarily spotlighting the hometown personality or business.

In her book The 30-Minute Writer, Connie Emerson states that mini-profiles are "the perfect 30-minute writer project." Since they can be completed in a series of short time blocks, mini-profiles are ideal for supplementing the writer's income without sacrificing time from bigger projects. In fact, mini-profiles can often be initiated from the "leftover" information of previously written articles.

Keys to Successful Mini-Profiles

The first key to writing mini-profiles is to find a worthy subject. While celebrities and business magnates are prime candidates for longer profiles, mini-profiles often focus on someone who isn't a household name. Local heroes intrigue readers. The elderly woman who knits blankets for Russian orphanages as well as the man who started the successful mobile oil-change business after being laid off from his full-time job are both appealing for mini-profiles. Pay attention to the world around you and mini-profile subjects will abound.

A second key is to make a good match between the profile subject and the market you are targeting. Even though mini-profiles are short projects, don't skimp on market research. Read writer's guidelines and examine at least one recent copy of the publication to verify the type of profiles it publishes.

A third key is to make the most of the interview. While longer profiles require information from several sources, the mini-profile can fly solely on an interview with the profile subject. To make the most of your interview time, keep the following in mind:

  • Do your research. Most "unknowns" will not have much past media exposure, so look for printed brochures or advertising for your subject's business; attain a media packet if available. Look for general information about the organization with which your subject works, or for facts about the hobby or passion for which your subject is famous.

  • Formulate a list of 20-30 questions before the interview. If you are budgeting a half-hour for the interview, you may not get to all 30 questions, but as you speak with your subject, you'll be able to pick and choose which to ask without wasting time floundering for your next question.

  • Interview your subject on his turf, if possible. Not only will he be more comfortable, but you will get a stronger sense of what makes him tick from what you are able to see and hear in his surroundings.

  • Gain permission to audio-record the interview. This will free you from note-taking and allow you to focus fully on your subject, which can put both of you more at ease. Be careful, however, to keep the interview on track. Use your pre-written questions to regain control if the topic begins to wander.

When well planned, mini-profiles can be a relatively easy source of additional income for the freelancer. It's a simple fact that people like "dish." The well-done mini-profile serves it up.

Find Out More...

Crafting the Perfect Profile, by John Rains

Interviewing American Artists for International Publications - Lawrence Schimel

Procedures, Perks and Pitfalls of Writing Profiles, by Shirley Byers Lalonde

Six Tips for Writing Celebrity Profiles, by Kayleen Reusser

Copyright © 2001 Lisa Beamer
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Lisa Beamer is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh, PA. She writes extensively on family, parenting, and spiritual issues. Her work has appeared in FamilyFun, Christian Home & School Magazine and Parenting Today's Teen. She was also the editor of Christian Families Online and author of a column on age-gap parenting, "Different Worlds."


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