Whether you're a speaker, realtor, freelancer, or Chief Hooligan of your small business, you know that blogging is one of those activities that you need to add to your to-do list. Yes, really! (If you're still on the fence, have a look at these stats — scroll down to “Blogging Stats”).
Are you still kicking and screaming because you have no time to blog? It's okay — there is hope. There are things you can do to speed up the process and make it a little easier to knock out those posts on a regular basis. So, take a deep breath, put your pen to paper — or fingers to keyboard — and follow the steps below so you can make time for blogging.
How to Come Up With Ideas Quickly
For both new and seasoned bloggers, coming up with new topics can be a challenge. Oftentimes, it can be the longest part of the process when your brain cramps and all your ideas seem to have dried up.
If you're new to blogging, you might not be sure where to start, and if you've been blogging for a while, you might be bored with topics you've already written about. So, is it surprising when you end up down a rabbit hole called “What do I write about?!”
How can you quickly come up with a topic you think would be helpful to your readers? Fortunately, there are a few ways you can regularly find new topics (and subtopics) to come up with, no matter how long you've been blogging.
1. Ask Your Peeps
Let your clients and potential clients give you the topics. If you’re trying to create content that your audience loves, it's that same audience that can give you ideas for new content. When prospects and clients ask you questions, jot them down.
Keep your thoughtful answers in a place that you can refer back to because, one day, you can likely turn those conversations into blog posts.
Of course, you don't have to name names, but you can share experiences and your answers to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge.[Tweet “When trying to create content that your audience loves, that same audience that can give you ideas. “]
So, fire up Evernote and create a notebook called “Blogging Ideas” to store any ideas that come to you. Oh, and if you are so inclined, throw in a quick outline. That way, when it's time to begin writing, you won't have to start from scratch.
BTW, you really can ask your peeps. Jump on to Twitter or seek the counsel of your LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities. Ask them what's on their minds. What do they want to know more about? What questions have been coming up for them? You might be surprised by the number of responses that you'll get.
You could also create a Google form with a handful of short questions that they can complete. Share the link in your groups where appropriate and you might find that you have the makings for an entire post … or at least the beginnings of one.
2. Set Up Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a free service that will send you e-mail notifications whenever it finds new results for a topic or keyword you're interested in.
Google Alerts can help you:
- Get a constant stream of ideas. For example, you could get alerted each time specific news stories or topics hit the Internet.
- Look out for breaking industry news. Use Google Alerts to monitor your industry for breaking news you can immediately share with your audience. If you're able to publish breaking news quickly, you might end up getting more traffic to your blog and be seen as a credible source for important, relevant, and timely information.
3. Look Through Your Pocket (or Evernote)
So, earlier I mentioned that you can throw reader or client questions in Evernote for safekeeping until you're ready for them. Well, as you come across articles and news you're interested in, particularly as they relate to your chosen field, it's also a good idea to put them in Instapaper, Pocket, or Evernote.
I used to keep specific types of articles in Pocket for a weekly post I wrote in the past. I would throw any article that contained related content about productivity and time management into Pocket and then tag them with a specific keyword so that I could call them up quickly and easily.
Then, each week I would sort through the various articles in Pocket, select one, and craft a post around it. Once I used an article, I deleted it from Pocket (short-term storage). But, if I wanted to keep it, I would throw it into Evernote (long-term repository).
This is just one way you can use Pocket and Evernote, but certainly think through a process that would work for you. Just be sure that you have a specific spot to keep all the relevant articles you want to refer back to.
4. Read … Then Read Some More
Reading high quality articles and blog posts that other people write can often be inspiring and help you see a variety of perspectives.
Use other people's content to help you come up with ideas of your own, or even counter arguments to pieces you read. An app like Zite can help and so can searching specific hashtags on Twitter.
How to Save Time When Blogging
So, maybe you do know what you want to write about. Maybe you have your topic picked out but you're having a hard time stringing coherent thoughts together. Does that mean you shouldn't write? Of course not.
… because there are some strategies you can use to get things going. Some are obvious, like writing when you're feeling alert. For me, a cup of coffee is essential when I'm writing in the early morning hours. You might need to exercise first or complete a pre-writing routine to get started.
Once you're ready to begin, you might want to …
1. Use a Template
One of the best ways to reduce the time you need to write your posts is to use a template. Anyone who's ever used a canned response knows it's a time saver, especially when you're responding to the same questions frequently.
Well, templates work in a similar way. They're not pre-written like canned responses are, but they can help you gather your thoughts and act as guide for you to follow. Templates can help you prepare the main portions of your post, like figuring out your keywords, the main concepts you want to convey, and the supporting data or statistics you plan to share.
And, the best part is that you can fill out one section and then come back to it at a later point. The structure of the template will help you to pick up where you leave off.
2. Write First, Then …
… fill in the rest. You know, things like adding in images and supporting data. Instead, use placeholders (e.g., “Insert graphic XYZ here”) to remind you where to put quotes, stats, images, charts, etc. so that you can continue with writing.
If you start focusing on the other stuff, you'll get off track and probably waste the few precious minutes you have.
And, do resist the urge to edit!
Editing before you've finished writing is another sort of never ending rabbit hole. I implore you — resist it at all costs! The time for editing is not while you're in the process of writing. Revising your post is best reserved for when your post is finished. Otherwise, editing becomes a distraction that makes writing more complicated and time-consuming.
So, write first and polish later.
3. Use a Timer
Only have five minutes? 15 minutes? No problem! Set a timer for a specific time frame and start writing. Write something. Anything. Just write. Get it out of your head and come back and write some more. You could end up writing for much longer or you could just use the time you have to get some thoughts down or to create an outline.
If you have more time, consider using a Pomodoro app, like Focus Booster, so you can spend more quality time with your post. Just get in the habit of writing every day. Commit to a certain number of minutes, number of words, or even number of paragraphs. Just write.
And, use a timer to keep you on track.
Okay, if you really haven't been able to carve out a regular schedule for publishing your posts, it might be time to consider delegating that task to your virtual assistant or someone on Fiverr (or even us here at SocialKNX!) so that you can develop a regular blogging routine.
You could outsource blogging just to get started or to supplement what you're already doing. Keep in mind that you can also incorporate guest blog posts or find regular contributors to join your blog.
Connect With Deb on Twitter: @DAllisonLee