Between completing a creative writing degree, writing a few books, working as an English and writing tutor for K-12 students, and years of blogging and freelance writing, I know all about writer’s block.
I’m well acquainted with that awful feeling of watching the cursor flash on an empty page, my hands poised motionless on the keyboard, and a head either so full of ideas that I can’t figure out what to write first or a mind as empty as the page in front of me.
We’ve all been there, and anyone who writes regularly for fun or for business will get veeeery cozy with writer’s block from time to time.
So how do you finally get some words onto the page when you’re totally drawing a blank?
Here’s what’s worked for me and what I’ve told clients, students, and friends when they’ve asked me about writer’s block:
How to Break Through Writer’s Block
#1: Write SOMETHING
I rarely experience writer’s block these days, and I think that’s because I’ve gotten really good at writing crap.
In fact, I call my first draft of anything—a blog post, sales page, novel, whatever—the crap draft or dump draft, because I’m just dumping out ideas that I can later arrange into something readable. And it’s almost always crappy.
If you’re blocked, start by getting something down on the page. Brainstorm ideas until you hit on something good. Freewrite about your topic, even if it doesn’t make sense. The key here is to stop worrying about writing well and just focus on writing something, because you just need to create something you can edit later.
You can edit a crappy draft. You can’t edit a blank page.
#2: Brainstorm ideas
Start by either writing down all the ideas you want to cover in the piece you’re writing. Either brainstorm your ideas in a list or freewrite them in paragraph format. Get it all out. Even if you’re just writing nonsense for the first few minutes. Eventually, something will click.
This can be a great preventative measure because if you know what you want to write before you start, the actual writing part will be a lot easier.
Some of those ideas you just brainstormed will make more sense if they come before other ideas. In what order should you present those ideas? Do they build on each other? Do they have a natural flow or sequence?
Now you should have a fairly detailed outline of your writing project. This outline serves as a map, which tells you what to write in case you get stuck. If you discover gaps in your outline, or places where you want to add something else, go for it!
Update your outline if necessary so you don’t get lost again. Sometimes it really helps so see the flow of your ideas in that format as you write the actual piece.
If you’re really stuck and these other ideas just aren’t happening, get up and move your body. Take a break. Vacuum the living room, play with your pet, or fold a load of laundry. Anything to get away from your computer for a few minutes.
My favorite way to dislodge ideas and relax enough to write is to go for a walk. Walking is a great way to smooth out your energy and let your body get into a comfortable rhythm while your mind wanders. After a ten minute walk, your mind will be in a much better place for writing. It’s also a good way to work through problems and snags in your project.
#5: Feed your brain
Sometimes when I just can’t seem to write anything worth reading, it’s because my tank is completely empty.
I write a LOT, and I have to feed my brain a steady diet of ideas in the form of articles, books, music, and conversation. If I don’t do this, I have a hard time coming up with new ideas. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls this “filling the well”. I’ve also heard it compared to tending a garden or filling a cup.
If you feel like you have nothing to say, stretch your brain a little bit. Ideas will start flowing soon!
#6: Talk to someone about your idea
If you can’t seem to wrangle your thoughts onto the page, try talking through your ideas with someone else or even out loud into a recording app. This works really well if you’re more of a talker than a writer, and it can renew your enthusiasm for a topic when you’re getting sick of it.
Bonus: If you record yourself talking, you can listen later for important ideas to write down.
Writing is a Muscle
The more you write, the better you’ll get at writing. It’s that simple.
You’ll get used to sitting down to write and turning your creativity on like a faucet. You’ll get into the habit of expressing your thoughts in words and feeling comfortable with writing crappy first drafts.
But in the meantime, I hope these tips help you get past the block and into a good writing flow!
To make your posts even MORE effective, make sure to grab my free blog post checklist to make sure your posts have all the ingredients that have been proven to increase signups, sales, clicks, and sales!
You’re a new business owner and you’re ready to start building your audience or impressing potential clients with content. But you have no idea how to create a content plan. I mean, what do you even write about?
I know blogging and content marketing can feel super complicated and overwhelming, but it’s an indispensable part of your marketing plan.
-Blogging shows potential customers and clients that you know your stuff.
-Blogging builds your site’s SEO rating, which means Google and other search engines will send more traffic your way!
-Your blog gives readers a reason to visit your site again and again, which builds trust with your audience. When your audience trusts you, they’re more likely to become buyers.
Okay, so how do you get started and create a content plan that actually gets results? I mean, you don’t want to go into this without a plan. Then you’re just spinning your wheels while getting no momentum.
So here’s how to create an effective content plan for your new business.
Quick note before we get started: Blogging is a long-term marketing tactic, which means you probably won’t see results right away. It should be part of your overall marketing strategy, but it may take a little time before the sales start rolling in. It’s like getting in shape or growing a tomato plant. It takes time and consistent effort, but you WILL get results!
How to Create a Content Plan for Your New Business
Step 1: Define your content goals
What specific goals do you want to accomplish with your content?
You might think “Duh, I want to build my business and get sales,” but I want you to get a little more specific here. Think about your reader’s journey to becoming a buyer (AKA your sales funnel). Remember, you’re playing the long game. So what would help build your business?
Here are a few ideas:
Point readers to your services page
Direct them to a specific product
Get more list signups
Get more traffic, comments, and shares
Remember, you can have different goals for different posts.
So what kinds of posts can you write to accomplish those goals?
Step 2: Work backward.
What kinds of posts would accomplish your goals? Here are some ideas:
If you want to make sales and get clients, you can write posts to…
Overcome objections they may have to buying
Educate your audience about how your services can help them get the results they’re looking for
Give them a “quick win” by helping them solve a problem they’re experiencing in the form of a tutorial or list of tips. This builds trust with your reader and positions you as an expert!
If you want to sell info products, your posts can…
Overcome objections they may have to buying
Educate your audience about how your products can help them get the results they’re looking for
Teach them a small aspect of a topic that you cover in greater depth in your paid product. That way, the logical next step is to use your product.
If you want to build your list and following, your posts can…
Build trust by offering useful info and tips they can implement right away (we all love quick wins!). You can do this with tutorials, how-to posts, lists of tips, and resource recommendations.
Help your audience get to know you by using stories to demonstrate how you learned the information you’re offering them. (Make sure to weave lots of personality into ALL your posts!)
Teaching them something that you continue or cover more in-depth in an optin offer, so that the next logical step is to download your offer.
These are just a few examples of how your content can accomplish your goals!
Step 3: Brainstorm some topics that accomplish your goals
Now that you know what you want your blog posts to accomplish and a few types of posts you can write to do that, it’s time to brainstorm a few topics.
This is the fun part!
If you’re totally drawing a blank, here are a few questions to get you started:
-What objections might your potential customers have to buying, subscribing, or working with you? (HINT: Think things like price, uncertainty that they’ll get the results they want, not knowing enough about the product/service, etc.)
-What kinds of problems are your readers trying to solve that you can help them with?
-What sorts of issues are your readers Googling?
-What have your readers probably tried before that hasn’t worked?
-What stands between your readers and their goals?
Just answering these questions should give you a TON of potential topics!
Here are a few examples:
If you’re a web designer, you can write an article about certain web features that can increase sales and list signups and maybe share a simple plugin to get started. This builds trust with a quick win and shows potential clients/customers that you know what you’re talking about.
If you’re trying to sell more ecourses, write a case study about a client who got great results by implementing what they learned in your course.
If price is a common objection, write about how hiring a graphic designer like you can save X number of hours each week and increase sales and list signups. All three of those things can make your client more money so they can easily recoup their investment.
There is NO limit
I once saw an artist write a post about an easy way to hang paintings with pushpins. I thought this was genius because that’s a simple way to overcome a potential objection to buying art. You can get really creative with this stuff!
Step 4: Schedule your posts
Now that you have a list of posts you want to write, put them on the calendar!
Pro-tip: Make sure you also schedule time to write the posts. If you like to batch write your posts, schedule a day or a few hours to write, edit, and upload your posts. If you like to chip away at projects and work a little each day, decide when you’ll write each day and for how long.
Bam, now you have a content plan! The more ideas you come up with, the more you can put on your calendar.
Whenever you run out of ideas, just come back to this post for another round of brainstorms!
To make your posts even MORE effective, make sure to grab my free blog post checklist to make sure your posts have all the ingredients that have been proven to increase signups, sales, clicks, and sales!
One of the most common blogging questions I hear from business owners is “How do I get content ideas? I don’t know what to write about!”
This is one of my favorite topics!
I’ve written about this before, but I wanted to share a few more quick tips for generating ideas for blog content.
The best part is, these are tips for creating content your audience WANTS so you aren’t blogging just to blog (because that’s a big fat waste of time).
So here ya go: 4 deceptively simple strategies for creating a TON of content.
4 Easy Strategies for Generating Content Ideas
What does your audience respond to?
Check your analytics regularly to see which posts get the most traffic, shares, and comments and write more on those topics, because they’re clearly getting some traction!
Pay attention to what your social media followers respond to as well.
If you don’t really have an audience yet, that’s okay. Think about the kind of person you want to reach and ask yourself what questions they might have about whatever you help people with. Then write about those topics!
Try monthly themes
A lot of my clients like this strategy. This is a great way to get unstuck if you have no idea what to write, but be flexible. If you’re inspired to write a post that has nothing to do with your theme that month, go for it! The theme is just to get you started.
For example, one of my clients is an online business manager, and one summer I wrote her a series of posts about how and why to take vacations as an entrepreneur to publish on her blog. Hiring a business manager is a big part of that “how”, so it worked well for her strategy!
Personally, I rarely use themes because I get a lot of random ideas I’m excited about that don’t always fit a theme. I also like to plan my strategy around specific goals.
If themes fit into your content strategy and help you get ideas, go for it!
Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and simply come up with 12 topics, one for each month for the next year. Get inspired by the seasons, holidays, and topics that tend to be relevant in certain months.
Then you can break down those topics for blog posts. Ta-da! You just planned a year’s worth of content in less time than an episode of Friends.
Do SEO research
Find out which topics and keywords people are typing into Google, and write about those topics. Simply go to Google and type your general topic in the search bar.
The autofill feature will bring up some terms people have actually searched! You can also click one of those and then scroll down to the related searches section for more ideas.
Answer reader questions
If your readers or social media followers ask you questions, answer them in a blog post!
You can also ask your audience if they have questions for you in your emails, on social media, in your blog posts, or even in person!
What does your audience want to know about your topic? What questions do they have about working with you or buying a product? If you don’t have an audience yet, what questions might your ideal reader have?
Ah, the question that has mystified bloggers and business owners for years. The truth is, the “how often should you blog” question has a few different answers.
You’ve probably heard that you should be blogging once or twice a month, every week, or even every day (which I think is totally bananas, btw).
There’s tons of advice out there about how often you should blog, and the problem is that this doesn’t work for everybody.
Not all businesses need to blog frequently.
So if you’ve been beating yourself up for not publishing blog posts every day, week, month, whatever, you can let yourself off the hook now.
But okay, that still doesn’t answer your question, right? You’re here because you want to know how often YOU should blog. And I’m gonna tell you.
How Often Should You Blog? (The Truth About Blogging for Business)
My answer to the blogging frequency question: It depends.
Ultimately, your blogging habits need to be consistent with your goals.
You probably don’t need to blog every day or even every week to get the results you want, which is kind of a relief, right?
For the first few years I was in business as a full-time writer and virtual assistant, I didn’t blog consistently because it WASN’T consistent with my goals.
My blog functioned as an online portfolio where potential clients could take a look at my work and get a feel for my voice. It also boosted my SEO score so potential clients could find me through organic searches.
I didn’t need to be consistent.
Blogging all the time would have been a waste of time when I just wanted to fill up my client list.
Now that my business goals are changing, my blogging goals are also changing. I’m publishing more often because I’m interested in building an audience, not just getting clients.
So you need to ask yourself: what is your goal for your blog? Are you trying to book a few clients or build an audience?
Let’s look at blogging strategies for each.
Goal #1: To get clients
This is for you if: you sell 1:1 services, VERY limited group services, or high-end custom products. You have CLIENTS rather than CUSTOMERS.
If you just want to book some clients, you don’t need to blog often or consistently, so you can take that pressure off right now.
Your blog serves as a portfolio, demonstrates to potential clients that you know what you’re doing, and maybe brings in some search traffic. That’s it.
Your strategy: Publish a few high-quality articles that show off your knowledge and remove the dates. Add new ones when you feel inspired or on an easy-to-follow schedule, like one article per month or every other month.
Goal #2: To build an audience
This is for you if: you sell products that require little work to deliver such as ebooks, ecourses, art prints, or books. This is also great if you offer large group experiences such as membership sites. It can also work for handmade products.
If you want to build an audience to sell your products, you should blog like clockwork. Once a week or every other week is ideal.
You want to give readers a reason to visit your site often, and new, consistent content is the best way to do that.
This will also boost your SEO score and make you highly searchable, which brings in new readers. If you publish high quality content often, search engines will see your site as highly valuable and send more traffic your way!
Your strategy: If this is you, I recommend publishing every week or even every other week (if you can) for the first year or until you have an audience and a good SEO score.
Reminder: It’s okay for your goals to change.
You don’t have to pick one strategy and stick with it forever.
You’re freaking busy as it is, especially if you’re doing client work on top of all your own business stuff (trust me, I get this!), so blogging can feel like a chore.
Do what works for you right now. You can change your strategy along with your goals.
Running a business with seasonal affective disorder is a challenge, and it’s something I’ve had to learn how to do over the last 5 years I’ve been in business.
I’ve had seasonal affective disorder for most of my life.
When I was 5 years old, my family moved from Southern California to Northern Utah where winters are long and snowy, but I’m not a fan of the snow.
(I know, the Greatest Snow on Earth and all I do is shovel it off my car.)
From that age on, I remember crying in the winter for no reason. My grades tanked in the third term (and for me, that meant that I didn’t make the honor roll. I was an overachiever!). I ate more, I gained weight, and I associated winter with darkness and sadness.
I’m now 31 years old and I’m only now starting to get a grip on winter after decades of feeling depressed, sluggish, and unhealthy for half the year.
I know I’m not the only one who has to balance business with seasonal affective disorder, but I’m going to show you what’s worked for me so your business doesn’t have to screech to a halt each winter!
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
First of all, what is SAD anyway?
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is depression and lethargy that occurs seasonally, usually in the winter. There’s a reverse form when depression occurs in the summer, but most people with SAD feel it in the winter.
And if you have SAD or even winter blues (a less severe form of gloomy moods and lower energy that occurs in the winter), you probably know it.
For me, I start feeling a dip in my mood and energy in late October that lasts until April. I’m so sensitive to weather and light changes that I even feel depressed after a few gloomy days in the summer!
SAD can be debilitating. And when you’re freelancing or running another kind of business, SAD can make it even harder to stay disciplined and manage your schedule.
I’ve been a freelance writer for five years now, and I’ve learned a few tricks for keeping my mood up in the winter and staying productive (enough) to keep my business going, even when I’m moving at a snail’s pace.
If you’re a business owner dealing with SAD, I want to share my tips for running a business with seasonal affective disorder and staying productive and level-headed, even in the gloomiest parts of winter.
Disclaimer: This is just what has worked for me and other people I’ve talked to. It’s definitely not meant to be taken as medical advice. I’m no doctor. Talk to your doctor about some of these options if you think they might help you.
Also, this post does contain affiliate links. This means that if you click the link and buy something, I get a small payment at no extra cost to you. (Don’t worry, I only recommend products I use and that I’d recommend to my friends. Because that’s what you are!)
My top tips for running your Business with Seasonal Affective Disorder
Tip #1: Cover your mental health bases
I want to start with this one because it’s SO important. If you need medication to function, take it. Otherwise, these tips won’t do much good.
For a while in my early twenties, I took medication to cope with winter. I think of medication as a step stool to get you to the level where you can start doing other things to help your mental health. They’re a tool.
There’s a lot of stigma around mental health meds, but you’d take medicine for other ailments, right? If your heart or liver were malfunctioning, you’d get treatment. Why are brains different?
Therapy is also amazing for rewiring your brain. I’m a homebody, so I’ve been using BetterHelp to get therapy online. It’s super easy. You fill out a questionnaire, they match you with a therapist, and you can meet through video chats and send as many messages to your therapist as you want. I love it and it’s been a GAME CHANGER for me.
Tip #2: Get Some Exercise
I know, I know. When you can’t drag yourself out of bed and all you want is to sleep until Easter, exercise is the LAST thing you feel like doing.
But it makes a world of difference. Honestly, I couldn’t maintain my business with seasonal affective disorder without this.
It doesn’t even have to be intense or super work-outy. It just has to be SOMETHING. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes of walking. (Another tip: Get outside if you can.)
In the winter, I like to go for walks and do yoga, with a few more intense workouts like PiYo thrown in if I can handle it.
I currently subscribe to Glo for yoga and I LOVE it. You can also find tons of free yoga routines on Youtube.
Tip #3: Light and vitamin D
This one is HUGE. The shorter days and dimmer light in winter is one of the main contributing factors to SAD. We need sunlight to create vitamin D, which contributes to our mood. When there’s less light, we get less vitamin D. Womp womp.
Vitamin D supplementation is a good idea, but it’s also important to get some actual light.
When the sun comes out in the winter, I’ll drop everything to go outside for a few minutes, even if I just bring the garbage cans in or get the mail. If I feel up to it, I’ll walk around the block.
I also use a light box on REALLY gloomy days, and I’ve noticed it helps.
Two or three years ago, I decided to see what would happen if I made peace with the fact that winter is a lower-energy time for me, and something amazing happened.
When I stopped fighting it, beating myself up, or feeling guilty about my lower energy levels, almost all of the depression and anxiety evaporated.
No more midday gloomies or that horrible feeling of dread on dark winter evenings. No more unexplained crying spells. Way less morning anxiety. Fewer sugar cravings. (I know, I couldn’t believe it either.)
After all, nature takes a break in the winter. Plants don’t grow. Some animals hibernate. So why not us?
We humans often forget that we’re animals too. We’re part of nature, and nature is designed to operate in cycles, with time of production and times of fallow.
And the fallow times are just as long as the productive times, if not longer.
This is tricky because our culture is NOT set up to support this. In western civilization, we want to go go go all the time and never stop producing, but that’s just not how we’re designed.
It’s not that we CAN’T be productive in the winter (or rest in the summer), it’s just that we generally slow down at certain times of the year.
I know it’s hard, but I challenge you to accept that you’re just going to get less done in the winter.
You have less energy. You move slower. You think slower. No matter how hard you try to work as hard as you can in the summer, you just can’t.
I sure can’t. My body and mind simply WILL NOT.
And fighting that will just makes you feel even less productive and more depressed.
Tip #5: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
When you know you have less energy to work with, you MUST learn to prioritize.
Managing priorities is CRUCIAL for successfully running a business with seasonal affective disorder.
And you might even realize that when you actually focus and do the most important things instead of the 3,586 other things that don’t make a difference, your business may not actually slow down. In fact, it might GROW!
Kate Northrup’s book, Do Less is an amazing resource for learning to prioritize and plan your tasks and life around your energy cycles. I highly recommend it for business owners, moms, and humans in general.
For me, I usually set my 3 Most Important Tasks (MITs) to do every day. I just put a star by them when I write down my to-do list, and I make sure to do those tasks first thing.
So if I don’t get anything else done that day (which sometimes happens), at least I did the most important stuff and I can feel accomplished.
And you know what? A lot of that other stuff might not need to get done. Those 3 tasks will create more momentum than all the other tiny things you think you have to do.
Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? This rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, so focus on that 20% to maximize your limited energy.
Tip #6: Organization and automation
This is good advice for any time of year, but especially during the winter: the more you can streamline and automate your business, the better.
Automate as many tasks as you can. Schedule social media content, send automated emails, and automate recurring invoices.
Organize your cloud storage, email, and computer files in the fall and summer before the winter gloomies hit.
Hire a VA or other contractor to help with business tasks you don’t want to do or don’t have energy for in the winter.
Get this in place BEFORE winter hits, because you won’t be motivated to do it in the middle of December. Again, planning ahead is KEY.
Tip #7: Plan around your energy cycles
It took me forever to figure this one out, which is silly because I KNOW winter is coming.
(I don’t even watch GoT, but this speaks to me)
It’s simple, but it works. Do things when you have the energy to do them.
You can plan ahead in tons of different ways:
Plan your big launch for summer instead of winter.
If you need to work less in the winter, save more money in the summer to make this financially feasible (take a hint from the squirrels and store for winter!).
Make a bunch of freezer meals in the fall or on a sunny winter day so you have something easy and nutritious to keep you going when you feel like a slug.
Maybe this means focusing on reading and educating and writing projects in the winter. Leave marketing, speaking engagements, and networking for when you’re jazzed up with yummy summer energy.
Those are just a few examples! This takes some practice, but soon you’ll get a grip on your energy cycles and when you’re best able to do which tasks. (Do Less is great for this too!)
Tip #8: Appreciate Winter on its Own Terms
Winter can be a beautiful time. Learning to appreciate it can do wonders for your mood.
Sometimes a pink winter sky, naked trees, and snow can be just as beautiful as flowers and leafy trees.
Cozying up by the fire with a good book and mug of tea can be just as fun and fulfilling as a sunny day at the pool or an outdoor summer festival.
Try these tips to learn to appreciate winter, even if you don’t LOVE it:
I used to believe that almost all my local birds migrated in the winter, but I actually learned that’s not true at all.
In fact, some birds like raptors actually winter here in Utah! Robins, chickadees, magpies, goldfinches, jays, and finches stay here for the winter, and some birds like goldfinches and house finches even develop more vibrant plumage in the winter. (Your eyes might have glazed over just now, but watching birds did SO much to reform my idea that winter is a cold, dead time.)
Sunsets are also STUNNING in the winter. Completely different from the rest of the year. Get out one of these evenings with a cup of tea and enjoy a frosty pink and blue sunset. You’ll never look at winter the same way.
Enjoy the coziness.
I love the heat and sunshine of summer, but there’s just something wonderful about curling up in a blanket nest with a cup of tea and a fat book. Now is the time to enjoy ALL the hot tea, coffee, cocoa, chai lattes, and bone broth. Take hot baths. Catch up on your reading or Netflix. Cuddle with your significant other. Get yourself a cute sweater.
Enjoy winter sports
My favorite winter sport is binge reading, and I enjoy it very much. But if you’re into skiing or snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice skating, or anything else like that, enjoy it while winter lasts!
Growing your business with seasonal affective disorder Doesn’t Have to Suck
Winter is still the most challenging time of year for me mood and energy-wise, but thanks to these tips it’s no longer a slog.
Running a business with seasonal affective disorder is a lot easier than it used to be. I don’t dread winter like I used to and I get so much more done. (I actually launched an ebook this January!)
Here are a few more random tips to hold you over until spring:
Stay warm. I keep an electric blanket in my office and another by my couch, and I’m a big fan of dressing in layers.
Music. On those dark winter evenings when I just can’t bring myself to be productive or even read, I just lay on the floor with my headphones on and listen to music. (I really enjoy chillhop lately.)
Eat plenty of healthy fats and proteins. It’s tempting to load up on carbs, but fats and proteins are far more effective at stabilizing your blood sugar, which can really boost your mood and keep your energy steady. A good fish oil supplement helps too.
Houseplants bring a little nature and greenery inside. Sometimes I’ll buy a $5 bouquet of sunflowers for an extra pop of sunny yellow to my kitchen.
Make a list of things you actually like about winter, even if it’s just cute sweaters and blanket nests on the couch.
Your business doesn’t have to come to a standstill in the winter. With a few tricks and strategies, you might actually start to like winter! (Even just a little bit.)
I’ve written hundreds of blog posts over the past ten years for myself and clients, and by now, I’m pretty fast. Unless I have to do a lot of research, I can write an 800-word draft in 20 minutes.
Most of the time, I can write a blog post in under an hour with another quick edit right before I publish.
This comes from practice, of course, and from being a really fast typer, but I’ve also dialed in my process so that I minimize habits that slow me down.
It doesn’t have to take you forever to write a blog post! Here’s how I do it.
How I Write a Blog Post in under an hour
Step 1: The Dump Draft
This isn’t exactly a first draft, but a pre-draft. I call this a dump draft because I think of it like dumping all my material out so I can shape it later. Think of dumping clay on a table so you can start sculpting.
This step is the KEY to writing anything quickly. This immediately gets you past the blank page jitters, which can save you so much wasted time waffling about what to write!
The idea is to get all your ideas on paper, even if they’re out of order or misspelled or make no sense. No editing allowed! Just get it all out. Write anything you can think of about your topic, story, or ideas. Anything you want to mention in your post. Write it down now, even if it’s out of order. No room for perfectionism here.
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
― Shannon Hale
You might be freaking out right now because you’re probably a perfectionist and the idea of writing a messy draft is terrifying. Trust, me, I get it. It gets easier the more you do it.
Try these tips to get started if you’re just plain stuck.
Tips for writing your dump draft:
Try making a really loose outline of your article. It’s okay if the points are out of order. Edit later.
Freewrite on your topic for a few minutes.
Start in the middle or start with the steps. The hardest part of writing an article is just starting it, so skip that part! It’s a lot easier to write an intro and conclusion after you’ve written the bulk of the article, so jump right to the good stuff first.
After you’ve gotten the bulk of the post on paper, write a simple introduction and conclusion. Think of this like a school essay: the intro tells your reader what the post is about and what to expect. The conclusion just wraps things up. You can even reiterate the introduction and add a new thought to leave with your reader.
Remember, it’s okay if your dump draft sucks! It’s supposed to. You can edit later.
Step 2: Organize
So much of writing is just organization.
After I dump out all my thoughts, I start lumping them together in an order that makes sense.
To do this, read through your dump draft and move sentences or paragraphs around to group like topics with like topics. Ask yourself what your reader would need to learn first, second, and third, and put your thoughts in that order.
Chances are, your thoughts are already somewhat in order, but things might still need to get moved around. There will probably be holes in your thoughts and things might feel disconnected, but don’t worry. We’ll fix that in the next step.
Step 3: Edit and Revise
This could be two steps, but I tend to do them at the same time. Read through your text and continue organizing, but this is the part where you start filling in holes.
Do you need to explain something a bit more? Do need to cut any unnecessary or repetitive parts? Should you include more examples? Would something made more sense if you reworded it?
Flesh out and clean up any confusing or under-explained parts. When you think you’ve done a pretty good job, it’s a good idea to let someone else read it and make sure it makes sense.
Step 4: Final Proofread
When you feel like your article is almost ready, do at least one more read-through to check for misspellings, grammatical errors, punctuation or capitalization mistakes, or usage errors.
I suggest taking some time away from your post before doing your final proofread because after you’ve read something 576 times, you stop seeing errors like typos. (Trust me, I’ve learned this one the hard way.)
I usually proofread after editing, but I ALWAYS do another pass right before publishing or sending off a client piece, and I almost always catch something I missed on the first pass.
Writing a Blog Post Doesn’t Have to be Hard
If this process seems intimidating, that’s okay. Writing, like everything else, gets easier with practice.
Don’t edit while you draft.
Don’t skip the dump draft.
If the post doesn’t flow right, try moving sentences or paragraphs around.
Do a final proofread before publishing.
Lastly, have fun with it. I know that sounds super corny, but it’s true. If you let yourself enjoy the process, your words will flow more freely. Blogging is a marketing tool, but it can also be a beautiful creative outlet!
You’ve decided to start a blog to market your products and services. You’ve created your site with Squarespace, Wix, WordPress, or some other program, and now it’s time to actually publish something.
You stare at the blank page with the default “Hello world!” title, wondering what the heck to write.
You might wonder, does your first blog post even matter?
How can you start things off on the right foot?
My answer: Your first post DOES matter, but it’s nothing to stress about. Chances are, not many people will even read your first post, at least not at first. Blogging is meant to build an audience, and if you have no audience, that first post might not get much love right away.
I don’t say this to discourage you, but to liberate you! This is your time to experiment. You don’t have to get it perfect right off the bat, and you can always update that post later.
But you have to start somewhere. I’ll walk you through it.
Before you start your blog, make sure you have a few other things in place.
Before we get into your first post, I want to make sure you have your two things first:
Your about page. I’ve seen bloggers treat their first post like an about page while their actual about page is pretty sparse. The problem with that is that your first post gets buried in your site pretty quickly and your about page lives on your main menu bar (at least it should!). This is the most visited page on your site, and it serves as an introduction to your readers and tells them what you’re about and how you can help them.
A goal for your first post. If you want to show potential clients that you know what you’re doing, point to your opt-in, or start educating your audience, that’s great! If your goal is just to publish something to get over the first post jitters, that’s totally fine too. When you know the purpose of your first post, it’s so much easier to write.
We’ll talk about your about page in another post, so let’s talk about your goal for your first post and how you can accomplish that.
Here’s What Your First Blog Post Should Be About
So what is your goal? What do you want your first post to accomplish? Write that down first. It usually comes down to three things:
You want to get clients
You want to point readers to an opt-in or paid product.
You just want to get it over with so you can stop freaking out about it.
If you’re looking for clients:
If your blog is serving as a portfolio, just jump right out of the gate with a post that shows off your knowledge and why your audience should work with you.
When I first started my business, this was my goal, so one of my first blog posts was 6 Blogging Tasks You Can Outsource. It’s general enough to educate my audience but also specific enough that I can be like “Hey, I can handle all these tasks for you!”
If you want sales or signups:
Your first post can point people to a product, service, email list opt-in.
This might be your reader’s very first step in their journey with you, so talk about something that would logically lead to your opt-in or product. Ideally, your reader will read/love your post and want to learn more, so the next logical step should be to sign up for your list and get your freebie!
To get ideas, ask yourself what your reader might need to know before they can use your offering. You can also blog about the same topic that your offering covers.
For example, you’re probably here because you want to learn about blogging. One of my early posts was called 5 Types of Blog Posts That Get You Sales because I knew my ideal reader (that’s you!) is interested in blogging. So at the end of the post, I included a link to my blog post checklist to help them use what they learned in that post.
If you just want to post SOMETHING so you can stop losing sleep:
Another great approach is to write about a pillar of what you do. This could mean writing about why your topic is important and how it can help your audience (i.e. Why Your Business Needs a Blog.)
So what is the basis of what you do? Are you a virtual assistant? A social media manager? An OBM? A health coach? Do you make personalized, handmade jewelry?
Write about what you do and how it can help your audience.
“Why personalized jewelry is the perfect gift.”
“Why hiring a health coach is the next step in your fitness journey.”
“How an OBM can take your business to the next level.”
Think something basic and powerful that teaches your audience what you do and how you can help them, but also educates them. That way, they can walk away with something of value even if they’re not ready to click “buy” yet.
The nice part about having a strong foundational article like this is that you can always refer back to it and link to it in other posts!
The main thing with a first blog post is to get over the fear of the blank page. It doesn’t have to win a Pulitzer. Do your best, but don’t get so stuck in your head that you don’t publish anything. And remember, you can always edit it later!
They’re both meant to grab readers’ attention, entertain, educate, and, at some point, convert readers into fans.
Sometimes we talk so much about blogging strategy and techy stuff that we forget that the foundation of blogging is actually writing!
I’m a writer who learned to blog and write sales copy, so I want to share some of my favorite writing tips for bloggers. Some of these will work whether you’re writing fiction, non-fiction, or blog posts, and others are more specific to blogging and copywriting.
Here we go!
My Favorite Writing Tips for Bloggers
Speak directly to your reader
Take one: If we use the words “we” or “us” a lot, it’s easy for our readers to disconnect from our writing. We want our readers to feel like we’re talking to them!
Let’s try that again.
Take two: If you use the words “we” or “us” a lot, it’s easy for your readers to disconnect from your writing. You want your readers to feel like you’re talking to them!
See the difference? That second one felt like I was talking to you, right?
If it makes sense, use “you” and “your” instead of “you guys,” “you all,” “we,” “us,” or the super formal/pretentious “one,” as in, “If one uses the words ‘we’ and ‘us’….” see what I mean?
Change the order
If you’re writing something that just isn’t flowing or making sense, try moving sentences or paragraphs around. So much of writing and editing is just organization!
Even if it doesn’t make sense, try switching up the order just to see if it flows better.
Embrace the crap draft
That’s what I call the very first draft of anything, because, let’s be honest, that’s what it usually is.
I also call the very first draft the “dump draft” because you’re just dumping ideas onto the page. Worry about organization and mechanics and stuff later.
In fact, it might make your writing WORSE because you’re writing with lots of inhibitions, which can block some good stuff.
Have you ever heard the saying “Write drunk, edit sober?”
This quote is often misattributed to Ernest Hemingway, and I’m not sure where it actually came from, but there’s a little truth to that.
I’m not saying you should down a few margaritas before drafting your posts, (I’ve tried it and doesn’t actually work that well. Shocker, right?), but the point is, don’t censor yourself while you’re drafting.
Trust me, the first draft of this post was a mess. I set a timer for 15 minutes and dumped the whole thing in one go, and I think it’s a lot more interesting because of it.
When you’re editing, you’re going to have to cut some sentences, paragraphs, and even whole sections from your post.
When you’re drafting, you’ll probably go off on tangents and write some stuff that just doesn’t make sense for the final post. And that’s okay!
But that doesn’t mean that stuff is bad. It just means it didn’t fit the post.
When I’m editing, I keep another document open to paste anything I delete from my draft. (I do this for non-fiction, blogging, and fiction writing, by the way.)
Those other bits might be great kick-off points for a new post, a social media update, or to include somewhere else.
Knowing that you’re not losing anything will also sharpen your editing skills because you won’t be so attached to those bits. They’re not gone forever, they’re just getting recycled!
The passive voice is to be avoided
That heading was super lame, right? It just sounded…weak and floppy.
How about this: Avoid the passive voice.
You probably learned about passive voice in your school English classes, but here’s a quick refresher: Passive voice is boring, stiff, and formal. Active voice gets our attention.
In active voice, the thing that does the action (AKA the subject) is named or at least implied, and it comes BEFORE the verb (the action) in the sentence. In “Avoid the passive voice,” you’re the one doing the action. I could also say “You avoid the passive voice.”
In “The passive voice is to be avoided,” we don’t know who the doer is. Who is to avoid the passive voice?
Here’s another example:
The dog ate my homework.
This is active voice because we know who or what is performing the action in this sentence (the dog) and the subject (also the dog) comes BEFORE the verb (ate) in the sentence.
Let’s switch that to passive voice:
My homework was eaten by the dog.
The subject comes after the verb. Not as punchy, right?
Passive voice can come in handy if we don’t know who or what is performing the action (As in “The door was painted red”). Otherwise, it’s just flimsy writing.
Only use the passive voice if the doer is unknown or unnecessary.
You write a blog post, edit and revise it until it sparkles, and hit publish. Then you promote it all over the internet and watch the traffic roll in.
Now you’re done, right?
You could leave it alone and never look at that post again, but your blog is a living, breathing entity. Don’t let your old posts get crusty and stale, or just sit there without living up to their potential.
Why update your old blog posts?
readers like relevant content (and so do search engines)
The internet is getting older, search engines have changed, and readers are looking for current, relevant content.
There’s a lot, and I mean a LOT of content on the internet, and much of it is obsolete, poorly-written, or otherwise useless.
Readers now have to wade through a lot of old junk to get to the new, useful content they’re looking for. Search engines are changing to help them with that search, favoring newer content that has a lot of recent interaction (like social media shares).
This doesn’t mean your web content has to age badly, it just means you’ll need to change your strategy and regularly update your content.
Get more mileage from your old posts
This is a huge timesaver because it means (for most industries) you can post higher-quality content less often, which is good news if you’ve been killing yourself trying to post something every single day or even every week.
Readers and search engines want quality, not necessarily quantity. The internet has plenty of quantity.
Get ideas for new content
One of my favorite places to get ideas for new content, for my own business and for my clients, is old blog posts.
There might be an interesting point in there you can build on. Maybe you have more to say on that topic.
Or maybe that content has even more current information you can write about. This is especially true if you blog about things that change frequently like social media, technology, business strategy, etc.
It’ll show you what your audience wants so you can give it to them
When you review your old posts to see which are the most popular, that says a lot about what your audience is looking for. That way, you can create posts, products, and optins that meet their needs.
How to update old content
Clean out your blog every year
About once a year, go through your blog to do a blog audit. I like to do this in the spring as kind of a spring cleaning.
Update titles if necessary, but don’t mess with the URLs unless you do a 301 redirect. (A 301 redirect sends your readers to a new link if they click an old one that doesn’t work anymore. That way, they don’t get 404ed if they happen to land on the old URL. Here’s how to do this.)
Make sure all links work and that images are still there. Make sure you’ve done SEO on every post. Give everything a quick proofread and fact check.
Bonus tip: While you go, pick apart old posts to save the bits that are still useful and combine into new posts. Or you can use those as captions for social media posts! (Repurposing content is just as important as refreshing it!)
Update and republish old posts
Make sure your old posts are still relevant. If they aren’t, update them.
If they’re totally off base and just don’t fit with your brand anymore, or if they concern something that doesn’t exist anymore and aren’t bringing in traffic, I think it’s okay to delete them. It’s up to you whether you want to do this, but if you can do a 301 redirect to a more relevant post, deleting that old post can really help your readers out and build your credibility.
Add links to your newer content
Go through your old posts and add links to your newer content in the same vein. You can get a plugin to do this, or just add regular ol’ link to the bottom or even middle of your articles, or link in relevant places in the text.
Update your formatting
Make your posts scannable and easy to read! If your old posts are just big blocks of text, add headings, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. I’ve actually got a handy free checklist to help you do this, which you can grab here.
Add a call to action
If your old posts don’t have a call to action that tells the reader where to go next (or if the calls to action are outdated) add new ones! Add a signup form for your optin, a link to your products, or at least point them to other relevant blog posts so your readers can continue their journey with you.
Focus on your most popular posts
Every once in a while, take a peek at your analytics to see which blog posts are bringing in the most traffic. Those are the posts you really want to focus on updating.
Add to them, include links to products, optins, and other relevant posts, and really make them the most useful bits on content on your blog. Those popular articles are your front line, so keep them in shape!
I recommend checking on these guys at least twice a year to make sure they’re performing at their best.
Your blog isn’t a slow cooker. You don’t just set it and forget it. Revisit your old posts regularly to make sure everything is updated and still relevant. This will help you get found, serve your readers, AND help you get a lot more mileage from those posts you worked so hard on!
Juicy. I kinda hate that word, but that’s an interesting adjective I don’t use very often, and sometimes it’s good to branch out, ya know?
Anyway, it’s a simple tip that will help you write soooo much faster. It’s not always easy, because it requires you to fight a very natural impulse.
Let’s back up for a second:
One of the biggest complaints I hear from entrepreneurs about writing blog content is that it takes forever. They might spend hours drafting a single post. They’ve got other stuff to do and no everyone likes writing. I get it.
When I ask about their writing process and what slows them down, they usually say something like “I’m just such a perfectionist. I have to rewrite every sentence 8 times, then I’ll delete half the post and start over, and before I know it, a day’s gone and I have 3 paragraphs.”
And here’s what I tell them: Nothing will slow down your writing more than editing as you go.
This goes for any type of writing, not just blogging.
The other day, I saw an Instagram story from one of my favorite entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires who was working on a book, and she said “It takes me SO LONG to write a book because I have to rewrite each sentence a dozen times before I’m satisfied with it.”
And I was like “No, no, nooooooo.”
If you’re of the “I can write, but it takes me FOREVER” types, listen up.
DO NOT self-edit while you’re drafting. Just don’t. Pretty please.
Back when I was tutoring high school English students full-time, I told them all the same thing.
The drafting phase is your chance to get your thoughts out, judgement-free. Drafts are supposed to suck. You’re just dumping clay on a table so you can sculpt it into a beautiful piece later, but you have to start with raw material. Don’t interrupt that flow.
Trust me, drafting without judgement is powerful stuff. Just write your thoughts without editing and clean them up later. (Or send to a content writer/editor to clean up.)
How to Make This Work for YOUR Business
I have one client who hates grammar and spelling, but she actually writes well and her voice comes through strongly in her words.
She sets a timer for about ten minutes, types a bunch of stuff on a topic as fast as she can, then sends me her messy notes. I take care of the spelling, grammar, and then organize and fill in the gaps in her thoughts. Super simple.
And she used to spend hours on a single draft.
Yes, there are people out there who can do that for you. (If this sounds like a blogging match made in heaven, here’s how I can help!)
If blogging usually takes your forever, here’s a challenge.
I double dog dare you to set a timer for ten or fifteen minutes and just write. It’s okay if it sucks. Just think of a topic you want to write about, set the timer, and go. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, organization, or typos.
You are unauthorized to edit or change a thing until that timer goes off.
You might be surprised with how much you can write in a short amount of time!
You can also make an outline if organizing your thoughts takes too long.
After that, walk away, do something else, maybe even leave that writing to simmer overnight before you go back and edit. Then, try moving things around, fill in some gaps in your thoughts, cut out the unnecessary stuff, and fix the spelling and grammar.
This process will save you a ton of time. I promise.
Speed comes with repetition. I can chug out a 500 word blog post in 15 minutes if it’s a topic I’m familiar with, but I’ve had LOTS of practice. (Full disclosure: I drafted this post in eleven and a half minutes . Yes, I timed myself.)
You can also outsource the bulk of your writing and just come up with topics and outlines. If you like to talk but don’t want to do videos, some content writers will have a conversation with you over the phone or web chat and turn that into a post for you.
Whether you think blogging is dead or if you want to do it but just have obstacles, you need to publish content regularly.
Your blog is a great place to do it because you own the platform, and it makes it very easy to grow your list and get people into your sales funnel because you’re already on your site.
So what are you waiting for? What are your biggest obstacles to blogging?
Want to speed up your blogging process even more? Get your free checklist so you’ll have a list of things every blog posts need to turn readers into customers.