Tips on writing a blog post faster and better

Write blog posts faster and better

It can be a grind to write a blog.

You have to come up with clever ideas.

Find the time…write a draft…edit…add images…

Here’s what helps (and helps with any business):

You need a system.

When I started blogging I assumed ideas would pour from the heavens and my fingers would fly effortlessly across the keyboard pouring out publish-ready prose flocks of salivating followers would fall on.

Nah, didn’t happen.

As the reality of researching, writing, editing, image selection and publishing became clear my motivation started to slide.

…and slide…

…and slide…

Pretty soon, I was missing publishing deadlines.

Then there weren’t any deadline.

Then my blog routine became a random game of chance.

Enter the system

It took some time to realize that without a system blog writing was going to be painful. Later I learned the value of a system for that day when you want to outsource parts of the publishing process.

It took some time to realize that without a system, blog writing was going to be painful. Click To Tweet

The system I’m going to share is simple – it has to be – it’s designed to be repeated for every blog.

And it starts with finding the ideas. With a steady supply of fresh ideas you are halfway there.

1. Finding the ideas

In my post “How to never run out of ideas ever again” I shared sources for blog ideas. I also explained our process for republishing older blog posts (like this one). This is a strategy we’re now using with most of our clients and having crazy-good results. Read that post here.)

I’ll add you should be looking for micro ideas – not big, scary, all encompassing ones.

For example, this post is just about a writing system.

I could have also talked about researching, choosing the perfect topic, or how to use the WordPress editor. But, that’s too much width for a quick-to-read blog post.

When you tackle a micro topic it’s easier to complete the post and, I think, easier for the reader to quickly get value they can turn into action (without getting overwhelmed with advice).

Now that you have the ideas, it’s time to…find time.

2. Finding the time

The best way to find time for writing a blog is to not have to “find it” in the first place.

I recommend having one block of time for writing. For me, it’s the first thing I do every morning. For you, it might be 8:30-10:00, 3 days a week – whatever it is, make it a routine.

The best way to find time for writing is to not have to “find it” in the first place. Click To Tweet

At first, you might want to post this time for a month on your calendar to help develop the routine. You might also need a reward for your efforts, like crossing the task off a list, or marking your calendar with minutes spent writing every day.

The less you have to work at finding the time, the more likely the work will get done.

Now that you’ve found the time, you need to get started.

3. Sitting down and writing a blog

writing a blog post without distractions

I need to have a clear desk, a full cup of tea and a quiet room to write. I can edit on a moving train full of goats (still haven’t tried that), but writing requires complete concentration and no distractions (or goats).

Commit to a block of time. If you are writing at 8:30 in the morning, you might want to work for 90 minutes with quick breaks every 30 minutes – but commit to the time. That means Facebook and email are closed, papers are cleared away and your phone is put away or on airplane mode.

Whatever works best for you, create that situation every time.

Next, you need a template

4. Use a template

I can hear it now “But, I’m an artist and artists never use paint-by-number formulas.”

Bullhooky. Even artists use a template of sorts to organize their thoughts – certainly authors do.

Every blog posts (with exceptions to recipe blogs or vacation journal blogs) needs to take the reader on a journey. Usually that journey is from problem to solution.

My template for writing a blog (hundreds of public speakers use this template) is very simple. I follow it for every post (like this one) and the reader never complains.

Here it is:

  • The Problem – what problem does your reader have?
  • Personal – what is your experience with this problem?
  • The Promise – what are you giving the reader?
  • The Solutions – your solutions to the problem
  • A Call to Action – what do they need to do first?
  • Final thoughts – motivation

Like most books that follow a template for every chapter, we’re too busy enjoying the content to care much about the structure.

Template ready? Time to get the first draft done.

5. First draft

Your first draft will not be great – expect it. Anne Lamott famously calls it your “Shitty first draft” and for good reason.

When I’m writing an 800-1,000 word blog post, I like to crank out a first draft in about one hour. After that I let it simmer while I go for a run, do some other work, or read – but I don’t think about it.

When I sit down to finish the post, it’s amazing how obvious all the problems are. The run on sentence or weak arguments jump off the page and are much easier to fix.

Plan on two sittings and it takes the pressure off and allows you to write more freely for that essential first draft.

6. Ship it

At some point you need to admit this is only a blog – not a novel – or, as Seth Godin says, ship it.

“Shipping is fraught with risk and danger. Every time you raise your hand, send an email, launch a product or make a suggestion, you’re exposing yourself to criticism. Not just criticism, but the negative consequences that come with wasting money, annoying someone in power or making a fool of yourself. It’s no wonder we’re afraid to ship.”

More time fussing over semi-colons won’t get you more readers or more social shares, it just burns up more time.

Your goals should be to help the reader reach their goal faster and better than they could on their own.

Once you’ve done that, your job is done.

Now, get writing.

This post was originally published in 2016 and has been updated for your entertainment, education and just because.

Liked this post? Got another 5 minutes? Here are 3 more of our most popular posts all about writing blogs:

How to start a blog post – 5 examples that really work!
5 brilliant ways to start your blog post with a bang
9 blog topic ideas your audience will love

 

5 easy steps to publishing your next blog post (even if you don’t have time)

easy steps to publishing your next blog post

This post was originally published in April 2017 and was updated in 2019 just for you!

You’ve got a blog – great!

You haven’t published for at least a month – not so great.

The reality is, your blog can be a central point in your marketing strategy. In our research we see visitors to client’s sites spending 4-7 minutes on a blog post, but only 1-2 minutes on any other page. That’s a huge opportunity!

Think of your blog like this:

Imagine you rented a small meeting room in a hotel. You advertised, told all your clients, friends, neighbours and emailed like crazy to your mailing list. And let’s say 100 people showed up.

Great right?

And those 100 people listened to you talk for about 4-7 minutes. That’s an enormous opportunity to get, let’s say, 10 people to make a sale. That’s what your blog could be doing…day after day, 12 months a year.

Sure, it’s easy to forget this. After all, you’ve got existing clients, bills to pay, staff and freelancers to deal with…

That’s a mistake.

“If you want to continually grow your blog, you need to learn to blog on a consistent basis.”

Neil Patel

At BlogWorks, we want your blog to be humming along making sales. So, let’s deal with how to get new blog posts published.  

Through our work with hundreds of clients we’ve developed a 5 step process to consistent blogging. You can use this process to rescue a stale blog (haven’t published for a while) or improve the existing process you have.

Here goes…5 steps to consistent blogging:

#1. Create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) (20 minutes)  

If you don’t have a process, you’re wasting time inventing one every time you write a blog.  

Make a list (use Google Docs to easily share with the freelancer you will hire!) of all the steps you follow to write and publish your blog. We wrote an article on this here.  

#2. Make a list of 36 blog topics (30 minutes)  

person writing list of easy steps to publishing your next blog post

Pour yourself a nice Merlot, or crack a beer—you need to be in a creative mood for this part. Make a list of all the blog topics you can think of that will:  

  1. solve one (small) problem your ideal customer has and  
  2. fit tightly with your products and services.  

We wrote an article on this here.

#3. Block time (60 minutes)

“Our highest priority is to protect our ability to prioritize”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism

Face it – you will never have enough time to write a blog. So you have to make time by blocking it. Twice a month block 60 minutes on your calendar to write your, as the wonderful author Anne Lamott famously named it, shitty first draft.  

Face it - you will never have enough time to write a blog. So you have to make time by blocking it. Click To Tweet

Block another 30 minutes to clean up the draft, add images and publish. Those 4 hours a month will increase your traffic, build your list, attract prospects and grow your business. What else would you be doing with that time?

#4. Use a 3-step writing routine

One reason our clients don’t get their blog published is because they don’t have a writing routine. Just like your SOP (#1 above), a writing routine takes the mystery and stress out of writing a post (it’s how I’m writing this post!)

[BACKGROUND COLOUR FOR NEXT 3 POINTS]

1 – Collect (15 min). Pull together your notes, saved articles (Evernote is brilliant for saving articles off the web) and favourite quotes.

2 – Use a template to write your shitty first draft (45 min). Don’t edit, don’t worry about spelling, don’t even worry about making sense…you have one goal – get the draft done in 45 minutes, then take a break. Get your template here.

3 – Edit, add images, quotes, links and publish (30 min).

#5. Think money, not task (timeless)

person holding up money and thinking of easy steps to publishing your next blog post

As long as “write blog” competes with everything else crowding your To-Do list, it ain’t going to happen. You have to think money!

As long as “write blog” competes with everything else crowding your To-Do list it ain’t going to happen. You have to think money! Click To Tweet

Your blog is the magnet that will get readers to slow down and look at what you sell. Just like a magazine, T.V. show or half time concert at the Super Bowl – content (or entertainment) attracts buyers and gets them to look at your products and services.

Put another way, unless you’re Amazon or Alibaba, nobody will visit your website to look at what you’re advertising—you need your blog to bring them back.

WAIT! You weren’t about to click away were you?

Before you go – we can take this off your hands.  

Here’s how we can write your blog.

Here’s how we can promote your blog.

Thank you, you are free to go.

One more thing! If you liked this article, here are 3 more about writing blogs:

9 blog post ideas your audience will love

A proven 3 step method to finally overcome procrastination and get it all done

How to never run out of blog ideas ever again

A proven 3 step method to finally overcome procrastination and get it all done.

procrastination

You had the best of intentions.

Heck, you even coloured it with a highlighter, put a star beside it and blocked time on your calendar.

Then you procrastinated.

Or, at least you thought you did…

The reality is you didn’t procrastinate and – better still – with a 2 minute secret action you can overcome pretty well any resistance you have to any action.

Let me show you how.

You are NOT a Procrastinator

“Everybody procrastinates, but not everyone is a procrastinator” – Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D

This might surprise you, but you are not a procrastinator. Nobody is (even though 20% of people think they are.)

Let me explain.

You respond differently to different situations. You don’t procrastinate about buying groceries or thanking a friend for listening to you or flossing your teeth (more on flossing below.) You’ve got those actions nailed.

If you were a “procrastinator” you would be completely unreliable – that’s not you.

You are a responsible person…you just put somethings off until later.

Get it?

This is an important point. If you think you are a procrastinator then please stop reading right now, because I can’t help you (of course I can help you, it just will take longer 🙂

STEP 1: Before you move to the reason behind your resistance, catch yourself thinking you’re a procrastinator and to stop and to remind yourself you are NOT a procrastinator – you are simply resisting this action.

Now, let’s look at what’s really happening.

Why you DON’T take Action

It’s all about value.

You do something because the value of that action is better than the alternative. You thank your friend for listening because you know that 5 minutes from now you’ll regret it if you didn’t.

You floss you teeth because the alternative is an expensive trip the dentist.

And everything you procrastinate about happens because, in the moment, it gives you more value than the alternative. This applies to refilling the chip bowl instead of stopping at one serving, allowing Netflix to load the next episode of Game of Thrones, instead of turning the TV off or checking email instead of calling the client you’ve been avoiding.

So, it comes down to what you value. Yes, you can build habits, but habits are built on values, so you have to start there.

STEP 2: Stop and think about the value you attach to the alternatives. That sounds more complicated than it is.

In other words, before you take action decide what will give you the biggest reward, long-term.

>> I know that if I go for my 15 minute morning walk I have more energy later in the morning (the walk gives me more reward than not walking.)

>> I know that if I work in blocks of no email, no social media I can plough through my work uninterrupted (focussed work gives me more reward than distractions.)

>> I know that if I take a few minutes before I finish my work day and plan my next day I am far more focussed and productive in the morning (making a list gives me more reward than just ending my work day with no list.)

Now, that you understand what action will give you the biggest long-term reward, let’s take action.

The 2 minute rule will help.

The 2 Minute RULE and how it Works

“Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think. Our research shows us that getting started changes our perception of a task. It can also change our perception of ourselves in important ways.” – Timothy Pychyl, Ph.D

One of the simplest ways to overcome procrastination is also one of the fastest. It’s the 2 minute rule (Stanford Professor B.J. Fogg popularized this idea by demonstrating how to start the habit of daily flossing by starting with just one tooth.)

One of the simplest remedies to procrastination is also one of the fastest. It’s the 2 minute rule. @bjfogg Click To Tweet

Here’s how it works.

When you realize you are about to put something off, take a 2 minute action.

For example, you are trying to get traction on a big project, like redesigning you web site, or cold calling prospects, or doing your taxes.

Start with just 2 minutes of action.

But, that’s not all…

Yes, you will start up the mountain with 2 minutes of walking, but you must also finish by planning your next step – what will you do and when will you do it.

It works like this.

Let’s say you want to redesign your web site (we can show you how to save thousands$’s from bad advice) – that’s a humungous job! Of course, you’re going to put it off—you have all sorts of other priorities that can be finished faster.

But, it has to get done. You know this is overdue and, if you get it done, it will help your business long-term (more value than putting it off.)

Step 3: Enter the 2 minute rule: what can you get done in just 2 minutes that will be a step in the right direction up the mountain?

>> You could bookmark competitor’s web sites in your browser for future reference.

>> You could make a list of changes you want to make to the existing site.

>> You could email 3 designers you know and ask about their availability (no point getting quotes if they can’t start for 2 months).

You get the idea.

You can make progress, break the ice and get a tiny dopamine reward by working uninterrupted for just 2 minutes. And then plan your next step.

We can all make progress, break the ice and get a tiny dopamine reward by working uninterrupted for just 2 minutes. Click To Tweet

Block time in your calendar for the next step (read this article about blocking time), to list what you like about your competitor’s sites, or prioritize the changes you want to make, or reply to the designers and ask to see their latest work.

Time investment: 2 minutes.

Reward to you: feeling great about making progress!

What You Must DO the Next Time

“So let’s get started. I’m ready to be heard. Before the dear departed. Can have the final word.” Get Started, Paul McCartney

It’s normal to put things off until later. We all do it. We’ll always do it.

Sometimes it’s a smart strategic move, like waiting until the morning to make a tough phone call, or ignoring your email in order to finish a proposal uninterrupted.

And then there are the non-strategic, wimpy moments when you caved. We all do that as well.

Here’s the thing. Those moments of uncertainty or hesitation don’t define you—those were just human moments.

Let it go and go back to your 3 steps:

Step 1. Don’t define yourself as a procrastinator. You aren’t.

Step 2. Consider the long-term rewards: what is most important for you right now?

Step 3. Take 2 minutes, take some forward action and then plan your next step.

It may not look heroic working on a project for only 2 minutes. But, it could be the most heroic thing you did all day. And you might just impress yourself with the ice-breaking momentum you just started.

Enjoyed this article? Here are 3 more all about procrastination and getting more of what you want:

A simple lesson in Time Management (that will make you money)
How to Blog More Consistently (And Stop Missing Deadlines)
9 expert bloggers reveal their best strategies

Marketing: Make This The Year Of The Blog

Marketing make this the year of the blog

“Learning to choose is hard. Learning to choose well is harder. And learning to choose well in a world of unlimited possibilities is harder still, perhaps too hard.” Barry Schwartz

It was morning at the local grocery store in Southern California. Just like every other Saturday morning.

With one exception.

Before the store opened, researchers had set up a table with an attractive display of local jams for sale. On this Saturday, 24 jams were on display. Consumers would stop, taste one more more of the local products and then either pick up a jar to take to the check out counter or continue on their way.

Then, on following Saturday the same table was prepared, but this time with only 6 varieties of jam. Same store, just fewer options.

Guess which display table led to more sales?

You guessed it – when there are more options, people tend to get overwhelmed and do nothing.

Fewer options is better.

This is also true in business: for example, when faced with too many marketing options you might, in fact, do nothing. Psychologist Barry Schwartz called this the ‘paradox of choice’. And that brings me to marketing. Just like jars of jam, when faced with too many marketing options most people either dabble in a few ideas or do nothing at all.

And it’s getting worse. For the last decade we’ve been inundated with a truck-load of online marketing choices.

Should you build your Facebook followers, post videos on YouTube, learn all about Instagram or plan an affiliate launch?

For the last decade we’ve been inundated with a truck-load of online marketing choices Click To Tweet

Or, maybe you should simply reduce your choices and focus on what works?

Blogging works

We love blogging because, unlike most other online marketing strategies, it keeps on working for us. And, despite all the hype of “latest, greatest” social marketing, every year more companies are investing in their blogs.

Companies with active blogs enjoy 55% more inbound traffic and receive 67% more leads than those that do not.

Your blog will attract new followers, keep you in touch with clients and help convert followers to buyers. Even your old posts keep attracting readers.

And, as much as we like promoting on our social channels, good luck getting people to read an old tweet or watch a two-year old video on YouTube.

So, why not make this your year of the blog?

How to make this the Year of the Blog

Alrighty, you’ve committed to blogging. But you’re feeling a little unsure how to get started. The last time you published a blog post was 5 months ago and that one took you two days to write. Ouch!

At BlogWorks we speak with bloggers every week who have this challenge—they know their blog should be central to their marketing, but they struggle to publish. Just like the Jackson’s 1970’s hit song, “A-B-C it’s as easy as 1-2-3,” blogging can be as easy as following 3 steps.

By the way, “A-B-C” stands for Always Blog Consistently (I’m kind of proud of that one).
1. Set your goals
2. Block the time
3. Follow an SOP

Let’s dig into the details:

1. Set your goals

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.” Zig Ziglar

Creating a few meaningful goals for your blog doesn’t have to be complicated or scary.

Start with a few metrics which are important for you, like: site traffic, list size, publishing frequency and
then create the goal based on last year.

For example, if your site traffic last year averaged 1,000 users (unique visitors) to your site your new goal could be to increase site traffic to 1,500/month.

Similarly, if your list size is 800, make a goal to double it this year.

And if you published 10 times last year, commit to 2 posts per month, or 24 posts in the year.

But, don’t stop there. Goals only work if you check on them. At least once a month, fill in a simple spreadsheet with your progress.

goals
Pro tip: At least once a month update your blog goal sheet.

2. Block the time

“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.”
James Clear, Atomic Habits

I have written about time management and productivity for over 10 years. And I’ll let you in on a little secret…

When I’m coaching chronic procrastinators or clients who are tackling huge projects I always recommend one strategy. Are you ready?

Block your time.

Admit it, if you had a 2:00 appointment with your dentist, you’d prepare, leave home and be there on time. Right?

When you block time it becomes an appointment you can’t break.

It’s no different with a scheduled conference call, webinar, sales meeting, or meeting a friend to show them this blog (hint, hint). When we block time for a meeting, we treat that time differently. You can always move that time block, but your writing time should be protected.

Most authors, bloggers, speech writers and other creative people do their best work in the morning, shortly after waking up. That could be a good place to start blocking your blog writing time.

3. Follow your SOP

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” Mike Murdock

Creating your first Blog SOP can be as simple as recording all the steps in a Google Doc.

One of the best changes I made to my blogging was to create a Standard Operating Procedure.

Huh?

That’s right, one of the changes that accelerated the growth of this blog and my blog was to document all the steps it took to get my rough draft published and promoted.

Two things happened: 1) I wasted less time trying to muddle my way through all the minutia of WordPress tags, categories, headers, etc. 2) I was closer to outsourcing the $12/hour jobs.

Once I’d written up all the steps (and there were over 30 steps!), it was obvious that a disproportionate amount of time was spent doing non-creative, routine tasks. In fact, I created BlogWorks because of that exercise!

To get started, use Google Docs (it’s easy to share when you are ready to outsource this) and simply list all the steps your blogging process needs. Next, identify repetitive tasks you can outsource. For example, you might want to outsource creating the Featured Image for each post.

Contact us to learn how we can transform your rough draft into a published and promoted post.

Liked this post? Here are more posts about getting that blog published!
A Simple Lesson in Time Management (That Will Make You Money)
How To Blog More Consistently (And Stop Missing Deadlines)
How To Write Blog Posts Faster And Better

51 ways to get more business from your blog in the New Year

get more business from your blog

It’s a New Year. The holidays are over, your relatives have returned home.

And it’s time to get serious about your business and your blog.

You want more traffic—the right traffic.

And you probably want to spend less time doing it. Oh, and one more thing…

You also probably want to be more consistent publishing your blog.

Right?

Well, we are here to help.

First, if you are struggling to get your blog published, let us know. We are more than a social media company and can also help get your blog published.

Next, we got all of our elves to compile this ultimate list for you:

Here you’ll find everything you need to spark new ideas, improve your results, save time and, YES, also get more business.

Okay, let’s dig in with: 51 ways to get more business from your blog in the New Year.

Planning 

  1. Plan your next 3 months of topics with a Content Calendar.
  2. Block writing time on your calendar.
  3. Visit 10 blogs in your niche and get ideas for future topics.
  4. Create an avatar for your ideal audience(s) – all of your writing should attract your avatars.
  5. Research your competitors: what hot topics are they writing about? 
  6. Mix up your Content Calendar with video, infographic, illustrations, lists, book reviews, or interviews.
  7. Plan for seasonal campaigns, like New Year, summer, spring cleaning, Black Friday, etc.
  8. Install the free plugin Editorial Calendar to organize your future blog posts in a single dashboard.
  9. Plan for at least one extra-long (1,500-2,000 words), epic post that readers will love to share.

Writing

  1. Once a week read blogs about your topic using Feedly.
  2. Read Stephen King’s “On Writing: a memoir of the craft
  3. Experiment with short posts (see Seth Godin and Derek Sivers).
  4. Include “cliffhangers” (like: “Before I get to those solutions, let me ask you a question:”) to tease readers to continue reading your post.
  5. Choose one time of day to do your writing and build a habit around it.
  6. Use a writing template to get your posts started faster and end better.
  7. Use Evernote to collect articles and ideas for future blog posts.
  8. Let people in: share a personal experience and lessons learned.
  9. Answer common questions. One or two great solutions to one problem are better than 10 so-so solutions.
  10. Start every post with a personal story, questions, interesting fact or bold claim—get your readers’ attention!
  11. Spell check every post(!)
  12. Position yourself as an expert in your industry by sharing your original ideas, models, and solutions. 
  13. Make readers feel smart by sharing clever, unique solutions to important questions (and they’ll be more likely to share your posts!).
  14. Take a speed typing course and have a goal to complete each post faster.

Publishing

  1. Create an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of all the steps to publishing your blog.
  2. Revise old posts with updated information, new images and better CTA’s and republish.
  3. Save time by writing all of the social media updates for your blog at one time.
  4. Save time with every new blog post by outsourcing some or all of your publishing SOP.
  5. Post date your new blog post to come out on the same day of the week and at the same time.

Getting results

  1. Use your top 3 blog posts to find clues for what readers are attracted to.
  2. Make it a goal to grow your email list this year and review all the CTA’s that point to your email opt-in.
  3. Declutter your website sidebar and make it easier for readers to make one choice.
  4. Link your posts to “anchor” posts – these are posts you most want visitors to read.
  5. Include a CTA (Call To Action) in every blog post (ask for comments, ask for shares, link to survey, etc).
  6. Install the plugin Insert Post Ads to quickly insert banner ads in your blog posts.
  7. Keep readers on your site longer: end every blog post by recommending 3 related blog posts.
  8. When you email your list, only include the first 200-300 words of your new blog post with a link to “read more…” 
  9. Limit the links leaving your site and link to more related articles on your site.
  10. Ask for action: comment, share, read a related post or get a free opt-in offer.

Better numbers

  1. Benchmark your main traffic numbers (users, bounce rate, time on site) in Google Analytics.
  2. Create a goal for traffic and list size for this year.
  3. Update the Lead Magnet gift that goes with your email opt-in.
  4. Find all broken links on your website with tools like Broken link checker, or Dead link check.
  5. After publishing on your site, publish your blog post as an article on LinkedIn.
  6. A site that loads fast loses fewer readers. Test the loading speed of your site.
  7. Optimize every post with keywords, especially in your headline and first paragraph.

Attracting more readers

  1. Subscribe to BlogWorks(!) and let us promote you every day on social media.
  2. Write every post for your ideal client. Speak to them and answer the questions they ask you.
  3. Install the plug-in Better Click to Tweet (it’s free) and include at least 1 tweet in every post.
  4. Install the sumo or social warfare floating social share bars to encourage more readers to share your articles.
  5. Share your best stuff. You readers will be attracted (and will share) your best ideas, solutions, strategies, and resources.
  6. Finally, keep the faith—all successful bloggers started small and slow, persistence and consistency are more important than perfection. Keep writing, publishing and promoting!

Whoa! I know this was a long list.

And so we have two more thoughts for you…

First, you don’t need to do all of this. In fact, you don’t need to do half of it! 
Instead, choose one change you will make this month. Believe it or not, in our research we have found the most blogs never change! Year after year there is virtually zero attention given to plug ins, format, easy ways to share the post…nothing.
So, go easy on yourself and choose one thing for this month (my favourite would be to add the cool, free Editorial Calendar).

Lastly, you might have noticed that there are only 51 tips in our list, and not 52. That’s because you deserve a break! For at least one week, slack off. A great way to do that is to schedule your posts in advance (see #14 and #15 to save time.)

There you have it – great tips you can use one at a time. Have fun with it—your blog is a license to be creative and experiment. Do that and your readers will reward you with more readers. 

Looking for more articles on related topics?

Thinking of quitting blogging? Read this first …
Expert Tips: How to build a better blog
How to get 142% more blog traffic this year

A simple lesson in Time Management (that will make you money)

overcome procrastination

Let’s get one thing straight.

I waste time, you waste time…everyone wastes time.

Distractions like email, searching for documents (or PDF’s, images, emails, files), making lists, wasteful meetings, deciding what to work on next, or getting lost in YouTube videos can burn through hours faster than you can say “Where did the day go?”

That’s what this post is about—one simple technique to help you overcome procrastination and put you firmly back in charge of your time.

And, if you do what I am going to suggest, you will make money with this technique.

But, before I get to that…

Why we waste time:

Admit it, you sometimes leave important work to the last minute while low-value distractions mysteriously gobble up precious minutes.

Admit it, you sometimes leave important work to the last minute while low-value distractions mysteriously gobble up precious minutes. Click To Tweet

One problem is lists—lists are a horrible way to prioritize.

By their very nature, a To-Do list of random tasks gives similar priorities to everything on your list:

  • confirming your flight booking looks to have the same priority as following up with a prospect.
  • picking up supplies at the stationery store competes with updating your website, and
  • ordering a book a friend recommended is competing with meeting with your marketing consultant.

To-Do lists have a habit of growing and growing. And it’s all too tempting to tick off the easy tasks … which may not be the important tasks that will grow your business! Or it’s all too easy to put off your list or be distracted by emails, phone calls and interruptions.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you’ve taken a time management course or read some books by the gurus. You might have even had some success.

For a while…

But, like any training, it only works if you first admit you have a problem.

And the problem is you’re an idiot.

Why we’re all idiots

I’m including myself in this statement. And I’m speaking from experience. For example, I’m an idiot when I:

  • think I need 8 hours to get my work done.
  • tell myself I’ll finish a project over the weekend (and then leave it until Sunday night when I’d really rather be relaxing).
  • think making lists makes me more organized.

And I’m really an idiot when I keep wasting time – repeating the same patterns over and over and thinking things will get better. That’s the definition of insanity right?

For far too long I was convinced more time would get me better results. Sound familiar?

Longer hours, working faster – even multi-tasking – were signs of success.

For far too long I was convinced more time would get me better results. Sound familiar? Longer hours, working faster - even multi-tasking - were signs of success. Click To Tweet

Call it dumb-male thinking or a sign of our go-go, high achievement work ethos – either way, it’s a recipe for burnout and failure.

The good news is there’s one simple technique that changes all of that:

  • less procrastination.
  • more focus on high priority work.
  • better results every week.

And (this might be the best part) you feel in control of your time.

It’s called Blocking.

How to block your time

Reader warning: even though this technique might sound ridiculously simple, done correctly, the results can be profound. I know, because it changed everything for me and my work. Trust me: this works.

STEP 1: Flight Plan

Step one is to start your week having identified high-value, make-you-money, no-debating work you need to complete by Friday. That’s your Flight Plan.

Your Flight Plan is a short list of high-priority, high ROI work (and definitely not a long list of miscellaneous tasks competing for your time.)

  • That one phone call that landed you the new contract was time well spent.
  • Training your staff to ask for the up-sell was time well spent.
  • Doing a quick ROI assessment of your marketing spends and dropping the dead wood was a great use of time.

I could go on with more examples (all from my business) but you get the point.

STEP 2: Block Time

Next, turn that work into appointments on your calendar. Just like booking a meeting – book time for yourself to get those high-ROI tasks from your flight plan done.

That’s blocked time.

The concept is simple: when you have an appointment on your calendar you prepare for it and you’re very unlikely to miss that appointment. Therefore, the task gets done.

That’s why blocking works.

It’s booked. You’ve set the time aside. You might move the appointment, but you can’t delete it and as a result, the work gets done.

overcome procrastination by blocking time

Blocking time makes you more productive

I’m more productive when I block time. I work fewer hours, experience less stress and yet I don’t feel rushed.

It’s like an invisible assistance is quietly directing me to the next most important work. And keeping me away from low-value work and distractions.

At the end of the day I feel like I’ve been firmly parked in Quadrant II work (important, but not urgent) and rarely distracted.

It might feel strange at first to make an appointment with yourself. But ask yourself: what would you rather have: the stress that comes from leaving something to the last minute or the feeling that comes from marching ahead through tough work with a day-before-vacation attitude?

How to get started

Like any new technique, you need to build habits from simple routines.

Firstly, my routine is to build my Flight Plan on Sunday night or Monday morning. This is a 10-minute exercise that solidifies all the random tasks and deadlines into a short list of high-priority objectives for the week.

Next, I block time to get the work done: simple tasks might take 30 minutes, completing a proposal might take 90 minutes.

I try to put my hardest work in the morning or right after a lunch break. Based on research into circadian rhythms, those are the most productive times of day.

Finally, I work through my blocked time.

I treat each block like an appointment: I start on time, then I focus on only that work and do my best to stay focused on that task until the work is complete or the time is complete. It’s an appointment to get work done.

What about you? Tell me in the comments if you can use blocking to be more productive?

To learn more about Flight Plans and Blocking time, read these short posts:

How I overcame procrastination by blocking time.

How to finally get your To Do list out of your head

How to get organized with Evernote

A Social Media Survival Guide for Small Business

A social media guide for small business

“I can only conclude that people who don’t use social media are, at best, considered to be mavericks or, at worst, some kind of psychopath.” Steve Blakeman

“I’m not a very social media person” my new client admitted to me. “I mean, I know I should be…I’m just not.”

I get it.

If you were born before 1980 you are less likely to be a ‘social media person’.

So, there you are: a business person who needs social media to reach your tribe – even attract a bigger tribe. The problem is the thought of checking Instagram every morning or uploading a video to Facebook gives you a cold sweat.

You could go cold turkey, buy a yurt and live in the desert (been done), or…
you could find a happy compromise and use social media on your terms.

There is a solution and it starts by understanding that you don’t need to reach the world.

 

If you were born before 1980 you are less likely to be a ‘social media person’.

 

Social Media Guide for Small Business: You don’t need to reach the world.

“There is also the joy of learning new ways of marketing, with that there is often the accompanying pain of mistakes that comes along for the ride.” Jeff Bullas

Has this happened to you?

You see a tweet that had 425 retweets or your competitor has 10,000 followers on Facebook. “Damn,” you think “I really need to spend more time tweeting. Or posting. Or pasting. Or someting!”

Well, whoop-di-doo (tech speak for ‘who cares?’) they got a bunch of monkeys to jump!

Maybe that’s not your goal?

Unless you’re promoting your new punk band or selling a new gaming app, volume is not your goal. Click To Tweet

Your goal should be to build loyal followers

The kind of loyal followers who follow you all the way back to your website. The kind of followers who share your content and buy your stuff.

You don’t need to reach the world … you need to reach your tribe.

Start by getting a clear notion of who you are speaking to – who is your ideal audience, or avatar:

— what age are they?
— gender?
— type of work or career?
— what problems do they seek solutions for?
— what style of writing do they enjoy: high-brow philosophy or Gary Larson cartoons?
— how do they like to engage: sharing, quizzes, comments?

Evernote (read my post about how I use this fantastic, free tool) does a great job of writing to people who love lists and getting organized.

Good is better than more.

“I am 100% convinced that you can live without using or be on social media.” Israel Garcia

There’s lots of “expert” advice online on how to schedule loads and loads of updates (I wrote about the problem with scheduling software). As if volume is the ultimate goal.

There’s lots of “expert” advice online on how to schedule loads and loads of updates. As if volume is the ultimate goal. Click To Tweet

Let me ask you a question…

If you went to a restaurant, would you rather have a huge bowl of mediocre food or a small portion of delicious food prepared by a talented chef? I’d choose good over more every time.

Good can simply mean a few extra minutes editing, choosing an original image, or making a reference to a trending topic.

A good rule with social media is people share what makes them look smart. Putting a clever twist on what they think they already know will have more legs than one more post about 5 ways to be a better leader.

Comparing two posts on similar topics, my post “5 steps to writing an awesome blog post in less than 60 minutes”  got a much better reaction than the earlier post “5 blog posts that will keep your reader coming back.” Taking a stand – even a bold claim – is an invitation for readers to share to their followers. They feel smart sharing the post they just enjoyed and you get the benefit of new readers.

A good rule with social media is people share what makes them look smart. Click To Tweet

Oreo does a great job of creating smart, often sarcastic, comedy in their Tweets.

Work in batches

“The best way to engage honestly with the marketplace via Twitter is to never use the words ‘engage,’ ‘honestly,’ or ‘marketplace.’”Jeffrey Zeldman, Founder, A List Apart magazine

One of the best ways to be more effective is to work in batches. That could be 15 minutes of solid email work, followed by no email for an hour, instead of constantly checking your email all morning.

You can also batch your social media.

Instead of interrupting your day with updates and responding to followers, you can do it once a day. You might not go viral, but you will have time for other work without distraction.

Fortunately, there are scheduling tools like Buffer and CoSchedule that let you load up a calendar full of updates. The problem with any schedule tools (this will intentionally sound self-serving) is that most people – especially super busy business owners – don’t have time to learn how to use the scheduling tool, let alone constantly fill it.

I know, because before I created BlogWorks, that’s what I tried to do.

I’ll give you two weeks before you quit.

Good news! At BlogWorks we can do it all for you. No scheduling tools, searching for articles, fussing with pictures, or shortening links. One account, one solution, social media is done. Learn how to get started with BlogWorks.

Good news! At BlogWorks we can do it all for you.

Outsource $10/hour jobs

“If you love life, don’t waste time for time is what life is made up of.” Bruce Lee

One of the most powerful lessons I received as an entrepreneur was about the value of my time.

Here’s a simple exercise that was a big eye opener for me and might be for you as well.

Start by making three columns on a piece of paper (a flip chart is even better) and title them: $10, $50, $[what you charge clients per hour]. These are the values of the time for each task, starting with up to $10/hour, and then up to $50/hour and finally, up to your current value when working for clients.

Now, fill in all the tasks, jobs, routines, roles you fill in a typical week, putting each one in the column that matches the value of the job in dollars.

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is doing $10/hour jobs instead of delegating them to others.

Do you see a problem?

Most business owners discover there’s lots of $10 jobs they are still doing, even though they charge 10X that, or more, to their customers. This is what Michael Gerber meant when he said we are “…spending too much time working in our business instead of working on our business.”

The solution begins by first documenting the process routine for all your $10/hour jobs. Simply make a list of each step using a Google Doc (we use Google Doc’s because they’re easy to share within our team).

These are called SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) and they can change your life.

Next, go on UpWork and hire a freelancer to do that job. Don’t worry about creating full-time employment or giving them five jobs to make it worth their time — just start with one reoccurring job that needs to get done.

A good job to start with is publishing your blog.

You might be surprised to learn how many steps go into publishing a blog. There are at least a dozen steps, starting with logging into WordPress, entering the headline, choosing tags, that have to be done the same way every time to get your blog looking good.

The solution is to start documenting the routines for all your $10/hour jobs.
Pro tip: once you post your job in Upwork, use the filters to choose the criteria for the freelancer you are looking for.

Even if you’re not into social media, you don’t have to abandon it altogether.

The strategies in this social media guide for small business can keep you in the game with minimal effort and time.

Speaking of which, now you have more time for what you are into, like watching reruns of All in the family with a nice mug of Ovaltine.

Tips and Encouragement for Bloggers who Doubt

tips and encouragement for bloggers who doubt

If you’ve been blogging for a few months and haven’t seen the new gigs, clients, sales, connections, or whatever else you’re looking for—it’s not time to quit. Real leaders know that instant success is impossible. It takes motivation, direction, smart work, and persistence to find blogging inspiration.

Blogging, social media promotion and tangible results are similar. Likewise, getting a date and turning them into a mate is far from automatic or instant. Blogging, social media promotion, and sales are a lot like boy notices girl, boy dates girl, boy marries girl. Intrigued? Then read on!

Step 1: Looking good (your blog)

The first step in a relationship is making that connection and spark. Without a good presentation that usually doesn’t happen. Whatever our natural beauty is, grooming, dress, appearance, and how we carry ourselves influences the impression we make.

Think of yourself as that raw beauty. You are a leader. You have knowledge, insight, and skills. That’s beautiful! Your blog presents that beauty.

If you aren’t sure your blog is working, easily available tools can tell you your popular pages, which opt-ins are working, and what is driving visitors to your site. Even if your blog is doing well, any blog can get better. Re-examine your approach and take some tips from successful bloggers.

Be sure to ask yourself…

TIP: If you’re running out of things to say, use one of the 36 blog post ideas from BlogWorks. Fill in the blank and “voila!” The title of your next blog.

 

Step 2: Making the connection (social media)

If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? If you look dazzling, does anybody see?

Your blog may be full of well-presented insight. But that won’t mean anything unless someone reads what you wrote. When someone reads your blog that’s like your “date.” If you write a great blog and no one sees it, that’s like being all dolled up, but “Home Alone.” Move over Macaulay Culkin.

Social media is an invaluable way to ensure that you, the author, get those “dates” with readers.

It is important to not be shy in this regard. Not every tweet is seen by every follower, nor is every Facebook post seen by everyone on who likes your page. Even if all those people did see every post, not everyone swings at the first pitch, nor will the same pitch work on everybody. This means that frequent and varied posts with varied hashtags are essential.

Tip: If this is not something you want to take the time for, you may consider hiring a social media service to do it for you.

Step 3: Let it Grow (repeat and repeat again)

Not everyone who “dates” wants something that outlasts the morning dew. Someone may see your blog, like what they read, enjoy it, and not necessarily come back. If you want them to be a keeper, it will require more posts, more social media promotion, and many happy returns from your potential suitor. All of this takes time—at least six months according to some experts. Give up early and you’ll be like a farmer who planted a crop in spring, got sick of all the weeds and no crop in summer, and walked away before the harvest.

You see, there may come a time when that casual dater wants something lasting. When they are looking to make a transaction—a “marriage” you might say, who will they choose?

It will be someone they have built a relationship with, had many dates with and thought that person had the right stuff. Suddenly, all that looking good, the diligence of your matchmaking friend, and your mutual perseverance pays off.

Ta daa—a wedding that doesn’t cost you anything. And your suitor pays!

Quit early and you’ll never know that. Keep going and you’ll be saying, “I’m a Believer” like the Monkees in their famous ‘60’s tune.

 

I thought love was only true in fairy tales

Meant for someone else but not for me

Love was out to get me

That’s the way it seemed

Disappointment haunted all of my dreams…

I thought love was more or less a giving thing

The more I gave the less I got

What’s the use in tryin’

All you get is pain

When I wanted sunshine I got rain

Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer

Not a trace, of doubt in my mind

I’m in love, I’m a believer

I couldn’t leave her if I tried

 

Blogging works. Re-tune, repeat, and reap the rewards.

36 Blog Topics your Readers will Love

blog topics

We’ve all been there. You need to get the next blog post out, but you’re flat out of blog topic ideas and feel like you’ve already written about everything you know.

Not to worry.

Sometimes it just takes a new angle on an old story to get that spark you need to get new content flowing. And before you know it, you’ve got a unique post that readers love.

In this post we’ve compiled 36 blog post themes you can apply to just about any topic and have an original post people will want to share.

Here’s how it works.

Choose your blog topic.

Let’s say you write about leadership. Start with a leadership topic your followers frequently ask about.

Let’s pick delegation.

Choose your blog theme.

Next, scan the list of 36 themes below and choose a writing angle you haven’t used before.

Let’s pick:

1. Reasons that most _________ fail
8. The biggest misconception about _________
29. A quick checklist that will save you _________

Write a rough headline.

Once you have the theme for the post, create a rough headline to give the post some direction.

Let’s go with:

  • The reason most delegation fails (and how to avoid it).
  • The biggest misconception new managers have about delegation.
  • A quick checklist for your next delegation conversation.

Write your rough draft.

From here, have fun with this new angle to an old topic. You can start with a personal story or a story from a client of yours and then expand on the theme.

In short order, you’ll have a rough draft of a post with an interesting twist that will get your reader’s attention.

All of our most popular blog posts used these themes. Here are some examples:

Facebook Page vs Profile: Everything You Need To Know

What is the Ideal Blog Post Length?

4 Ways to Make Your Blog Images Pop

Now, it’s over to you.

Here’s the complete list of 36 blog post themes:


Opinion posts

  1. Reasons that most _________ fail
  2. Do’s and Don’t’s of _________
  3. One question that changed my _________
  4. My predictions for _________
  5. One purchase that chanced my life
  6. What most people don’t know about _________

Experience/Expertise

  1. ## steps to becoming _________
  2. The biggest misconception about _________
  3. Why I _________ and you should as well
  4. Why I will never _________
  5. One goal we all need to have
  6. How one conversation changed _________

Aspirational/Inspirational

  1. How thinking different can get you _________
  2. The books that impacted me the most
  3. How _________ changed my thinking forever
  4. What success really means
  5. ## great examples of _________
  6. One daily routine that _________

Learning

  1. How to discover _________
  2. Why a survey can _________
  3. ## ways to discover your _________
  4. How to buy your next _________
  5. ## TED talks that changed my life
  6. How to read better and faster

Mistakes to avoid

  1. ## mistakes you want to avoid when _________
  2. The biggest mistake that taught me _________
  3. How to avoid _________
  4. How to know if you are _________
  5. A quick checklist that will save you _________
  6. What I learned from _________

Getting better

  1. What I learned when I first _________
  2. My experience _________ and lessons learned
  3. What I discovered when I _________
  4. How to change from _________ to _________
  5. One habit that every one needs to _________
  6. Feeling stuck? ## ways to _________

How to hire an awesome writer for your blog

hire a writer

You’ve got a blog – so far, so good. And you’ve written six posts, but now the inevitable time crunch is happening.

A week goes by, and then another.

No blog post.

Two more weeks and despite your best intentions…still no blog post.

We see it all the time: orphaned blogs. They still command a place on your menu bar, but nobody’s home.

One solution is to hire a writer. Sounds simple, right?

You hire someone to write your posts for you. You sit back, the posts come in, you get more engagement and more business.

But, whoa there silver! There are a few things to consider before going down the freelancer highway and starting to read resumes. Let’s start with the most important question first.

Should you hire a writer?

As tempting as it might seem to hire a writer, you should first consider how important it is to use your own voice in your blog posts.

If you have a content blog sharing great advice, maybe it doesn’t matter so much who wrote it, as long as the content is unique and the writing is high quality. Two good examples of this are inkbotdesign.com or contentmarketinginstitute.com.

On the other hand, if you are the brand, then maybe having someone else write your blog is not the best idea. A freelance writer is unlikely to accurately mimic your style of writing or humour and certainly can’t match your knowledge.

It is possible to find a great match with freelancers, after all, ghostwriters have written many of the best-selling autobiographies. But it could mean higher costs and a longer search process.

The workaround is for your freelancer to write content pieces, not personality pieces. A good example of this is Jon Morrow, who writes brilliant posts about his take on blogging, life after his accident and “living in paradise.” Meanwhile, you’ll find many freelancers contributing great how-to content to Morrow’s SmartBlogger blog.

What to look for in a writer

Before you start posting your job or searching forums for writers, it’s important to know what you’re looking for.

Just like shopping for groceries, if you don’t start with a list it could be an expensive trip to the store.

Your list of requirements will be unique, based on the content expertise you are looking for, but here’s a good list to start with:

  • Writing skills. As basic as it sounds, there’s nothing more frustrating than bad grammar from a “professional writer.” If you really want to test if applicants are detail oriented insert this instruction “Please mention ‘Blue Moon’ in your application.”
  • Basic knowledge. As a minimum, your freelancer should have proven experience writing similar posts and a basic knowledge of the content area.
  • Confident writing voice. It’s great to be accurate, but a big challenge for any blog is to be interesting enough to stop readers from clicking away.
  • Commitment to quality. In your interview process, give some feedback. How your freelancer receives your advice is one of the best measures of how well they will work out.

How to get started

We published a detailed post about job posting boards, forums and even searching Twitter to find freelancers. If you’re ready to find that perfect writer, that’s a good place to start.

Adding to that post, there is, of course, the Mack truck of freelancing, Upwork. At BlogWorks, we use Upwork every month for market research, graphic design and other long-term and one-off jobs.

The tip we most often share is to use the applicant filters and to individually invite the freelancers you are most interested in working with (as opposed to letting Upwork send you applicants.)

Invite the right applicants to write

For example, if hiring a blog writer, I would follow this simple routine:

  1. Post the job. You can start with this being a one-off job and set the price level as “intermediate”

  1. When you move to “Invite freelancers”, immediately open “Filters” and start selecting the criteria you are looking for. You can even select your country of choice.

hire a writer through upwork

  1. Once you have selected your filter criteria, Upwork will start displaying the freelancers that fit your criteria. This is where you invite the best applicants to apply.

The most remarkable aspect of Upwork is the speed at which you can go from job posting to communicating with qualified applicants. And because you have posted a one time job (as opposed to an ongoing contract), your risk is pretty minimal.

Whether you hire a writer or commit to writing all of your posts, either way, committing to a consistent schedule of publishing is important. The worst option is to have an orphan blog on your site collecting dust.

Your readers want to learn from you and be inspired. Now, get publishing.