Every business owner I have ever built a WordPress website for loves the idea of a blog. They have heard that blogging is the fastest and easiest ways to increase website traffic, improve search engine rankings, build a big email list, gain expert positioning, and attract new clients—and they want to achieve all of that. They have also been sold on the idea that leveraging a blog to get new business is free, which they love.
But blogging isn’t really free and blogging for business isn’t exactly easy. Blogging is a long-term strategy. For most site owners, this means there isn’t an immediate return on investment, which in an instant gratification society, causes huge frustration and procrastination, and leads to the blog being ignored.
So while clients may love the idea of blogging to grow their businesses and get more leads, the blogs created for them are sitting dormant, doing nothing to help the business move forward. As a result, your clients more than likely aren’t seeing the results from their website that they wanted and you promised when you created the website.
Similarly, many freelancers I speak with have blogs but rarely post new content. They’re so busy with sales, marketing, business management, and actually doing the work they are hired for, that they don’t have time to blog—or at least they don’t think they do.
Can you relate? Do you like the idea of having a blog, but feel overwhelmed by the realities of managing a blog and creating new content regularly—good content, you can be proud of?
If you answered yes, you’re not alone. For most freelancers, agencies, and business owners, the reasons blogging feels difficult, time-consuming, and often impossible are the same:
- It is hard to come up with great ideas for new blog posts
- Writing compelling headlines is challenging
- You’re not sure what to say
- You’ve tried following other people’s’ formulas, but they didn’t work for you
- It feels impossible to find the time needed to write new posts
The good news is all of these concerns and frustrations can be overcome, and with some advance planning, creating new blog content can become faster and easier.
The key is organizing blog posts before you need them.
Below are five easy ways to quickly brainstorm and plan new blog posts.
1. Start An Idea File
You can be inspired by an idea for a blog post at any time, so create a place to write down your blog post ideas so you have them to pull from in the future. You could do this in a multitude of software programs, in a journal, or on your phone. I use the Notes App on my iPhone because it syncs to my iMac and MacBook and I can quickly access my list of blog post ideas anywhere I am.
How this practice really becomes valuable is when you add context to the idea with some of your immediate thoughts instead of just the idea alone.
Here’s what to write down when a new blog post idea strikes:
- The topic or idea
- Any possible headlines
- How you came up with the idea
- Any story that may fit with it (this is a lifesaver, as you think you’ll remember it, but you may not).
- The link to your inspiration source if appropriate
- Inspired by a tweet or Facebook post? Snag the embed code so you don’t have to hunt for it later.
- The key message you want to communicate in the post or major bullet points
- Any image ideas
Write down everything you can about the topic at the moment inspiration strikes. Don’t overthink it. Don’t worry about writing in complete sentences. Don’t edit yourself now; you can do that later when you’re writing the final blog post. This exercise is just about getting the meat of the post out of your head.
If you do this every time you have a new idea for a blog post, you’ll build up a valuable idea file full of blog posts that are already partway complete! Then when you need to write a post, you can grab one from your file, finish it up, and hit publish!
This approach takes the stress out of coming up with a blog post idea later.
2. Use A Timer
If you’re anything like me, you may find that you often do your best work under pressure and against a deadline. When working against the clock, it’s easier to tune out distractions, focus, and make quick decisions. You probably also notice that when up against a deadline, you get things done faster, which means your effective hourly rate is higher and you make more money.
There is a saying that the work will expand to fit the amount of time it has, which is basically why coming up with blog post topics often seems to take forever. When there are no constraints on your time, the task of generating ideas will fill the time available.
This is why you need to use a timer.
Using a timer is a faster, more effective way of time blocking tasks and it works like a charm when brainstorming blog content topics.
Here’s how it works in only 10 minutes:
- Choose one topic, set a timer for 3 minutes, and brainstorm as many headlines as you can on that single topic. Don’t edit as you go. Don’t second guess. Don’t stop or slow down. Every idea is good. Write it down no matter what. When the timer buzzes, stop.
- Set the timer for 1 minute and in that time, review each headline, circling the best ones (shoot for at least two or three).
- Set the timer for 6 minutes and in that time, quickly outline the blog post content for each headline. List what content to include, image ideas, story ideas, key messages to communicate, the problem it solves, and why someone should care. If something doesn’t come to you for a headline right away, skip it and move on.
At the end of this exercise, you’ll have at least a few great posts on your topic that are already halfway done. You just need to finish them up later.
3. Speak Your Post
Many of my great ideas don’t come to me when I’m sitting conveniently in front of my computer or at home with a journal nearby—and sometimes I can’t write them down, like when I’m driving or in the shower.
If you can’t write down your blog post ideas, or you simply don’t like writing, you can still create blog content regularly without doing any writing. All you need to do is speak.
If you can talk about your topic with ease or communicate your idea clearly, you can create new blog content—and often speaking your content is much faster than writing because when we talk, we don’t judge, delete, self-edit, or criticize ourselves like we do when writing.
Here’s how it works:
- When you’ve got a great blog post idea, simply grab your smartphone, your computer, a digital recorder, or use a service like Zoom to record your post ideas. Imagine yourself explaining the topic to a friend or speaking to an audience and go for it
- Have the recording transcribed (I use Rev.com)
- Edit the transcript to create the final blog post—it is much easier and faster to edit existing content than it is to write new content from scratch.
4. Start With The Imagery
If you’re a visual person who is inspired by photos, begin there. When browsing stock photography sites, certain images often inspire a new blog post topic or content idea. When that happens, I save the image along with the thoughts and ideas related to it to reference later.
The only thing to be careful of with this approach is being sucked in by the stock photography sites and losing hours of your day clicking from one page to the next.
Here’s how I use this approach to find blog content inspiration without wasting a lot of time:
- Set a timer for 15 minutes then visit your favorite stock photo site, and search for images on a topic relevant to your brand.
- For every image you find that gives you a post idea, write the image number down along with all of your thoughts and ideas, and either download the image or save it to a lightbox.
This approach gives you not only a bank of blog posts that have already been partially flushed out but the featured images to go along with them, which means no searching later for just the right image.
Liquid Web’s Managed WordPress Hosting handles image compression for you once you have your images, so you can focus on blogging instead of optimizing.
5. Grab A Pencil
One of my favorite ways to brainstorm new content ideas and outline new blog posts is to sit somewhere cozy and relaxing with a good old-fashioned pencil and paper. In fact, most of the articles I write are first written by hand on paper, then cleaned up and edited as I type them up.
Some people just find that creativity flows faster and easier on paper instead of a screen. If this is true for you, own it. Get yourself a new sharp pencil or a really great pen and some quality paper, or a beautifully designed journal. Then write and write some more—it doesn’t have to be full sentences or complete thoughts. Just use it as an avenue to get ideas out of your head.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Get your pen or pencil and paper and find a comfortable, quiet, cozy spot free from distractions
- Write down a content topic at the top of your paper
- Set a timer for 10 minutes
- Jot down everything you can possibly think of—possible headlines, stories, examples, bullet points, key messages, problems and solutions, resources, and more
- Keep going until the timer runs out
In this scenario, you’re focusing on really fleshing out all of your thoughts, ideas, and opinions on one single topic, instead of a few different topics. This approach is often my go-to strategy for mapping out the content for longer, more in-depth blog posts.
Create A Repeatable Content Creation Process That Works For You
If creating new blog content has been tough for you in the past, I highly recommend you give each of the five ways to plan blog post content a try. You need to see which approach works best for you because only when the process feels comfortable and easy, will you be able to stick with it over the long-haul.
Just remember, the more detail you provide about your topic up front, the faster and easier it will be to write the full blog post later.
Again, when writing down your blog post ideas, think about creating a rough outline of the content as fast as possible, and include any of the following that applies:
- The topic or idea.
- Any possible headlines.
- The problem it solves or addresses.
- Why this problem is important or why someone should care.
- How you came up with the idea.
- Any story that may fit with it.
- The link to your inspiration source if appropriate.
- The embed code of a tweet, Facebook post, or video you want to reference, so you don’t have to waste time hunting for it later.
- The key message you want to communicate in the post or major bullet points.
- Any image ideas.
If you can do this, you’ll be getting all of the heavy lifting done up front, so planning blog content will be easier and writing blog posts will happen faster. And if you use this same approach with your clients, you can help them finally leverage the blog you created for them and enjoy better results from their website.
Need More Time to Blog?
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Jennifer Bourn is founding partner at Bourn Creative a full-service design and development company specializing in WordPress. With twenty years in the industry under her belt, she is an award-winning designer who consults on branding, website strategy, and content strategy. Jennifer speaks often, delivering workshops and keynote presentations, co-organizes the Sacramento WordPress Meetup and WordCamp Sacramento and writes regularly about freelancing, client services, blogging, marketing, websites, and branding. Learn more at the Jennifer Bourn website.
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