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Cultivating a writing practice when you run your business
It’s all well and good to talk about using your blog and mailing list to connect with your audience by writing articles. But it begs the question I hear almost daily:
How do I create consistent content that I don’t get paid to do? I have a business to run.
Content can drive your business. The more content you create (which can be writing, videos, audio, drawings) the easier it will be for readers and potential customers to see value in your expertise and what you sell. When they know you, they’ll be more likely to pay for what you do.
Most freelancers or solopreneurs who use content successfully publish something at least once a week. This keeps your business, voice, and brand in front of your audience. But that’s 52 new pieces a year, so let’s break down exactly how to cultivate a practice to create all that content.
Have a purpose and an opinion
More important than any single blog post, your whole website, or even your newsletter, is your why. Think about why you write, share, and sell what you do. What’s the bigger message and purpose? What does it mean to you? Use that purpose as a lens through which to filter all your content. Draw a line in the sand about what you stand for and what you’re passionate about as it relates to your work.
Commit to daily creation
Write (or create) every day, even if it's just for 20 minutes. Close other apps, turn off your phone, and focus on creating. Don’t worry about quality yet; focus on getting your ideas out in the format you want to share them in (writing, video, drawings, etc.). If you write seven days a week and only need to share once a week, you’ve got seven pieces to choose from. The more often you create, the more likely you’ll be to create something worth sharing with your audience.
Keep an idea scratchpad
Even if you don’t have time to write when an idea strikes, have somewhere that’s always nearby (or open if it’s a file) to at least jot down the idea. Get ideas for content from:
- Clients/customers asking you a question (others may have the same question).
- Learning something new that relates to your work.
- Interesting conversations you have with industry peers or clients.
- A known pain point or common struggle in your type of work.
- Making a mistake that you hope others won’t make, too.
- The inside scoop, back story, or behind-the-scenes of what you do or make.
- Talking about how people use your product or service.
- Writing case studies or success stories about previous customers.
Any given topic may have already been written about by someone else, but it has never been written from your perspective. Bring up a unique or personal perspective on the subject. Say something about it that relates to your journey, or to the type of people in your audience. You don’t have to dish on everything in your personal life, but write honestly from the heart.
Make outlines first
Staring at a blank page can be daunting and encourage procrastination. Write an outline for your first draft that simply highlights the key points you want to make. Don't waste energy fussing about style, format, or how well it reads. A first draft outline helps you focus on the topic first, and how it’s written later.
When you can, get ahead of your publishing schedule. Try to create a few pieces of content at a time and get ahead of your editorial schedule by a few weeks. That way if you get sick or life rubs lemons in your eyes, you’re covered.
The more books, blogs, articles, and publications that you read, the more ideas for topics you'll have. Read outside of your industry, as well. You never know what will inspire you to create new content.
The best advice for becoming a better writer is to write more. The sooner you can get over the fear of writing and start cultivating your own consistent practice, the faster you can start creating content that connects and engages with your audience.
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