If writing is part of your job, you’ll know that you can’t wait for inspiration to strike. To get that press release or article done you just have to sit down and write - even when you’re feeling stuck, stale or just short on good ideas.
But when it comes to blogging too many people lose momentum - or put off starting a blog altogether - because they fear they will run out of ideas.
When I first started this blog, I was keen to build up a bank of content, so I posted every day for several months, which wasn’t nearly as difficult as I’d imagined. And although I don’t need to post every day any more, I’m pretty confident that if I needed to, I could.
So if you have to create content every day for your job (or you’d like to) here’s some tips to get you started.
1. Steal ideas
The internet is full of stuff that will ensure you never run short of inspiration, from content idea generators like this one to other peoples’ blog posts, podcasts and headlines. And the best thing is...it's all FREE! Read more about how to steal ideas in this blog post:
2. Keep a list of headlines
Create a spreadsheet to record headline or blog posts that catch your attention. I’ve currently got around a hundred on mine, which I’m constantly adding to, so if I’m running low on inspiration, I’ve always got ideas to work with.
3. Write at the same time every day
‘Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what gets you there.’
Make a commitment to write at the same time each day (such as first thing in the morning) and you’re much more likely to stick to your plan.
4. Use a timer
As the adage goes ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.’
I often set my timer for paragraphs or sections of articles I’m writing. I planned this post (see point 6) and decided which articles I was going to link to in advance, but I’m setting my timer for two minutes per point, which stops me wasting time.
N.B I completed this one with 49 seconds to spare!
5. Use lists and numbers
People love list and numbered posts because they’re easy to scan and share. The three top performing posts on my blog are all list posts.
6. Plan before you write
Speed up the writing process by finding any blog posts or articles you’re going to link to before you start writing. If you’re not stopping and starting to look things up, you’ll write much quicker.
7. Keep a list of questions
A good business or professional blog should provide value to readers (see 24), helping them solve their problems or just make their life easier in some way. So keeping a list of frequently asked questions can be a great way to create content. I keep a running list of questions people ask at my live training events. I also sometimes send out surveys to my email subscribers (using free tools like Wufoo) asking people about the challenges they are facing in their job/business, which is great way to generate content ideas.
8. Say something unexpected
People love controversy and debate, so statements that surprise people can be excellent click bait. My posts on why big words can make you look stupid and why it's good to be a copycat (plus five ideas you can steal from me) are amongst the best performing on my blog because they challenge received wisdom.
9. Create ‘how to’ posts
‘How to’ posts are always popular with readers and allow you present content in a more attractive, accessible way with screenshots, images and photographs. There are plenty of resources to help you create attractive images such as Canva and Picmonkey. You can even add audio and video files with resources like AudioBoo and Screenflow.
My post on how to write exciting copy about boring things is one of the most popular on my blog.
10. Tell a story
People love stories, so don’t be afraid to mine your own life (or your friends’ - with their approval of course) for material. What tackling my fear of water taught me about getting press coverage is one of the most popular on this blog.
11. Create a content schedule
It doesn’t matter how creative you are, there will be times when you’re stuck for ideas. That’s why creating a content schedule (which can just be a simple spreadsheet) listing what you’re going to write and when can be a lifesaver. If you’ve got a title and a commitment to post on a particular day, you’re far less likely to procrastinate.
12. Accept failure is inevitable
There will be times when you write something that doesn’t go down as well as expected. You may even find yourself on the receiving end of criticism or even abuse (thankfully the latter is rare). Analyse what went wrong (and what you might have done differently) and move on - quick.
13. Keep an eye on your webstats
Sounds obvious, but if you notice particular kinds of content e.g. list posts is performing well with your audience, you should probably do more of the same.
14. Make use of ‘dead’ time
Don’t waste that 20 minute train journey or wait for a meeting messing about on the internet. If you plan out your blog posts in advance, you can write chunks of it when you get ‘dead’ time.
A single blog post generally takes me 1-2 hours (including planning), which means I can get a section of a post written on my 17 minute train journey into London. It doesn’t sound like much, but it all adds up...
15. Don’t navel-gaze
The single biggest mistake I see people making with blogs is to write solely about themselves/their organisation...which makes pretty dull reading for most people. Be honest with yourself: will anyone really care about your charity fundraising day or your CEO’s rambling thoughts on suchandsuch?
Keep in mind that business or professional blogs should help your audience solve their problems or make their lives easier in some way and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.
16. Write in batches
A quick admission: I don’t do this myself because the thought of spending eight hours’ solid writing blog posts doesn’t appeal to me. But, for some people, blocking out a day or a month (or a week, depending on how much content you have to create) can be a great way to get the job done.
17. Bring together opposing ideas
If you’re stuck for inspiration, putting together two opposing ideas can be a great way to generate content - and it’s create clickbait for headlines. How to write exciting copy about boring things is really popular on this blog, as is why using big words can make you look stupid.
18. Use guest posters
This isn’t something I do very often because of my USP (the fact I’m a journalist giving advice on PR), but can be a great way to generate fresh content - and a new audience - for your blog.
19. Repurpose old content
I recently carried out a ‘content audit’ of my blog, getting rid of anything I felt was out of date or below par. The process gave me loads of ideas on how I might repurpose existing content e.g. refreshing/updating old blog posts, turning list posts into separate blog posts, putting the content into different formats (e.g. presentations, infographics, video lessons etc), offering it for guest posts...
Here are two blog posts I’ve found really useful on the topic:
20. Pose questions
Questions can be a great way to ‘hook’ readers in, as with this example:
21. Find news hooks
Current news stories can also be a great ‘hook’ for blog posts (particularly if they are a bit off beat or ‘quirky’).