Business blogging as easy as falling off a horse in a steeplechase
Posted on October 15th, 2012
Is there a no gimmicks way to write one blog post per week when you have no time?
The challenge. As a business owner I struggle mightily to find time to write for my business. And it’s one of the first things I feel that I can jettison when I’m too busy to even help all my current clients. But that kind of thinking will kill my business. And it will kill yours too. There’s no telling when a key client will pick up the phone to say they’re not going to buy from you anymore. It happens to the best providers, even in the best of times.
The Google call-to-arms. Today, the impact of regular business blogging and social media updates is rising exponentially. Google has made the most sweeping and important changes to their search algorithm of anytime since the beginning of their existence. Every change they’ve made has punished websites that lacked quality content and links (and maintained their emphasis on regular updates). And quality visitors and links only come from creating good content that draws people and links like ants to a picnic.
Writing is difficult. But it’s no more difficult than a dozen other business disciplines like accounting that you have to master to run a company. But few business owners would sit down and attempt to manage their accounting books like it was something you could do by simply concentrating more. Yet, we ask that of ourselves with our business writing all the time.
There’s a cure for what ails you with almost any business problem. There are quick fixes, temporary solutions and long term strategies. I’m game to use any and all of these if I’m solving a problem for my business. But at some point you have to find long term strategies that produce results. Long term solutions must be thought out and repeatable. There’s no sense in sprinting if you need to run a marathon. And writing useful content for your business prospects is a marathon and exactly the kind of discipline you must follow to grow your business.
Ask a professional writer how they get a writing project done and they’ll tell you that the trick is to write each day. That goes for simple blog posts to books. And writing a little each day is more efficient so it’s the time-starved business owner’s best friend.
Many business owners or managers can write a quality blog post in 10-15 minutes of daily writing if they write over a five day business week. If you follow this formula you’ll likely have written for between 50 and 95 minutes over five business days, produced on the order of 2,000 words and performed at least three edits. This culminates in a finished blog post that’s between 500 and 1,000 words that’s easy to ready, makes sense and provides your reader with useful, relevant content.
Working in small bite sized quantities is a method I bet you’ve used plenty of times before. It’s well known that working important actions in to your daily habits is a key to producing better quality with sustainable results.
Is this kind of time investment worth your time?
Yes. If you have any ability to write it’s time to get better so you see a bigger return on the time you invest. If you’d asked me this question before Google made sweeping changes to their search algorithm this year with their Panda and Penguin updates I’d advise caution about doing your own writing and content marketing.
Not anymore. Today, your website will no longer rank competitively unless you’re producing quality content for your website and producing similar quality social media updates. If you don’t value your organic search engine leads then be prepared to increase your ad budget by 5X to 10X to replace the lost traffic you’ve received in the past from google. Finding an effective form of advertising that doesn’t break the bank remains an allusive target that typically burns a lot of money.
Can I hire a ghost writer if I hate writing or suck at it?
If you hate writing and just want great search results then you’re still going to need to spend a significant amount of time working with a ghost writer to dial-in a writing style that works for your business. And the content that you’ll produce together will need to be of high enough quality to be appreciated by your target audience. Once you develop a writing voice and flow for working with each other you’ll still need to meet regularly to go over topics, have the writer ask questions to get strong quotes and details that only a subject matter expert could know about your business. This isn’t a hands-off process but it does take less time in the long run than writing from scratch (at the expense of having to pay a ghost writer).
Writing drives clearer thinking
Writing has important fringe benefits for your business. Writing requires you to research and think about your prospects and your business. It’s hard to write like this and not stumble upon an insight that helps your business. And because your business and the world around you is constantly changing it’s common for this kind of writing to lead to new products or services that help you grow. Writing requires that you find clarity and it is this clarity that will give you long lasting value from investing in regular writing.
The key to writing when you have no time, is to write like a professional. Like it was your job. And blogging for business is a part-time professional writer’s job.
Writers follow a pattern of writing before they do anything else, sort of a Do Not Pass Go! until you’ve written today creed. And in the professional’s habits we find the actions that we can mimmick to create our own habit.
- Always be on the lookout for new content as you work through your week
- Bookmark or store interesting source material in your memory system to reference later for quotes and links (I use Evernote)
- Write when you first get up, before you do anything else
- Don’t check your email
- Do not start getting ready for your day
- Do not pass go until you’ve written for 15 minutes
- Be OK with not finishing a complete post, but don’t be surprised if you manage a rough draft or outline
- Use tools to automate any part of your writing work to speed it up or reduce drudgery (Text Expander is great for text snippets and I use Byword for writing in markdown with Brett Terpstra’s Apple Services to automate reference links).
- Relax, you’ve got all week to finish your post!
Budget 10-15 minutes of writing time over 5 business days. By writing for 10 to 15 minutes five days a week you’ve got between 50 minutes and one hour and fifteen minutes of writing time to write your article. And that gives you enough time to write and edit a post that will surpass more than 90% of the drivel you’ll find on business blogs.
Because your content quality will be higher you’ll increase the chances of receiving more natural backlinks and Google will come to see your site as “the real deal.” That’s if you follow this method.
But what if you don’t know what to write about?
That won’t last. As long as you remember that your job is to write about something relevant for your customers or prospects, it’s hard to run out of material. The more you write and set your mind to the process of daily writing the more you’ll spot opportunities to write about. Writing more will also lead to getting burned out, especially if you’re revisiting the same topic over and over again. At that point I suggest you research more ways to develop interesting content. But don’t judge this this as a major problem. All the practice you’ll have done in writing every day will make this a challenge you’ll be better able to meet. And the reality is that you’ll need to take time off occasionally to recharge your writing batteries. Taking breaks is key to recharging, just don’t let them become extended vacations as I have done…
Grist for the mill – the business writing mill
Customer interactions are grist for your blogging mill. Sales and customer service calls, complaints, inquiries, these are all opportunities to see what prospects see as useful information. If you listen to your customers you can write a strong FAQ document. These client questions are a gold mine of writing material. Your jobs is simple – pick out relevant questions that people ask over and over again and write your solution to them. Add anecdotes and customer stories. Your blog post will provide your typical customer prospect with exactly the kind of answers that they’re looking for.
Writing one blog post per week can be as easy as falling off a horse in a steeplechase
We’ve established that the questions your prospects and customers ask are the same topics you should be blogging about for your business. Today, you answer many of these questions by email. And these emails are often a whole section of what could be a blog post, OR even an entire blog post. There are usually a few tweaks that you can make to an email (like removing some specific language or situation) that will transform an email in to the core of a useful blog post.
These kinds of emails can typically be turned in to posts in less time then writing a new post from scratch. Think about it. How many emails do you write a week that are about common client needs, questions concerns? A lot. And when you sit through and look at 5 days worth of these emails there’s often a blog post in them.
Your workflow is to notice these emails as they go by and either copy/paste them to your writing tool (or memory system) or even just cc them to your writing tool or to-do app so you know you’ve got a topic to write about. Sometimes I’ll be writing a response to a client and get part way through it and realize I could be writing a blog post. In those situations I keep in mind that my email doesn’t need the same level of editing as a blog post would but still needs a proper beginning, middle and end. With that in mind, write your email and call it a first draft.
It can be hard to get up on a horse the first time and even harder to get back on one that you’ve fallen off of. A little knowledge and inspiration or a new process can help you get going. The email process I’ve outlined above is a unique way to look at content generation in the context of leveraging existing workflows and time expenditures in your business. But there are other ways. Here are just a few that may get you moving.
- Pick up some books on creative writing – they tend to be more interesting and motivational than business writing books. A well regarded example is If you want to write by Brenda Ueland.
- Read about ways to unlock your creativity and productivity like the book Do the work from author Steven Pressfield.
- Hang out online with other writers. Find writing websites, subscribe to their email list, follow their channels on social media. A favorite of mine is Brain Pickings from writer Maria Popova, a writer for Wired and The Atlantic. where you can get a weekly email of amazing writing content that is both instructive and inspirational.
- Take part in a regular writing exercise to get in the flow of writing. An example would be WritingFromTheSoul.net who sends out a list of items every Saturday and asks you to do some free writing based on her topics.
Everyone is busy and time time starved
Some of us don’t practice our writing so it either seems impossible or takes forever. Both of these things can be remedied with a bit of practice, just like accounting and other business disciplines. It’s not always easy and it does require planning, organization and effort. But that’s business. You don’t just show up and have money rain down on you despite what all those Internet marketing scams say.
Here are some other great sources for writing relevant blog posts
- One of the best kinds of content is something that teaches your prospects about the dangers of your industry. For example, how to avoid getting ripped off when you buy
- Explaining complex parts of your service or product. Such as a lawyer or mortgage broker who can simplify mind-numbing tax code or the latest mortgage relief program with an anecdote or example.
- How-to articles. If you can explain how to do something that solves a prospect’s problem you’ll get traffic and links. If you share specific examples that you use in your own business (your “secrets”, you’ll likely make a more memorable and link worthy post)
- Tell stories about your customers and their experiences. This often requires leaving out some names and other info but these customer stories can be compelling.
Is business writing or blogging really for me?
No one can determine if business blogging is ultimately worth it to you. But you have to try an organized or semi-professional workflow before you can really judge that. You’ll learn about your own strengths and weaknesses in your writing and realize that you’re not always following your own advice (shocking!) which in turn typically leads you to live your advice more often. It’s the same kind of sobering experience that parenting can be when you realize that you can’t tell your kids what to do without demonstrating the skill or habit you’re shouting at them like a drill sargaent.
No gimmicks doesn’t mean you can’t trick your brain to your own benefit
Have you noticed how breaking down tasks to their smallest action can help you get off your procrastinating derrière? No, it’s just me that wanders the halls of Amazon.com searching for the latest bluetooth headset or begins a new counterproductive research project into productivity for the 800th time? Scott H. Young, who recently hacked a four-year MIT Computer Science degree in one year through self-study, cited Stanford researcher B.J. Fogg’s work on making tiny changes to your routine to effect larger, permanent habits.
“Want to start flossing? Stanford researcher, B.J. Fogg found the best way is to commit only to flossing one tooth.
At first, this might sound ridiculous. After all, what good is flossing one tooth? But the idea is that flossing one tooth is really easy, and almost nobody will stop flossing after only finishing the first tooth.
It turns out many behaviors are like this, which have a trigger which is relatively easy to perform, but cascades effort to the rest of the behavior. If you can establish the trigger as a habit, the rest will follow.”
Don’t beat the daily blogging horse – hop on it and ride it, ahem, write it like the wind
I wrote this post because I fell off the daily blogging horse after getting burned out and partly because I got too busy writing for other people as their ghost writer. Writing for other people led me to approach writing as a professional discipline and that’s what led me back to writing for my own business today. The moral of this story is to use professional tools, methods and mimic a professional writer’s habits to find the most learning and biggest result in improving your business blog writing.