When I ask people their biggest, most urgent frustration around blogging, most answer that actually writing the damn posts is their number 1 problem. So it makes sense that when you Google “How to write a blog post” there are lots of templates and frameworks and “5 simple steps” to tell you how to actually write a blog post.
And yet. And yet…
I don’t think that’s what people are actually saying.
I believe what’s really going on is less a problem with their writing or with them as writers, and more a symptom of not having the foundation and systems in place that tell them WHY they’re writing and how it all connects to their ultimate goals (mo’ money).
And for that, no amount of templates or “simple steps” to writing can save you.
You need something more fundamental than that.
First, let’s address the elephant in the living room:
You don’t have to write blog posts for your business.
Say whaaaaat? No, it’s true. If you hate blogging with the white hot passion of a thousand suns and are looking for how to write a blog post, nothing I say is going to change your mind. And besides, if blogging isn’t your jam, there are plenty of other ways to get your message out to the world. You can podcast, you can do video blogs, you can do infographics, etc. etc.
But — and you knew there was going to be a but —
You don’t have to blog, but you do have to write.
If you’re running an online business, I can’t imagine a single scenario in which you will not have to write something. Could be your website, could be emails, could be a sales page, could be some tweets, but at some point, you’re going to have to write something.
Unless and until you decide to hire someone to do your writing for you (which is totally legit, and a service I offer) you’re going to have to learn to manage at least SOME writing for yourself.
All that to say: If you hate writing, you can avoid blogging, but you can also apply all the following advice to any writing you have to do for your business.
How to write a blog post (and why is it SO HARD)?
If you DO choose to write a blog for your business, you are in good company, and for good reason:
- More than 60% of U.S. online consumers say they’ve made a purchase as a direct result of reading a blogger’s recommendation. (Factbrowser)
- B2B marketers who blog gain a 67% increase in lead generation over their peers that don’t. (Insideview)
- According to 78% of chief marketing officers, custom content will be the champion of marketing tactics in the future. (HanleyWood)
- 65% of daily internet users read blogs. (U.addresstwo)
For many internet-based business, blogging is the best, easiest, and most efficient way to collect email addresses, which are basically sales leads. That means that each blog post could lead to new sales over time.
Everything — and every expert I’ve talked to — agrees that content marketing, especially to generate email leads and then sell via email, works extremely well and aren’t going anywhere.
So if it’s all so friggin’ awesome, why is writing a blog post so dang hard??
There are several reasons, which fit into two main categories: psychological and physical.
Part 1: Overcoming the psychological problems (no, you’re not crazy)
I would say that nine times out of 10, if you are struggling with how to write a blog post, it is a psychological problem, not actually a writing problem or a problem of not having enough time (which we will come to in part two).
If you’re writing in a language other than your native language or have a learning difference like dyslexia, you get a pass: it may actually be the writing that’s your problem.
All the rest of y’all just crazy.
But only sort of.
Because there are all these limiting beliefs that tend to pop up when we face a challenge, and for many people, writing and marketing are a challenge. A limiting belief is any belief that constrains or holds us back in some way. They’re all about defining you: what you can and cannot do, what you should or should not do, or how the world works.
And what all limiting beliefs have in common is that they limit you (hence the name). They hold you back because they are incorrect or at least incomplete. They sometimes come when we form false conclusions based on experience or education, because of faulty logic, because we’re looking for excuses, or out of fear.
But uncovering and naming these limiting beliefs can help you bust through them and start getting stuff done. So let’s name some of the most common:
1. “I’m not a good writer.”
When I was in elementary school, we had this thing called the President’s Physical Fitness Test (Millennials — I know y’all feel me here) wherein every year we had to do a series of tests to see how fast we could run a mile, how long we could hang in a pull-up, how far we could reach to touch our toes, etc.
And I’m just going to be real with you here: I hated it. One big reason was that I had asthma and wasn’t very athletic. Another big reason was my sadistic P.E. teacher who made us line up in order of how fast we ran the mile so that everyone could see who was last — me.
But what I didn’t understand at the time, what didn’t occur to me until shockingly recently, was that I could have practiced those skills and improved. Nobody told me that. I thought that you could either do a pull up or you couldn’t — end of story. I thought until sometime in my 20s that I physically could not run a full mile. Until I could.
The point is, many people have similar stories that they’ve told themselves — maybe since childhood — about being a bad writer.
But like running or drawing or cooking or playing an instrument, writing is a skill and one you can improve with practice.
And, just as it was pretty stupid for my P.E. teacher to think any of us would improve at pull-ups without practice, the only way to improve at writing is to practice writing.
Look up any list of 10 or 25 or 33 ways to become a better writer, and I will bet you five shiny internet dollars that “just write” or “practice” is on every. Single. One. That’s because it’s really the only tip you need — although, the other things in this post will also help.
The shorthand for this is BICFOKTAM. Butt In Chair Fingers On Keyboard Typing Away Madly. And it’s the only way anyone ever becomes a writer. Period.
The good news is that blogging is the perfect way to practice! It happens on a regular schedule, it’s low risk (compared to, say, writing a proposal or a sales page), and there are methods to help you improve. (See part 2.)
Tip: Look at all your blogging as practice for getting better, and any time you hear yourself telling that old story that you’re “not a good writer,” name it as a story, and go out and do a pull up. Or, just keep writing.
Equally insidious, yet masquerading as helpful, is the story that your blogs are “not good enough.”
It may even be that they are “not good enough — yet.”
This is perfectionism, plain and simple, and it is a story you’re telling yourself — but also a fear.
It’s a deep-rooted fear that you might not be good enough. It means that you’re not confident in what you’re saying. And that’s OK.
Because I am.
I’m confident that you started your business because you had a message you wanted to share with the world, that there are people who need to hear that message, who need what you’re selling. I’m confident that you have enough passion, moxie, talent, and expertise to deliver on that message.
And I’m confident that what you’ve written for that blog post? Is just fine.
Again, this is one way that blogs are awesome: You get another opportunity to work on your message, your writing, your posts every time you post. GENIUS!
And I can tell you from experience, it does get easier to put yourself out there. But it takes practice. And you have to actually post something for it to count, OK?
Tip: Bust through your perfectionism by telling yourself that every thing you post is practice, and it’s not meant to be perfect. Now, go clear out that drafts folder…
3. Belief that it’s not as important as other things in your business
When I was in the first year of this business, I had one month that was my best. Month. Ever. And then the following month was totally dead. It was a terrible cash-flow roller coaster. I was subscribing to a monthly call with a business coach at the time, and so I asked her what was going on.
She asked me, “Well, how much marketing were you doing last month — during your best month ever?”
The answer, predictably, was zero. I was so busy onboarding new clients, doing sales calls, etc. that I had completely neglected my marketing. And surprise, surprise — it showed the following month.
I find that a lot of business owners find it hard to prioritize their marketing tasks (including writing content) for two reasons.
First, it falls into quadrant II of the time management matrix popularized by Stephen Covey: meaning that it is important, but not urgent.
Many business owners spend so much time in the other quadrants that they never “get around to” the tasks in quadrant II, which include planning, strategic thought, and lots of marketing tasks. The result is that we’re always busy but never making much progress because we never make time for the tasks that constitute an investment in our business.
Second, I suspect that many business owners don’t connect blogging to making money. They prioritize tasks for which they can easily connect the dots between the task and money in the bank, ie: client work, creating new products or services, launching, etc.
And it’s true: blogging rarely leads directly to a sale in the sense that you don’t put a big “BUY NOW” button on a blog post and expect any sales.
BUT. For most businesses, blogging is one of the best ways to generate new leads, and those leads do lead directly to sales.
If you think of your business as a funnel, you have to fill the top with new people who have just become aware of your business or your product or service, as in this image from Aweber.
Just like what happened after my “best month ever,” when I neglected my marketing efforts, I wasn’t filling the top of my funnel, and so it wasn’t long before the leads ran out and there was no one left to make sales to.
Tip: Make time for your marketing efforts and other important but not urgent tasks. Put them in your calendar and treat them like any other appointment — see part two for more tips on how to do this.
4. Belief that blogging is dead or “doesn’t work”
Many business owners understand the funnel concept of content marketing, and want to put it to use for their business — but they don’t see any results from blogging, and get discouraged.
They’re blogging regularly, they’re writing good content, they’re sharing with their audience, but somehow it’s not working. They think they’re doing everything right, but they can’t connect their blogging efforts to any increase in leads and sales.
And so they give up — or think about giving up.
The negative experience they’ve had with blogging causes them to have the limiting belief that blogging doesn’t work, or that maybe it works for other people, but not for them.
But here’s the catch-22: if you believe blogging doesn’t work, then it won’t work.
However, if you open yourself up to the possibility that blogging does work to build businesses, then it becomes a question of how to make it work, rather than whether or not it works at all.
Once you get to that place, you can start testing and working on your strategy. A good place to start is with my book, Make a Killing With Content: Turn content into profits with a strategy for blogging and content marketing, which lays out my strategy for creating content marketing that works.
Tip: Start with the end in mind, so begin your blogging strategy by identifying what you’d like the goal of your blogging to be. Get more leads? Get more traffic? Get noticed by thought leaders? Then work backwards from that goal to decide how you will achieve it.
Overcoming limiting beliefs
Did any of these sound familiar? If so, you may be fighting with some limiting beliefs around blogging or writing in general. If you think you may be wrestling with a limiting belief, try:
- Identifying the belief: Whenever you feel you are limiting yourself in some way, see if you can name the belief that is leading to that limit.
- Seeking the source of the belief: Try to think back to the first time you had this belief. Was it an experience or education of some sort that led you to this belief?
- Recognizing the falsehood. Loads of times limiting beliefs lead us to make false assumptions or use faulty logic. Can you identify the falsehood to help you see the limiting belief?
- Flipping the belief. What happens when you flip the belief around? For example, if you believe you aren’t a good writer, what happens when you think you are a good writer?
- Beginning “as if.” After you’ve flipped the belief, try beginning as if it were true. For example, if you flipped “blogging doesn’t work” to “blogging does work,” how would you proceed as if that were true?
- Gathering evidence of success. Important to validating your new beliefs is to gather evidence of success, so set yourself up to test and measure your new actions to prove their success.
Part 2: Physical reasons blogging is so hard or BICFOKTAM
As I mentioned above, one of the best and only ways to get better at writing and blogging is BICFOKTAM: butt in chair, fingers on keyboard, typing away madly. (In other words, just doing it.)
But many times — loads of times — that’s much easier said than done.
This is when the physical excuses start cropping up — that you don’t have time to blog, that it takes too long, that you don’t know what to write about, etc.
P.S. Can you see how each of these is actually a limiting belief? What happens when you turn those beliefs around? ie: You do have time to blog, it does not take too long, you know exactly what to write about, etc…
If you mostly feel you have trouble with these physical restrictions around creating blog posts, try this:
1. Plan first
I’ll admit it: I’m a little type-A. (Yes, those are my friends and family laughing hysterically at the thought that I’m a “little” type-A…) But I genuinely believe that everyone can benefit from planning their blog posts before they sit down to write.
According to productivity expert Brian Tracy, “Every minute you spend in planning saves 10 minutes in execution.”
That’s a 10x return on your investment! That means if you spend 1 hour planning out your blog posts, it will save you 10 hours in the creation of those blog posts later on. That’s incredible!
Plus, planning allows you to implement that strategy we talked about above so that you can be certain you’re filling the top of your funnel at the right time with the right kinds of customers.
Planning is what my Content Intelligence Academy course is all about, and it’s something I will continue to preach as long as I’m in this business (and probably even beyond!).
2. Use time blocking & figure out how long things actually take
Consider this: if you don’t know how long a task takes, how can you ensure you have enough time to complete it?
(Short answer: you can’t.)
If you don’t know how long it takes you to write a blog post — or do any of the other tasks associated with blogging, like finding an image, and uploading it to your website — it’s time to gather some data.
Once you know how long it takes you to write a blog post, you can more confidently find and block out time in your schedule. Treat it like any other business task or appointment. Even if you need to break it up over several days, give yourself enough time to complete the task.
Over time you can look for ways to make your writing faster and more efficient; for now, don’t try to cram 10 pounds of flour in a 5-pound sack, as my mama would say. If it takes you 6 hours to write a blog post, don’t kid yourself and only block out one.
3. Use the Pomodoro technique and other things to help you focus
If you do find it takes 2, 4, 5 hours or more for you to write a single blog post, don’t despair — and don’t try to tackle it in one long, continuous burst. That’s a recipe for hating writing if I ever saw one!
Instead, use the Pomodoro technique or something similar to break your work time into manageable chunks. You’ll have to experiment to find out how long a chunk of work time works best for you. Suggestions for how long your productive times should be vary from 25 minutes to 90 minutes, but all suggest a break in between sessions.
There are Pomodoro timers and apps to help you time your productive sessions. Other helpful tools might be apps that block distracting websites (I use SelfControl to block Netflix during my work day, because once I start I can’t stop!), timers to track your productivity, or one of my favorites, Brain.FM which creates music and soundscapes to help you concentrate.
Experiment with what works for you. And remember to add in time for breaks to your estimated completion time in step 2!
4. Write a crappy first draft
If you identified at all with the perfectionism psychological block, this will be the toughest step for you! (It certainly is for me!)
As a perfectionist, I don’t want to complete a “draft” until it’s as close to perfect as I can make it. I’m notoriously bad about editing as I go, which limits my forward progress dramatically.
But the more you can push through and do whatever it takes to get one draft finished — even if it’s crappy! — the further you will be toward your goals. And, having a crappy first draft is what step 5 is for.
5. Get an accountability reader or an editor to create deadlines
I don’t know about you, but I work best when I have hard and fast deadlines — otherwise, tasks can creep into that quadrant 2 box, never to be dealt with.
What I am less good at, however, is keeping deadlines I set for myself. I need an external source of accountability to motivate me.
That’s why, whether you think of yourself as a pretty good/clean writer or someone who needs a lot of help, it can be extremely helpful to have an editor or even just an accountability reader who “proofreads” your blog posts for you.
Not only does it get an extra set of eyes on your writing to find the inevitable typos, but it also creates an external deadline; you know that other person is waiting on you to be finished.
Not for nothing, but it’s extra motivating when you’re paying the editor for her time. (A service we would be happy to offer. Just sayin’.)
6. Write less, but better
If you have been getting my emails, you know that I took the bold step this month and committed to writing less, but better.
That is, I will be posting less frequently (once a month instead of once a week), but hopefully you will find my posts more in-depth and useful.
This was a pretty scary decision for me, because my job is to be a blogger! It’s kinda my jam. So saying I was going to blog less felt radical.
At the same time, it feels right at this moment, for various reasons. (If you’re curious, I’ll be going into some of those reasons in my weekly emails this month.) And I realized that believing that I had to blog more was a limiting belief. So I flipped it.
If you find it difficult to churn out a blog post every week, it may be time to reexamine whether blogging that frequently is a good use of your time. Perhaps you could dedicate one day per month to creating a really EPIC piece of content, and then use the additional time during the month to promote that content, and see even better results.
Which brings us to…
7. Understand your KPIs
KPI stands for “key performance indicators” which is a fancy way to say know your numbers.
And I put this one in here because I think many, many people don’t understand how effective their blogs already are or could be for their business.
The only way to know is to decide what your key performance indicators will be — that is, which numbers will you track and look at to tell you whether or not your blog posts are achieving the results you want.
My favorite KPI is email opt-ins, because I know that once someone opts in to my email list, I have a much better chance of converting them to a customer. This will be a common KPI for lots of businesses, but only you can decide what’s important to your business.
And once you’ve chosen your KPI, be sure to set up the mechanisms to track it, like Google Analytics or other apps.
8. Create a system (checklist) for yourself — or steal mine
Finally, the best way to get anything done is to create a system around it.
Sometimes the word “system” is misleading, but in this context, it simply means a list of steps or actions you take to complete a task.
In other words, a checklist.
If you have a checklist you don’t have to try to do everything for your blog post all in one go. You can start and stop and know both where you left off and what you have remaining. You can easily outsource certain steps of the process. You can make sure you don’t forget any steps. And you can eventually hand the entire task over to someone else, if you choose to.
Now, I’d love to know in the comments below: What is your biggest hangup when it comes to actually writing the dang blog post? How do you write a blog post and get it done? Please share your insights and aha moments for the benefits of others in the comments below.