7 tips from an enthusiastic amateur to help you beat writer’s block
Written by Phil Bray on 03/10/19
In 1996 Bill Gates said that “content is king”. It was true then, it’s true today and will remain true in the years and decades to come.
Content creation and distribution must be part of any business’ marketing strategy if growth is important. If it isn’t, you’re working with one hand tied behind your back.
Put simply, regularly produced, interesting and relevant content adds value to existing clients, prospects and professional connections. It also demonstrates your knowledge, and skills, and highlights the problems you solve for your clients.
There are essentially three different types of content:
- Blogs, articles etc.
Writing blogs and articles have the lowest barriers to entry. Podcasts and video take more time. Each has their place though, this week, inspired by a tweet last month from Dan Gaylor, we’ll consider blogs. We’ll cover video and podcasts in the coming weeks.
Practising what we preach
For nearly three years, we’ve published our weekly blog at 7.30 every Friday morning. It’s then promoted by email and via our social media accounts.
I’m only an amateur author but, over the years, I’ve developed habits which mean we’ve not missed a Friday yet. So, for those of you who yearn to produce content, are struggling to find inspiration, or just get writer’s block every time they try to put pen to paper, here are seven things I’ve learnt over the past few years. Hopefully, they might help you too.
1. Know your audience
Having a detailed knowledge of your audience ensures your content is more interesting, valuable and relevant to the reader. It also allows you to adjust your style to suit your reader.
It’s vital you understand your target audience’s worries, concerns and problems. In other words, what keeps them awake at night? As well as understanding their aspirations; what do they want to achieve themselves and what ambitions do they have for their loved ones?
Before you start producing content, we recommend building client personas considering all the above, and more. If you would like a copy of our client persona template, please email me by clicking here and I’ll be delighted to share it with you.
2. Build the blog over time
I follow the same process each time:
- I produce the structure of the blog, usually through a series of subheadings and key points.
- I’ll then flesh each of these out but won’t edit or correct typos and spelling errors. I’m simply trying to get ideas onto paper.
- Once that’s done, I’ll then start the editing process by reading, editing, rereading and editing until I’m happy with it. As Michael Lee says: “The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist”.
- I’ll print it out and edit the paper copy with a pen. This part of the process is essential; I always find better ways to make my points when reading my words on paper, compared to a screen.
- Finally, I’ll give it to a member of the Yardstick team to edit and another to proofread.
Through trial and error, you will find what works for you. If it doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up.
3. Separate writing from research
When I’m writing I hate to break my concentration to research a specific point. Therefore, I’ll write, noting where research needs to be added into the piece, and then come back to it later. Alternatively, after I’ve produced my structure, I might then head off to complete any research necessary, add it into the structure I’ve created, and then start the writing process.
Try and separate out research from writing. They are two different disciplines and it’s often hard to switch from one mindset to the other.
4. Create an ideas bank
Inspiration for blogs strikes at the most unusual times; in the shower, driving to work, over a pint with friends. If I don’t note the idea down, I’ll forget it. That’s where my phone comes in very handy.
If I can, I’ll email myself some notes, which I can then turn into a blog. If I can’t type the notes into my phone, I’ll call myself and leave a voicemail, which I can transcribe into an email later. Either way, those emails are then filed away to be looked up in the future when I need inspiration.
I’ll also file away other ideas in there, such as research which will make the subject of a blog or articles I want to respond to.
Do the same and you will create a bank of ideas which you can draw from when you sit down to write. Those days of writer’s block will be over!
There are other ways of adding to the ideas bank too:
- There’s always financial news you can use as inspiration. Don’t just report it though; no one will come to your website for something they might find on the BBC. Instead, explain what it means to your reader. How will it affect them? Will it make them better or worse off?
- The comments section below personal finance articles published online is always a rich source of ideas. Especially if you fancy debunking a few myths!
- Visit provider media centres where they publish press releases, research and white papers. Some are simply there to push their products and agenda, others though are treasure troves of great ideas.
5. Find the right time and place
It’ll take some experimenting to find but there will be a place and time where you’re at your most creative. For me, it’s a coffee shop outside normal working hours. I like the buzz of people around me and not having the distraction of the email pinging or phone ringing.
Some people like to write when they are listening to music; some will need perfect silence. Chris Budd produces his weekly videos and blogs when he’s walking his dog! There’s no right or wrong answer, just find whatever works for you.
6. If you’re on a roll, don’t stop
When you feel your creative juices flowing, take advantage and keep writing. Don’t stop once you’ve written one blog. You’ll be grateful you did when you’re on a deadline and inspiration is hard to come by.
7. Get a good proofreader
I find it impossible to proofread my own blogs. I know if I do, even after using a decent spellchecker, a mistake will sneak through. Typos reflect badly on the author and their business; therefore we always get blogs (for ourselves and our clients) proofread by someone who isn’t the author.
For you, that might mean getting a member (or two) of your team to proof the blog. If you don’t have anyone who can do that, then print a copy out and proof it yourself. As I said earlier, you will spot things on the printed version which you don’t see on a screen.
An alternative option
As I said at the start of this piece, these are the tips which have helped me produce content on a regular basis. I’m not a professionally trained writer so don’t claim to have all the answers, but if you have got some value from this blog then I’m delighted.
Of course, if you don’t have the time or inclination to write but still want the benefits of producing and distributing content, you could outsource the task. Our Yardstick Membership service allows you to do just that. To learn more about the benefits and cost please click here.