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Blogging 101: How to Get Started in 60 Minutes

This was originally published for Twenty Over Ten.

Blogging. That word can instantly polarize a room of advisors. Some people love the excitement of blocking off time in their calendar each month to blog. Others cringe at the idea – and sit in silence, staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor every time they try to write.

Whatever side of the fence you land on – it’s okay. Blogging can be stressful whether you love it or not, especially as a time-strapped business owner. I think the problem is that too many people view blogging as an artform. As a creative, I struggle with this mindset, as well. I want every piece I write to be valuable, full of engaging stories, and actionable. When I first started blogging for financial planners, I fell into the classic blogging trap. I’d sit down with a cup of coffee and wait for inspiration to strike.

Start Viewing Blogging as a Process- Not An Art

Here’s the thing – that image we all have of ourselves in our head of a creative writer who churns out mind-blowing content without even trying is a problem! As my business grew, I was finding that the “inspiration” I was waiting for came less and less frequently. I was slammed with client tasks and admin work, and there weren’t enough hours in the day for creativity.

That’s why I made the switch to viewing blogging as a repeatable process – just like anything else in my business. When we prepare ahead of time by creating a process – complete with workflows and templates – for our business blog, we’re giving ourselves the space we need to create content that’s valuable to our audience. And the best part? Putting a repeatable blogging process in place can take 60 minutes or less. So, grab your timer, and let’s get started.

Brainstorm Topics Ahead of Time: 15 Minutes

This is one of the most time-intensive components of setting yourself up for blogging success. Brainstorming topics can be challenging, especially if you feel like your creative energy is zapped right now. Here’s what I typically recommend:

  • Break your topics down by category (retirement, debt, saving, etc.)
  • Take those topics and make them niche-focused (example: Planning for Early Retirement as a Physician)
  • Stay evergreen whenever you can – you want to be able to reuse this content later!

If you can, make a list of 5-10 ideas to start. That’s more than enough to get the ball rolling for your next several blogging sessions! Sometimes, when you’re brainstorming, you may want to add a few bullet points next to each topic idea. This can help you hit the ground running when you fire up your laptop to write next time around!

Make Time: 5 Minutes

Let’s face the facts: if you don’t make time for something, it’s not going to get done. The next step in your blogging kick-off process is to pull up your calendar and block off time to write. Don’t spend too much time over thinking this. In fact, I usually recommend that people only block off 30-60 minute sessions when they first get started. Any longer than that, and you run the risk of procrastinating – and not actually writing at all! Think about when you want your next post to go live, and block off 30-60 minutes a week prior to sit down and write. Then, block off 15 minutes for revision and post scheduling the next day or the day after.

Create a Workflow: 15 Minutes

This is where the rubber meets the road. We’re shaking off the idea that blogging is some kind of unattainable artform and making it repeatable. I like to start with a blogging workflow. This can be something you type up in Google Drive, or even jot down on a sticky note that you keep on your desk. Here’s a simple blogging workflow that I find works for most people getting started:

  1. Open website’s back-end, login, create new post.
  2. Copy blog template outline (more on this in a moment) into new post.
  3. Select blog topic from idea list.
  4. Write. Don’t make edits – just get ideas onto the page. Set a timer and go.
  5. Go through initial clean-up. Save as draft.
  6. Come back to piece 1-2 days later, edit thoroughly.
  7. Check for SEO, incorporate keywords where you can.
  8. Add royalty free image and meta description.
  9. Schedule to publish (or publish now, depending on your schedule).
  10. Promote on social media and/or to your email list.

See? Ten easy steps that you can repeat each time you sit down to write a post. By writing directly in your website’s post publishing tool, you’re saving yourself the hassle of remembering whether the post is in Word or Drive, or whether you’ve loaded the draft to Dropbox. Keep things simple and eliminate steps wherever you can.

Think Through SEO: 10 Minutes

SEO is another concept that sends most advisors running for the hills. So, let me take some of the pressure off from your shoulders:

SEO doesn’t have to be complicated or scary. In fact, the less complicated you make it, the better off you’ll be.

Business owners who try to over-optimize each blog post or other piece of content by relying on keyword-stuffing, or other SEO “strategies” will struggle to create authentic, valuable content that connects with and converts their readers.

Instead, focus on one or two long-tail keywords per post. A good rule of thumb to follow is to incorporate this keyword in both your title and your first paragraph. You can also make your headline more “searchable” by using a headline analyzer like this one from CoSchedule.

Ready to take your SEO game a step further?

Google has a fantastic keyword planner that you can use to find searched terms in your area, research the time of day when keywords are searched, discover new related keywords to the topics you’re already writing about, and more. Just remember – don’t purposefully try to “rank” for a keyword unless it’s actually adding value to your audience. If you fall down the rabbit hole of trying to “outrank” other, bigger, financial service firms in your area – you could end up writing about keywords that have nothing to do with your niche audience or your value proposition. And that defeats the purpose of blogging as a business owner!

Start With An Outline: 10 Minutes

Next up is creating your repeatable blogging template. Mine looks something like this:

Yep – it’s that easy. I copy and paste this into every new blog post I write for myself or for my clients – and it makes the work go so much faster. You can also jot down a word-count goal at the top of your blog outline template, or even a space to write a meta description for your post.

An outline helps me to organize my thoughts in the form of a well-formatted blog post before I even get started writing. I have to think through how I want to break up my ideas into different sub-sections within the post, and I’m always pushing myself to have a call-to-action at the end to give readers something to do!

Prep For Your Next Session: 5 Minutes

You’re wrapping up your 60 minutes of blogging-prep, and now it’s time to plan ahead for your first writing session. What do you need to get in the zone? What tools, resources, or research do you need to get started on a given topic?

It can help to pick an idea ahead of time, do a quick Google search, and grab a few resource articles. Drop them in the space where you keep your running list of ideas as bullet points or notes. Maybe you even plan ahead for what type of picture you want to include and search for it using Unsplash or Pexels. This five-minute window is really for you to use in any way you need. Only you know what will help you dive right into writing during your scheduled “blogging” time in the next few weeks – so take a few minutes to knock out those small tasks now!