How to Create a Blog Content Calendar

There’s so much value in a good plan. I built my content calendar last fall and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it to.

Content Calendar

A content calendar helps you out!

  • It take the guesswork out of what to write
  • It keeps your blog on track with relevant content
  • A content calendar sets you on a strategic plan that moves you forward
  • It helps you avoid burning out
  • It aligns your blog with your core goals

I’ve been a professional writer for a long time, but up until this year I didn’t put together a blogging content calendar.

Why?

A few reasons I suppose. First, because I create content calendars for everyone else so my blog was the last thing I touched in an average freelance day. Second, because I was a bit paralyzed in overwhelm. So many ideas. Too many things to write about. You know, the usual blogging problems.

#bloggerproblems

But I knew the value of a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track.

Long story short, I told myself to quit stalling and created a sweet content calendar. I built it last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.


How to create an editorial calendar

  1. Get clear on who you’re talking to (your ideal reader) and what you offer (what’s your goal? what are you trying to achieve?)
  2. I spent a few months figuring this out. Here’s what I came up with: My ideal readers are creative freelancers. I help busy people do marketing.

    To get clear on my blogging goals I took tips from people I trust but I found the most practical help from Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Planning Process. In this post she outlines her step-by-step planning process and links to her simple business plan. I filled it out and used the plan I came up with as the foundation for my content calendar.

  3. Decide what your topics are
  4. Once you know what you offer, it’s time to brainstorm what topics you want to cover. For example, my ideal reader struggles with time management, marketing/digital strategy, organization, and overwhelm. Look at that, I have four main topics.

    I used these topics as headings, then brainstormed blog post ideas for each one. From a short session I had 17 ideas. If I decided to blog once per week I all of a sudden had 17 weeks of posts lined up. Wow. OK maybe I could do this.

    And third

  5. Put everything into a calendar template

There are a lot of options when it comes to editorial/content calendars, everything from paper planners to cloud-based task systems. You need to use what works for you. After some trial and error I found Trello works for me. If you haven’t heard of it before I’ll give you a little overview of how it works and how I used it.

Trello is a cloud-based visual project management tool. It took me a while I understand how to use it but after a few video tutorials (I watched how other people used Trello) I figured out a system.

How I plan content using Trello

First, I started different boards: Content Calendar, Goals, Article Ideas, Articles in Progress, Blog Post Planner, Newsletter, etc.

Next, I populated the boards with lists. In my Content Calendar board I started with my four main themes and put them on a list of their own. I have found this keeps me focused on my big ideas when I’m brainstorming individual blog posts. In my Article Ideas board I created 12 lists for the 12 months and put 10-20 ideas/prompts under each list. For example, my August prompts are back to school, Labour Day recipes, beach crafts, scheduling, planning, gardening, canning, autumn, etc. These aren’t topics I’ll write about per se, but it’s a place to start.

I have different lists in each of my boards. Some are tasks with due dates and some are just lists of ideas, links to articles I want to come back to, or goals for this year.

This is what is working for me. Having a visual plan laid out holds overwhelm back. In fact I haven’t sat down and wondered what to write in months. Months! I also like my content calendar because it keeps my blog ideas separate from my freelance work or anything else I’m working on. Oh yeah, and it never gets lost on my desk.

There's so much value in a good plan. I built my content calendar last fall and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it to.

Here’s how I plan each month of blog content using a content calendar

I try and plan at least three months of content at a time. When I say “plan” it’s not like I have draft posts written up, but I have a blog topic and maybe a few notes of the direction I want to go with it. I also have coloured labels for my different types of content and I label it right away.

All the blog topics go in a list I’ve called Articles in Progress. Then when I go to plan a new month I create a new list with the month name and pull the different brainstorms from Articles in Progress to the month blog lineup. From there I look to see each theme is covered (easy to tell when they’re colour-coded!) and assign dates.

Of course, none of this is set in stone so if a sponsored post comes up, I’m able to swap my calendar around to make room. Oh, and how awesome is it to actually know when you can post something when speaking with a client? I mean, how pro!

Once a month is over I archive the list and set up the next month of content, so I always have a rolling three-month plan.

And when I have a new idea? I add it to the Articles in Progress list. A sponsored post comes up? I figure out when is the best time to post and move my calendar around. It was a lot of initial set up but now that it’s rolling I don’t know how I blogged before this. Not only am I keeping on track but it is an enjoyable experience. No more stress!

If my story isn’t enough to convince you to build and keep to an editorial calendar, I don’t know what will. You can’t be strategic without a good plan.

By the way, if this is something you want to set up I’ve outlined my process in a short (super short) video in case it’s helpful.


To create a content calendar you’ll need:

  • Some sort of calendar template
  • Themes
  • Monthly topics
  • Blog post ideas

One last thing.

Before I could plan what to write I decided how often I would write. I decided I’d post each Tuesday at minimum. I want to write more, but deep down I knew once per week was even asking a lot. My blog hadn’t been priority for a long time and I needed to get back in the habit of posting with consistency before I could do anything grander.

I also made posting on Tuesdays the priority over posting on topic.

Weird, I know. I spent all that time coming up with what and who and why and how and all that. But here’s the thing, all the topics I came up with were things I’m also struggling with. Some of them needed to simmer on the back burner while I figured out what I have to say about it. Some ideas needed testing. Like this topic for example. Can a blogging content calendar help a busy writer who doesn’t have time for a personal blog? Six months ago I wasn’t sure. Now I know.

So sometimes my posts aren’t 100 per cent on topic. And I’m good with that. Because I am still posting every Tuesday.

Need help cutting through the paralysis of analysis in order to get focused on what you want your blog to do for you? Let’s chat!

There is so much value in a good plan—there’s nothing like a calendar to tell you what to write and keep you on track. I built my blogging content calendar last fall, I implemented it last January, and I’m keeping to it today. Here’s what I did and how you can do it too.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

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10 Reasons to Start a Blog

If you’re thinking maybe it’s time to start a blog, I hope this overview helps you decide one way or the other. I’ve seen many benefits from blogging so recommend it if you’re willing to put in the work!

Start a Blog

Why Start a Blog?

Blogging is one of those things people hear they should do…and then hear they shouldn’t do. So you may be wondering if there’s any merit at all in it.

There is. Merit that is. However, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Before deciding to start a blog think about your goals. What are your reasons? What do you want to get out of it? Is it something you can commit to?

If you think blogging will make you an overnight success or you’ll be discovered or some other get-rich-quick dream I’d take a step back and adjust your expectations. Sure, that could happen but the chances are low. However, there are still other excellent reasons to start a blog.

10 Reasons to Start a Blog

  1. Regular blogging improves your writing
  2. By managing a blog you can also improve your tech and design skills
  3. A blog is a great way to share your ideas and passions with others
  4. You can blog any day or time, no restrictions
  5. Blogging helps you find your voice
  6. You can help people through your blog
  7. Blogging helps you express yourself
  8. There are a lot of networking opportunities in the blogging world
  9. Publishing a blog helps you put your writing out there
  10. Blogging helps you gain confidence in yourself and your writing

In my opinion, blogs are brilliant. And for those just starting out in freelance writing, you blog can be an excellent source of writing samples (until you build your own portfolio). It can also give you a ton of useful resources to share on social media to help build your platform.

Of course, launching a blog is only the first part. The real secrets to blogging success are proper positioning and consistency. Over time you’ll carve a nice little space for yourself and build a community.

If you want another perspective I thought this article from the Unveiled Wife about why start a blog was insightful.

If you're thinking maybe it's time to start a blog, I hope this overview helps you decide one way or the other. I highly recommend blogging!

Other helpful Articles

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

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SEO Tips and Tricks for Freelance Writers

While we may understand the importance of search engine optimization on an intellectual level, these SEO tips and tricks will (hopefully) help freelance writers understand how to vet a keyword to give their articles the best chance of being discovered.

SEO Tips and Tricks

SEO Tips and Tricks for Freelance Writers

Finding keywords is just the first step. Next is to figure out if it’s a good keyword or a bad keyword. But what does that mean?

Here’s how I like to think about good versus bad keywords. A good keyword means if I use it my article will have a chance of being discovered on the Internet. A bad keyword means it’s too competitive so don’t use it.

Keyword vetting to me means this. If I write an article about the keyword I’ve selected, will it have a chance to hit the first page of Google?

How to vet a keyword | SEO Tips and tricks

Once I’ve brainstormed my keyword ideas I take my top ones to KWFinder and do a quick check for difficulty.

It’s a simple keyword research tool to use—you pop in your word or phrase into the search bar and then click “Find Keywords.” A few seconds later your results populate and you can consider your options.

I thought I’d include a couple screenshots from my research for this post. After doing my initial research I was down to two key phrases for this post: SEO tips and tricks or keyword research tools. My results? The keyword “SEO tips and tricks” is possible to rank for with a difficulty score of 39 out of 100. The keyword “keyword research tools” is hard to rank for with a difficulty score of 61 out of 100. You can see these results on the right-hand side of the screenshot.

On the left-hand side of the screenshot you can see variations on the keyword and the difficulty associated with it. It helps you see what people are already ranking for and helps you come up with a strong direction to go with your article.

Final thoughts about seo tips and tricks

If you want to try KWFinder out there is a free account, which gives you five keyword searches every 24 hours. It’s a commitment-free way to try out the tool and decide if it’s a good fit for your writing flow.

You can make search engine optimization as complicated as you want. And you can make keyword research as expensive as you want. There are a lot of shiny objects in this world. But until you’re ready for that level of SEO, I suggest taking a simplified approach to vetting keywords.

Do you have a process for vetting keywords? I’d love to hear about it!

SEO Tips and Tricks: At some point in your writing career you'll be asked about finding keywords or SEO (search engine optimization). To be clear, SEO is a marketing skill, which writers may or may not have. So you're off the hook there. That said, it's a good idea to become acquainted with the concept as it will make you more valuable to your clients.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required

5 Great Sites to Get Free Stock Photos

These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites offering royalty-free images there is no longer any reason to take any old image from the Internet and use it on your website.

Free Stock Photos

What are royalty-free images?

There’s a difference between stock photos and royalty-free stock photos, although they can be one and the same. At times. A free stock image means you can use it free-of-charge. Royalty-free means you can use the image however you want but you may have to purchase it.

When you’re on a stock photo website, take a moment to review the terms and conditions. Sometimes you can download a free stock image but there are restrictions in how you can use it or you must credit the source and/or photographer. Some sites allow you to use an image once for free and require you to purchase a license to use it again or in another way. Some free stock image photo sites are also royalty-free and allow you to use the images for commercial use.

There are some great commercial use, royalty-free free stock photo websites out there. And that’s important to us because we’re writers, not photographers. We need the help! While I do purchase stock images and take my own photos from time to time, I mix in a good amount of free stock photos on my website and social media.

Places to Get Free Stock Photos

Pixabay

I’ve talked about Pixabay before and I still recommend it. It’s a great place to go for general images. The free stock photography site offers more than a million images and videos including illustrations and vector graphics. It’s worth checking out.

Unsplash

Unsplash is the hipster mecca of free stock photos. These beautiful, free photos are gifted by the world’s most generous community of photographers, according to the website. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons Zero, meaning you can copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash.

Gratisography

These quirky, creative, always free photos are toted as the world’s quirkiest collection of free high-resolution pictures. According to the website, these free stock photos are comprised of the world’s best, most creative images and are free of copyright restrictions.

Styled Stock

Self-described as feminine stock photography, this site offers free stock photos focused on fashion, lifestyle, food, floral, entrepreneur and beauty. These images are available to adapt and use them for commercial purposes without attributing the original author or source.

New Old Stock (this is such a cool free stock photo site)

This site curates old photos for personal and non-commercial use, at minimum. Links to the original image location are provided for users to check the licensing details for themselves. Most or all of the images available on this site are in the public domain, which means no permission is required to use these free stock photos at all.

These are a few of my go-to sites for free stock images and I hope you find great images from them.

But if we’re taking free stock photos, how do photographers get paid?

I wanted to address this objection because this freelance lifestyle isn’t easy. And, if you’re like me, you’re friends with professional photographers and you want to support them whenever possible.

And you may be wondering if taking free stock photos is a bit hypocritical since many photographers are freelance and we work so hard to not work for free.

When you use free stock photos you’re not stealing from the photographer. Many of them are trying to make a name for themselves and are gifting their images to the community as part of their long-term strategy. Once they gain a larger following they’re able to make money from their photography through bookings, selling images to their follows and fans, and many other income streams. They’ve decided by offering some things for free it will help them reach their career goals.

Hmm…free stock photos are much like offering free advice on blogs….

Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t feel comfortable using free stock photos then don’t. Take your own or purchase them. There are upsides to not using free stock photos. Not only will your conscience be clear, you’re images will be unique and customized if you take them yourself. If you purchase stock photos your images will likely higher quality and less “all over the Internet.” So there are there’s that.

Once you have great photos, here’s how to make them even better.

These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites there's no excuse not to have great images on your website.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
These days there are endless sites to get amazing free stock photos. There are so many sites offering royalty-free images there is no longer any reason to take any old image from the Internet and use it on your website.

Finding Keywords SEO Tips for Writers

At some point in your writing career you’ll face keywords or SEO (search engine optimization). SEO is a marketing skill, which writers may or may not have. I say it’s a good idea to become acquainted with the concept as it will make you more valuable to your clients.

Keywords SEO Tips

Finding Keywords for SEO

Most freelance writers spend time researching different topics online, which is good news because finding keywords involves the same skill: research. And, in fact, there’s a good chance you’re doing keyword research as part of your regular workflow. Brainstorming writing ideas, building content calendars or working on branding all involve some aspect of SEO.

This can be as simple or complex as you make it. I like to keep things simple.

Keyword Tips

1. Answer questions your audience is asking

Think about the audience you serve and the types of questions they’re asking. Then take those questions and answer them. If you take the time to figure out what questions your target audience, customer or reader is asking, the more you increase your chance of them finding your answers. It’s amazing stuff.

2. Figure out three or four main topics for your website

If you understand editorial planning then you already know this. If not, think about the main themes or categories of the product or service you’re writing about. Then break those main ideas down into smaller topic ideas or sub-categories. Continue breaking the ideas down into smaller and smaller ideas until you’re as focused as possible. You now have a HUGE amount of on-topic keywords to build articles and content around.

3. Look at what others in your industry/niche are writing about

Browse their websites and see what topics they’re addressing. Is there anything missing? Can you offer more information about one of those topics on your site? Can you go deeper on any of these themes? See what your competitors are doing and improve on it.

If you don’t know who your competitors are you can open up an incognito browser and Google your theme or topic. See who ranks in the top (not counting ads) and check out the articles. Ask these same questions and see how you can improve on what’s already ranking well in search.

One last tip: Tech Tools

If you’re stumped for ideas online tools like Wordstream’s Keyword Tool or Google Trends will help you brainstorm ideas. They will also give you a good indication of how many people are searching for the term so you don’t waste your time answering questions no one is asking.

A few years ago my website was quite random and unfocused. I spent a lot of time writing about whatever struck my fancy and not much time wondering what people would like to read. One day I realized I was ranking as the number four search in Google for “DIY Chocolate Bubble Bath.” I thought that was pretty great until I realized I have no interest in the topic, offer no services or products on that topic and no one ever actually searches for that topic. Oops.

Finding Keywords Conclusion

The closer your keywords are to the actual topics you cover and services you offer the better your SEO ranking will be. Part of your website’s value comes from how long people spend on your site. If you show up in search and people click on your link only for them to leave a second later, this tells Google the search result wasn’t relevant to the user and over time your ranking will go down until it disappears altogether.

There is a bit of a learning curve to figuring out keywords and SEO but if you keep it simple and think about what your audience is searching for online, you’re on your way to optimizing your writing.

For those who want more SEO, do you want to talk about backlinks? I’m testing a new tool, LinkOkay, and will share my thoughts in a future SEO post. Stay tuned!

At some point in your writing career you'll be asked about finding keywords or SEO (search engine optimization). Understanding SEO makes you more valuable.

One more thing. You may be interested in my free resource library. This is where I keep my files, downloads, ebooks, worksheets and whatever else I manage to create. I love sharing what I learn and want to keep adding to this library so it becomes a wealth of helpful goodness.

This is a free resource but I do require a password to access the library itself. You can get access by popping your email address into the form below.

Get Access to My Free Resource Library

* indicates required
At some point in your writing career you'll be asked about finding keywords or SEO (search engine optimization). To be clear, SEO is a marketing skill, which writers may or may not have. So you're off the hook there. That said, it's a good idea to become acquainted with the concept as it will make you more valuable to your clients.