How to Write an Outline for Anything

If you’re a writer then perhaps you know the term “pantser.” It was new to me. Pantser is a type of writer—one who writes by the seat of his pants. Right? The other type of writer is an outliner. Now that one’s a bit more familiar to me. In my heart I’m an outliner. I like having a plan and making it come alive. I like knowing where I’m going rather than discovering it along the way. And I don’t believe outlines cut off creativity—which is why I’m advocating for outlines and showing you how to write an outline for anything.

How to Write an Outline

What is an outline?

In case you didn’t have to write an outline in school for some reason, this is a formal way of arranging and developing your ideas. Don’t let the word “formal” trip you up—this isn’t rigid, it can be adjusted at any point in your writing. An outline can be broad strokes of big/main ideas or detailed and in-depth, depending on your approach. There’s no right or wrong way to outline, and it can be added to and changed as you go.

Why write an outline?

I sat in a workshop with author Anne Perry (by the way…you should read her bio, I had no idea when I went to the workshop. Wow!) who has written like 100 books or something in her career. It was a fascinating argument for outlining from a prolific author. Here are the benefits of writing an outline. Keep in mind she’s giving advice for book outlining, but I think it can be applied to any type of writing.

  • You own the plan
  • Outlining helps with plot clarity
  • Outlining gives your story structure
  • Outlining helps the reasons your characters do things make sense
  • You know your character growth/development from the beginning rather than figuring it out as you go
  • Outlining prevents your story from sagging in the middle
  • Outlining cuts down on the amount of rewrites

What’s the purpose of an outline?

An outline helps you organize your project (article/blog post/book/anything) by helping you check how your ideas connect to each other and discover if anything’s missing. No matter how long your writing project is, outlines help you see the big picture.

How to write an outline for anything

If you’ve read anything I have to say about content strategy, you may find this a bit familiar. The bones are the same but you get a bit more meta when you write an outline.

Here are the broad strokes in five steps.

  1. Identify your topic
  2. List your main points
  3. Structure your argument (put your points in order)
  4. Add sub-points (make connections between main points)
  5. Evaluate and adjust as necessary

See? Not so intimidating or limiting. You’re just getting it down on paper and making sure what you have to say makes sense.

A few tips for when you write an outline

Identify your topic. This should be short but still a complete sentence. This will be your anchor throughout the writing process, keeping you on topic.

List your main points. Your main points are the things you want your audience to know after reading your work. All the main points should be a building block towards your thesis.

Structure your argument. This needs to both flow and make sense to your reader. What do they need to understand first? Second? Third? As you get into writing you may need to change the order of your points, this is normal.

Add sub-points. Sub-points go under the main points—makes sense, right? To have a balanced work, the sub-points for each main point should be somewhat equal. If you have seven sub-points for one main point and two for another, it might be time to reconsider your main points as the one with only a couple sub-points may not be a strong enough argument for your overall topic.

Evaluate and adjust as necessary. Read through your outline. Does it flow? Does it make sense? Is it missing anything? Are there gaps in logic? Is there extra stuff?

If you're a writer then perhaps you know the term "pantser." It was new to me. Pantser is a type of writer; one who writes by the seat of his pants. Right? The other type of writer is an outliner. Now that one's a bit more familiar to me. In my heart I'm an outliner. I like having a plan and making it come alive. I like knowing where I'm going rather than discovering it along the way. And I don't believe outlines cut off creativity, which is why I'm advocating for outlines and showing you how to write an outline for anything.

I hope this is clarifying and will help with your next project.

Remember, outlining is your friend!

  • It take the guesswork out of what to write
  • It keeps your project on track with relevant content
  • It sets you on a strategic plan that moves you forward
  • It helps you avoid burning out
  • It keeps your project on topic

Thoughts? More tips? Pantser push back? Let me know!

How to Plan a Podcast in 9 Steps

First things first, this is not a technical how-to create and produce a podcast guide. This is the step you take before that. Yes. I’m saying think about your podcast ahead of time and develop a strategy. AKA this is a training on how to plan a podcast.

How to plan a podcast in 9 steps

How to plan a podcast: from personal experience

I’ve lived these nine steps while creating and launching podcasts so I’m not pulling these out of thin air. Planning a podcast is exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting. At so many points on this journey I said “this is the hardest part, once we’re past this we’re good.” I’m glad I knew the steps or I may have lost heart through the process. I share them with you today so you will also be empowered the next time you wonder if you should start a podcast. You’ll know what the steps are and how to plan a podcast. You’ll also know how much work you have ahead of you so you’re mentally prepared for the roller coaster you’re about to get on. Podcasting is an amazing, amazing media and, when done right, a game changer.

First I’ll overview the steps, then break them down a bit.

How to plan a podcast in nine steps

  • Brainstorm a concept and decide what your show is about
  • Determine your “why”
  • Set goals for your podcast
  • Figure out who you’re serving
  • Plot your content strategy
  • Develop your show and assets
  • Write, record, and produce your first three episodes
  • Develop your marketing strategy
  • Pre-launch baby!

And once your podcast is planned, in the process of being developed, and you’re running pre-launch…now you can finish setting everything up and launch your podcast.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Back to step one.

How to plan a podcast step one: Brainstorm a concept and decide what your show is about

If you’re thinking about doing a podcast there’s a good chance you’ve thought about this to some extent. So, write it down. What’s the big idea? What’s your show about? I encourage you to get to a core topic, one you stick to throughout your show. A strong topic will make things easier down the road, plus it will be easy for listeners to understand what your show’s about without too much thought. You want your show to stick in listener’s minds and be something they can become fanatic about—sharing on social media, recommending to friends, and becoming raving fans. So come up with a good one, alright?

How to plan a podcast step two: Determine your “why”

Attracting listeners who become raving fans starts with your reason for podcasting. Think about it for a sec, why should anyone listen to your podcast? Why should people choose yours over all the other podcasts out there? Why? It’s so easy to jump past the planning and straight into podcast production but I encourage you to slow down and do the hard work first. Plan a podcast, plan a great podcast.

How to plan a podcast step three: Set goals for your podcast

(Can you believe she’s talking about goal setting AGAIN!?)

Believe it!

But it’s step three, so by this point you already know what you want to do and why—so shouldn’t setting goals be easy? Podcasts are powerful for building an audience and increasing your platform and can even help you reach your business goals. So, what is your goal for this podcast? And if it’s to make money…you’re going to need a plan to do that. Putting up a podcast doesn’t equal cash money. Not that in itself at any rate. So wipe the dollar signs out of your eyes and set some realistic goals. Making money can be one of your goals, but you’re going to need a revenue plan. Think it through, set S.M.A.R.T. goals, and then move on to step four.

How to plan a podcast step four: Figure out who you’re serving

You should kind of sort of know this already. Who do you hope listens to your podcast? Who do you want to become raving fans? I know, you want everyone to love it…but please break it down a little. Who do you want listening and what transformation do you want them to experience as a result of listening to your podcast? How will you help listeners reach their goals? Because, like everything, they need to understand what’s in it for them before they’ll decide to stick around. If you map this desired transformation out, it will also guide you RIGHT into step five. So give it a shot, kay?

How to plan a podcast step five: Plot your content strategy

Now this is fun stuff. If you figured out the transformation you want listeners to experience and brainstormed a step-by-step guide for them to get there…you can break those steps down into individual episodes! Right!? Yes!!! OK maybe I’m nerding out but you want a strategy because this will keep you laser focused on providing the RIGHT content to the RIGHT people for the RIGHT reasons. Strategy is just RIGHT OK!? Here you figure out your core content, your sub topics (sidenote, this is similar/the same as creating a content strategy for your blog), your show format, and individual show objectives (goals within goals—you know the big goal of the entire podcast but what do you want listeners to do in each one? Leave a review, go to your website, download an email opt-in, share on social media, follow you on Instagram, etc. And please pick one per episode). If you’re stuck for ideas you can do keyword research (see what’s popular and develop episode ideas from there). Try and come up with at least 10 solid episode topics before moving on.

How to plan a podcast step six: Develop your show and assets

By this point you should be getting pretty excited about your show. And step six is where all your dreaming turns into your core content and branding. And yes, this will be hard work and may involve blood, sweat, and tears (if you’re anything like me). You don’t have to script your episodes word-for-word (unless you work best like that/want to)—outlines and notes are fine—but you do need to work out your show sequence and figure out who you want on your show if you’re taking guests/doing interviews. At this point you should also be working on things like finalizing your show name, designing your logo, figuring out website design, deciding on your branding, grabbing all your social media handles, and purchasing your URL. I know many people will do this first and other guides may even advise doing this second/third. Why I’m saying wait till step six is because by this point you KNOW you’re sticking with it. You have a firm grasp on where you’re going and how you’re getting there. And if you’re hiring someone to help with any of your asset development, showing him/her your target audience, listener transformation, and content strategy will help him/her come up a great concept reflecting you to a T.

How to plan a podcast step seven: Write, record, and produce your first three episodes

OK, I won’t sugar coat it. This is going to be a lot of work. But you are READY for this! Draft your episodes, record them, and get them ready. You’re not publishing anything yet, but you’re working out the bugs. You need to figure out what you’re saying, practice saying it, and get all the technological pieces in order. Going through this will also highlight how much help you need recording, editing, producing, etc. (If you need technical help check out Pat Flynn’s How to Start a Podcast tutorial or Kirsten Oliphant’s Should You Start a Podcast course. If you need an audio editor or show producer, my rates are here.) This process should show you how close you are to launching your podcast. You may need more time than you thought at the outset, but that’s OK. You’re in it for the long haul, so it’s worth doing right.

How to plan a podcast step eight: Develop your marketing strategy

You have your content plan, your branding, website, and social channels are taking shape, and you have a general idea of when you can launch. Now it’s time to think about marketing. You’re going to need a pre-launch, a launch, and an ongoing strategy. Three strategies. I know it’s a lot of work (ugh, Robyn, why is EVERYTHING so much work!?) but you will be so super glad you made the plan ahead of time when you’re in the thick of it. I have a few general tips on how to rock your marketing, which are a good place to start if you’re new to marketing strategy. If you want an intense, 90-day pre-launch strategy that will blow your mind, check out this podcast episode from Amy Porterfield. Whatever you decide, I recommend getting the plan on paper and calendaring as much as possible. This is where you figure out the details of your pre-launch, launch, and ongoing marketing, when your podcast episodes will publish and how often, what you’re posting on social media and how often, and how you’re going to promote your podcast to the world.

How to plan a podcast step nine: Pre-launch baby!

When you have your launch date settled and all your marketing ducks in a row, you can graduate to pre-launch. This is going to be intense, but this step is critical to a successful launch so you don’t want to skip it. In step eight you created the plan and in step nine you WORK the plan. That’s right, you’re creating content, you’re connecting with your target audience, and you’re ramping up to your launch. In pre-launch you’re putting yourself and your podcast out into the world in a way that people notice. You do this by creating amazing and shareable content, promoting your amazing and shareable content to your existing audience, with your social networks, with online communities, with relevant influencers, and wherever else your target audience hangs out.

Whew.

I know we’ve been through a lot getting to this point. But it’s not over yet. Once your pre-launch gets in gear you are racing towards your launch day—now that’s exciting stuff. Good thing you know what you’re doing, where you’re going, and who you’re talking to. I can’t WAIT to hear how it goes. Have a great launch!

First things first, this is not a technical how-to create and produce a podcast guide. This is the step you take <em>before</em> that. Yes. I'm saying think about your podcast ahead of time and develop a strategy. AKA this is a training on how to plan a podcast.

Setting Social Media Goals: How to Do it and What to Track

Here’s the thing. We need social media goals because we need to know our time is worth spending on social media. How can you figure this out? By reaching goals that move your business ahead. How do you reach those goals? First you need to set them. Today we’re talking about social media goal setting—how to set social media goals and what to pay attention to.

Setting Social Media Goals

The first step: When setting social media goals, you need to be realistic

Goal setting. You’re going to need goals. Let’s agree they’re integral to this process. However, while it’s fun dreaming and thinking big, the work of it is figuring out how to reach your goals. The best way to set goals you’ll actually work to achieve is following the S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting model. It’s quick, straightforward, and keeps you focused on action. If you’ve taken my free five-day marketing challenge you’ve gone through this process with me and I hope you’re still working towards them! Start with setting S.M.A.R.T. social media goals—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-sensitive.

The second step: Audit your current social media efforts

This is important to make sure your goals are based in reality and to ensure your profiles are on brand. You can audit your social media presence in any number of ways but I recommend creating a spreadsheet and collecting the following information.

  • Platform name
  • Whether or not your profile is on brand (Yes or No)
  • Whether or not your password is saved in a central place (like a password safe; Yes or No)
  • How many friends/followers your profile has
  • What your target/ideal number of friends/followers is

This is a simple document but it helps you stay organized. I also recommend looking at your follower number versus your follower goals and measuring them against the S.M.A.R.T. goals system. Are they achievable and relevant? Will they help you reach your social media goals? If not, adjust them as necessary. Need more? Here are five tips for optimizing your social media profiles.

As part of your audit also look through your posts from the past couple weeks. Ask if your posts are on brand, interesting to your ideal customer/reader, and personable. If not, there are a few more social media goals to add to your list.

The third step: Create a social media strategy

You knew I’d go there

You know what you want, you know where you’re going, now you need to figure out how you’re getting there. That’s all a strategy is. It’s a plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Don’t freak out! It’s not hard and it’s not restrictive. Having a strategy breaks down these huge, intimidating goals and makes them reachable. Go for it!

And don’t worry if you’re lost, I’ve done the heavy lifting—here’s how to create a social media strategy in five steps. You’re welcome.

The fourth step: Measure your impact by paying attention to the right metrics

When you’re setting social media goals it is easy to become obsessed with metrics and check them five times a day (or more). But this is not good for your mental health. You can’t ignore metrics but you also don’t need to focus on them every day. Check your metrics every week, month, quarter, or whenever makes sense to you and pay attention to the ones that will move the needle towards your social media goals. I can’t tell you the exact metrics you should watch but I will caution against vanity metrics that make you feel good but don’t mean anything. Once you start measuring you’ll understand what I mean.

Here are some suggestions of metrics to watch (also known as key performance indicators).

  • Follower growth
  • Frequency (how much are you posting?)
  • Content type (what are you posting?)
  • Engagement/Reach
  • Link clicks
  • Social media referrals (on your website)
  • Email signups

Setting social media goals helps you control how much time you spend on social media and keeps you focused on why you’re there. It can help you get to know your audience better, determine the type of content you produce, and see what’s working. By setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, doing a social media audit, creating a social media strategy, and measuring your platform growth you will find building your brand on social media not only makes sense but is fun and worth your valuable time.

Here's the thing. We need social media goals because we need to know our time is worth spending on social media. How can you figure this out? By reaching goals that move your business ahead. How do you reach those goals? First you need to set them. Today we're talking about social media goal setting—how to set social media goals and what to pay attention to.

Do you have more tips for setting social media goals? Please share!

Rock Your Marketing (Even if You’re too Busy for Marketing)

Freelance writers are business owners, busy business owners. And many of us lack the time to work on our business because we’re always working in it for our clients. Blogs, social media posts, and marketing in general fall by the wayside in favour of the now money. But what about later? Do you go back to hustling with the gigs dry up? Do you stockpile your rainy day fund in case there’s no work for a while? What if you could rock your marketing while you’re busy so you stop having dry spells? (Spoiler: You can, and I’ll tell you how.)

Rock your marketing

But first a story.

I’m part of a bi-monthly marketing challenge in one of my professional networking groups and the most interesting parts of the challenge is how many people “sit this one out” citing they have a full client load so they don’t need marketing.

What? You’re too busy for marketing!?

This is difficult to hear. Because this tells me you’re not thinking about the long game, you’re focusing on the here and now. And you should, don’t get me wrong, but it can’t be all you focus on.

Here’s what no marketing plan gets you

  • Scattered, inconsistent presentation in front of potential clients
  • Random posts and self-promotions on social media
  • Irregular networking (in person, virtual networking groups, bi-monthly marketing challenges…)
  • Unfamiliarity with competitors’ strategies

Oh, and no new clients. Unless you’re so busy month after month that you’re turning away new clients, you need marketing. Even when you’re too busy for marketing.

So, how do I rock my marketing even if I’m too busy for marketing?

I’m glad you asked. Since we’re at the beginning stages of this conversation I’m not going to ask you to do new things…yet. Right now let’s focus on what you’re already doing and sprinkle in some focused marketing. Getting it going is the first step.

Rock your marketing with these three tips

First, think about the content you put out on social media right now

Be honest. When you post something on social media, what is it about? Personal? Photos of your weekend? Political memes? Food? Is anything you post related to your business or how you serve your clients?

If you’re going to rock your marketing, I challenge you to consider your social media platforms places where you can attract new clients and brand yourself rather than something separate. Who is your ideal client? How can you help him/her today? How can what you post be useful in moving him/her ahead? How can you inspire someone? (Need help? Here’s your five-step social media strategy for freelance writers.)

Second, carve out time to connect with your ideal clients or colleagues

And no, this does not mean sending out cold pitches by email. CONNECT!

Remember, I’m not asking you to do anything new…yet. So who are the people you speak to every day? Do you pass them on the street? In a store? In a restaurant? Look them in the eye and make a connection. Start with hi, hello, how are you. One or all of those will do. Next? Have a conversation. It doesn’t need to be deep or time-consuming, but make sure you mention something about how what you’re working on lights you up and you love your job. Make a connection, then continue on with what you were doing.

But what if you don’t go out because you’re chained to your computer desk all day? How about a nice email to a contact? A check in, a hey how’s your business going? Is there anything I can help you with today? Or how about an old client, why not send a nice note and see if there’s a project you can help out with. If not, no biggie. But you tried. You reached out. You connected.

Third, you don’t need to post new content every day

Hear me: you need to post content, but it doesn’t have to be new. Whoa.

This was a huge mental shift for me. When I let go of the idea that every blog post was a slam dunk and lived on in my readers’ minds I was free to re-use them as appropriate. (By the way, I wrote about my favourite tools to re-share content here.) I combed through my archives and pulled the articles I thought my idea clients would enjoy. Then I plugged them into a content library, created a schedule, and let them go. I’m still amazed at the freedom I feel setting up this small automation. Because I can accept that not everyone will see my LIFE-CHANGING articles and freelance writing tips the moment I write them I’m free to keep sharing them on various platforms. All it takes is this careful balance of humility and pride.


See? That wasn’t so bad. Don’t you feel ready to rock your marketing? These three itty bitty marketing tweaks can help you ROCK your marketing! Visualize how stress-free your freelance marketing game could be. Dream big, my friend.

Now, a word of caution. You can go down the marketing rabbit trail and end up overwhelmed and not sure which shiny object to focus on. Because there is always more you can do. All we’re talking about today is not doing nothing. Don’t do nothing. Keep putting yourself out there, even if you’re busy and have a full client roster. Keep networking, keep posting relevant, helpful content on social media, and keep putting your work out there even if you haven’t created anything new in a while. Keep going!

Freelance writers are business owners, busy business owners. And many of us lack the time to work on our business because we're always working in it for our clients. Blogs, social media posts, and marketing in general fall by the wayside in favour of the now money. But what about later? Do you go back to hustling with the gigs dry up? Do you stockpile your rainy day fund in case there's no work for a while? What if you could rock your marketing while you're busy so you stop having dry spells? (Spoiler: You can, and I'll tell you how.)

One more thing. If you’ve got these three daily tasks down you may be interested in my free five-day marketing challenge for freelance writers. It walks you through putting a few simple systems in place to help you with goal setting, reaching out, keeping in touch, and even a bit of branding. Why not check it out? I made it for you!

How to Add Captions to Facebook Videos

Subtitles. Words. Closed captions. How do people add captions to Facebook videos?

How to add captions to Facebook videos

I wondered the same thing, is adding captions to Facebook videos some sort of magic I wasn’t privy to, or perhaps a paid feature for rich people? Well, it turns out there’s one easy way to add captions and I’m here to blow your mind. Maybe.

Do I need to make an argument for adding captions? You scroll through Facebook with your phone/computer on silent like I do, right? So even though “everything’s all about video” people still need a hook to draw them in. I believe the hook is captions. Tell people what they’re watching. Don’t make them work too hard.

How to add captions to Facebook videos

  1. If you’re on a page, click in the “write something” box and then on the camera icon like you’re going to add a new post (because you are). If you’re on a personal profile click on the Photo/Video link in the “what’s on your mind?” box. You’ll find this at the top of your timeline or news feed
  2. Upload your video, add your description and screenshot and then click post
  3. Once the video is ready to view, hover over the video and click the three dots in the top right-hand corner, then click on Edit Post
  4. Your default view is on the first tab, Basic. Navigate to the second tab, Captions
  5. Here you’ll see two choices: Upload SRT File or Generate. Let’s choose Generate
  6. Here’s where things get magical. You’ll see Facebook auto-populate your captions and now all you need to do is tweak them (their voice recognition is good, but it’s fallible)
  7. Once you’re happy with the captions, click Save to Video and you’re done! You have just added captions to Facebook videos you genius you!

If you’re wondering about the SRT File option, this is a SubRip file you have to set up ahead of time in Notepad or TextEdit. You’ll need to understand the formatting and know your caption time spans so if you aren’t following this sentence just stick with the Facebook-generated captions, alright?

Top tip: I schedule video posts for my clients and was dismayed when this didn’t work. When your post is scheduled you can’t generate captions to Facebook videos but you can still upload a SRT file. So don’t worry if you can’t generate captions—just create a reminder to add them once your video posts/publishes on Facebook.

Subtitles. Words. Closed captions. How do people add captions to Facebook videos? I wondered the same thing, is adding captions to Facebook videos some sort of magic I wasn't privy to, or perhaps a paid feature for rich people? Well, it turns out there's one easy way to add captions and I'm here to blow your mind. Maybe.