I write a sh!t load of content.
I’m on the hook to write or edit 10 posts per week (on top of running a content marketing agency).
When I first got started, I was in over my head. I was struggling to manage the volume, client requests, deadlines and editors. The result was a stream of sub par content that ended up hurting my personal brand and agency.
I had to make a change.
You might not write as much as I do, but I’m sure you’ve got other obligations hindering your ability to create timely and valuable content.
If that’s the case, read on. I’ve put together a list of 6 tips I’ve learned (the hard way) to help me write better content, faster.
Tip 1: Keep an Idea Book.
Ideas come at random times, don’t they?
In the shower, your commute to work, laying in bed at night.
Half the battle of writing is thinking of a topic to write about – I like to keep a small notebook in my back pocket that I take with me everywhere I go.
I know, I know, how archaic of me – who uses pen and paper anymore?!?
If you prefer to use your electronics, there’s a number of great apps you can use instead:
- Evernote – a great free app available on your phone and desktop computer. Anything you annotate in your phone syncs with your computer, and vice versa.
- Apple Notes – the standard free notepad that comes with your iPhone. This also syncs with your desktop Mac.
- Springpad – really great for taking notes with different multimedia. If you prefer to take verbal, video or picture notes, this is the app for you.
If you can force yourself to write a few ideas a day, it’ll go a long way. Personally, I don’t (I’m lazy). I prefer to write ideas down as they come.
Tip 2: Write the Introduction Last.
The introduction is the most important part of your content. It sets the tone, argument and theme for the rest of the post.
I find it helpful to write the meat of the article first, then go back and write the intro. This way, I can build out the body of the content and create an engaging intro that aligns to it.
Plus, if you aren’t entirely sure what you’re going to write, how can you introduce it?
Tip 3: Ditch The High School Lessons.
Forget everything you learned in high school. Well, maybe not everything – spelling, citing sources and grammar is important, but you don’t need to spend hours correcting it.
Online readers have a limited attention span. You need to be able to grab their attention and hold it for as long as possible. If you’re writing reads like a high school essay, you don’t stand a chance.
I like to write how I speak. I use conjunctions, slang and follow spoken grammar rules, not written ones.
Let me give you a quick example to drive home the point. You tell me which one reads better:
- Traditional writing: She is going to go the store because they are having a sale on shoes.
- Web writing: She’s going to the store – they’re having a sale on shoes.
The difference is subtle, but it reads cleaner. When all of your content is formatted like this, it makes a huge difference.
Tip 4: Use a Ton of Images.
Words are boring.
One of the easiest ways to beef up content quickly is by adding images in lieu of writing.
A great example of this is the last post I wrote here on SitePoint.
The goal is to tell the story without having to write it. If you follow along with the post, you can get the entire gist of the article by looking at the pictures.
This not only saves a ton of time when writing the article, but caters to article skimmers and mobile readers.
Tip 5: Just Do It
Did you see that video of Shia LeBeouf video that went viral a couple weeks ago?
The biggest hurdle to writing faster is procrastination. It’s a black and white matter – you’ve got to find a way to flat out get it done.
Try setting aside a particular day and time to sit down and write. I get up at 7 a.m. every Sunday morning, head to my favorite coffee shop, put on my headphones and just write. I’m able to zone out and create a few thousand words of quality content.
This might not work for you though – you’ve got to find a time that works for you. Turn off your cell phone. Shut down your wireless connection. Open up a Word document and just write.
Focus on getting the ideas out of your brain and worry about the edits later. As writing becomes a habit, you’ll find the words come much easier.
Tip 6: Know When To Outsource.
Outsourcing has a negative connotation these days. It conjures up images of cheap overseas labor and low quality work.
Shake that image from your mind.
The purpose of writing and producing content is to provide your audience with well-written, valuable information they can use to solve a problem in their life.
If you can’t accomplish that, hire someone else to do it.
If you hate writing – it’ll show in your work. Or, maybe it’s not worth your time – you could hire a writer who is 3x better than you for half the money.
There are a number of outsourcing websites to hire a quality writer, but I use a better method. I simply contact the writers on my favorite blogs.
These writers generally don’t publicize their freelance work, but the majority of them will gladly write one off pieces for a cost. This is by far the best way to find top quality writers to outsource the work to.
Writing is hard for many people, and the increased pressure to publish really good writing doesn’t help.
Just like any other skill, you will get better at writing through practice. So, take the time to test these strategies and see if they help.
And in the end, remember quality is everything. Sometimes outsourcing just makes more sense – for you and your audience.