As a freelance writer who wants to hit the 6-figure income mark, one of the things you’re going to have to learn to do is produce great quality – fast. It won’t be achievable immediately, but once you’re familiar with your client and the products they deliver, it will get easier to nail down a blog in just a few hours.
One of our 6-Figure Freelance writers, Caitlin Toonders, wrote a step-by-step guide for our corporate clients who like to write their own blogs but can’t seem to find enough hours in the day to get one out. She documented a process for writing a blog in under three hours that combines the best of what we do when we write for our corporate clients (and for ourselves). Today I’m going to share highlights of Caitlin’s plan with you.
Freefall – 10 minutes
Freefall is a technique many writers use to jumpstart the writing process, and is sometimes referred to as “stream of consciousness” writing. It’s a great place to start for idea generation and involves, simply, just writing. Don’t think or worry about sentence structure, just write and see where it takes you. This type of exercise will reveal your thoughts on a topic and nearly always leads to great content for a blog post.
Research – 45 minutes
A well-researched topic makes the writing process go so much faster. With information at hand, you won’t find yourself jumping back and forth in the writing process to fill the gaps. The internet is flooded with information, so how can you find the best?
- A Google search is a good start, but go beyond and tailor your results with ‘Search Tools.’ You can select the year to find the most recent and relevant topics. If you want well-researched, scientifically-backed sources, try using Google Scholar to connect you to the resources you want.
- There are a number of industry-specific sites you can visit to find information. These are some of my favourites, which I rely on when writing for tech clients:
- Harvard Business Review
- Ted Talks
- Microsoft Blogs – like Azure, Office 365, Microsoft Partners, and the official blog
During the research process you may come across information that would work for other blogs as well. Bookmark these articles to folders based on category. This lets you build a collection of research data, reducing the amount of time you need to spend researching each post. For example, if you find some great articles on cloud computing, save them to a folder. You’ll very likely be needing them in the future.
Outline – 5 minutes
The purpose of an outline is to focus your thoughts and build a structure for your blog so you can communicate exactly what you want to say.
When creating an outline, divide blogs into sections and fill in with the research you’ve found, along with parts from your freefall exercise. It’s a great way to ensure you get your point across and cover everything you want to.
Writing – 1 hour
If you have researched your topic well, developed an outline, and completed a freefall exercise, the writing process should be smooth sailing! Most of your work is already done.
And although you want your writing to be perfect in the first draft, this ideal of perfection will lead to poor productivity. You’ll find yourself getting stuck on one sentence without the ability to move on, and it will be all too easy to succumb to distraction. The important thing is to get a rough draft written. The editing will come later.
A Loose Edit & Review of Your Freefall
“Blogging is to writing what extreme sports are to athletics: more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive. It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”
Andrew Sullivan, British author, editor and top blogger
Don’t stress about perfection, but experiment and have fun with the writing process. You may feel that your thoughts made little sense or were poorly communicated during your freefall session, but more often than not there is great content to work with. Editing will take care of the rest!
The early stages of the writing process are really just a loose edit of the initial freefall material. Further develop your thoughts and intersect them with your research. You’ll soon see your 10-minute freefall exercise become a blog post.
Other Tips for Writing Success:
- Consider writing your introduction last. Once the body is complete, it may be easier to go back and write the introduction.
- Turn off the Wi-Fi for an hour. This will help you focus on writing instead of following where the internet takes you.
- Use bolded headings to help you tell your story. People who tend to quickly scan blogs will get the gist of what you are saying, and the headings guide the reader along.
- Bullets or numbering can help your most important points stand out.
Headlines – 10 minutes
The headline is the first impression you get to make. If you are unable to get the attention of the reader, the words that follow won’t matter. According to Moz, 80% of readers don’t make it past the headline, so it’s important to spend some time crafting an eye-catching, click-worthy headline.
Things to consider in your headline
- Make a promise for the reader (and deliver)
- Leave no ambiguity
- Numbers and Reader-addressing headlines perform well
- Test your headlines in search engines.
SEO – 5 minutes
I had always tested my keywords in Google search (which you can still do), but if you’d like to compare keywords check out Google Trends. This feature allows you to easily compare keyword performance across time, regions, and related searches. Here is the results were for the keywords write a blog.
Final Edit – 20 minutes
Your final edit is where you take all those thoughts from your freefall exercise and your rough draft and make them into a cohesive piece – the nitty-gritty of writing.
Start with the big picture: look for proper structure and content. Move things around and cut out sections where there is too much repetition. Then ease your way into looking at sentence structure, grammar and spelling. Cut out unnecessary words. Read it backwards and read it aloud. It’s okay to leave it for a day and come back with a fresh set of eyes.
Pictures & Images – 15 minutes
The inclusion of images and graphics in blog posts increases engagement and total views. Articles containing relevant images have, on average, 94% more total views than those without images.
Use high-resolution stock images to complement your posts. iStock photos is a great source for pictures. Subscribing for a paid membership makes thousands of images accessible for commercial use.
If you don’t have access to a paid stock photo source, you can find free stock images on a variety of sites, such as:
- Negative Space
- Death to Stock Photo
By following this process, you commit 2 hours 50 minutes of your time to write a blog post. Try this method and see how it works for you!