As an entrepreneur, you need to be a jack of all trades—developing business ideas, marketing, public speaking, mastering finances and cash flow, and much more. But there’s one area that often leaves business owners paralyzed with fear: Writing. How do you create content if you’re not a writer?!
As we all know, these days being a “content creator” is a requirement for building your online business. Providing value through creating useful content helps to grow your audience, builds trust with your audience, establishes you as an authority in your industry, and invites people into your ecosystem.
This type of content, also called content marketing, is all about creating content that will invite people to come to you because of the value you offer, instead of just pushing out a message through advertising or traditional marketing.
Content marketing includes blog posts, email newsletters, social media, podcasts, YouTube videos, and other content that people actually want to consume. This content doesn’t involve the “hard sell” you put in your marketing and advertising efforts. Content marketing is more about offering help, building relationships, building trust, and building your community of superfans.
Content marketing is great, but it also requires a lot of writing, even if you’re creating a YouTube video or podcast.
So . . . what if you’re not a writer? What if you’re just not good at it, or don’t like doing it? What if you just don’t have the time?
Don’t despair! Here are some hacks that you can employ that will help you create great written content that will help you build your business.
Hire a Writer
This is a no-brainer, right? If you have the means to hire someone else to do your writing for you, then, by all means, hire away! This will allow you to focus on what you do best.
So how do you go about hiring a freelance writer? Ask around and see if anyone in your network can recommend a writer. Post a message on LinkedIn, or visit one of these platforms that can match you with a freelance writer.
Fiverr is a great website where you can find writers who have experience with just about any kind of writing, whether it’s articles/blog posts, white papers, sales and marketing copy, or ebooks. You can also hire editors and proofreaders.
On Fiverr, you can browse the profiles of freelance writers available for hire, and see which one may be a good fit for your needs. UpWork is a similar website.
Don’t be afraid to hire someone to help, even if it’s for only a few hours a week, or one project at a time. If the writer is a good fit, you may even eventually want to ask them to come onto your team full-time. Hiring freelancers is a great way to get to know someone before you hire them.
But what if you don’t have the money to hire someone?
Tap Your Team
If you have a team, even if they’re not in an official “writing” role, tap them to see if they will contribute.
You might be surprised that there are good writers out there who aren’t in an official writing role. So see if team members can focus on a specific topic they have expertise in, and ask them to contribute on a regular basis.
At SPI, we have several people on our team who write content, including me; our senior writer, Ray Sylvester; our co-CEO Matt Gartland; Sara Jane Hess, and David Grabowski from our podcasting team; and Jillian Benbow and Jay Clouse, from our CX team.
If you have someone on your team who is good at editing, you can also record an audio “brain dump.” This is where you record your thoughts and ideas for a blog post, and then have someone else edit the content into a cohesive article.
Repurpose Existing Content
You probably already have content that you can repurpose to make blog posts, email content, and even social media posts.
Do you have an online course? If so, take one module, or chapter, of that course and edit it down to create a blog post. At SPI, we recently did that with this blog post on how to nail your business idea.
You might think, “What if people know the blog post is taken from course content? That’s cheating!”
No, it’s not. It’s providing your audience with valuable information through more than one medium. Blog content is free. So offering free content from a paid course is adding value. Just be careful not to give away too much content for free, or that will devalue your paid content. But a slice here and there is a smart way to reuse content and serve your audience.
You can also reuse content from your podcast, if you have one, and YouTube videos. Take the transcripts, evaluate them to see what content will work best in a blog format, and edit them down.
Strategically reusing content is smart and efficient.
Invite Guest Bloggers to Contribute
Is there someone in your network who can write valuable content on topics that will benefit your audience? Reach out to them and see if they would be interested in writing guest posts. Ideally, these would be people who have a somewhat substantial audience, so you’re killing two birds with one stone—you’re providing content for your audience, and when a guest blogger promotes the post to their own audience, you’ll get some new eyes reading your content.
Make sure the guests know your audience and the types of topics you cover on your blog. Suggest topics they can write about, or collaborate to come up with topics. When their post is published, suggest ways the guest can promote the post to their own audience so you can get more traffic to your website.
At SPI Media, we frequently invite guests to write for our blog, including this one from our friend Heather Osgood, founder of True Native Media, on how to turn your podcast into a profitable business.
Whether it’s for a blog post or your weekly newsletter, curating content is another option for providing value to your audience without having to personally churn out a 2,500-word original article.
Curating content is simply putting together several pieces of content that you have found interesting and think your audience will like. For instance, a blog post could consist of a list of articles (with links) from other publications that you’ve found helpful on topics related to your industry.
Again, this may seem like a cop-out. But it’s not! People like convenience, and having links to several articles all in one place saves them time and effort.
Survey Your Audience
Enlist your audience to help you write content! You can do this by surveying them and using their answers to create blog posts. At SPI Media, we typically use a Typeform survey to ask our audience a question. Then we gather the answers and put them together in a blog post. This is a great way to provide interesting information, and also connect with your audience.
Last May, early in the COVID pandemic, we surveyed our audience and asked them, “What’s giving you hope?” Several people responded to our survey, and we compiled their answers in this powerful blog post.
Leverage the Power of Lists
A list of tips or recommendations is an easy way to pull together content that doesn’t require a lot of research and writing.
About once a month, our podcasting team puts together a list of their favorite podcasts. They write a paragraph about each one, and tell readers why the podcast is good. Sounds easy-peasy, right?
You could do this for anything. What are your top ten recommended online business tools? What are the best business books you’re reading right now, and what do you like about them? What are the top five things that helped you start your business? Giving people advice through a list is a great way to create valuable content.
If you’re good at asking questions and being curious, then you will probably be good at interviewing.
Interview an expert on a topic that you think will help your audience. At SPI Media, we regularly interview entrepreneurs who are doing amazing things.
Interview people in your audience who have found success, and write a success story for your blog. People love to read about people just like them who are succeeding.
Interview a mentor or someone you look up to. Ask them for advice, and create a blog post with the answers.
If you record a video of your interviews, it can be used in many different ways: for a podcast, a video for your Tube channel, as a blog post. You can get a lot of mileage from just one interview!
Any ghost writer who’s been at it for a while will be settled into a workflow, using tools they’re comfortable with. You can always teach an old dog new tricks, however.
Let’s look at three pieces of technology that every ghost writer should be using, whether they’ve been at it for a day or a decade.
1. Never Miss a Deadline with a Good Project Management System
Most ghost writers have several projects on their plate at any given time. Once you start looking for writer jobs, you’ll realize how much opportunity there is for a good writer.
Ghost writers live and die by deadlines. Missing a deadline is one of the biggest sins you can commit. A project management system lets you track all the projects, their deadlines, any resources the client has sent – everything attached to a given project.
Your project management system can be completely software-based using tools like Todoist, Trello, or Evernote. Or you might prefer to go “old-school” and use a paper-based planner and file folders to store any background documents.
For example, take a look any of the of the top technology blogs and you will find that they have content coming in from all over the place. By using these project management tools, it will allow for the site owner, social media team and freelancer writers to all communicate with each other when it comes to scheduling and promoting new content that might go live on the site.
You can also use a combination of the two. The key is to use a system that works for you. If you’re comfortable using it and you track everything consistently, projects won’t fall through the cracks.
2. Stay Healthy with the Proper Equipment
While it’s not high tech, the office equipment you use makes a big difference in your results. A good desk and office chair that are set up for proper ergonomics make your job a lot more comfortable.
And over the long-term, it’s not only more comfortable but it can help you avoid repetitive stress injuries (RSI), neck and back pain, and various other health problems.
You can also use high-tech solutions to help with this, such as a fitness tracker or software that will remind you to get up and stretch on a regular basis. Once you get into the flow, it’s easy to let hours go by without realizing it. Sitting for that long isn’t good for your body.
3. Be A Ghost Writer With or Without a Computer
When most people think of technology for writers, they picture someone banging away on a keyboard, creating page after page of text. But writing can take many forms. It doesn’t have to be putting words to paper (or screen).
A voice recorder lets a ghost writer record their thoughts and dictate the written word anywhere, with or without a computer.
If an idea strikes while you’re sitting on the beach or watching your kid’s ball game, you can pull out your voice recorder and get the thoughts down while they’re fresh in your mind. No more getting back to your computer a few hours later and thinking, “What was it I wanted to say?”
You can use your smartphone for this. Every smartphone has the ability to record audio, so you can dictate into it and not have to carry anything extra. Some phones will transcribe the recording for you but if not, you can send the recording to a transcription service.
Once the transcription is ready, you’ll have a written document that’s no different than if you had typed it yourself.
Keep Your Technology Running Smoothly
If you ever get frustrated with the technology you use for ghost writing, you’re not alone. There are plenty of time saving and self-help writing tools on the internet today. Simply take the time to look around and see which work best for your budget and tech skills, while also improving your grammar in the process.
Computers and other high-tech equipment can be temperamental.
It can be an avant-garde poem about a wilting flower.
It doesn’t matter.
But you need to write… every day.
This is how you master the craft of writing.
Nobody just sits down and stares at a blank page (or screen) and in 30 minutes comes up with the next great piece of literature. That doesn’t happen.
In order to master your craft, you need to practice that craft.
And in order to practice that craft, you need to:
Maintain a discipline.
What your discipline looks like is surely different than what my discipline looks like, but the important thing is that you stay consistent. You need to consistently stay disciplined every single day.
I like to think of maintaining a writing discipline like searching for diamonds in the rough. You search and you search and you search, and most of the time you come up empty. But then there’s that one time when you stumble across something great.
It’s that one time that gets you attention. It’s that one time that gets you praise. It’s that one time that gets you success.
But you won’t get any of that if you don’t practice searching for that diamond. The likelihood of you haphazardly stumbling across that diamond without doing some digging is not good.
You’ll need to produce a lot of really bad work before you can produce anything really good.
The first thing Allen Ginsberg wrote was not “Howl”.
The first thing Ernest Hemingway wrote was not “The Sun Also Rises”.
The first thing Maya Angelou wrote was not “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings”.
Every great writer practices their craft. Every day. Without exception.
90% of the things you write will be utter crap. But you don’t need to show anyone those things.
You just need to show them the diamonds.
Think of anything you’ve ever been good at in life. Were you initially good at it? Or did you have to practice in order to get good at it?
Being good at anything takes practice. A lot of practice.
Don’t think you’re going to become a great writer/blogger/marketer/business person by not practicing. Even if you’re really smart but don’t know how to communicate that intelligence, you won’t be successful.
Writing is an instrument. You need to practice that instrument in order for it to be able to effectively translate the genius that’s sitting around in your head. You don’t want the instrument to be a barrier to your expression of genius.
But if you aren’t practicing writing, you arecreating a barrier between your ideas and the expression of those ideas.
Jimi Hendrix didn’t pick up a guitar for the first time and do this:
You may stumble across some luck, but if you aren’t keeping the wheels of your craft greased, you will not be able to capitalize on that luck when it arrives.
In fact, luck is a huge part of business success (especially in the digital age). And if we keep practicing our craft, when that luck strikes, we’ll immediately know what to do and how to respond.
Being A Great Writer Takes Practice & Here Is A Roadmap:
Now, what should we be practicing? Well, the topic of “how to be a better writer” has been covered extensively (here).
But just because it’s relevant to the topic, here are a few pointers…
1. Tell, Don’t Show
When we’re taught writing in school, we’re usually taught creative writing. We’re not usually taught technical writing, or copywriting, or blog writing. We’re taught how to engage with the creativity of our readers.
Which is a good thing to do… for a story.
And there’s a common trope used in creative writing:
Show, don’t tell.
That means, draw a picture (with words) for the reader; don’t just sit there and tell them things, because that would be boring.
And it would be boring… for a story.
She opened the door. She walked outside. She got into her car. She drove away. She got to her destination. She stopped the car. She got out of the car.
That’s a really boring story.
But in technical writing (or information-based writing), readers don’t care about how she opened the door, or what the door looked like, or why the door made a subtle creaking sound. They only care about facts.
So practice giving the facts. And only the facts. Get to the point.
Now, “get to the point” doesn’t mean “don’t have style”. For example, there’s a lot of style in this piece of writing, but it’s still informative (even if it’s a little wordy- but wordy is just my style).
Here’s a practical example…
If you’re trying to write a review of a high-powered LED flashlight that works well in absolute darkness, you should say:
This LED flashlight works well in absolute darkness.
You shouldn’t say:
As the sun retreats into its ever-looming abyss, the dance of luminescence begins. The cold metal of the phallic apparatus runs counter to the warm rays of vision protruding from its brightly lit face. Darkness no more; the world is ablaze.
For non-creative writing, the “golden rule” of creative writing goes out the window, and the new golden rule becomes:
Tell, don’t show.
Tell your readers the facts.
Don’t get poetic.
2. Don’t A to C
I’m an editor. I edit a lot of other people’s written works. This is one thing I see…
There’s a high likelihood that if you aren’t consciously aware you’re doing this, then you’re doing this.
There’s a technique in improv comedy called “A to C”. This is a process which helps generate ideas. It’s how actors use suggestions from the audience to do their scenes.
For instance, if I have the suggestion “boats”… Well, boats (A) make me think of oceans (B), and oceans make me think of coral (C). So now I would base my comedy scene on “coral” because I went from A (boats) to C (coral).
In improv comedy, there’s also the comedic benefit of not showing this thinking process. Comedy is about being unexpected and spontaneous. So taking a suggestion of boats and doing a scene about coral has a kind of inherent silliness to it, which is perfect… for comedy.
But in copywriting, if I’m talking about boats, and then out of nowhere I start talking about coral, and I didn’t let you in on my A to C thinking process, you’d be confused.
Or let’s say I write a blog post that says “Don’t A to C”, but I never tell you what “A to C” means, it’s safe to assume that you won’t have the slightest idea of what I’m talking about.
And yet, this happens. All. The. Time.
The reason this happens is because the human thought process is based around making connections. But these connections are based on emotions. And emotions are deeply personal.
Our entire thought process is based on personally felt emotions.
If you’ve ever argued politics before, then you know what I’m talking about. The other person is saying something based off of emotion and you can’t follow their logic. You try to point out to them that their logic doesn’t make sense, and they point out to you that your logic doesn’t make sense to them because they think you’re being too emotional.
It’s the glorious cycle of every political Facebook thread ever…
As a writer, you need to make sure that you’re leading me along a logical path of conclusion.
If you’re trying to tell me which phone service to use, you also need to tell me that you think it’s the best because it works really well with your specific phone, in your specific geographic area, and is within your specific budget.
Those are important things for me to know when I’m choosing service providers.
If you mention that France is without question the worst country in the world, it would help to know that your recent ex was French and made you eat snails every day.
That probably has something to do with why you hate France so much.
Don’t just tell me that Donald Trump will Make America Great Again; tell me where you live, how long you’ve lived there, how you were raised, where you work, why you work there, how much money you’re making, how much you pay for food every month, who you hang out with, where you get your news, what your religious beliefs are, what your health is like, what your family’s health is like, and why you think America is not already great.
Those are all important pieces of the puzzle.
Don’t take for granted what other people might not know. They aren’t you, and they’re not inside of your head. If you want to convince them of something, let them follow your logic, not your emotions.
Here’s the point:
Remove the logicality of your emotions from your writing.
But don’t remove your emotions!! Emotions are great in persuasive writing (i.e. copywriting). They’re what sell things.
Just don’t confuse your emotions with logic.
3. Care About What You Write
Because emotions are so powerful, you need to show your readers that what you’re talking about is something you personally care about.
This starts to tread into “bloggingniche” talk, and I have something to say about that:
It’s gonna be really hard for you to enjoy blogging if you hate what you’re blogging about.
Blogging can make you money, yes. But if you’re blogging just to get money, then dare I say, you’re in the wrong profession.
There’s a job out there for you that will let you do something you love and will make you money at the same time. Find that job, because the last thing this world needs is more people who hate their job.
It’s important to remember that blogging is also a job, and it needs to be treated as a job. You need to work really hard, every day, just like you would with every other job.
And if you don’t like your job, everyone around you will notice.
And if your job is to talk to people (blogging), no one will want to be around you (read your blog).
But if you are a blogger who loves being a blogger, make sure you know what you want to blog about.
There’s one thing I see a lot, and it’s really annoying:
Starting a blog about how to make money blogging (because that’s what makes money).
A friend of mine said this:
“Where there’s one person doing something really great, there are 100,000 people around them pretending to do the same thing.”
Unless you’re really, really, really passionate about WordPress, don’t start a blog about WordPress just because it worked for Harsh. Not only will you run out of ideas in a matter of days, you’ll start to hate your blog and you’ll stop blogging.
You’ll also have a hard time gaining traction because there are hundreds of thousands of people blogging about the exact same thing. And those people- the people who are the most passionate about the topic- are the ones who will eventually succeed.
In order to keep yourself motivated, you need to love what you do.
So practice writing about the things you like. Practice conveying the fact that you like those things.
When you start to write about the things you really, really like, everyone will notice, and your chances of happiness, fulfillment, and success will be much higher.
This is not really a writing tip per se, but I don’t think there’s a more important thing to do as a writer.
If you’ve read my other SML pieces, you know how I feel about proofreading…
You need to practice proofreading.
After you write anything, get into the habit of checking it. Read it. Reread it. Reread it again. Make sure there are no grammar errors. Make sure there are no spelling errors. Make sure there are no tense errors. Make sure there are no logical fallacies (A to C). Make sure it’s persuasive. Make sure it’s compelling.
Make sure it’s perfect.
I am continually baffled by the amount of blog posts I read every day from writers that have not taken the time to proofread. I don’t know how anyone can think that that’s a good thing to do… especially when they’re trying to run a business.
It’s like you’re walking into an important meeting and your shirt is on backwards. That would never happen because you’d check to see if your shirt was on correctly. And if it wasn’t, you’d fix it.
But for some reason, people don’t want to check to see if the words they’re saying are being said correctly. They don’t care.
And I get it, I really do.
If your shirt is on backwards, you would have to go through the extra work of turning it around.
And let’s say that you get toothpaste on your shirt. That’d take even more work to fix.
It’s so much easier to pretend that those things couldn’t have even happened.
But isn’t it better for you to check, turn the shirt around, and clean the toothpaste off of your shirt before you go walking around looking like an idiot? It’s more work, yes, but I think you’ll agree that it’s worth the extra effort.
Every single person who reads your blog’s words could be your new business partner. They could be your new investor. They could be the person that takes you from small-time blog to big-time enterprise. Make sure you’re putting yourself in the most beneficial and attractive light possible.
This is a no-brainer.
Practice your grammar. Practice your spelling. Practice your proofreading.
Practice finding holes in your writing and filling those holes.
Don’t think your work is perfect the first time you wrote it- it’s not. It’s guaranteed to have mistakes.
You need to practice making it perfect.
And here’s a great proofreading tip: Get someone else to proofread it, too. They’ll find your mistakes quicker than you’ll find your own mistakes. But before you give it to them to proofread, YOU NEED TO PROOFREAD IT YOURSELF!
5. Practice Practicing
Every day, sit down and write. Follow a schedule, and maintain the discipline of your craft.
Don’t be lazy, and don’t procrastinate. Be disciplined, and practice. That’s the only way we can become masterful crafters.
Learn to practice. Practice to learn. Practice means experience. You grow from practice. You get better from practice. Success comes from practice.
So practice every day. Don’t take a day off. Maintain your discipline, and practice.
Until it’s perfect.
Practice until your practice is perfect.
And then keep practicing.
1. Tell readers what they need to hear. Get the point out quickly. Don’t be dramatic. Don’t be poetic. Just say what needs to be said, and move on.
2. Don’t gloss over important information. It’s better to be detailed than it is to lack information. It’s important to note that “being detailed” does not contradict with the point above. Practice writing factual details. It’s OK to be really, really factual.
3. Make it obvious that you care. No one wants to take car maintenance advice from someone who has never driven a car. No one wants to take child care advice from someone who has never raised a kid. Actually love and do what you say you love doing.
4. Proofread. Do it. Seriously. It’s super important. You are carelessly putting yourself into a really ugly light if you aren’t proofreading. Don’t be careless; be smart. Proofread.
5. Write every day. Every single day, you need to spend some time and write. Make it a daily habit. Don’t go to sleep unless you have written something. It’s so important to keep up the discipline. Ask any successful person what made them successful and “daily practice” will be at the top of their list. Practice the art of keeping up a discipline.
Practice To Become A Better Writer
It’s always important to remember to stay humble when traveling along this journey.
Because if you think you’re perfect, there’d be no need to practice.
But you aren’t perfect.
And if you are perfect, the moment you stop practicing is the moment you won’t be perfect anymore.
If someone comes up to you and gives you feedback, you should take that feedback to heart. (Taking in feedback is also a practice.)
Now it’s your turn to tell me: Are you maintaining a daily discipline? If not, what’s stopping you? What kinds of things are you practicing to become a better blog writer? Let me know in the comments below…
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