"How do you manage to be so prolific?"
Whether I'm writing poems, academic term papers, websites, marketing copy or blogs, this is a question I've heard consistently throughout my career as a writer. When I compare my habits and routines to those of other writers, the only difference I find is that I don't really obsess over word choices and tone and what the audience will think. The post might go viral. It might get trolled. It might reach an audience of five.
That said, my writing does revolve around a helpful, fluid routine.
I'm rarely at my best before my first cup of coffee. When it comes to writing, I need a bit of a warm-up. I always make time in my schedule for some warm-up writing, like emailing a friend in Europe or doing some collaborative creative writing online. Try working on:
- Journal-style, personal blogs
- Emails to friends
- Low-paying, low-pressure gigs
- Short blog posts
- Posts in themes or challenges
If you publish weekly features with predetermined structures (like our ICYMI posts on the SEMrush blog), it can be easier to start or end your day with a simple, formulaic post.
It also helps me to clear periphery before I begin writing so I'm not distracted by the ten other things I have to do. That includes important emails and phone calls, bill payments and making doctor or business appointments.
Especially if content writing is your primary source of income, you need to set goals. How much money minimum must you make in a day? How much can you realistically accomplish in a day?
Daily Goals: When I freelanced on a full-time basis, I set a minimum of $100 gross earnings to invoice per workday. I had to accomplish this goal to keep the lights on, but it was up to me how I was able to accomplish it.
Sometimes the $100 was made up of two in-depth, well-researched articles for a tourism site. Other times, it was 10 entertainment pieces for a comparatively meager $10 each.
Weekly Goals: I also set weekly goals. Some of my tasks involved things I had to do "by the end of the week" because I quickly realized that a rigid schedule didn't fit. Some days I wanted to research, other days I wanted to write fluff. I was organized and ahead of schedule enough to make most of my goals weekly while sticking to that daily goal.
Even though I don't freelance full-time anymore, I still set long-term goals for myself when it comes to blogging, guest blogging and creative writing. I wish I had looked at some of my long-term goals sooner, because they really enhance my career.
Consult the Idea Book or Document
I have a running list of ideas. At SEMrush, it's an organized and low-tech Post-it note system, but sometimes I also utilize helpful tools like workflowy. This helps me easily write down ideas as they come to me. I like to have at least 20 ideas lined up because I have days during which I feel picky or uninspired. Most of the ideas are inspired by other media: comments friends make on Facebook, questions from our blog contributors and topics that come up in #semrushchat.
That's right, most of my ideas are solutions to others' questions or concerns; no matter what the topic.
Sometimes I'm that cliche: a writer sitting in Starbucks slowly nursing a triple venti nonfat no whip white mocha. When I have to change gears, though, I sometimes I need a change of scenery. It's not always easy to go from writing about comics to content creation to Chihuahuas, and throughout my day, I sometimes cover all three topics.
It's easier to write about comics when I'm at home and excited about the latest one I've read. It's best for me to write about content creation at my work or home office desk. And if I need inspiration to talk about dogs, I'm all about chatting with my mom on the subject, interacting with my own pet or heading to the dog park.
Switching scenery does take time, but overall the 'reset' means I can sit down and crank out a post in 15-45 minutes.
Use an Outline
Find out what method works for you and stick to it. I'm not afraid of a blinking cursor or a blank page, but outlining three-to-five points (which become tip numbers or section headings) helps me stay on track. Additionally, I always write my intros, summaries and headlines last.
- Not every post is going to be amazing. This post isn't my best – but it's valuable and it's not my worst. I recognize that and move on rather than agonize over it.
- Sometimes you'll have off days. That's okay. Just make sure you keep hitting your minimum goal.
- You may need to write to pay the bills, but if you hate more than half of what you're writing about, it's time to look for new work.
- It's okay to take a break and unplug. After a while, you'll need to!
- What motivates you. For example...sometimes I write a lot of content because I overcommit and hate missing deadlines. Deadline rush is real and, unfortunately, my writing is often higher quality when written under pressure.
- Your own schedule. Sometimes it takes me six hours to write 10 blogs; other times it takes me 10. That makes a real difference in my quality of life, but my coworkers and readers don't really know how long it took; they just see I've posted a high volume of original content and dub me "prolific." Of course, part of the 10-hour day might have involved a few hours of Netflix, a sudden and compulsive need to complete housework before writing and more. I'm not the most disciplined, but I do get the job done.
Do you have more tips for prolific blogging? Add them in the comments!