Why I make time to blog

Long before I opened a marketing agency, I ran a little blog called Covet Chicago in my spare time.

It was my side project, something I did after work and on weekends. I wrote about a few lifestyle topics, but mostly I reviewed local businesses and covered Chicago’s multitude art festivals. I loved that blog, and I poured my heart into it, writing 3-5 times a week.

Then I started a business. I focused my writing around my work. Ever so slowly, my blogging dropped down to twice a week, then once, and now I might publish a new post once every 6 weeks.

Like you, my main job isn’t blogging or “creating content.”

It’s running B. Every week, I’m meeting with clients, following up on leads, keeping an eye on project deliverables, creating courses and managing my team.

So why do I always urge my clients to blog more? And why I am not following my own advice?

The first question is easy to answer.

Our clients want more traffic. And while they think we can solve their traffic problems with PR, it’s my job to show them how PR and blogging work hand-in-hand.

Because the truth is that PR, alone, won’t fix your traffic problem.

PR is a multiplier. It can magnify the results you’re already getting. What it can’t do is create a steady stream of traffic from scratch.

Sure, you might see a small one-time spike from a big feature. Get a lot of features, and you’ll feel like you’re making progress, as all those little spikes feel like steady traffic.

But the problem is that once your coverage stops, your traffic will revert right back where you started.

On the flip side, regular blogging has been shown to dramatically increase traffic, and small businesses, in particular, see the most return for their efforts.

The data on this is clear. Companies that blog more than once a week can see their traffic double or even triple, compared to companies that blog less.

According to Hubspot’s survey of their 14,000 customers, the effect is even more dramatic for micro businesses (companies with fewer than 11 employees) than larger businesses. These micro businesses are also more likely to get leads from their efforts.

That’s why I’m making a commitment to blog twice a week, why I’m going to start anew at practicing what I preach.

Finding the time to write, and the mental energy to put a new, useful post together can feel insurmountable.

How will I fit that into my already busy week?

But there’s no excuse. More traffic equals more leads equals more business.

Blogging isn’t my job, but bringing in business sure is.

Still, I know that commitment alone isn’t enough to overcome all the real challenges to creating this amount of content. I also need systems that support this creative work.

If you want to join me in growing your audience, I thought I’d share what I’m doing to support my blogging practice.

1. Block out time to write.

It’s impossible for me to write if I’m squeezing it in between meetings. I simply cannot produce a blog post if I have to fit it in between a client meeting and a consulting call.

This is because writing is a creative act. And to be creative, you need to be in something that John Cleese calls open mode. You need time and space to allow your imagination free reign, so that your ideas can come through onto the page.

I call this time white space, and I make sure it’s blocked on my calendar every week.

2. Set aside separate time for brainstorming and execution.

There are 3 distinct steps to the writing process:

  • Brainstorming and outlining. (open and creative)
  • Writing. (execution time!)
  • Editing. (more execution)

It’s nearly impossible for me to switch from brainstorming mode to writing in one session.

That’s because when it comes time to execute on your ideas, you must transition from open mode to closed. It’s counterproductive if you keep producing more ideas while you’re trying to commit one to the page.

Have you ever done that? And found yourself flitting from idea to idea, not able to finish a single draft?

It can really help to decide whether you’ll be using your “white space” time for brainstorming or executing before you sit down before a blank page.

3. Write first.

I’m not a morning person, but I do subscribe to the idea that you should do the most important thing of your day first.

This way, there are no excuses for not getting it done. You can’t get distracted by a client email, or pulled into a “quick” task that ends up taking you 3 hours.

If you absolutely can’t write first (maybe you have client meetings first thing or another commitment), then try to replicate the spirit of the idea. Are there any natural breaks in your day, when you know your other work will have a hard stop, so it’s easier for you to switch to writing? Maybe after lunch or a workout (my second favorite time to write!)?

4. When all else fails, set a timer.

There are days when I feel I can’t produce anything. Maybe I worked too long the day before. Maybe I reaaaally want to catch up on Game of Thrones.

The best thing to do when you’re feeling unmotivated or uninspired is to set a timer for 45 minutes, and commit to writing whatever comes out during that time.

What tends to happen is that the rhythms of writing kick your mind into gear. Your brain realizes, “Hey, this is what we’re doing now.” After 15 minutes or so, you suddenly realize you’re on track.

If, after 45 minutes, it’s still not working, then you move on. Maybe go watch that Game of Thrones episode, after all.

5. Read for 30 minutes before you start work.

In talking to my more productive friends, what I’ve noticed is that we all tend to produce more when we’re reading. Whether it’s a marketing book, an autobiography or even a novel, filling the well with new ideas can help you make connections you hadn’t considered before and spur new ideas.

Incidentally, I don’t notice this trend with blog posts. Blog posts spur me to want to take action, and there’s a lot of value in that, but they don’t to inspire my writing.

6. Expand your definition of what blog content is.

One of the questions I’ve been asking clients is, “How does your blog fit into your audience’s day?”

I find that over time we adopt rigid definitions of what kind of content we produce. Some people write a lot of how-to posts. Others do resource round-ups. Yet others write short form inspirational content.

But why does your content just have to be one thing? Or one format?

Are there moments when your audience would love to check in with you on Facebook Live? Or topics that lend themselves better to voice? Maybe all they need is to see an inspiring image.

As I commit to blogging 2x/week, I’m opening myself up to mixing up my content. You don’t always have time to read an in-depth post. Maybe something shorter is just what the doctor ordered.

7. Set achievable goals.

Now you know that blogging more brings in more traffic. You might be tempted to go all in and start blogging 5x/week.

But remember that every extra bit helps.

The more you get into the rhythms of publishing content, the easier it will become.

Don’t feel that you have to make a huge change overnight. Maybe increase your blogging from once a month to once a week. Feel it out.

Can you increase to 2x/week after 3 months?

After 4 or 5 months, see if the increase is making an impact on your traffic. Decide on the right pace for your site, and your goals, from there.

I’ll be sure to check in with you as well, to report how it’s going for B.