Do you envy those businesses and professionals who churn out thoughtful, well written articles week after week or even day after day?
Sure, they might have team members to take on some of the admin or technical tasks, allowing them to put out a ton of content, but you can too - you just need to get organized. You might not be blogging every day, but you’ll certainly be able to set up a consistent schedule for yourself. A workflow is going to help you accomplish that, and it’s going to help you stay accountable to yourself at the same time. As a bonus, having your workflows developed will make it simple out outsource parts of your blogging process when you are ready to do so!
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What Is A Workflow, Anyway?
A workflow is essentially a repeatable set of specific action steps that get you from starting a task to completing a task. It’s how you #GetShitDone :)
The key words here are repeatable and specific. If you have a workflow that doesn’t meet those criteria, then it’s not going to save you any time or help you get anything done. Let me give you a few examples.
Income taxes - this only happens once a year, so most of us don’t remember in advance every single step that we need to take. Generally, what happens is that you end up looking at your forms from last year to see what boxes you filled in, trying to remember how you came up with that information, then start hunting down forms and receipts, etc. Just imagine how much time and energy and frustration you would save if you took the time one year to document everything you did and where you got the info!
Feeding the dog - since you do this everyday your workflow probably consists of a single “remember to feed the dog”. But what if you hired someone to housesit and they’d never owned a dog and didn’t know where anything in your house was? With the instructions “remember to feed the dog” they’d definitely struggle - how much to feed, how often, where is the food, etc. If you had detailed instructions already prepared this is something you could easily outsource!
Onboarding a new client - you have a checklist including items like collect contact info, book discovery call, send contract, collect payment, etc. But sometimes it’s a friend or colleague that becomes a client and they don’t want the preliminaries but when you start you find you’re missing info you would have normally collected upfront. Sometimes you have a client that asks for a special payment plan or method so you need to change how you bill them. Sometimes you have a client that wants to communicate in a way that’s not usual for you (i.e. you use a shared Slack channel but they only text or phone). Continual ‘exceptions’ can make your workflow useless. You’ll have to make a decision between streamlining your client requirements or creating multiple workflows for different scenarios.
Tip: it’s always better to have extra or optional items in your workflow that can be skipped as opposed to having multiple workflows - just be sure that it’s obvious when an item can be skipped!
How do you know your workflow is good?
You can hand the task off to someone who has never done it for you and they can complete it with a minimum of hassle
You can complete the task yourself after not having done it for a long time
Of course, this assumes that the person doing the task has at least some competency with it - I trust that you wouldn’t hire a chef to fix your car.
Step 1: Braindump Topics
The worst thing you can do is sit down on the day you have to post without any idea of what your topic is going to be.
In a perfect world, you would have an entire editorial calendar already created and you know what your next 10 topics are. At minimum, it is immensely helpful if you have a bunch of topic ideas to draw from.
So sit down, pull out your favourite planner or online storage tool (Trello*!) and start writing down ideas. It helps to be specific, but don’t get hung up on that right now. Just get it all out of your head and into writing.
Tip: sometimes picking topics can be overwhelming because there are too many ideas or you don’t know where to start, so I’d recommend creating some focus by selecting 2-3 general topics (your categories) that are relevant to your business and your readers would enjoy. Then within those general categories it will be much easier to come up with specific blog post ideas.
Step 2: Evaluate Your Time & Tasks
Blogging can be a considerable undertaking depending on several factors, like how much time it takes you to:
Create graphics or find images to include
Create UTMs (Urchin Tracking Module) for your outbound links
Create a CTA (call to action)
Add social sharing functions
Add the article to your blog & format
That’s not even counting the time spent coming up with the idea to post about, but we’ll get to that next.
It’s important to estimate how much time it will take you to write a single article, from sitting down with your empty word document to hitting the “publish” button. If it takes you 10 hours to complete a blog post, then committing to a weekly publishing schedule is likely not going to be realistic - maybe you should publish monthly. Alternatively, if a post only takes 2 hours, then a weekly schedule might be no problem.
Tip: If you are finding yourself wanting to cut out some of your blog process so you can save time and publish more frequently - DON’T. If your post is not easy to read or easy to share, it’s not going to get much traction online.
Step 3: Batching
You can save time by batching activities - this also means that you’ll have to do them less frequently. Look at your list of tasks and see what things completed at the same time.
For example, instead of writing one entire blog post per week, you could sit down and outline 4-5 posts at once - if you’re in the writing zone you might even get them all written! Not feeling the writing? Open up your graphic design application and make the graphics for those 4-5 posts instead. In addition to being more efficient, this process lends itself quite nicely to getting things done well ahead of time so you’re not scrambling to publish on time.
Step 4: Accountability
You’ve spent all of this time putting together your workflow, so it would be a shame not to use it!
You generally have 2 tracking options with blogging:
Track the activity (i.e. outline posts, create graphics) with a sub-list of post topics
Track the post topic with a sub-list of activities
Though it requires more clicking, my personal preference is for #2 for a variety of reasons: sometimes posts have extra tasks involved and I need them to stand out, and if you end up outsourcing parts of your blogging workflow it’s important to know on a post-by-post basis what is ready to publish and where everything is at.
So, my recommendation is to write down your blog topic with all of the action items underneath.
Create a paper template with your action items and a blank space to write the topic/title of your post; make copies to keep by your computer and manually check off as items are completed
Put action items on a whiteboard so you can easily check off and erase your checks each week/month/etc. And update the topic
Keep them as reminders in your calendar with an attached spreadsheet or word document
Set them up in a productivity tool like Trello*, or Asana so you can set due dates, reminders, repeats, checklists etc.
Step 5: Maintenance & Flexibility
Things in your business will change, and it’s important that you keep your workflows up to date. As mentioned in step 4, you want to have a template for your workflow and that is what you want to keep up to date - this ensures you always have a single copy that is up to date.
I’d recommend updating workflows as you notice the changes. If you try to leave it to later chances are high you’ll forget what changes need to be made.
It is also important to allow yourself some grace and flexibility when things come up. For example, and opportunity could come up in your business resulting in you wanting to write about different topics for the next few weeks. Don’t feel like you *have* to publish the topics you already prepared. On the other hand, if creating new posts asap seems like an overwhelming feat, publish what you’ve got and work on your new topics for next month.
Bonus Step: Your Work Style
I also want to bring this back to the post I wrote earlier about finding your personal work and productivity style, particularly the section around time blocking.
If can put regular, specific tasks in your calendar and follow them, congrats, you are a superhero of productivity! If you are like me and need to be “feeling it” to get the work done, you need to set aside more general tasks in your calendar.
Instead of something like this:
On the 15th of each month, outline next month’s posts
On the last Wednesday of the month, create all of the graphics for next month’s posts
On the last day of the month, schedule all posts on the blog
You might want something like this:
During the first week of the month, finalize topics for next month
During the second week of the month, outline topics
During the third week of the month, write posts
The important thing if you’re taking the second option is to still set aside ‘blogging’ time in your calendar for the week. For example, if it’s the third week of the month and I need to write, I might try on Monday, but if I’m not in a writing headspace I’ll fill that time with other blogging activities and try again the next day.