What is your process when you write a blog post or newsletter article?
For many professional writers, the answer goes something like this: They come up with an idea at 9 am, they sit down and write a plan by 9:30 am, they’re done with the draft by lunchtime, at some point in the afternoon they edit it … and they’re finished.
Sounds good, right? That method involves planning (which I’m a big fan of) and serious editing—not publishing a rough draft. What’s to criticize?
It’s an inefficient way to create content.
Let’s look at an analogy to see why.
You want to bake some cupcakes this week.
Obviously, it’s much easier and quicker to make a batch of 12 cupcakes all at once.
While it’s not necessarily as obvious, the same applies to blog posts, newsletter articles, and even social media posts—whether for yourself or for a client. Any type of content you create can be batch-produced, and you’ll find it quicker and easier to complete it that way.
Once you learn how to batch-produce your content step by step, you’ll see why it’s a brilliant strategy for not only saving time but also for being impressively creative, focused, and productive.
When it comes to blog posts, you can split the process of creating a post into four steps and batch multiple posts together at each step.
How often have you sat staring at your computer, trying to come up with something to write about? It can be tough to brainstorm one idea, especially if you’re under pressure.
ConceivingComing up with 10 or 20 ideas, when you’ve set aside time specifically for idea-generation, is easy by comparison. You don’t need to worry about finding the one “perfect” idea, and once you’ve come up with a couple of ideas, they’ll often spark more.
Grab a piece of scrap paper, or open up a new document. List as many ideas as you can for your blog (or your newsletter, etc).
Some of your ideas might be unworkable, boring, or lacking originality. Others will be spot-on. By letting yourself write down everything, including the bad ideas, you can get to the interesting ones.
How many at once? I’d suggest coming up with 20 ideas in one go.If you’re struggling for inspiration, check out a few suggestions to help you along. You might want to set yourself a time limit (e.g. 20 minutes) so you’re forced to keep moving.
Once you’ve got a bunch of ideas, you can move on to the next step of the batch-production process: outlining.
If you’re working with a client, you may need to supply them with outlines anyway. But even if you’re creating content just for yourself, it’s wise to have a clear plan for what you’re going to write.
Having an outline makes it as easy as possible to write. It forms a framework for your post, so all you have to do next is fill in the gaps.
When you outline several posts at once, it’s easier to spot the potential links and connections between them. One blog post could naturally lead to another post that goes more in-depth on the same topic, or perhaps you could reuse the same structure for several posts. You can then fit these posts into your content calendar so you’re giving your audience an engaging, connected reading experience.
This is also a great time to get a bit more strategic about your blogging.
Why are you writing this post? What are you going to get out of it? (For instance, would it make a great introduction to one of your products, or would it give you an opportunity to mention that you offer consulting?)
If you plan several posts at once, you can make sure they’re all tying into your business goals; for instance, you might want to run a series of loosely connected posts to promote your new book.
How many at once? Where possible, I like to plan four posts at a time—enough for a month’s worth of content on my blog. I keep my outlines fairly brief, so each normally takes me about 10–15 minutes.
If you’re writing very detailed outlines, or if you need to do much research, you may only want to outline a couple of posts per session; if you’re planning short pieces, you might outline six or more at a time.
Most writers find it’s very helpful to separate drafting and editing. When you’re in full-on creative mode, it’s often easiest to keep drafting fresh content, rather than finish a piece and immediately stop to edit.
With short posts and newsletters in particular, I tend to write at least a couple of different rough drafts in one writing session. Very long posts might end up split across two or more sessions … but I still keep the writing and editing firmly separate.
With your planning already done, too, the drafting will hopefully feel much easier than usual. You’ve already done some of the hard thinking, so now you only need to write. Remember, your draft can be as rough as you like; there’ll be plenty of time to edit later.
Every month, I send out four newsletters, each with a short article (usually about 300–400 words). Where possible, I like to draft these as a batch. That way, it’s easy to stay in the “voice” of my newsletter, easy to remind readers what they read last week—or what’s coming up the following week—and easy to get a chunk of my content out of the way at the start of the month.
How many at once? This will vary a lot depending on the length of each piece of content. You might want to think in terms of words, e.g. 1,500 words in a two-hour writing session could cover one longish blog post, two short ones, or five newsletter pieces of 300 words each.
As with planning, once you’ve got your “editing” hat on, it’s helpful to stay in that mode of thinking. You might want to draft three blog posts one week, then edit all of them on a particular day the following week.
Again, this can be an opportune time to spot ways to interlink your blog posts or to let newsletter readers know about something good that’s coming up, if you didn’t do that at an earlier stage.
By setting aside “editing” as a specific stage, you’re more likely to make time for it, too. (Be honest—how often have you been so relieved to finally reach the end of a draft that you hit “publish” straight away?) Editing makes a huge difference, so don’t be tempted to skip or rush this step.
Of course, if you struggle to edit your own work, don’t have the time to do so, or simply don’t like editing, you can bring in an editor to help at this stage!
How many at once? This depends on the length of your content and on how much editing you need to do. Are you essentially just proofreading, or are you looking to make substantial changes?
Depending on the type of content you produce and your systems, you might also want to batch together tasks like:
I’ve already mentioned a few of the big advantages of batch-production, but in case you’re still feeling a bit skeptical about making changes to your workflow, here’s a detailed look at some key reasons to give it a try:
Just like opening a good red wine in advance gives it time to breathe, coming up with ideas and leaving them in your notebook, Word document, or in Evernote gives them time to mature.
Even if you’re not consciously thinking about the ideas, you may find you come back to them with some fresh insights or a more nuanced perspective.
Alternatively, a couple of your not-quite-right ideas might pop into your mind while you’re doing the dishes or taking a shower and you’ll realize they can combine into something brilliant.
Batch-production makes it easier to use what Naomi Dunford calls “weird time,” or those little bits of time when you’re in-between other tasks or waiting on someone.
Hanging around while your kid is at an after-school club?
Sitting in the waiting room for 20 minutes because your dentist is running late?
Listening to on-hold music for what feels like an eternity?
All of these can be great opportunities to tackle part of the content creation process. Sure, you won’t have time to do much, but perhaps you could:
… and so on.
I’ve never met a writer who didn’t procrastinate at least some of the time. It takes a lot of energy to write, and sometimes it’s easy to do anything to avoid facing the blank page.
When you batch-produce your content, procrastination is less likely to take hold.
Feeling too tired to write? Hey, you could at least sit and come up with a bunch of ideas for later.
Not feeling creative at all? Turn to those ideas from last week and do the logical, structuring work of creating a few outlines.
Ready to write but completely lacking ideas? Grab an outline and work through it methodically.
Not in the mood to come up with anything new? Edit something that you’ve already drafted.
You get the idea. When you batch-produce content, it’s easier to pick up a task that you can work on, even on days when you’re at a low ebb. You’ll be much more likely to stick to your blogging schedule (rather than ending up letting yet another week go by without a post).
If you write with or for someone else, you’ll almost certainly need to use some sort of batching method.
At the start of each month, for instance, you send your client a list of 10 ideas and they tell you which five they want you to write for their newsletter.
Maybe you’re looking for guest posting opportunities, so you’ve been outlining a bunch of blog posts to send out—but you won’t draft any until they’re accepted.
At some point, you may accept guest posts on your blog. It’d make most sense to set aside a single day every week or two for editing those.
Or perhaps you’re taking on an assistant. You’d like them to do some stage of production, like a final proofread and sourcing images, and it makes sense to send them several posts at a time to work on.
You now understand the benefits of batch-producing your content. You can see why it works to separate the different stages of writing (gathering ideas, planning, drafting, editing), and you want to give this method a try.
Here’s how to make your content batch-production plan.
First, jot down the different types of content you’re working on regularly. For me, those are:
Now, grab your diary or calendar and figure out where you’re going to make space for:
If that all sounds like a bit much, pick just one aspect of batch-production to focus on this week. For instance, find a half-hour slot that you could spend coming up with lots of ideas. Even just that one step will make it much easier to create your content.
I’ll be honest with you here: Batch-production may not feel like a perfect fit immediately. Maybe you’ve spent years producing your posts one by one—coming up with an idea, then planning, then writing, and then editing, all in one burst of production. Doing things differently could feel a bit strange.
But I’d urge you to give it a serious try. Once you’re into the swing of batch-production (and you soon will be), you’ll realize just how much easier it is.
You’ll have ideas at your fingertips all the time. (Running low? Fit in a 20-minute idea-generation session and come up with a bunch more.)
You’ll have plans ready so that when you’ve got writing time, you can dive straight into a blog post or a newsletter article, or whatever you need to write.
You’ll get into the habit of drafting in a quick, focused way, so you can get lots of words down in a single writing session, which is great for motivation.
And all the tasks like editing, finding images, formatting, and uploading can now fit into times when you’re not feeling so creative (or you can outsource them to someone else altogether).
How will you be adjusting your workflow so you can batch-produce your content? Tell us how you’re doing in the comments.
Ali Luke has been freelancing and blogging since 2008. These days ,she juggles freelancing, blogging, novel-writing and two young children. As well as blogging for a number of large sites (ProBlogger, The Write Life, Make a Living Writing and more), she writes about the art, craft and business of writing on her long-running blog Aliventures.com. If you'd like to spend more time writing, download her free ebook Time to Write: How to Fit More Writing Into Your Life, Right Now -- it's a short read, with ten practical tried-and-tested tips.