Content can be a bit of a grind.
You think of an idea. You do an outline and a bit of research. You sit down and write it. Then you promote it. And, by the time you’ve hit that last phase, it’s already time to start again with another new idea.
Week in, week out this pattern is the same. It can become one of those tasks that you end up dreading, even if it’s something you actually happen to love doing.
I get it. I really do. Even on my other blog, where I talk about one of the things I love most in the world (fly fishing), I get kind of caught up in this. What’s even worse, I will stop posting and writing for months at a stretch simply because there are other things I’d rather be doing (like actually going out and fishing, as opposed to simply writing about it).
The problem is, beyond the mental fatigue, that this doesn’t help your business one bit. It’s fine if a passion project falls to the wayside a bit from content fatigue, but your business and your livelihood can depend on your content being on point.
So what do you do when you’ve hit this wall? Do you pack it in and stop producing content? That’s probably not an option, since it’s going to affect your bottom line. Instead of doing that, try out one or two of the suggestions I’ve made below. These are excellent ways to break out of your rut and start producing the kind of content that excites you again.
1. Try something different
Sometimes it’s not what you’re saying that you’re tired of, it’s the format you’re using to get your message out there. If you’ve been blogging since before it was even called blogging and you just feel like screaming every time you have to post a new blog to your site, it might be time to try something else.
Trying something different can be just the thing you need when you’re feeling stuck in that rut. It’s like anything, sometimes you just need a little something different to spice things up and re-spark your love affair with content.
Email, for those who have never tried it before, is a great way to keep pushing content out into the world and, because it’s a different format than, say, a blog, you have to tell your stories a little bit differently. I did this all the time as a fledgling writer.
For a while when I first started writing, I was all about writing comics. Long comics, short comics, medium-sized comics. I wrote them all. And, you know what, each format required something a little bit different. Comic strips required me to be succinct. I usually had 4 to 6 panels to tell my story (or joke). Medium-sized comics meant I had a couple of pages to play around with. This gave me room to play. Long comics meant I had to be able to keep a story going for an entire book, which could be tricky.
Every time I switched formats, I fell in love with the medium all over again. I couldn’t wait to sit and sketch out my ideas and turn them from doodles in the margins of my notebook into something that I could proudly submit to the publisher (even if I was that publisher).
Taking the time to master a new content format is no different. Email is different from blog posts, which are different from long-form blog posts, which are different from whitepapers, which are different from ebooks. You can say the exact same thing with each method, but you have to say it differently. This different approach can often be the thing that makes you fall in love with your content again.
2. Collaborate with a friend or fellow content producer
Collaborating with another content producer, or someone else in your industry, can be a great way to break out of a content rut.
Firstly, working with someone else can bring a whole new perspective to the work that you’re doing. Work that is produced in a collaborative setting is often fuelled by the excitement of working with someone different. This can result in ideas that you’ve never encountered before, ways of putting information out there that you hadn’t considered and can even grow beyond that into something that is much more exciting.
Andy Crestodina over at Orbit Media opened my eyes to the idea of collaborative content marketing when I heard him speak at CTA conf earlier this year. Prior to that, the thought of working with another content marketer on something wouldn’t necessarily have ever crossed my mind, but, as you can see in this post, the benefits are huge–even going beyond the fact that two creative people can work magic when they work together.
If feel like you’ve hit a wall when producing content, reach out to someone you know. If you really want to be daring, try reaching out to someone who writes for a different industry than you. Having the perspective of someone who is used to writing for a totally different audience from your own could result in some truly exciting content.
3. Come up with a plan
Creating a content plan may not seem like the most exciting thing in the world, but, sitting down to map out, say, a couple of months worth of content can help you from burning out on one of the most arduous parts of the content game: coming up with new ideas.
One of the things that makes writing content tricky, is the constant need to produce new content. For some, this is a natural thing. It’s as easy as putting on their shoes in the morning. For others, it’s a chore, especially if you’ve been writing for the same audience for a while.
Creating a content calendar forces you to do all your heavy thinking off the top. What I mean by this is you spend your time sifting through ideas and content that others have written and doing some light research and try and come up with as many different ideas as possible.
Most of them are probably going to be fairly bad. They might even be really bad. And that’s fine.
What you end up being left with is a handful of really great ideas that you’ve at least partially researched and done some thinking on. If you spend a few days every few months doing this, you don’t have to waste time every week trying to come up with fresh ideas. All you have to do is sit down and create.
You can even take this a step further and use this calendar to create a strategy.
Say you notice a theme emerging in the ideas that you’ve developed. This theme can help you dictate your content for the next few months and, if you’re really looking to be strategic about things, you can use this theme to build up to something special for your audience. Like a whitepaper release on the topic or even an ebook (or an email series or a podcast launch or a new video series, etc.).
The sky’s the limit with a well thought out content plan.
4. Engage your audience
I keep coming back to this idea in my posts. Not because I like repeating myself (because I really don’t), but because your audience is a very powerful tool when it comes to generating content ideas.
No one knows what they want to read about more than your readers. Taking the time to talk to them opens up the door to a whole of content that you might never have experienced before.
Interviews, surveys and polls are all excellent ways to gain insight from your readers, but if you’ve been at it long enough, chances are you’ve tried at least one of those before. One method that I’ve come across recently has been using quizzes to help generate content ideas.
“Quizzes are a little bit easier to say yes to,” according to Chanti Zak, a conversion copywriter and funnel strategist/quiz funnel guru.
Unlike surveys, which can be seen as a bit of a chore by people, quizzes can be fun. They’re less serious than your standard marketing survey and they also tend to have an outcome that, for those who are taking them, are fun.
From a content creation point of view, though, the results can be very insightful. “You can focus on what you think are the top pain points (for your audience) and have those be your outcomes. What I see is the majority of people fall into one category,” says Chanti. Once you know what category most of your audience falls into, you can focus your content on that category.
Using a technique like this can be a goldmine if you’re stuck in the content department. These kinds of insights from your audience can’t be beat and really help you hone in on the things that your readers care about the most, which, really, is exactly what you want when creating content.
5. Challenge yourself
Sometimes, you fall into a rut because you fall into a routine. Don’t get me wrong, routines are great, especially for writing, but they can also lead to bad habits. These habits can lead you down the road where you use your routine as a crutch, instead of as a way to help you get words on the page.
Issuing yourself a challenge, can be a great way to break out of that routine.
It could be anything. You could force yourself to create a piece of content every day, like so many people do when they send out daily emails.
You could pick one topic a week and come up with as many ideas for content around that as you can think of.
Heck, you could ask a friend to send you one idea every day for two weeks and create a piece of content around each idea.
The trick here isn’t to come up with solid gold every time, but to help you produce and produce and produce. Making yourself create content like that does a few things. First, it forces you to keep going, which, if nothing else, keeps you thinking about the topics you write about.
Second, when you challenge yourself, you push yourself through the crap. And there’s going to be a lot of crap produced when you’re in challenge mode. It’s inevitable. Pushing through the crap helps you find that gold that you’re looking.
By no means am I suggesting you publish everything you produce (although it’d be brave of you to do so), but you will likely end up with more gold than garbage by the time you’re done.
Not only that, but these sorts of challenges tend to make you a better at what you do. I spent an entire year once working on my voice (how I write things, not how I sound) and used a challenge to get me there. I wasn’t happy with everything that I had done, but the end result had me exactly where I wanted to be to finish a book I’d been working on for two years.
6. Take a break
There’s always a good chance that you just need to step back from what you’re doing for a while.
You could be the best content writer out there, or in your company, but if you’re not feeling it, you’re not going to be producing your best work. And, frankly, substandard content hurts your business more than not producing any content.
Breaks are necessary every once in awhile for everyone, no matter what you do. It’s a good way to recharge your batteries, it prevents burnout (which is can really hurt things) and it can help you feel better about the work that you’re doing.
The good thing is, if you’ve been producing content for so long that you’re in a rut, chances are you can dig up some older posts, rework them, update them and make them fresh again, and then re-post them. That way people won’t think you’ve dropped off the face of the planet entirely or that you’re closing the doors on your business.
This is also a good opportunity to tag someone else in.
Calling in reinforcements is the perfect way to refresh the content on your site. If you hire the right person, your audience won’t even notice that you’ve stepped back from things.
This can be a hard decision to make, but if you’re in charge of running your company AND you’re doing all the content, you’re probably spread pretty thin (which can lead to feeling like you’re stuck in a rut with your content). Stepping back from doing all the content and hiring a pro (like myself) is a great way to break out of your content rut.
When you step back from something that has started to feel like a chore and pass the task on to someone else, you get a fresh set of eyes and someone who is excited to start creating content for you. This enthusiasm (assuming you hire an enthusiastic content creator) always helps your content shine. You want this shine on your content. You want that excitement. Nothing helps a company more than exciting content written by someone who’s excited to be doing it.
If you’re in that situation and you feel like you need someone to step up and take over (or even someone to collaborate on a few pieces with), I’m here for you. Reach out to me today and we can get your content back on track in no time (while you enjoy a nice relaxing day of not having to worry about content anymore).