How to Make and Use an Editorial Calendar
Publishing. It’s something we should all be doing more of as web writers. Whether you’re publishing your own blog and website articles, promoting e-books, guest blogging, or creating marketing videos for YouTube, the more you publish, the easier you are to find online.
And, the more credibility you build when it comes to your prospects.
It sounds like a lot of work, but if you create a system, publishing can be a fun and easy way to build your business.
A crucial component to your publishing system is an editorial calendar. Today, I’m going to show how you can use an editorial calendar for your own web-writing business and also share a few tips on how you can use this same tool to really wow your clients.
No Fancy Tools Needed
There are editorial calendar tools out there that you can install on your computer and use to help you plan your content. But, the only thing you really need is a simple calendar program and a little bit of time each week — even a paper calendar works if you prefer an old-school approach.
Here’s what to do …
Collect Your Ideas
First, you need a simple method for collecting your ideas. Ideas come from all over the place. You might be reading an industry blog and have a question that isn’t answered — idea. You might have an encounter at the grocery store and see a freelance lesson nestled within it — idea. You might learn how to do something new or discover a new tool — idea.
Create a document on your computer or your smartphone (or use a pad of paper or notebook) and jot down your article/blog post/video/report ideas when they come to you.
This habit can take some time to develop, so while you’re training yourself to immediately capture ideas, set aside 10 minutes a day to write down any ideas you had during the day that you didn’t record.
Plan Well Ahead
Determine how far ahead you want to work. I try to work eight weeks out. I sit down once a month and add to my calendar based on the list of ideas I’ve gathered, a review of my site’s analytics, and some keyword research.
By planning out eight weeks and revisiting my plans at least once a month, I’m never down to the wire when it comes to content ideas. I still get down to the wire sometimes when it comes to acting on the ideas, but it helps to know what topics I’m covering ahead of time.
Once you’ve got a plan, put your topic ideas and planned publication dates into your calendar program, so it’s easy to see at a glance what’s coming.
Look for Connections
Publishing on the Internet affords you a lot of flexibility. It means you can move the topics on your calendar around very easily. You can also insert topics that tie-in with breaking news in your industry.
Look for connections to current trends, to content you’ve previously published on your site, in your blog, or on other sites, and to works published by people influential in your industry. Use those connections to add depth to what you’re working on and to build your outbound and internal links.
Make Room for Big Projects and Little Projects
When you put together your calendar, it’s easy to get focused on your recurring work. By that I mean, if you’ve committed to adding one blog post to your site per week, it’s easy to build your editorial calendar with that in mind and to lose sight of other projects.
Your recurring posts are a great place to start, but don’t stop there. Once you’ve built your calendar around your main publishing strategy, add in a bigger project or two. You may want to publish a video series, a webinar, or a special report. Don’t forget to put those things on your calendar and set due dates for them as well. If you don’t, they will easily get put off in the face of other deadlines.
An Example in Action
Here’s an example of what your editorial calendar might look like. This is a fictional example of a possible publishing schedule for someone whose freelance web-writing business focuses on social media.
Week 1: Using surveys in social media (Publish 1/10)
Week 2: Twitter as a research tool (Publish 1/17)
Week 3: How often should you update your status? (Publish 1/24)
Week 4: Engaging clients through social media (Publish 1/31)
Special: Client Case Study (Publish 2/2)
Week 5: The top overused words on LinkedIn (Publish 2/7)
Week 6: Social media as a customer service tool (Publish 2/14)
Week 7: Social media tools you aren’t using but should be (Publish 2/21)
Week 8: Mobile integration (Publish 2/28)
Special: Social Media Video Presentation (Publish 2/28)
With these dates and topics on your calendar, you can immediately see what’s coming up and what you need to block time for. You can also look for tie-ins to any special offers you’re running and use your regularly-scheduled e-letter or blog posts to make an additional soft push for your services.
In this example, at the end of January, you would make time to brainstorm and schedule March’s topics. That way, March doesn’t sneak up on you and leave you scrambling.
On the Client End of Things …
You can also use editorial calendars when working with clients. This makes the most sense for clients who’ve hired you to do recurring work — blog posts, e-letter articles, an ongoing social media campaign … that kind of thing. Some clients will tell you what topics they want you to cover, but in my experience, most would prefer you take the reins on idea generation.
However, that can lead to bumps. If you write an entire post on a topic that your client doesn’t want to run, that’s an uncomfortable situation.
By setting up an editorial calendar and letting your clients know what you plan to cover in the coming weeks, it gives them a chance to give you feedback before you begin writing.
That means if you’ve listed any topics they don’t like, they can speak up before you do the work. And, if there’s anything coming up that you didn’t know about or if a client has some great ideas of her own, the editorial calendar gives her the perfect reminder to bring you into the loop.
Deliver Better Results
When you regularly let your client know what content you plan to create, you remove a lot of the guesswork. You establish clear expectations and then can easily go on to fulfill them. The end result is a happier client, because there are no surprises and the client feels like he has more input and control in the process.
An editorial calendar is the perfect tool for web writers to use to keep their own self-promotion and publishing efforts on track. And, in certain situations, it can make working with clients a breeze.
The best part is, it doesn’t take any fancy tools or software to start making and using your editorial calendar. It’s something you can do right away with zero up-front cost and a big potential benefit to you and your business.
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