Jessica Lawlor is a content manager and strategist. Your content plan is integral to your small business, as I’ve learned over the past couple of year. I’m being a lot more intentional this year, and in this episode, Jessica talks about how you can too. We chat about content calendars, answering important questions regarding your goals, and how to create content even if you’re strapped for time.
- Jessica Lawlor | Twitter
- The Write Life
- Click Up
- Nathan Ellering and CoSchedule
- Repurposing Content with Jaclyn Schiff
- How to get More Comfortable Recording a Podcast
Jessica Lawlor: I also like to get ideas from other people, so I try to think about “What are the questions people are asking me?” For those who own businesses, I’m sure whatever it is, that their businesses and people consider them an expert and are probably asking them questions. For me, I get a lot of emails from people saying, “I want to be a freelance writer. How do I get started? How did you get your first client? What’s the best way to send a pitch to an editor?” So I look at all of those questions that I get, or questions that I see other people may be asking on Twitter, or on Instagram, and I consider those ideas as potential content for my blog.
Joe Casabona: Hey, everybody. Welcome to episode 151 of How I Built It. Today I’m talking to Jessica Lawlor, a content manager, and strategist. Your content plan is integral to your small business, as I’ve learned over the past couple of years. I’m being a lot more intentional this year, and in this episode, Jessica talks about how you can too. We chat about content calendars, answering important questions regarding your goals, and how to create content even if you are strapped for time. You’ll hear me say things like, “That’s fantastic” and “I love that” a lot because honestly, Jessica says it all. I had nothing more to add. So without further ado, let’s get on with the show.
Break: Hey everybody. Before we get started, I want to tell you about my online membership and community creator courses. I know that when you want to learn something new, the natural thing you probably do is go to Google or YouTube. I do the same thing, and that’s great for one-off projects. I used a YouTube video to learn how to change a light switch in my house, but I am not a big fan of YouTube for learning new skills. Because there are lots of videos on every topic, but “Which one is best and who do you trust? What order do you even watch the videos in, and will you get the support you need?” These are all things that YouTube or other potentially free videos can’t do for you. So, I started Creator Courses a few years ago with the idea of just putting online courses out there, and I decided to morph it into a membership last year. So stop wasting your time hunting and pecking for the right learning resources and tools, over at Creator Courses. You can become a member and take all of the courses that we have to offer included in that membership, and those courses focus on everything from just basic WordPress up to learning how to build websites without code, something you don’t necessarily need to do in this day and age. All of the courses are developed by me, and if you listen regularly that I’ve been a developer for decades at this point, and I have lots of experience building websites. I’m a teacher at heart, and I’ve created courses for LinkedIn Learning and things like that. On top of the courses, we’re also a community, and members get access to forums and Slack and office hours with me, so I just wanted to let about that and encourage you to join if you haven’t already. Listeners of this show, exclusively for listeners of the show, you can save 15% on all memberships, including the lifetime membership. All you have to do is visit CreatorCourses.com/build. Thanks so much, now let’s get on with the show.
Joe: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Jessica Lawlor, and she is the founder and CEO of Jessica Lawlor and Company, a content management business. Jessica, how are you today?
Jessica: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
Joe: Thanks for being on the show. I’m excited to talk about this because while I– This. Producing content is my primary business now between my courses and the podcast, I feel like I just recently started to be intentional about my messaging and the flow of a podcast season. So, I’m excited to talk to you.
Jessica: I’m excited to talk to you as well, and that’s great to hear.
Joe: Awesome. Why don’t we start off with a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Jessica: Absolutely. My name is Jessica, and my background’s actually in public relations. I graduated from college in 2010, and I went to Temple University here in Philadelphia. I studied PR, and that was what my career was in for a while, but I’ve always loved to write. Communicating via writing is something that I’ve just always been super passionate about, very excited about. Over the years, I’ve had various blogs. I had a book review blog at one time, I had a personal blog at one time, and now I have more of a business blog. But while I was in college, and then as I started my career in public relations, I was creating content online via my blog and via social media. It was through my blog that I landed my first professional freelance writing opportunity. I met someone on Twitter who asked me if I’d be interested in helping to create some blog content, and I realized it opened up this whole world to me that you can build a career and develop a passion through content. Ever since then, I’ve built a side hustle doing freelance writing, and then three years, I took my side hustle full time, and I started Jessica Lawlor and Company, which I call JL&Co for short. It’s all about content management and helping people to tell better stories.
Joe: That’s fantastic for a couple of reasons. First of all, this is going to be telling that I feel like I didn’t do a lot of deep research, but I like to be surprised. I was surprised to hear that you are in Philly, I am in the Westchester area.
Jessica: Oh, my gosh. What a small world.
Joe: I know, so we are relatively close. It’s cool to hear how you landed your first professional content, professional writing gig. I feel the same thing happened to me with websites. Basically, somebody was like, “You’re good with computers. Can you make a website?” And I said, “No.” And they said, “I’ll pay you.” That, like you said, opened up a whole world to me. So that’s a great story, which is good because that’s what we’re going to talk about. I said at the top of the show that I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my content and putting out the right messages, maybe we can start with when you get a new client or customer. What’s the first thing you do to make sure they are telling the right story?
Jessica: Such a good question. It all starts with a lot of research. When I land a new client I want to get to know them, I want to learn about their business, I want to do as much research as possible. I like to ask them if I can take a look at past materials they have, and maybe they already have a blog. But maybe they’re just getting started, so I do have an onboarding questionnaire where I ask them questions about who is their audience, who are they trying to reach, what problems are they helping to solve. Some of those typical marketing questions that you’ve probably heard before, but the biggest issue that I hear from clients or potential clients is they just don’t know where to begin when it comes to content. A lot of them also are wondering, “Is it still worth it to create content when there’s so much noise out there right now?” Obviously, my answer to that is, “Yes. It’s definitely worth it.” But really, what I love to do is to help people rein in all of their ideas and create a strategic content calendar that will help their bottom line and help them reach their goals, whatever that may be.
Joe: Gotcha. Do you find that a lot of people–? I’ll give you some context first, last year I interviewed Josh Garofalo, and we talked about how a lot of people in their messaging want to just reach everybody. Like, my target audience is anybody who wants to buy stuff from me. Do you find that a lot of people are not sure what problems they’re trying to solve? Or, did I say that right? Like, have people identified the problem that they’re trying to solve by the time they get to you?
Jessica: Sometimes, no. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. A great example here is I work with TheWriteLife.com. It’s a website for writers, and one question that we’re always asking ourselves is, “Who is our audience?” Because a “Writer” is a very broad term. It could be a freelance writer, and it could be a technical writer, it could be someone who wants to publish a book and be a non-fiction author, or a ghostwriter. There’s so many types of writing. So even within– The Write Life knows who it’s trying to reach, we know we want to reach writers, and then even from there it’s “Do we need to niche down?” Asking those hard questions, so I find that sometimes people do have an idea. Maybe they have a broader audience that they’re trying to reach, and then we try to figure out what are the different types of content we can create to reach various audiences within their larger audience if that makes sense.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. So once you’ve identified the problems you’re trying to solve, you’ve gotten to know them a little bit better. Where do you go from there? Do they hire you to do specific types of content, is it strictly for the blog? I don’t know if “Whitepaper” is still a common term?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. Basically, the way I like to describe what I do, I call it “Content management,” but “Content management” sounds confusing. I can see how it’s a pretty vague term, but what I often tell people is that if they bring on my team to help with content management, what they’re getting is an in-house managing editor. I think that helps people to think about it in a different way. Every client has different needs, but for me, this service can include a lot of stuff. It can include that editorial strategy that we just talked about. Figuring out who the audience is, figuring out what type of content it is that they’re looking for. It also involves content planning, which is my absolute favorite part of the process. I live for creating a content calendar. It’s my absolute favorite thing to do, and that’s fun because that’s when you get to brainstorm “What is the content? What are some potential headline ideas?” Part of my job is also finding writers, and that is something I can definitely speak to. I love working with freelance writers and helping them to develop and hone their own voices. I help to hire writers, and I also help to create content myself. Sometimes a client will want to hire out writers who are experts in whatever topic they’re talking about, but sometimes me and my team will create the content for them. It also ranges from editing the work, doing headlines, a little bit of SEO optimization, helping a client figure out how to promote the content they have. I think that’s sometimes where people get frustrated with content, is that they create this wonderful content, and they put it out into the world, but they don’t promote it, and no one sees it. Then they get frustrated that the content doesn’t create results. Content strategy also includes making sure that you’re promoting your content too, and then also helping a little bit with some email marketing and affiliate marketing. You mentioned whitepapers, that’s definitely still a thing. Most of my clients now call it e-books or just downloadables, or freebies. But all of those things fall under this umbrella of “Content management,” but at the core, it’s what you said. It’s telling great stories that lead to someone taking some type of action.
Joe: That’s fantastic. It sounds like you offer a whole wide range of things, but you said, “I live for creating a content calendar,” so let’s dig into that a little bit. I’ll just give you a softball firs, I think. How important is creating a content calendar?
Jessica: Creating a content calendar is immensely important. Without the calendar, you have no idea what frequency you’re going to be publishing at, and you have no idea what content you’re putting out there. Especially when you’re working with writers, you need to try to work as far ahead as possible so that you can account for deadlines, and you can account for editing time. It’s definitely important, and whether you’re publishing five days a week or seven days a week, or even if it’s just once or twice a month it’s great to have that calendar to also see “Are there timely things happening within the year?” We’re obviously heading– Right now we’re recording in December, so we’re coming towards the holidays, and I’m not sure when this will go live. But depending on what time of year it is, there’s certain content that might be a great fit, so if you’re planning ahead, and you have the opportunity to seek out those opportunities and take advantage.
Joe: I think that last part has been what’s helped me a lot. Like I said, I’m trying to be more intentional, and that included creating a content calendar for this podcast from January through May. I know that this episode is airing in the early part of the year, and you are right before my interview with Matt Medeiros and podcasting. It’s going to be “Telling a story,” then “Telling your story on a podcast,” and then “Should you start a podcast?” That’s going to help me cross-promote some other things, like a course I’m working on and stuff like that, but I also know later in the year I might want to talk about some other things. “We’re going into summer, that’s going to be a feast or famine time for freelancers. Let’s talk about how to beat that.” But I agree, I just started doing content calendars three months ago, and I’m already seeing the benefit of it, and I don’t feel like I’m doing it right. So my follow up question for you is, what do you recommend for somebody who wants to create their own content calendar?
Jessica: Sure. First off, Joe, that’s super smart that you’re doing that. I love to hear that. And it sounds like you’re being strategic about thinking about how your content– You’re obviously putting out this podcast content, but you’re also trying to figure out how it blends in with the rest of your business. I think that’s super smart, so kudos to you on that.
Joe: Thank you.
Jessica: In terms of creating the content calendar, there’s so many different ways. I have a couple different tools that I love to use. One is called Air Table, and it’s pretty– It has a lot of functionality. I probably don’t use it to the fullest extent, but I like to use their calendar function as an easy way to drag and drop ideas from one date to the next. I also love to use, there is just a simple plugin, I can’t remember the exact name, but it’s a plugin for WordPress that’s an editorial calendar, and I use that for one of my clients as well. Already we’re within the blog, and you can move things around easily. Of course, you can just use your own calendars. You can use a Google calendar, and some people prefer spreadsheets. I’m more of a visual person, so I like to look at the calendar by a monthly view. Trello is another great tool, and it’s really up to you and the way that you like to be organized. For me, I’m type A, I like to look at the calendar, and I prefer to use the WordPress editorial calendar or just my own Google Cal.
Joe: Nice. That’s fantastic. I use Air Table, and I did not know they had a calendar view. Right after this interview, I’m going to be checking that out.
Jessica: Yes. A lot of functionality there.
Joe: Awesome. Air table is such a great tool, and I feel like you get maybe too much for free. I haven’t been compelled to want to pay for it yet because I don’t use any of the paid features, but I’m sure I’ll get those soon.
Jessica: I love that, and I also use a very similar tool to that one called Click Up that I’m a very big fan of, and it’s very similar to Trello. I also use the free functionality, and it’s been fantastic for that, but in terms of just going back to what goes on your calendar, for me, I keep it very simple. If I have a blog post idea or a headline idea, a potential headline for that piece, I just plug that into the day that I’m planning on publishing it and then work backwards to figure out other deadlines. If a blog post is going live a month from today, I need to figure out who is going to be writing that post, and when should the post get to me so that I can edit it? How long will it take me to figure out headlines to do optimization for SEO? Working backwards in that way, but some people like to get a little more complicated. Some people like to create content briefs. That’s something that I do for some of my clients who like to have more detail about what a post might look like upfront. So we do a little research around the keywords ahead of writing the post, figure out what we want to include and decide if we need to interview anyone, find some resources and put all of that in a document so that the writer has a lot of information to go off of. That’s something that you also might include in an editorial calendar if you’d like to take it a step further.
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Joe: How far out should you write your content calendar? Do you do a whole year, or do you do a quarter? What do you think is best, or what do you do most of the time?
Jessica: That’s a great question. It depends on the client, and it depends on the posting frequency. For example, my client Muckrat is a tool for PR professionals, and it’s a software. They post on their blog about four times a week, so that’s a pretty robust publishing schedule. When we’re posting that much content, I like to try to plan a month or two months in advance. Typically the Muckrat team or whatever client it is, they might have quarterly goals or some ideas by the quarter, but in terms of planning out the nitty-gritty of what’s going to be going live on their blog, we like to plan about a month or two in advance. If you’re publishing less frequently, maybe four times a month, you could still do that just a few months in advance. Or it sounds like maybe what you’ve done in the case of your podcasts and business is looking at the whole year and figuring out “When are you going to be launching other products or other services, when does it make sense?” I think it depends on what your goals are, but I personally work best planning out maybe a month or two in advance. Because things change and you want to take advantage of opportunities that pop up as well, so if there is a trend that’s hot right now and it pertains to your business it’s important to be flexible and make some room on your content calendar to be able to address whatever it is that might be hot or trending at the moment.
Joe: That’s a great point. I think that at least I’ve heard the term “News-jacking” for some of that stuff. It’s a great call, that’s why we have hot takes.
Joe: That’s fantastic. So, one to two months in advance, depending on how often you publish. I think that is a great point. So, if I’m a freelancer or a small business owner and I say to myself, “I’m too busy to blog,” or “I’m too busy to put content out, I need to spend all of my time finding clients.” What are some of the things that you would say to them? Like, how can publishing on a regular schedule, where you said it could be even once or twice a month, how can that be helpful to a freelancer or a small business owner?
Jessica: Putting out content is so helpful, especially for small business owners. I think where people get overwhelmed is, like you said, a lot of times, a small business owner is one person. They’re so busy, they want to focus on growing the business, and they think that content– They know content is important, but they don’t know why or maybe they just don’t have the time to do it. One thing I like to encourage people to do is to look at the content that they already have. A lot of times, business owners have content that they haven’t put out there in a public way that they could probably repurpose. I’m a really big fan of repurposing content. For example, maybe even– I would encourage a business owner to look back at their Instagram. What have they posted on Instagram in the past couple of months? A lot of times, people tell many stories in the caption of an Instagram post. Is there a story in one of your recent posts that you could potentially repurpose into maybe a little bit of a longer blog post? That’s a way to figure out something that you’ve already done and repurpose it in a new way. Another thing is business owners are always going around and speaking at conferences, events, webinars, and they create often a presentation for these kinds of events. I love to encourage people to repurpose the content that they’ve created for a presentation or for a webinar and turn that into something else. I like to challenge myself when I create something to figure out, “How can I break this down, and how many different ways can I break down this content to share it in a new way?” I like to encourage people in that way. That’s what I would tell people who maybe already have some content, but for those who have maybe no content, I would encourage them to see if they could make the investment in hiring someone and just seeing if it works. You know what I mean?
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a really good point because it is an investment. I’ll tell a quick story, and it has to do with one of the sponsors for the show. Ahrefs– Hold on. I’m going to read you the– I’m going to tell a quick story about one of the sponsors for this show called Ahrefs, they’re sponsoring this episode, but I started using them before they sponsored. I realized that my online courses site wasn’t ranking as well as I thought it would, even though I had the number one courses in a couple of subject matter areas. It’s because I wasn’t putting out content on that site. I figured, “I blog on my blog, this other site will just be for courses.” But that’s not a great strategy. I should have regular content there. So, what I’ve been trying to do– Speaking of repurposing, is when I put out a YouTube video, I write up a blog post along with it. I take the outline for the video, and I publish that over on my online courses site, and it’s a great way like you said, to take content I’m already doing and put it somewhere else.
Jessica: I love that. Yes, and I and I know you recently did an episode on repurposing content with Jaclyn Schiff, the founder of Pod Reacher. Full disclosure, I’m now working with Pod Reacher as their managing editor, but that’s what drew me to Jaclyn’s business was I love that she essentially encourages people with podcasts to hire her and her company to repurpose podcast content into other online content. For people who don’t understand how content works, it might seem a little crazy, or it might seem like you’re repeating yourself, but you’re not. People consume content in so many different ways. Some people are visual learners, and they love YouTube. Some people like audio, they are podcast listeners. Then other people still love to just read long-form articles online, so I think the more ways that you can get your content seen in the way that someone else wants to consume it, the better.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. I saw a dramatic uptick in downloads and listenership when I started publishing transcripts for each episode because I got feedback that, aside from the accessibility aspect, a lot of people just like to read or scan for the big points. So I think like you said, it’s super important. Jaclyn is awesome. I enjoyed having that conversation with her, and I’ll link to her episode and a bunch of other things we’ve talked about so far in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it. I just wanted to mention one more tool around repurposing, since that’s all we’re talking about right now, and that’s repurpose.io. Have you heard of this? Have you seen this?
Jessica: I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t, no.
Joe: I would not be, because it’s mostly for media like podcasters. I found it recently, and I found a really good annual deal before their price went up. But what I’m using it for is taking this podcast and automatically sending it over to YouTube. That’s just another channel for my content, but they also create like audiograms and stuff like that. They’re not a sponsor or anything, and they’re just a tool that is top of mind for me recently. Again, another good way if you’re doing media stuff, an easy way to repurpose without having to put in any work at all– Like, if you make a YouTube video and you want to have a podcast, you can use repurpose to send your audio over to whatever your podcast host is. So, repurposing is a great idea, especially the Instagram. I see people post tomes on Instagram.
Jessica: I think it’s great, and I think it feels to people like it’s less daunting. I mean, the idea of sitting down and writing a blog post for a lot of us, especially those who maybe don’t consider themselves writers, is a daunting task. It’s even daunting for me sometimes looking at a blank page, so I think for people who just want to speak out to their audiences, Instagram is so easy. Because they’re just on their phone, they’re posting a picture, and then they’re just writing from the heart. Essentially that’s what writing should be, but it becomes a little more complicated when we know we’re publishing it for the world to see. I think that Instagram is a great place to go back and see if maybe that inspires any ideas that you could use in the future.
Joe: I think that’s a great point. When someone is trying to come up with content, looking at your website, you talk about telling someone’s story, how would you recommend someone come up with ideas to tell their own story? Should I tell about the time, like my first PHP code, or whatever? The first time I wrote PHP, like, are people going to care about that? It’s like, how do I weed out the good ideas from the bad ideas? Are there any bad ideas in content? Things like that.
Jessica: OK, let’s see. Where to begin? That’s a loaded question.
Jessica: I guess there is bad content or bad ideas, but I think when it comes to brainstorming, put all of those ideas down on paper. First, I would say brainstorming is a great way to start, but I also like to get ideas from other people, so I try to think about “What are the questions people are asking me?” For those who own businesses, I’m sure whatever it is, that their businesses and people consider them an expert and are probably asking them questions. For me, I get a lot of emails from people saying, “I want to be a freelance writer. How do I get started? How did you get your first client? What’s the best way to send a pitch to an editor?” So I look at all of those questions that I get, or questions that I see other people may be asking on Twitter, or on Instagram, and I consider those ideas as potential content for my blog. Thinking about what questions you’re asked the most is a great place to get started as well.
Joe: That is just a fantastic idea because people are– Even if you have clients, clients are asking you questions about the process and about “What about, how do I help you with this? What’s the review process like?” That’s all good content for you to publish.
Jessica: Totally. Also, maybe if you’re not getting asked those questions on a regular basis, put it out there and say, “Ask me anything.” I was in a little bit of a blog rut on my personal blog a couple of months ago, and I decided to send out an email to my email list, and I made the subject line “Ask me anything.” It was the simplest email I’ve ever written, it was probably three sentences long, and I said, “I’m having a blog rut. What do you want to know about? Ask me anything. It can be about business stuff, and it can be about my life, it can be about my favorite TV show. Ask me anything.” I’ve never received so many email responses to an email newsletter that I’ve sent out than to that email. I probably got about 30 responses, and of course, some of them were more of the personal silly questions that I just answered for fun, but I got probably ten solid future blog post ideas just from asking. It never hurts to ask, and it doesn’t have to be asking an email list or Twitter following, maybe even asking just people in your close circle.
Joe: I am absolutely stealing that idea.
Jessica: Please do. I probably stole it from someone else, but honestly, it energized me too. Hearing back from people, I was like, “Yes. This is why I blog because people do want to hear from me.” I think that’s where a lot of times we can get bogged down too, by getting discouraged by how much content is already out there. People often wonder like, “Is my voice unique? Do I have enough to say? Why do people care?” But really, it is important if you have a story that you’re putting it out there.
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Joe: You mentioned your email newsletter, and I think that’s something that many guests on this show have preached that you should build. As we wrap up here, I’m wondering, and we have all this great content. What do we do with the eyeballs that are seeing that content? Do we prompt them to join our mailing list? Do we have a different call to action? Is it based on your goal? What is generally the next step after I write this great content, and I want to get somebody into– To use the sales-y term, “My funnel?”
Jessica: Sure. I do think it depends on your goal, maybe the goal at the end is to reach out to you for– Or, not you, but whoever. To reach out for whatever service it is that you are offering. But directing people to an email list is a great way to get them into your funnel, so if someone reads, a blog post that you wrote or an article that you wrote for someone else and you have the chance to link to an email list, once they’re on your list you can obviously nurture that relationship in a bit of a more personal way. That person has allowed you into their inbox. One thing I always recommend when it comes to email marketing is giving your email list a little bit more, or something different than just what you’re putting out there on your blog. Letting them in helps to build that trust, and then when you do something to sell or when you have something that you want to market to them, oftentimes, they’ll be a little bit more receptive to it. I am a big fan of getting people on your email list because I think it’s one of the best ways for you to build that trust and build that relationship to bring it onto to bigger things, perhaps.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. This last question before we get into the tips/trade secret is, for me, we’re talking about coming up with ideas for content. When you have your blog and then separately your mailing list, are we looking at a house divided here? Do we need to come up with two sets of content for both? Or, is there something else that you can do creatively with your mailing list to repurpose the content there for your blog or vice versa?
Jessica: Such a good question and I struggle with this myself. I’ve changed my strategy up over the years because I do think that it’s important to include in an email to your audience a link, at least, to your recent blog post. Because people do consume information in different ways. Not everyone uses an RSS feed, or not everyone sees your tweet that you wrote a new post. I do think it’s important to include a link to your latest content within your email, but I also try to always give my e-mail subscribers something a little extra. Maybe it’s something that I wanted to include in the blog post, but I didn’t have the room, or even sometimes, I like to get more personal and vulnerable with my email list. Again, my blog that we’re talking about right now, this isn’t for clients, but my blog is a business blog about how I’ve taken my side hustle and turned it into a full-time business. I give myself that liberty of being a little bit more personal and vulnerable, but I try to share just something a little extra while still making it relevant to whatever the most recent blog post is that I want to promote. This gets us a little bit into tips, but one tip I would share in regards to e-mail marketing is to always include a “PS” at the end. I don’t know why, but I like a “PS.” I always find my eyes drawn down to that, even if I maybe haven’t read the whole email itself. But you could always include a link to a recent post or even just an older post that you want to drive traffic to within that “PS,” so I would encourage everyone to give that a try and see how it does.
Joe: Awesome. That is another thing that I’m going to write down and make sure I do on my next newsletter. I can always tell how good an interview is based on my action item list after it, and this one is getting long.
Jessica: I love that.
Joe: So, thank you very much. This is fantastic. As we wrap up here, we’ve talked about a lot of stuff. Why should you put out content, how do you come up with ideas, and building a content calendar. What are a couple of tips that you would give to a freelancer or a small business owner who wants to be, let’s say, more intentional about their content management?
Jessica: One thing I would definitely recommend is taking an hour or maybe two hours away from wherever it is that they typically work to just do a little bit of content brainstorming. I’m sure that ideas come to them throughout the day and maybe they jot them down on their phone or put them in an email somewhere, but I find that if you set aside a chunk of time to do a little bit of brainstorming and thinking about content, you’ll often find a little bit more success. Getting away from your desk, going somewhere else, maybe with a notebook, maybe leaving the laptop at home and just sitting down and brainstorming some ideas. That’s definitely one tip. Another tip again is to talk to people around you. Ask them, “What are they curious about when it comes to your business? What questions do they have?” Those are the questions I love to answer. I realize that a lot of people in my life, even people who are super close to me, don’t know exactly what I do. I’m always trying to better explain that. I get a lot of blog post ideas just from talking to people who don’t fully understand what it is that I offer, and that’s good to know because a lot of times the people that you might work with, they don’t have an understanding of what it is that you do because it’s the service that they’re looking for that they don’t know how to do themselves. Asking those questions is a really smart way to develop some content, and my third tip here would just be to get started. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you don’t have to have a year planned out. If you have a blog post idea right now or a content idea, what’s one small step that you can take today to get it started? Maybe it’s writing an intro, and maybe it’s coming up with a headline idea. It could be something super simple, but don’t wait. A lot of times we wait because we want to make sure that we have our calendar in place, we want to make sure that we have enough content. But I would say just get started now, and then that’ll help get the ball rolling.
Joe: I love that. That’s fantastic. That’s the same advice I give to people who want to start a podcast. They say, “How do I start?” I’m like, “Just hit record. Figure it all out later, but get comfortable in front of the microphone and know if you like this and start recording yourself.” I think that’s fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and all of this advice. I do need to ask my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Jessica: I do, I have two trade secrets. One is very tactical, and then one is a little bit more general. So my tactical idea here, my trade secret, is around headlines. Headlines are a super important part of the content puzzle. My tip here, and I learned this from Alexis Grant, who is the founder of The Write Life. She’s one of my clients. Never write just one headline, for every blog post that I write for myself or for a client, I write 5-10 different headlines. Sometimes they’re very similar. Sometimes it’s almost the same variation, maybe just switching up a word or two, but once you get into the flow, it’s like brainstorming. Once you get into the flow of writing headlines, often the first headline you write or maybe the one that inspired the blog posts idea, it’s not the best headline. Maybe it’s not the best for search engine optimization. Maybe it’s not really what the blog post is actually about, but by sitting down and writing 5-10 headlines, you’ll land on one that will really make sense and will probably resonate more with your community.
Joe: Awesome. 5-10 different headlines?
Jessica: Yeah, a little bit of work, but it’s good.
Joe: It’s important. You mentioned SEO specifically there because you need to figure out what is going to attract people without deceiving them. You want to make sure that your headline summarizes what you’re talking about, as well as gets the attention of the Google robots.
Jessica: Totally. Then my last trade secret here, and we’ve touched on this a little bit already, but it’s never too late to get started with content. I’m sure the same goes for podcasting or starting a website or starting a business. I know it feels like everyone’s out there doing it, but there’s room for everyone, and everyone has their own unique voice. I always encourage people, and it’s never too late to get started. Jump in now.
Joe: Awesome. Excellent advice to end on. Jessica, thank you so much for your time. If people want to learn more, where can they find you?
Jessica: Sure. I’m at JessicaLawlor.com, and I’m also on Twitter. My handle there is @JessLawl, and I love Twitter, so I’m always there chatting. Find me there or on my website.
Joe: Awesome. I will link to those two things and a whole bunch of other resources we talked about today in the show notes over at HowIBuilt.it Jessica, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.
Jessica: Thank you.
Joe: Thanks so much to Jessica for joining me today. I thought this was a fantastic and timely interview for me. My favorite takeaway was that if you need an idea coming up with content, to e-mail your newsletter subscribers and tell them to ask you anything. I think that’s fantastic. I’ve done that a few times since, and I’ve gotten some great responses that have produced a lot of good ideas for me. Then the other thing is, always try to give your subscribers a little extra and always include a PS at the end to draw them in. I think that’s a lot of really good advice there, just around your newsletter. Your newsletter is your best place for selling your products or services, and things like that. So again, thanks to Jessica for all of her fantastic advice. If you want the links that we talked about, the show notes, and all that fun stuff, you can head over to HowIBuilt.it/151. Thank you to this week’s sponsors, SaneBox and FreshBooks. Those are two tools that I use every day in my business, and I’m so excited to have them on the show. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe and leave a rating review over at Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. If you are more interested in the membership that I mentioned at the top of the show, or you’re wondering, “What stuff will I learn if I sign up for a membership at Creator Courses?” You can get a free guide on 5 tools to help you build websites faster over at HowIBuilt.it/tools. Thanks so much for listening. Until next time, get out there and build something.