At the end of June 2009, I was reading Copyblogger and I got a new idea: I should write an ebook.
My writing and editing business was less than a year old, and I had never written anything that resembled a book.
Could I actually do it?
I knew I wanted to try, so I established a plan on July 1 that would help me write, design, and self-publish an ebook on my website by September 15.
I’m going to share that plan with you today, so you can adapt it to any type of content project you’d like to finish by the fall (in the Northern Hemisphere).
Select the right topic
Writing an ebook could easily take a year or two … or five.
But launching it as soon as possible was an important step for my business.
The ebook would help:
- Establish my authority as a writer and editor
- Build my email list
- Strengthen my author bio when I wrote guest posts
The last bullet point above was especially critical because I didn’t have my own blog yet. I’ll explain that in a bit.
In order to complete the project by the end of the summer, I decided to create a short guide about avoiding common writing mistakes.
If I had chosen a more complex topic, either the quality would have suffered or I wouldn’t have been able to release it on September 15.
Carefully select a project you have the time and resources to finish.
On July 1, I set these deadlines …
- August 1: Complete draft
- August 15: Complete editing
- September 1: Complete design
- September 8: Complete guest posts for promotion
- September 15: Launch ebook
As you can see, I had a pretty weak promotion strategy. It made me nervous, but since my goal was to produce an ebook, I didn’t worry about it too much.
The project taught me countless lessons about writing, content creation, and marketing that I could apply in the future.
If you don’t try something new because you don’t feel confident about every aspect of it, you’ll never learn those lessons.
Work on weekly goals to meet deadlines
After I marked my calendar with my deadlines, I outlined weekly goals.
Even though I made daily to-do lists to keep me on track, I preferred to measure my progress at the end of each week.
Daily goals are often too strict for my creative process.
Sonia recommends forming a support group with other entrepreneurs to help manage your stress and keep yourself accountable.
If you’re more of a lone wolf like me, adopt a no-excuses attitude.
Don’t treat your deadlines as options. Meet each one like your job depends on it.
But also recognize that every project has unexpected hiccups. If you have a week that doesn’t quite go as planned, simply reschedule the tasks you didn’t work on.
It’s possible to have a flexible attitude each week and still finish everything by your final deadlines.
My website didn’t have a blog
Although I don’t regret spending a lot of energy on that ebook in the summer of 2009, it also would have been wise to set up my own blog.
I had been guest posting on other websites, but my online home was a basic “brochure” site that described my services.
Without a blog, I missed out on a lot of opportunities to build my audience and business.
But about a year later, I got serious about business blogging regularly — and it was great to already have the ebook to offer new readers.
This simple system still works
When I decided to make videos, I knew starting that content project could also take a year, or two, or five — if I let it.
So, I remembered the simple plan I like to use to get things off the ground sooner rather than later.
I set my deadlines, worked on weekly goals, and stayed as calm as possible when I encountered challenges. 😉
Within three months, I had my writing advice YouTube channel that I’m continuing to build weekly.
What’s your next project?
Think about where you could be one year from now if you start working on a new project today.
Because once you finish that project, you’ll have more experience and confidence to tackle your next one. And the next one after that.
Reader Comments (17)
Shantanu Sinha says
Great tips here 🙂
Seriously you had some guts to go for an E-book just within 2 months. I mean publishing an e-book not an easy task, and if you are doing it for the first time, it should be done wisely so, that it leaves a positive impression behind.
Good to see how you manage to meet your deadlines, managing our works do really help a lot.
Thanks a lot for sharing your journey among us.
Emenike Emmanuel says
This is interesting. Your plan was straight to the point. I had a similar plan when I wanted to start my business blog. I drew the plan but I overlooked the monetization aspect.
Coming this far has taught me that you may not really get everything fixed at first. What’s more important is to launch it. No matter what happens, make sure you kept to the deadline. Launch it and build from there.
Today, I’m not regretting that mistake. Who knows, I may have ended up thinking so much about money that I won’t give my readers the best of what they want.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Exactly, Emenike. You need to have a useful blog people want to read before you can monetize it. 🙂
Beth Worthy says
Your blog is an eye-opener on how being a stickler to your schedule and prompt execution of your content plan can help accomplish a very challenging first task that eventually opens the doors to success. Congrats and thank you! 🙂
LJ Sedgwick says
I love the fact that you focused on the goal, rather than the peripheral things! That’s something I need to keep in mind.
Stefanie Flaxman says
I made mistakes for sure, but there’s no substitute for what I learned during the experience. 🙂
Hi Stefanie, I read your post with nostalgic bemusement. When I was a revisionfairy customer 2014, I was just 3 months away from finishing my book – I thought at the time. After all, I had already started the book with 6 months in my mind back in 2012… finally published it on June 1st, 2017. “Writing an ebook could easily take… five years”… so true! Even though you may live comfortably in the center of town, with support groups left and right, some days (and nights) you feel like living in the desert in a cave. I’m living proof 🙂
[On the upside, it’s the book I had always wanted to write, and the coming out feels great]
5-years of discovery don’t fit into a comment box, of course. Besides, your post covers the salient points. Find the space where hard work and fun co-exist, and the courage to follow through – an absolute must!
My big discovery is not so much about books as it is about writing. I used to think writing was just another way of thinking. Turns out it is smiles more powerful than that.
Stefanie Flaxman says
That’s great news to hear, Beat! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
I’m always trying to find the middle ground between working on something until it’s just right and knowing when it’s good enough/time to release it. It’s tricky and different for every project.
Thank you for writing such an honest and useful post. I loved that you emphasized “don’t treat deadlines as options”. Clearly I have been treating my deadlines way too easy, or I just set my deadlines way too close.
I’m launching my project – a sustainable mobility network for local Businesses (based in the city of Sydney). My goal for the fall is to create original content on the theme of “how businesses can increase their creativity & wellbeing by travelling more sustainably”. The bigger aim is to increase membership for the network and content is a key avenue of raising both awareness of theme and profile of scheme. The topic can be complex however when broken down it is a set of simple components. The aim is publishing the links on why (&how) making the effort to shift to sustainable travel results in more profitable and valuable businesses.
Stay tuned and join the journey!
Stefanie Flaxman says
The summer is a great time to create the content you want to have ready for the fall. Good luck, Rajesh!
Pratik Agrawal says
Planning before starting is always a good idea. But if the plan fails to match the expectation then one should not break the heart and need to overcome for that for analyzing the mistakes and re-construct the whole strategy for a better outcome.
Sagar Nandwani says
Write tomorrow’s task today. This will help you not only plan out your day, it will also help you deal with that crisis awaiting you first thing in the morning. For example, if you have your tasks outlined and you wake up to a crashed website, you could delegate those tasks while you work on getting the site back-up.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Terrific tip, Sagar!
Adrianna Cangahuala says
As a business student and amateur writer I found this topic really interesting. I’m yet to really experience the pressure and hard work of getting published, I especially like that you mention the importance of deadlines but also acknowledge that we will inevitably make mistakes and the best way to deal with them is to reschedule and move on. Especially for someone with no experience I think it’s important to know that failure can be prevented but not avoided, the stress of striving for perfection on your first try might actually take away from what should also be a learning experience as much as a professional first step.
You make some great points. One of my biggest take aways from your article is to break everything down into manageable chunks. Whether it is setting deadlines for the milestones in the project or setting your weekly goals you need to break it down. When I write a blog or an article I map it out in terms of sections, paragraphs, infographics etc.
Another good point that you make is in respect of selecting the right topic. While this may seem obvious to some if you are not passionate about what you are writing it is unlikely that it will inspire others.
Noelle Addison says
The key to accomplishing content projects is creating a simple but doable plan.
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