Do you keep a content calendar?
While getting comfortable calling yourself a writer is definitely one hurdle new writers face, you must also settle into a regular publishing routine … which also makes you a publisher.
“Publisher” doesn’t sound as glamorous as “writer,” but it’s a vital part of getting discovered as a writer.
See, if you don’t share the final drafts you produce, it’s difficult to grow the confidence to declare that “writer” label.
You need to publish writing samples first, and a content calendar helps you stick to a schedule.
What’s a low-tech content calendar?
There are a lot of high-tech tools available to plan and organize your content, but once again, you can easily veer off into cart-before-the-horse territory. (You’re going about things in the wrong order.)
Writers need to first develop the proper work ethic, discipline, and writing habits before they’ll benefit from any fancy publishing software.
Accordingly, your first content calendar can be low-tech — a simple and easy tool to use consistently for your business blogging.
The best part is you can start planning and organizing like a publishing pro with supplies you probably already have on hand.
Content calendar supplies
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A calendar (digital or paper)
- Your preferred writing utensil (likely a pen or pencil)
- A notebook with pages you can write on both sides
It doesn’t matter if you use a digital or paper calendar because you’re only using it to look up dates and days of the week.
You’ll use one page of your notebook (front and back) for each one of the content ideas you plan to publish. If you don’t want to write on both sides of a page, you can use two pages per topic.
Since I’m focusing on how to use a content calendar, the publishing platform you use isn’t too relevant right now.
I’ll assume that you want to craft content to publish on your own website, and after you use the method below, you’ll be ready to do just that.
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Content calendar elements
If all of this sounds incredibly straightforward so far, it is.
Producing great writing is the hard part. Let your administrative processes set you up to do your best work.
So, what is a content calendar exactly?
Here are the five elements that make up your content calendar:
- Publish day
- Publish time
- Front of the page
- Back of the page
- Draft transfer
Let’s take a look at how they all work together.
How often are you going to publish your writing? Once a month? Once a week? Multiple times per week?
Your content calendar is centered around the days you share your writing, so look at the month ahead of you and decide when your next piece of writing will go live on your website.
For example, you might decide that March 1 is going to be the first entry in your content calendar, and you’re going to publish once a week from that day forward.
That would make March 1 the publish date for the first post on your calendar. March 8 is the date for your second post, March 15 is the slot for your third post, and so on.
Your publish time gets special attention because it’s a symbol of commitment.
Rather than just aim to get a post published on your site on a certain day, you’re dedicated to a specific schedule — and that specific schedule includes details like the time your content goes live.
Whether it’s 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time or 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time, you enhance the professionalism of your content calendar if you select an exact publish time.
Front of the page
Now let’s move on to your notebook.
At the top of a fresh page, write the publish details for your first content calendar entry:
- The day of the week
- The date
- The time
Use the rest of the page in your notebook to draft headlines, brainstorm ideas, or capture any inspirational quotes for writers that keep you motivated.
This will turn into a brief outline of your content, which you can reference when you start writing.
Did you make a mistake on your content calendar?
If you create a calendar entry for a post, but then decide you’d like to publish this topic on a different day, date, and time, simply cross out (or erase) what you wrote and replace it with the updated day, date, and time.
Yes, it’s not as sleek as a digital option. (More on my favorite digital tool in the advanced tips below.)
The important part is that you’re assigning your ideas to the days, dates, and times you publish.
Back of the page
You knew one of these steps was going to be related to content editing, right? 😉
Even though you haven’t written a draft yet, your content calendar can be an outlet for refining your ideas.
Use the back of the page of your notebook for organizing your points.
For example, you might find that something you thought you wanted to talk about in this certain article might work better as a separate article.
That’s an opportunity to create another entry in your content calendar, either in the next open slot or another time in the future.
You might be wondering why I’m recommending that you only use the front and back of a page in your notebook for a content calendar entry.
Remember, this isn’t your writing notebook.
It’s a system to keep a record of what you have already published and what you plan to publish in the future.
So, you don’t want to write down too much on these pages. Two should be enough.
You’ll transfer all of the important information to a digital document, a new post in your publishing platform, or any other place where you write drafts.
Advanced content calendar tips
As you evolve as a publisher and get a clearer picture of what you want to write about, as well as what your audience wants, you can organize your ideas in different ways.
Check out these advanced content calendar tips.
Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress
My favorite publishing tool is the Editorial Calendar plugin for WordPress. I can’t imagine keeping a long-term schedule without it or something similar.
In the example image above, you’ll see you can add drafts directly into a monthly calendar to quickly see the topics you plan to post.
As you narrow down the types of articles you want to publish as part of your writing portfolio, you might find that weekly or monthly themes help you develop a narrative for your website.
For example, if your site is all about hot beverages, you might dedicate one month to espresso, one month to mocha-flavored drinks, one month to tea, etc.
Once you write all of the content related to those themes, you’ll have several categories you can place in a navigation bar to make it easy for visitors to find this cornerstone content.
A content series is similar to a theme and can be an effective way to cover a topic with a lot of details over time.
That’s what I was hinting at in the Back of the Page section. One idea might turn into three or more related topics and can be linked together as a series.
Your content calendar is your publishing schedule
If you’re ready to put your horse before your cart, start with a content calendar that helps you stick with your publishing schedule.
Get ready to do the work no one can take away from you, so you don’t just have the confidence to call yourself a writer — it’s the truth.
Reader Comments (8)
Mr Matthew Brown says
I agree that the WordPress editorial calendar is absolutely a must-have. I strongly recommend it to authors who are trying to build a platform of their own.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Right on, Matthew!
Good write up, Stefanie. I’m a copywriter, UX designer, and strategist. I’m also as ADHD as they come so I tend to copy creep and have to keep myself in check. My brain turns one keyword into 10-20+ articles. So I resonate with the post about doing a content series.
I’ve learned when creating a content series, It’s best to write up and link together your first 3 articles before publishing them. This way you give some flow into your series but don’t give it all away at once. It’s been helpful to build readership & email subs with a gate after the 3rd post.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Great content planning tip, Jay.
I definitely like the idea of planning and writing content ahead of time and then publishing it on a schedule.
That’s the mindset of a publisher with a strategy, rather than just a writer who writes and immediately publishes. There’s a time and place for the latter, but if you want to write and publish consistently (and are having trouble doing so), finding a way to stick to a schedule is a good move.
Kris Beus says
I Stefanie. I really liked the part of the post where you discuss building topical authority over a subsection of content. Would you recommend having several smaller pieces being your topical coverage or writing a large post with several smaller supporting posts?
I guess it would be possible to start with the smaller posts and develop a large page that covers many of the same ideas. I think this is where a lot of writers are struggling when managing time. The post length should be taken into account and deciding the length of an article can be very difficult. Usually, I don’t know how long a post will take until I begin writing so it would be difficult for me to build a calendar since I am unsure of the amount of time I need to dedicate.
Still having a calendar is a great way to force yourself into writing consistently. Which many writers including myself struggle with.
Stefanie Flaxman says
I’ve found that the length of a post, and whether or not it should be a long post or broken down into a series, is typically circumstantial and depends on your goals.
The good news is, there’s also typically not a “right” way or a “wrong” way!
For example, you might want to target a bunch of different keywords with short-to-medium length posts or maybe you need to write one long post in order to compete for a super important keyword you want to rank for …
Just like you said, a calendar is a tool that helps you write consistently and map out your ideas.
Chris Bocay says
Yes, it is always good to have a content plan and a calendar. And I do appreciate your idea with the lo-tech calendar.
Nowadays, after writing for decades, and for my own brand, I have realized that I am more productive if I do not have any deadlines (if content calendar dates are deadlines…).
But I do realize, of course, that some blogs have announced that they will release their “post of the week” on, say, a Tuesday, and therefore have to stick with that in a pretty rigid fashion. But I know that isn’t the way for me, at least.
So I think it’s important to adapt things to one’s own personality and level of creativity.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Thanks for sharing your experience, Chris!
Sounds like a version of “knows the rules to break the rules,” meaning that at this point in your career, your track record allows you to work productively without strict deadlines.
It is important to consider that everyone’s work habits are different and there are many different ways to achieve the same creative goals.
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