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The Hidden Benefits of Having a Content Calendar

The Hidden Benefits of Having a Content Calendar

October 28, 2021 | By Judith Culp Pearson | 2 Comments

As freelance writers, we work hard to come up with great ideas and create articles.

Sometimes that page stares back like a winter whiteout — totally blank. It happens to the best of us.

And then, on occasion, life throws its own twists and turns at you, whether you’ve got a “normal” job or you’re running a freelance business.

If you haven’t had to deal with illness, injury, surgery, growing kids, aging parents, moving, or other realities of life yet… consider yourself lucky. You probably will at some point.

Life has a tendency to jump up and surprise you.

So how do you manage to stay on top of your business no matter what distractions pop up?

Content calendar to the rescue

Fortunately, one of my mentors taught me the value of a content calendar. It has come to my rescue so many times I’ve lost count.

When all was going well, the content calendar helped me whip out my articles faster and with a quality theme.

Then having an aging parent threw that totally off course and my time wasn’t my own. Phone calls, trips out of town, and planning ate up the hours I planned to devote to writing.

My content calendar helped me maximize the brief moments I had. The topics, the ideas, the headlines were already there. It made it so much easier to get them done. And allowed me to stay somewhat productive and maximize what little time I did have available.

It made the difference between weekly production or nothing. I finished a big project, took a moment to see where I stood, and started working on the family things.

Along the way, I found another completely different way to use the calendar — more on that in a minute.

What is a content calendar?

You plug topic ideas into a spreadsheet. You can start with a list of topic ideas that you keep adding to.

At least every six months, I plug those ideas into a spreadsheet with columns labeled: Publish Date, Post Type, Topic, Purpose/Goal, Venue, CTA (Call-to-Action), Headline, and Completion.

  • The date is my target publication date.
  • The post type is what the piece will be — an article, a meme, etc.
  • The topic is what the article’s focus is.
  • Purpose/goal — what do I want it to achieve.
  • Venue — where it will be published (one or more locations).
  • CTA — what is the action I want the article to trigger.
  • Headline — my actual headline, or a close approximation of it.
  • Completion is the date it is actually finished and published.

 

Often I work with page one as my idea list and page two as the actual calendar.

That allows me to keep the ideas fluid and ongoing. Pour your favorite beverage, and just start adding ideas that might appeal to your audience.

I’ve done a Website Blog for several years that I cross-post to LinkedIn. My goal is to share valuable information with those interested in marketing. So all my topics tie into that general theme.

Expand ideas

Sometimes ideas can be really broad, yet we know it’s best to keep an article or topic to a single idea. So I do what Joshua Boswell always called “Thin-Slicing.” I take the broad idea and dive down, slicing it into thinner and more targeted topics.

The result is multiple articles that can be themed and more specific under the general topic. You’d be amazed at the number of articles you can end up with. One topic might thin-slice into 20 or more single idea articles.

You can also take the same message and convert it into different types of presentations. An article can be broken into social posts, a podcast, video, meme post, or even curated.

With my now lengthy list of topic ideas, I can sort and arrange them into themes that run for several weeks, like Headline Month, or CTA Month, or Research Month. Or I can mix them up to appeal to a diversity of reader’s interests on a rotating basis.

Be flexible

I always give myself room and latitude for inspiration to strike. It’s important to be aware and sensitive to the world around us. Things change quickly. What might have been relevant pre-pandemic could have been very out of place during a lockdown.

Sometimes there is an event that might be capitalized on. For instance, when the Olympic Track and Field Trials were being held in my town, ideas related to those events were super relevant. Not so much two months later.

When the wildfires raged in Oregon last summer, “hero stories” of people supporting and assisting others helped us keep sanity. Thousands were displaced, calling for caring sensitivity.

Being aware of what is going on at the local, regional, national, and global levels helps me be alert for topics people need or want to hear about.

Ever want to leave work behind?

Your content calendar can allow you to really take a vacation. Use your calendar list to create articles, blogs, or other deadline materials in advance. Get them proofed, and ready ahead of time. Then using either an assistant or a scheduling tool, have them publish while you are away.

No one will ever know you are gone. Your work appears as regularly as normal. It gives you the freedom to really relax and unwind, or deal with other commitments.

When Joshua first shared that content calendar, I had no idea of the scope of it. No idea how many ways it would help me get my work done under duress — or when I needed to escape and play. But it has been my lifebuoy during some very stressful times!

Give it a try

Take a topic that interests you. Fall, winter, food, sports. Put that at the top of your list and start adding ideas. What can you say about fall? How about fall travel… autumn soups… autumn activities… fall drinks… you get the idea.

Then take those and thin-slice them. Fall drinks… pumpkin spice latte… pumpkin pie martini… apple cider… apple cider mojitos!

How many did you create in a 10-minute idea dump? Post below in the comments. Have fun!

About the Author

Judith Culp Pearson

Latest in B2B Copywriting

2 Comments

  • Thanks for the practical, fun and very useful article. I’ll be sure to give this a try to come up with even more article and social media post ideas.

  • Judi, this is really useful information – thank you! I’ve used parts of these concepts when I’ve run a monthly human resources newsletter, but there are definitely things in here that I’ve never considered.

    Thank you!

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