Because no matter what, when you sit down to write, you’re facing a blank page. Or a blank blog template. A blank social caption. Blank, blank, blank.
Writing is hard because you’re creating something out of literally nothing. And it’s easy to recognize when other forms of creation are hard. If someone built a house from scratch, you wouldn’t assume it was easy. When someone creates a beautiful drawing out of thin air, you don’t think, “Bah, how hard could it be?”
Or here’s an example almost everyone can relate to: would you rather create a three-course meal completely from scratch? Or would you rather have a few shortcuts–store-bought rolls, say, or canned beans instead of dry?
Cut yourself some slack.
Yeah. So let’s just accept that writing is hard. I’m not saying this to make you dread it even more, but because you need to cut yourself some slack. Allow yourself some grace. Even I’ve been slacking off on writing blogs for my business, and writing is in my top three skills.
Have you given yourself some grace? Yes? Ok, good.
Now let’s talk strategy. I belong to this women’s entrepreneur circle with 11 other women whose businesses run the gamut. One woman is creating a line of condiments based on her grandmother’s recipes. Another is starting a local supper club where strangers can gather for lively conversation and community. There are a couple of coaches, another marketing buddy, and even a master gardener.
I created a short survey about which parts of marketing and writing they struggled with the most, and got so many helpful answers. For the things they struggled with the most, the top five answers were: social media posts and captions, search engine optimization, email newsletters, blogs and an About Me page.
And the reasons they gave for why they felt hard were everything from “I feel like I don’t have enough time” to “Marketing myself and my business makes me feel kind of scummy.”
The struggle is real.
So today, we’re going to address each top five answer and I’ll give some quick tips for making them feel less intimidating. Because there’s plenty of other shit that’s intimidating about starting a business, but writing doesn’t need to be one of them.
But I hate writing social media posts!
I know you do, baby. Shh, it’s okay.
Honestly, I don’t think writing social captions is the thing people struggle with–I think it’s coming up with enough ideas to fill a social feed day after day, week after week, month after month. When you don’t feel inspired in your content, of course writing a post is going to feel hard. Right? When you’re on vacation, well-rested and with a photo you’re excited to share on Instagram, you don’t sweat the caption so much.
But when you’re trying to keep up with everyday posting, even posting a few times a week, it’s easy to lose that inspiration. What’s fun and playful on vacation becomes just another thing you do for work. And unless you’re the kind of person who eats, sleeps and breathes social media, you’re going to have days when it feels hard. That’s just human!
So what can you do about it?
1. Search for free social media post prompts.
There are tons of bloggers, influencers, coaches and small-business owners who are giving away their best ideas for what to share on social media. You can find calendars with a new prompt for every day of the month, like, “Answer a frequently asked question,” and “Share a great book or podcast.” Some people share lists of 70 ideas–enough to get you through nearly two months without repeating–with gems like “Post some interesting stats or data about your industry.”
Download or pin a bunch of them, and take the prompts you like. Maybe they’ll spur some ideas of your own, and you’ll find your inspiration isn’t totally gone. Or maybe they’ll just be a handy way to save some brainpower and stop beating yourself up about not having enough ideas. Either way, it’s a win.
2. Create a formula.
Some creators have perfected formulas for themselves to help guide their social feeds. For instance, some people use a ratio of posting 70% content that positions you as an expert and converts, and 30% content that creates connection with your audience.
I’ve seen another idea of using a formula that turns five ideas into fifteen pieces of content by breaking each idea into sub-categories, like educate, entertain and inspire. So, for instance, if you wanted to post about the clown school you’re starting (roll with it), one post could be about the history of clown schools, another could be a video of a juggler, and the third could be a quote from a famous clown (like Bozo, or Pennywise if you’re hardcore).
What are your competitors doing? What does their formula seem to be? How often do they talk about themselves? Or their operations? Do they share behind the scenes videos? Lots of inspirational quotes? Take a look at what people you admire are doing to fill their business-based social channels, make a note of what you like (and what you don’t), and lean into the things that make your brain tingle.
3. Keep a running list of social media posts that inspire you.
Speaking of seeing what others are doing, there’s an easy way to help future you. Start a spreadsheet or a doc of social media ideas, and add to it every time you feel inspired. Jot down your inspiration from tip 3 so you can come back to it again and again. Sometimes just writing out a list lets loose a waterfall of ideas. And there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every week.
A related idea is to keep a spreadsheet of all your social posts, what photo you used, what caption you wrote and how it performed. Then, you’ll always know what people respond to the most, and you can repeat your success again and again.
You may find that one particular type of image or copy performs really well with your audience–and because every business is different, every audience will be different, too. Your competitors do what works for them, but it’s not the only thing that works. Having data from your social posts will help you focus on the unique things you bring to the table, and remind you on crabby days that your efforts aren’t in vain.
4. Break your ideas up into smaller ideas.
It’s pretty natural to want to share everything we know on a subject when someone asks. And on social, even when they don’t. But the way that top-tier brands and influencers keep a steady flow of content is by breaking their ideas way, way down into pieces and feeding them out one at a time.
For example, if you want to share a post about a recent work trip to Paris, the photo and caption shouldn’t be about your entire trip. Go smaller. Post a picture you took of a little bird sitting on a chair outside a cafe and write about how it connects to something you were feeling at the time.
Post a picture of a street sign and write about how you got horribly lost–and how it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Share a video of the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower and write something inspirational about how you make time to experience magic in your life, even when you’re busting your ass building an empire.
If your business knowledge could fill a book, a social post shouldn’t be like a chapter–it should be like a single paragraph. Drill down on your idea.
5. Batch plan your social media posts.
If you start thinking about what to post when you’re opening a social app, you’re starting way too late. Of course coming up with ideas for what to post spontaneously is hard! Some days, you’re going to be tired, cranky, overwhelmed, running behind or just uninspired. So do future you a favor and plan your content at the beginning of the month.
Just print out a blank calendar page or pull up a calendar template onscreen and write in ideas for every day you want to post. Then hang it somewhere you’ll see it every day.