The blank white screen stares back at you, the cursor blinking mercilessly, daring you to hit the keyboard. But nothing comes!
I know all too well the frustration that can set in when you just can’t come up with the next topic for your blog or LinkedIn posts, let alone get the body copy flowing.
But I’ve built my livelihood around content creation so I have simply had to come up with ways to beat writer’s block. It hasn’t always been easy and there are still days when I struggle.
I’d like to share a few ideas that help me and most of my clients to tame that screen and get the fingers flying across the keys again. Maybe they’ll help you too.
To trigger ideas for content topics I regularly run through a list of prompt questions to stir the brain. This brings to the surface issues that are current and relevant to the target audience.
Here’s the checklist:
- Who have you spoken to/heard from recently that inspired you? What did they say/do?
- What have you been focusing on with your clients/customers this/last month?
- Have you or your customers had any milestones or significant achievements?
- Any industry announcements or breaking news your audience would find interesting?
- What have you been reading/following online? What one book or article made an impression and why?
- We like to create a LinkedIn Poll each month. Is there a question you’d like to ask/intel you want to gather? What would be the ‘trigger’ question that if answered would be valuable information for you?
- Do you incorporate physical or mental training into your daily routine? What do you do and what do you get out of it?
- Do you have any client stories you can share?
- Do you have any predictions about the economic situation or future in general? What makes you think this is where things are headed?
- Do you have something more personal you are comfortable to share?
- Is there something we should be promoting next month? “Call To Action” content.
- Have you seen something on LinkedIn that caught your attention? What was it and why did it grab you?
- Is there something you want to be specifically known for? Something you can incorporate in your posts every month?
- Is there any other message you want to get across?
- Did you take any images of anything interesting you could share?
There isn’t always something to say about every single question on the list, but just working through them often sparks ideas that would otherwise have remained buried.
The more you read material published by others in your industry or niche, the more topics are going to suggest themselves to you. There are several ways you can use this to generate your own ideas.
- Research an issue in greater depth and write a deeper insight piece
- Take a contrary point of view, make the argument and back it up with data
- Reach out to authors of high quality articles, interview them and write up the results
- Find articles on great topics that have been poorly written and improve on them
- Reach out to our audience and ask them what they’re struggling with
Expanding your menu of reading can also help as the issues that are occupying the minds of people in other industries may well be relevant for your audience as well.
This can also work equally well for both LinkedIn and blogs. The idea is to source high-quality content that someone else has written, add value with your own commentary, and share the material.
You can do this equally effectively for one really great article or compile a list of articles, blog posts, LinkedIn posts or even a mix of all three.
Just be careful to avoid even a hint of plagiarism. It’s lazy and it’s illegal. Make sure that you either have the author’s permission to share their work or at the very least give crystal clear attribution so that it doesn’t look as though you’re claiming authorship that isn’t true.
On LinkedIn, if you are really stuck, find an article in your feed that’s relevant to your target audience, add an intelligent comment, and share it. That only takes a tiny amount of writing and it may just get your ideas started again.
Just because you wrote something once doesn’t mean you can;t use it again. There are lots of opportunities to re-use material you’ve written before. Do an update, add fresh data or simply rewrite it from a different perspective
So go over your old posts and articles and mine them for ideas. You can do this by revisiting other people’s blogs and social media posts too.
Get Professional Help
No, I’m not suggesting you’ll need therapy – though there’ve certainly been days when I thought I might go a bit nuts trying to come up with topics.
This is about recognising that none of us is skilled at everything. It’s sometimes better to focus on the tasks we‘re really good at, and hire someone else to take care of other areas. So maybe hiring a professional copywriter or ghost-writer would pay dividends.
You could of course hire someone onto your permanent team to handle this role but many businesses don’t have the budget for that. So it’s a good thing that the gig economy is booming. You almost certainly won’t need to incur any advertising costs to find a good writer.
There are hundreds, probably thousands of freelance copywriters ready and willing to pick up this workload for you. You can find them through websites like Fiverr, Upwork and freelancer.
Don’t forget that people in your existing professional networks may know a great writer and you could also put up a post on your social media pages.
7 tips for working effectively with freelance copywriters:
- See examples of their work before you commit
- Be sure they can meet the deadlines you set for your publishing schedule
- Negotiate rates before they start on your project – piece rate or hourly?
- Retain ownership of all the content they create for you – get the files
- Be very clear on the brief from the outset
- Set up regular communications to catch issues before they escalate
- Agree whether they will work only on the copy or also the design, layout and visuals
As my business has grown over the last few years I’ve had to accept that I can’t do everything. I can’t run the operation and create all the content needed. So I hire copywriters on a contract basis and they produce consistent volumes of high-quality copy for me and my clients.
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