Dodge these 5 avoidable mistakes, and cut down your writing time
Content writing is a labour of love.
It requires effort, creativity, knowledge and, above all, time. And, whilst you will have deep reserves of most of these, time is a more scarce commodity.
Thankfully, there are some ways in which you can claw time back; or at least make better use of the time you have.
Read on to discover five totally avoidable mistakes you might be making - and how to avoid them.
#1 - You don’t plan your content before you start to write it
For many of us, when we’re handed a brief, we just want to get stuck in and start putting words on the page. Like a horse with blinkers on, we plough on blindly.
But that surge only lasts so long. At some point we’ll hit a wall; either clueless as to where we’re going next, or confused by where we’ve just been.
More often than not, it can lead to the copy requiring an intense editing session, or in the worst case scenario, a complete rewrite.
But all this can be avoided by spending a few minutes doing a bit of simple planning right at the start. It might seem obvious, but it’s a mistake even the most talented of copywriters make. Don’t be one of them. This year, make planning your content your top priority.
Take the time to think through your article, and sketch out a rough direction for your argument or ‘story’.
Examine your buyer personas at this point too — whether you’re writing product descriptions or a how-to guide, knowing who you’re writing for from the off helps guide your content direction naturally.
And focus on how you can use your subheadings. Can you break any H2s down into smaller H3s that guide your copy naturally? (It might even be worth creating a few set templates to fall back on in future, if you need a blog structure in a pinch.)
#2 - You over-deliver, over-deliver, over-deliver…
As a writer who loves your craft, you don’t want to do things in half measures. You want to wow your reader, so you might initially serve up a meaty, mammoth article with a word count that ranks in the thousands.
But is this actually what the brief requires? As your deadlines draw ever nearer, over-delivery will sap your time, and negatively impact the rest of your workload. Think about it from the end user’s point of view - are they really going to read a 2,000-word article on ‘shoelaces’, when a 500 word piece will do?
In fact, writing too much is one of the biggest drains on your time. When you want to impress a client or your readers, it’s tempting to go all-out. But doing this regularly will cost you, so aim for copy that is sufficient in length and ticks the boxes of the brief, rather than excessive. It’s quality over quantity.
If 1,000 words fulfils the brief, don’t shoot for 2,000. And if the required word count is between 500-1,000 words, it’s actually okay to write 700-800.
A shorter article that is high-quality will beat a longer, less well-written one hands-down - every time.
#3 - You refuse to look at existing, similar content
Sure, you’ll do your research, but you’ll strive so hard to deliver piercing insight and illuminating thought leadership that by the time you finish the piece, the deadline will have been and gone.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t strive for originality and quality in everything you write. But don’t reach for the heavens when the stars will suffice. Pouring your heart and soul into every piece of content you write on a regular basis will cost you time and energy.
Depending on what you’re writing about, there will be likely be a steady stream of available articles on the same or similar topics online - so use them!
Search by keywords or phrases to find trending topics and identify the best ideas from each to use in your work (these should be written in your own way, and not directly copied, obviously (as that’s plagiarism!)
#4 - You fear revamping old content
Content curation is a useful weapon in the writer’s arsenal. But while ‘magpie-ing’ the best bits from other writers has its place, it’s also worth looking at your own content backlog from time-to-time too.
Cast your eye over your existing content portfolio, and you’ve likely got a wealth of great pieces to choose from. Essential guides, evergreen pieces and opinion editorials — that’s a comprehensive editorial calendar.
And it’s not just a quick hack for time-strapped writers; it’s a legitimate trick used by a number of businesses to boost their traffic and fill their editorial calendar.
Plenty of big brands reuse their existing content to populate their schedule, time-strapped entrepreneurs investing in a new website often cut time and save money by revamping their content calendar from the year before. It’s not cheating — it’s just savvy content planning.
Look back at your content calendar from the past year and identify those that were most popular.
Rewrite the best ones and update them with the latest research and statistics. Don’t just copy and paste though, as this results in duplicate content that will drag down your SEO and affect your keyword rankings.
#5 - You let copy fatigue take over
When you write content all day, every day, it’s easy to get over-saturated with it. Having sat in front of a screen all day churning out copy, the last thing you want to do is spend more time reading more of the same.
But good writers don’t exist in a bubble of their own work. They are always reading, devouring articles, videos, infographics, and other types of content from every corner of the web.
And this isn’t a passive process. With every piece of content that you read, you should absorb and engage with it. Doing so fosters a fecund mind that bubbles with inspiration, driving you as you write your own content further down the line.
Create a system for collecting and curating the ideas and inspiration you find as you read. It could be as simple as using the notes on your phone. Alternatively, Headslinger is a handy tool that lets you collate articles and web pages into handy folders for easy access.
Time is infinite… unless you’re a content writer with a deadline around the corner. But by making just a few small changes, you can be savvy with your time and create great content more quickly.