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They say content is king. That may be true to an extent, but if I have learned anything so far in my freelance blogging career, it is that speed (in part) determines success.
The faster you can write up an article of true quality, the more you can earn. It really is that simple.
Once you put all notions of hourly rates out of your head and focus on the far more important issue (what your clients are willing to pay), you will soon realize that the more systematized your writing process is, the more money you can make.
Blogging is a very different beast to other forms of writing, and you may not realize that it pairs beautifully with a highly efficient writing process. With that in mind, today I want to show you what I do to produce blog posts in double-quick time and how you can too.
I Feel the Need...the Need for Speed
If you want to become a successful freelance blogger, it doesn't help to be a maverick. The more disciplined you are in what you do, the quicker you'll get your work done. With that said, I must first cover the absolute basics - you must have no distractions while working.
You have probably heard this advice many times before, but what most people don't suggest is that distractions are personal to you. For instance, I work out of a library, with people walking around and conversations going on around me. I also listen to my iPod while I work. For some, that might seem a perfect recipe for distraction, but it works for me far better than sitting in silence in my (now neglected) home office, where I would often find myself twiddling my thumbs and staring out of the window.
So get in the right working environment for you - one that you find most productive. Don't be afraid to experiment, because getting this first part right can make a huge difference to your writing productivity.
It's All in the Planning
If I had a penny for every time I got half way through a post and couldn't quite figure out what precise message I was trying to convey, I would have at least a buck -- maybe even a buck fifty.
And believe me, you'll finish a lot sooner if you plan your post first.
So consider this - if you want to write blog posts quickly, you must plot them out first. That may seem counter-intuitive if you consider the idea of speed to be charging straight ahead with the content of the post itself, but the prize is not in how quickly you start, but how quickly you finish. And believe me, you'll finish a lot sooner if you plan your post first.
There are many ways to plan a post, and you'll find your own unique blend in time. But for the time being, I'll show you how I plan blog posts.
1. Message First
You may have read that you should nail your headline down before you proceed with the post. I disagree - what you absolutely must have nailed down before you commit fingers to keyboard is the message. What issue are you tackling? What message are you going to preach? What positive outcome are you looking to deliver to the reader? Realizing this first step is absolutely key.
For instance, before I started writing this post, I knew that I wanted to help you write blog posts faster. It is a skill that has a clear benefit, and I thought that my experience could benefit you.
The message forms the basis for the headline, not the other way around.
2. Draft a Headline
Okay guys - now we can start thinking about the headline. But very briefly - trying to think of the perfect headline at this stage is folly.
Why? Because as you write the post and get more involved in the topic you are writing about, you are likely to think of a better headline. Why waste time trying to "force" your headline up front, when something fitting is likely to present itself as you write?
My draft headline was completely different to the finished article. I started with "One of the Key Factors to Successful Freelance Blogging". About five paragraphs in, I changed it to "How to Exploit a Key Factor that is Central to Successful Freelance Blogging". And once I'd finished the article, I changed it again to "Freelance Blogging: How to Exploit a Key Factor that is Central to Your Success".
None of this required any additional time - the ideas simply came to me as I was writing. Rather efficient, don't you think?
3. Write Your Hook
The hook, after the headline, is the second most important part of your article. It must grab the reader and compel them to read the rest of the post.
A hook must address a concern or fear relating to your message – if that concern or fear is not blindingly obvious, you may want to reconsider the message of your post.
Take a look at this article's hook as an example. I quickly identified a key potential benefit to my target audience. I said, in no uncertain terms, that "speed determines success". Then I promised to show you how to write blog posts faster (and therefore make more money).
As a freelance writer, it all sounds rather attractive, doesn't it? That's why you're still reading this - the hook drew you in.
It should also be the easiest part of the article to write - it should flow out of your fingers. A hook must address a concern or fear relating to your message - if that concern or fear is not blindingly obvious, you may want to reconsider the message of your post.
4. Problems, Solutions, and Implementation
Once the hook is done, the path is nearly clear to power through your post. All you need to do now is list the problems related to your chosen topic, followed by the solution(s) and implementation.
The problems, solution(s) and implementation form the basis for the bulk of the post. Once you have hooked a reader in, all there is left to do is explain what issues they are facing, and how they can be resolved. Sounds simple, right? That's because as long as you know what you're talking about, it is.
Once you have finished your list, all there is left to do is weave the problems, solution(s) and implementations into a cohesive and sensible order and format.
5. Exciting Conclusions
If you want to write effective blog posts, you must finish on a high. There should be a conclusion that leaves the reader either (a) wanting more, or (b) wanting to engage. You could provide a call to action, or ask a question of your reader, for them to respond to in the comments section.
Whatever it is, don't just leave your freshly-engaged reader to simply wonder off once they've finished reading.
6. Finishing Off
You will of course need to check your post, add images, categories, tags and so on. All of those actions should be saved for the end (when you are best qualified to add those items).
Proof-read your post first. If you are working in WordPress, use the Distraction Free Editor to give yourself a clean and uncluttered view of your writing. Talk through the post if it is easier for you (I don't subscribe to the notion that you absolutely must do this, but if it works for you, go straight ahead). Once you're done, add all of the other bits and pieces.
Finally, preview the post and read it through one last time.
And You're Done!
That last run through is the final act - congratulations! Once you've got this system down, you'll be finished with blog posts a damn sight more quickly than you used to be. Which gives you extra time to make more money. Or go to the park, or play golf. Whatever takes your fancy.
But as I said previously, you may well adjust this system to suit your own inimitable style. I'd be interested to know what you like (or dislike) about my system, and how you might adjust it for your own means? Let us know in the comments section!