As a professional blogger, it's very important to me to have a productive blogging workflow that really works. I write dozens of posts every month, hundreds every year, so efficiency is essential. It's taken a while, but now I have a system that helps me be effective in everything from idea generation to publication and sharing.
Here's how my blogging workflow works.
Step 1: Idea Generation
The ability to come up with new ideas or to improve the ideas that others suggest is crucial. Sometimes my clients have strong ideas about the content they want; at other times it's up to me to come up with strong content for their blog.
Sometimes an idea will just pop into my head, but sometimes it takes work. One key part of the process is knowing what's already out there so I can avoid regurgitating the same old ideas and so I can respond to something interesting. For that, I need an easy way to keep up with the latest news. My favorite tool for that is Feedly, which I can use both on the web and on my phone and tablet.
I use it both to subscribe to sites that publish info on the topics I usually cover (social media, SEO, analytics, blogging, technology and so on) and to search for recent stories on topics I occasionally cover. And I have a miscellaneous news section in case there's anything topical that sparks an idea.
I also use Feedly on my mobile devices, where I supplement it with an ever-changing variety of news reading programs (just because every aggregator has a different collection).
Once I find something interesting, I either save and tag it in Pocket or, if I'm at my desk, add links and notes to Scrivener. (You'll be hearing about Scrivener a lot in this post.)
Step 2: Outlining
I find it's best to have an idea of the post structure in advance. Since I've been writing for a couple of decades, I can often work out the outline in my head (as I did for this post).
But sometimes I like to write down the rough outline (introduction, conclusion and 5 to 7 main points) along with a working title. This can be useful if I have to pitch an idea because if gives the blog owner or editor a good idea of the content. While I'm at it, I might include key links in the appropriate parts of the outline. I generally write my outline in Scrivener, which has automatic backup so I never lose any of my writing.
Step 3: Research
Unless I'm telling a personal story – and sometimes even if I am – I still need to do research beyond the material I find for the outline or pitch. Most clients want you to back up your statements by using authoritative sources, and usually the data has to be relatively recent.
Feedly is useful for this phase too, but I sometimes use sites like Alltop, Buzzsumo and other aggregation sites. Best of all, though, is a Google search. I usually use the search tools to make sure I am using the most recent data.
This is also a good chance to see if others support or disagree with the position I plan to take. Depending on timing I will summarize the key points of articles I plan to use along with quotes if I plan to use them and include those in my outline. By the time I've finished this stage, my outline looks closer to an article.
Step 4: Writing
To avoid problems with carpal tunnel, I usually dictate my first draft into Scrivener using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Not only is it good for my health, but it can be a real time saver. When I dictate I usually have my outline open in one panel, with another one open for the post. This is pretty easy in Scrivener, and as I mentioned, I never have to worry about losing my work.
My other two favorite tools for writing are Windows Live Writer, because it's easy to grab HTML for uploading to WordPress, and Google Docs, which I use when on the move and for client collaboration. When I get to the second draft stage, I usually use one of these two programs and then paste the final version back into Scrivener.
Step 5: Proofreading and Images
Most of the blogs I write for use WordPress, so uploading is usually the next stage. But that also means finding images. Options here are:
- taking my own screenshots using the Awesome Screenshot Google Chrome extension or Lightshot for video stills.
- using Place.it to plug a URL into a pre-existing image so it shows the screenshot in an interesting way.
- using Pixabay to find Creative Commons images that haven't been over used.
I also use Pixlr to create quote graphics and have been experimenting with using Visme (which I recently reviewed) to create other kinds of graphics. Once I've found the images, I upload, add the images and proofread for the final time before sending it for the editor to review or saving it as a draft.
Step 6: Social Sharing
If I'm publishing on my own blog, I then use CoSchedule (reviewed here) to schedule social media updates from the date of publication onwards. CoSchedule also allows me to use social images and it has become a very important part of my workflow.
When writing for others, I usually make a note of the intended publication date in my calendar so that I can share to social media sites using Buffer. Here's a really helpful video from Ms. Ileane showing how to optimize your productivity using Buffer.
Depending on the topic, I may also post content to LinkedIn groups or use a site like Triberr to reach even more people.
The final step is to add my posts to my Contently portfolio so I can market my writing services.
At any given time, I've got several posts at various points in the workflow, which is pretty efficient.
What tools do you find most useful in your own blogging workflow?