Hey, friends. It's time for another edition to our series, Blog Q&A, which you can find all the past articles of here. Today's Blog Q&A question comes from a commenter. She asks:
"How long does it usually take to write or draft up posts and format them with photos and other content?"
The short answer is: it depends on what kind of post it is. While it's probably fairly obvious to you guys that a post about a cookie recipe vs. a post that shows a before and after room tour are things that likely took very different amounts of time to create start to finish. What might not be as obvious is that pretty much ALL posts, or at least the ones that we share here on A Beautiful Mess, go through a similar 5-step process. So although I don't have a simple answer like, "It takes 4 hours to write a post," I can share our five steps to drafting killer content.
1. Brainstorm + Plan
The first step to creating any kind of content is to brainstorm and plan. Here on ABM we aim to publish an average of 45 to 50 posts every month. We share all sorts of content from fashion-related posts (like Sister Style), craft projects, room tours + decor features, recipes, informational articles about blogging, small business, and photography, product launches, and some personal/just-for-fun type articles (you know, the randos) as well. Each writer aims for a certain number and usually specializes in certain areas, and we work backward from there each month.
An obvious, but super helpful tool for brainstorming is a notebook. I like to have a notebook that I can have near me at all times, so I usually have something small in my purse. I will think of the most random recipe brainstorms at seemingly any time of day, so I like to jot down any idea (even if I end up thinking it's dumb later) when it strikes. Then we can evaluate strong ideas and things we are truly excited about from others that we eventually cut. This eventually becomes a more fleshed out list of post ideas, usually with some room to change them up if things don't work exactly as planned (which is a DIY hazard for sure :)).
With this list we can plan. This includes making lists of supplies to buy and noting if things can be found locally or if we will need to order online and wait for deliveries. Also, a loose timeline can be put in place once you have your list of posts. For example, I have post ideas on my list this month that will come together in just a day or two, while I also have a project I'm working on that I know will likely take 2-3 months for me to complete. Just knowing this helps me communicate, stay on track, and work within our editorial goals for ABM much more easily than if I were just "winging it" all the time.
This is arguably the most fun and most frustrating step in the process. Once you have brainstormed and made a plan of action, it's time to execute. This will include gathering supplies, making the project, and finding a way to photograph things along the way and the final looks for your article. The timeframe on this will vary a great deal depending on if you are working on a great salad recipe post or sharing your kitchen renovation.
Here's just a few tips from a gal who's been creating blog posts for years. First, give yourself time (like, build it into the schedule) to make mistakes. Things don't always work as you plan, so don't assume they will. It could be that a post will come together faster than you thought, giving you bonus time! But assuming it will come together in a day when it actually takes three is a sure way to stress yourself, and your team if you work on one, out. Boo to stress! And that brings me to my second tip, which is: enjoy the process. I truly believe one of the most joy filled things we can do in life is create—so don't blow past enjoying the process of it because you are so focused on maintaining a blog schedule. Sure, hitting deadlines are super important, but so is taking time to enjoy your work. It's a balancing act that I'm not perfect at but always looking to get better at.
3. Prepare Visuals
For us this means editing and saving our images. There are times posts require other elements, like designed pieces for readers to download, etc. But most often our posts are made up of photos and text. So once the project is complete, it's time to edit those photos!
This is one place you can save yourself a lot of time by learning to make your editing workflow efficient. First, if you don't use Photoshop or Lightroom, you should. We use one of these programs for around 99% of the photos you see on ABM. The only exception is if we've intentionally left something unedited, and for phone photos we mainly use A Color Story to edit. If you've been wanting to learn how to use Photoshop or Lightroom but don't know where to start, I recommend our course, Photoshop for Bloggers. It takes you from ground zero to everything you need to know. I also recommend using actions or presets when editing (you can also utilize batch editing tools as well) as it speeds up the editing process SO MUCH. And although I love the process of editing photos, it's not the part of my workflow where I want to spend countless hours. We have our own A Beautiful Mess actions you can check out, and there are other options available online as well depending on the look you are going for.
4. Write + Edit Copy
I usually write all of the copy for a post at once. So, this means I take notes during the creation process so I can go back to those notes to make sure I convey all the information that I think will be helpful to readers. Some writers like to do a slightly different process, writing bits as they go. There really is not one set "right" way to do this, I think it depends more on your style and what feels best and results in the best, most coherent post. But, I do recommend writing a post and then waiting at least a few hours or day before re-reading it. The goal is to re-read your work with fresh eyes to see if you can add anymore info, or maybe you left a step out. Also, make sure to be linking anything relevant that readers might want to read more about.
Then, have someone else proofread your copy. At ABM we've had a few different copy editors over the years. Currently, Sarah Sandidge proofs and edits all our posts and e-Course content. She's amazing—she makes it look like I know how to spell when the truth is, that's questionable at best. 🙂 If you don't have the budget to hire this kind of service, at least having your significant other or a friend who might be a bit better at grammar than you would be a good place to start. But, generally this kind of service is affordable. So I would recommend looking into it if you are serious about your writing.
5. Publish + Check Comments
The final step is to press that publish button! I know, the scariest part. What if everyone hates your post? Well, if they do at least you will likely get some feedback so you can create even better content in the future. Worst case scenario is you learn something, and best case scenario is the Internet goes CRAZY for your amazing blog post! So, you don't have anything to lose, my friend. Press that publish button.
I'd love to say that we religiously check comments, but the truth is we don't always have the time to respond to everything as much as we would like. But, we still do make as much time as we can for it. It's important to engage with your readers, AND so often I learn from them on ways to improve my writing, photography, etc. for future posts. Also, if your readers are as great as ours, you def want to read comments because they can truly make your day. I've seriously cried from a really nice comment before, especially on days when I needed it.
Bonus step: Update old, but still popular posts regularly. This is not only a great practice as you'll be improving your site's content for readers, but Google also prioritizes sites that do this. So you'll be upping your SEO game as well. The basic idea is to look at what posts are still being read on your site from last year or earlier (depending on how long you've been blogging). You can find this in Google Analytics or other backend analytics you may have access to. Read those old posts and see if you can improve them in any way, like adding more information, improving the photos, or adding a short video tutorial. Whatever would make the post a more useful resource is a great place to start. We have been working to do this on our own site this past year by adding short videos tutorials to some of our most popular posts like Homemade Bath Bombs and DIY Marbled Clay Ring Dish.
Hope you fellow bloggers out there found something here helpful! And let me know if you want us to expand on anything from this article or have other blogging-related questions you'd love us to address in future articles in this series. Thanks for letting me share! xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman, Photo: Mandi Johnson, Image Design: Mara Dockery.