Making your life easier in 2021: The Content Calendar

Raise your hand if your 2020 plans were shredded, thrown in the bottom of a dumpster fire, then buried under dirty cat litter?

Yeah. Me too.

One thing that a lot of us ended up with was a lot of time at home. Now, it looks like 2021 is going to be better and busier (fingers crossed). But that also means we’re about to get busier. So how do you market yourself when your schedule is already packed.

You create a social media/content calendar.

Step one: Set the goal (or start with the end in mind)

  • What is the goal: Are you trying to create content to drive people to your website? Is it to increase signups for your email list? Or strictly grow social media?
  • How will you do it? Articles? Videos? Lead Generators? Infographics? Emails?

Answering those two questions will help guide you on the next steps.

Step 2:  Brainstorm ideas for content

You will only need an hour for this exercise, but you need to turn off all electronics and just use a pad of paper and pen/pencil.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the #1 question I get asked? 
  • What other questions do people ask me for help about?
  • What do I offer? 
  • How can I help people?
  • What other areas of expertise do I have that can help my potential customers?

Every time you write something down, leave some space underneath it.

When you feel like you’ve exhausted your “creativity” to make this list, go back through and ask yourself this question: What else can I talk about on this subject?

That will give you even more ideas to write down under the original idea.

The “Number One Question” answer will lead to a LOT of other ideas. I created an entire speech out of that one!

This step will generate ideas for blog posts, videos, lead generators, online classes, product offerings, etc.

Step 3: Get it in order

Create a spreadsheet with these columns: 

  • Topic (the subject of your brainstorming)
  • Format (video, blog post, infographic, emails, etc.)
  • Platform (where you’ll share it – website, social media, in person)
  • Due Date
  • Assigned to (this is for teams with more than just you)
  • Completed (could be a checkmark or a date)
  • Results (this is for tracking how it did)

Then take your handwritten list and put the topics in the appropriate column. 

If you came up with ideas of what format that will be in, add that at this time.

And if you know of certain “days” of the year when this would be relevant, write that in for “due date”. 

Example: if you run a New Orleans-themed restaurant, you’ll want to do quite a bit around Mardi Gras and King Cake season. You’ll need to know those dates each year.

Step 4: Create a content ideas and marketing calendar

I like Google Calendars because you can create more than one (and they’re free). I have one for my business and personal appointments, and another for “content and marketing”. They can show up on the same screen. The content and marketing has its own color and I can turn it “off” if I’m just looking at appointments, etc.

On the content calendar, go through and mark significant dates (see previous example of Mardi Gras). If you’re in the travel industry, you’ll want to mark down travel week for both your state and the country (if they’re different). Travel people might also want to figure out the “spring breaks” in their area and mark those on the calendar.

Every three months, I go through the National Day Calendar (https://nationaldaycalendar.com/) and see if there are any “holidays” that might be relevant to my business. Talk Like a Pirate Day, Read Across America Day, Read a Book Day, Tell a Story Day. 

Also check to see if there are month-long celebrations: Heart Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Women’s History Month. 

Put all of that on your calendar too.

Step 5: Making the calendar work for your business

Looking at both your work calendar and your content calendar, you’ll want to add in significant dates that aren’t as obvious on the first pass.

For example, I have a speech in June at a national conference, but they opened registration in February. I’ll put on the calendar notes to create a video when registration opens, and notes closer to the event to promote that I’ll be at the event and to reach out to potential attendees to  see if they’re going to be there.

Using the travel professional example, spring breaks are in March or April – but when do people really start planning for that? Maybe you create content after the first of the year when it’s still dreary winter in most of the country.

Got a launch coming up for a product? Mark that on the calendar, then you’ll put when you announce the launch is coming and weeks to build buzz ahead of the launch.

Step 6: How to get it all done

As a solo entrepreneur I know this can sound like a lot, and the big question I get is “When do you do it all?”

It’s a great question because it can feel like a conundrum. You need to promote the business, but you can’t spend all your time on that because you also have to RUN the business!

I suggest setting aside at least two hours a week to create the content and schedule any social media posts and emails. Turn off all distractions and just get it done. Make SURE you create an appointment with yourself to do this. (And since I color-code everything on my calendar, I can look at any given week and make sure I’m working on these things.)

I now do a “no interruptions day” every week – where you turn off the phones, email, etc. and work ON the business. I will create content in the morning and in the afternoon work on scheduling anything, looking ahead, brainstorming new ideas, etc.

I do this on Fridays and I really look forward to it. A lot of great ideas come out of these days when you’re not distracted by emails and texts. (There was a great article on this recently, but I can’t remember who wrote it…) 

One woman I know puts an out-of-office responder on her email when she does this, alerting people what she’s doing, but if it’s urgent to text or call her. 

She does not put her number on this email because she doesn’t want everyone texting her. Her clients know how to reach her if it’s urgent, and they appreciate the time she sets aside for this, because she’s working on their business needs – without being interrupted.

Your “no interruptions” day can also be when you update your tracking on the content you’ve already created. I would caution you to do this after you’ve created your content, as you can end up down the rabbit hole wondering why a tweet only got four ‘hearts’.

Batch these things. Tim Ferris wrote in the 4-Hour Workweek about doing things in “batches” – things like bookkeeping and emails (things that take the same amount of time whether you do one or 20). When you batch your content creation, you’ll be focused on getting it all done and you won’t be stressed throughout the rest of the week worrying about when you get it done.

Dawn Dugle is a recovering journalist who now coaches businesses on content marketing. She also likes to take her content creation outside when the weather is good.