Three weeks ago a marketing consultant talked you into starting a blog for your small business. He said businesses whose blogs have racked up at least 51 posts will enjoy a 77% increase in median monthly leads. He made some compelling points about local search, thought leadership and cost-per-lead, and about leveraging your unique voice to add depth to your brand.
You were sold: blogging, in theory, makes a ton of sense for your business.
But you’re not here because you need more convincing. You’re here because, so far, you haven’t written a single word.
Trouble writing? You’re in good company.
There are exceptional people who can whip up a thousand exceptional words before breakfast. There are others whose lack of shame allows them to sit down day after day and squeeze off raw, steaming rivers of worthless prose.
For the rest of us—busy people with a lot on our plates and high expectations for ourselves—writing is hard.
But like any other valuable skill, writing can be learned as a series of easy steps that come easier with repetition. Instead of treating your new blog like another unwelcome chore, think of it as an opportunity to build new muscles, one workout at a time.
So let’s get started.
Write these ten words.
Maybe you’re reluctant to start your first post because you’re all twisted up with anxiety over what you’re going to say in your second post. A self-motivated person like yourself likes to know what you’re jumping into before you commit to a big project, and sometimes that caution works against you.
So let’s put your anxiety to rest right now. Grab a pencil and a scrap of paper. You’re going to make a list:
- The name of your first boss.
- The name of a childhood hero.
- The name of your favorite customer.
- The reason you started your business (in four words).
There—you can quit worrying! You’ve got a whole month’s worth of work mapped out. There’s a story, and a blog post, behind each one of those answers.
You can relax and start writing your first post. Let’s double the pace:
Now write these twenty words.
Here’s the thing about writing: very often it’s not so much about documenting what you think as it is about finding out what you think. The act of writing forces you to tease order and meaning from a lot of nebulous, unexamined ideas and half-formed concepts bumping around between your ears.1
This is why it’s so important to just sit down and write. If you wait for brilliant insights and stunning paragraphs to appear in your mind’s eye before you start typing, you’ll never type a word.
So make another list. Give me five-word answers for each:
- One thing I liked about working for my first boss.
- One thing I disliked about working for my first boss.
- One thing I really miss about that job.
- One lesson learned on that job that I apply to my own business every day.
Maybe you can feel your first post taking shape. Maybe not. That’s all right. Take five.
Now write this paragraph.
Write one that goes exactly like this:
I started my first job when I was _____ years old and worked there for _____ years/months/weeks/days/hours. I worked _____ hours a week, (VERB)ing (NOUN)s.
Now write this other paragraph.
Even though my boss at that first job (BAD THING HERE), he/she was (GOOD THING HERE) and I really miss (THING YOU MISS HERE). It wasn’t the most glamorous job in the world, but one thing I learned there is (THING YOU LEARNED HERE). I think about that lesson every day here at (YOUR BUSINESS NAME).
There. You’re done!
I said you’re done. You’ve written your first blog post.
Look: nobody’s expecting a 17,000-word Malcolm Gladwell piece from you. Nobody wants a 17,000-word Malcolm Gladwell piece from you. You’re writing a small business blog; small business bloggers write short posts and long posts, posts about their industries and posts about their unique value propositions and posts about their dogs and their vacations. Sometimes they’re really well-thought-out and beautifully composed, and sometimes they’re just quick notes and personal observations.
You will write those long, complex pieces soon enough. But for now your job is to get started, get to that magic number of 512, and get your early, regrettable efforts behind you. You need to run to the mailbox before you run around the block. You need to run around the block before you run a marathon.
* For example, in my research for this post I found that the “51 posts = 77% bump in leads” numbers your consultant mentioned are from an outdated study that still gets trotted out, unexamined and unchallenged, years after its numbers have lost all meaning.
* Ibid. Your mileage may vary. But the point remains: a blog isn’t really a blog until it’s been blogged in a whole lot.