Are you itching to create a productive content creation workflow to stay on top of your creator game? Then you're in luck, friend. This massive post was written just for you!
Part of being a content creator is dealing with inconsistency. Especially if you're a solo creator, like a blogger/vlogger/podcaster, then it can be difficult to keep up a regular content schedule. But you might know that building an audience of dedicated fans for your platform requires you to be consistent with putting out fresh content.
I mean, think about it: how are you going to hit that 1k follower mark on Instagram if you post every other month? Is anyone really going to subscribe to your podcast if they see that you haven't posted a new episode since...oh, I don't know...2019?
To grow an audience for your blog, YouTube channel, Instagram, podcast—or whatever-platform-have-you—you need a productive content creation workflow that lets you consistently create content that gets you those new followers and fans.
So right now, you might be thinking: "Okay, Mica! I get it! I need to make content and be productive! So how the heck do I get started?"
I love that excitement, sunshine. So look no further than this ultimate guide to creating a productive content creation workflow for more consistent posts—and that sweet, sweet audience growth.
5-Step guide for a productive content creation workflow
Step 1. Create your audience avatar
Before you jump right in to brainstorming endless content ideas, you first need to know who your audience is.
I need you to really, really know who your audience is.
Now, if you're over here sitting and thinking, "Mica, that's easy, my audience is everybody," then let me stop you right there.
Your audience is not everybody—and to try and create content for everybody, you're reaching and resonating with nobody.
Let me say that again, in big, bold letters this time.
If you try and create content for everybody, you're reaching and resonating with nobody.
Look, even someone like me in the personal development and productivity niche (topics that, yes, can technically apply to everybody), has a narrowed-down audience.
A narrowed-down (or niche) audience will help give you a solid direction to take your content creation platform.When you know who you want to serve with your content, then it'll be easier to brainstorm new ideas and tailor hugely valuable posts that make your ideal audience member say, "Wow! This person knows exactly what I need!"
And my tool of choice for narrowing down my audience is an audience avatar.
What is an audience avatar?
Okay, taking things old school for a sec: do you remember back in the day (side note: I can't believe I'm of the age where I can say, 'back in the day!') when people had those Yahoo Avatars?
You know, those things that were part-Sims character, part-Memoji?
We made these Avatars to be representations of ourselves. We gave them clothes we liked to wear, accessories we loved to show off, and even cute quirky things like a background (to show people where we were ~ cool enough ~ to hang out in, probably) or a fun facial expression.
And, in a way, your audience avatar is exactly that. It's a tool you can create that represents your audience as a whole.
Instead of trying to think of your audience as the unique, individual people they are, an audience avatar forces you to imagine that your audience is just one person.
This is actually a good thing. By thinking of your entire audience as just one living, breathing person, you're able to really flesh them out, get to know why they would—and should!—resonate with your content, and think of ways to turn them from Stranger Sammys to Forever-Fan Freddys.
Questions to help you flesh out your audience avatar
Now that you know exactly what an audience avatar is and how it'll benefit you as a content creator in the long run, making your blog/podcast/channel's audience avatar is pretty simple.
But, of course, I want to guide you through the process, so here are some guide questions you can use to complete your audience avatar.
Note: if you already have an existing blog, podcast, YouTube channel, Instagram, etc., then you can use this exercise to create even better content that attracts your dream fans. If you're just starting out, use this guide to get the ball rolling!
- What's your dream fan's name? (Yes, it absolutely helps when you give them a name.)
- How old is your dream fan? (They'll surely fall under a range of ages, but still peg a specific number that sits as close to your real dream fan's age as you can. This helps you know how to actually speak to your audience!)
- Where does your dream fan live? (Even if you imagine a global audience, you're probably going to want to start with a specific country/region. Again, this helps you choose important directions for your platform, including the language you speak or the kind of "localized" posts you create.)
- Where does your dream fan usually hang out online? (List down publications, blogs, channels, podcasts, social media apps, etc.)
- What are the big goals your dream fan is trying to achieve in their life? (Hint: this is where your content can help! You'll either inspire, entertain, or teach them—which can help them reach different goals in their own lives, and you play a part in your own special way.)
- What are the struggles or problems that are stopping them from achieving those dreams right now? (E.g. Is the reason James can't move on from Betty because he doesn't know how to date other people? Is it because James lacks confidence, or doesn't know how to communicate with Betty to win her back? Leave a comment if you got this reference, and you will be my newest, favoritest person ever.)
Tools for your workflow: creating a visual audience avatar
Here are some free tools you can use to help you create a visual audience avatar. Be sure to save an image of your audience avatar and keep it somewhere that's easy to find. This way, you can remind yourself to create content that is tailored for your audience!
- Keynote or PowerPoint
Step 2. Make your content buckets
Now that you know exactly who your content should be speaking to, it's time to get started on that content planning!
At this stage, you'll either have a ton of ideas or are worried that you won't have enough. No matter which camp you're on, here's how I recommend making sure you will always have a clear way of not only organizing but also brainstorming new topics for years to come: content buckets.
Content buckets are the specific sub-groups of your general niche. They help provide some kind of clearer structure for both you as the creator and for your audience.
One big benefit that I've found with creating clear content buckets online is that my ideal audience immediately gets to see what kind of content I create and plan to create on the regular. And this is a good thing: because when they see that I'm making content that they're interested in, they will likely follow me for more!
Refer back to your audience avatar. Especially zoom in on their goals and problems.
What are categories or broader groups of posts you can create to help them reach their goals? Or if you prefer to think this way: what groups of post can you create that help them solve their problems?
As inspiration, I'll show you the different content buckets I have on my blog, and how each of these fit my audience:
- Productivity Tips. Productivity is a big part of how I help creators, so I can publish posts about new productivity strategies or tactics they can try to really make progress on their goals.
- Blogging Tips. Because I'm a content creator for content creators, some people might be looking for tips to help them run a successful blog.
- Creativity Tips. In this content bucket, I talk a lot about passion projects, creativity prompts, and case studies and features about successful creative projects.
- Business Tips. Many content creators look to monetize their content and earn a living doing what they love, so I provide tips and strategies to get them on their way.
- Wellness Tips. My core belief is that productivity is all about becoming more balanced people and creators. Here, I make posts about self-care and mental wellness to emphasize that these things support our productivity.
- Personal Stories. A big part of my brand is, well, me! This is where I post updates, essays, and things in my life that I want to share with my readers. This just adds an extra layer of connection with my audience since I am a solo creator and not a team.
Guide questions for creating content buckets
Do you now understand how content buckets help not only you as a creator for organizing your work but also helping your audience know what to expect from you next?
So now it's time to create your own content bucket and get more clarity on your future posts.
Check out these guide questions to help you determine your own 3-5 content buckets:
- What is my audience searching for right now?
- What are specific themes in my niche that I talk about more than others?
- How would my audience group my individual topic ideas together? (If you already have a ton of individual post ideas, this is a great mental exercise to help you identify your content buckets based on patterns or related themes!)
Tools for your workflow: building a content plan
Here are my favorite free tools that help me build a content plan. I'll also quickly walk you through how I set up my content buckets on each.
On Trello, I use Labels for my content buckets. I love that each one has a bright color that makes it easy to remember what each one means.
Trello Tip: The keyboard shortcuts for assigning Labels (or your content buckets) to cards is using "l" + a number 1 through 0 on your number pad.
On Notion, I default to Boards for anything content planning. Create a new board list, add your first block/card, click the three dots, then use the Status property to add your content buckets. I usually rename this as Bucket or Category for easy reference later.
Optionally, click on a block/card, then Add a property > Property Type > choose either Status or Multi-select. The status lets you assign only one content bucket, while multi-select allows you to assign more than one bucket to a post, if you have overlaps.
Displaying your content buckets for your audience
Depending on which platform you create content on, you might be able to visibly share your content buckets for your audience to see.
If you're a fellow WordPress blogger like yours truly, your Post Categories are the easy way to create these content buckets and organize individual posts.
I like to create a dedicated group of buttons, like I showed before, on my homepage. But I also currently keep them as dropdown options on my main navigation menu.
On YouTube, create some Playlists that compile different kinds of videos together. This is a great way to show new channel visitors what they can expect from you, instead of just seeing a laundry list of your most recent uploads.
Here's how I do that on my YouTube channel:
Step 3. Do a brain dump of topics for each bucket
We've come to one my favorite steps in this guide: doing a brain dump!
Since you already have a clear understanding of who your audience is, your chosen niche, and the more narrowed-down groups of topics you want to create content about, it's time to actually make specific posts.
If you followed my recommended Trello or Notion setup for your content planning—as seen above in Step 2—then here's what I recommend you do.
- Create a column or list called Brain Dump. (Or really, call it anything you want!)
- Type out as many specific topics or working headlines you want to create content on. They don't have to be perfect or fleshed-out in any way. Make sure one card only contains one post idea.
- When you're done, label each card (or post idea) under the specific content bucket or buckets they belong to.
- Evaluate and edit. Do you have a balanced list of ideas to round out each bucket? Can you add more content ideas to a particular bucket?
- Rinse and repeat. Continue doing regular brain dumps to keep a steady flow of ideas to your content calendar, or add new ideas as inspiration hits.
BONUS STEP: Use SEO Writing Best Practices
As a bonus, here's how I recommend leveling up the brain dumping stage of your content creation workflow: planning to optimize each post for search engines.
SEO is applicable across so many platforms: blogs, podcasts, YouTube, Pinterest... When you practice SEO best practices, you actually boost your chances of getting your content discovered organically by your audience—who are actively searching for content like yours!
New to SEO? It works by helping tell search engines (Google, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.) what your content is about. Search results are based on keywords or keyword phrases that people use in everyday life—so if your audience searches for something that you've already made a post about, SEO makes sure these people can see your post as the answer to their search query.
How to apply SEO best practices in content planning stage
To make my content creation workflow even more productive, after I do a brain dump of topics I want to cover in future posts, I apply some initial SEO practices to guide me.
- I will pick specific keywords or keyword phrases I want this specific post to rank for. (E.g. "passion project ideas")
- I will then edit my working headline to contain this keyword phrase, if it wasn't there already.
- Just to be sure, I may also check the competition surrounding this keyword phrase. I try to check the posts that are ranking at the top for this specific search query, then think: do I need to pick a less competitive keyword phrase? Or do I carry on with the one I chose?
Step 4. Choose your planning style
We've come to yet another exciting part of building your productive content creation workflow: planning when you'll publish each post.
Later in Step 5, I will be answering the question, "How often should I be creating content to grown an audience?" But for now, let's help you decide on an editorial planning style that works for you.
Your planning style is the structure you'll use to stay consistent in your content creation. When you nail this stage of your workflow, it'll be easier to deal with the day-to-day tasks and deadlines you want to hit, as we'll see in Step 5.
There are, of course, probably a bajillion planning styles you can use as a content creator. But for simplicity's sake, I've narrowed them down to two.
If you're a long-term planner and want to stay on top of a lot of yearly events—think: holidays, calendar events, etc.—then yearly planning is for you.
Create a list for every month of the year. Starting from your Brain Dump list, drag each card or post idea to a specific month of the year you want to be sure you're publishing this type of content.
For example, if I want to make sure I'm creating a Cutest Halloween Costumes for a Bright and Airy Instagram Feed (side note: probably full of bunny, mermaid, or fairy costumes?), then I'll drag my card to October.
Simple 2-Month Projection Planning
If planning content months and months ahead is too daunting, you can always stick to a simpler 2-month editorial calendar.
This is exactly how it sounds: plan content to publish between this month and the next.
To simplify this, I create two columns after my Brain Dump list: This Month and Next Month. (You can name them however you want, even going as specific as which two months you're focusing on.)
Then I drag cards to each list to correspond to when I want to be putting out these posts. Once the month we're currently on is over, I'll archive the cards from the This Month list, then migrate all the cards from Next Month. Finally, I fill the now-empty Next Month list with fresh posts I want to publish next month.
Step 5. Create timelines to stay on top of your recurring tasks
Finally, we're at the last stop of this ultimate guide! Are you still with me? 😉
Planning your content and deciding on which planning style you want to subscribe to is fun, but now is where the rubber meets the road. You now have to create the content you've been planning.
Fortunately, creating is simple. We make it far too complex when we:
- give ourselves vague or faraway deadlines
- allow distractions and notifications to seep into the times we should be in Deep Focus Work mode
- overthink and let the self-doubt demons stop us for making progress
I've created several free resources like blog posts and videos about solving these very problems! Pick the roadblock/s you might be struggling with right now for some additional bonus learning:
If you're in a pinch though and can't consume all this great free content, here's the best thing to do right now for your content creation workflow: create a timeline to work on your posts.
The easiest way to do this is setting deadlines for all the different tasks that fall under your content creation workflow. Then plot out each deadline on your Google Calendar.
Here's a cheatsheet with sample timelines for different content types (blog posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, social media posts):
Brainstorm 4 new topics
Create outlines or headings for each post
Write 1 post draft at a time, section by section
Edit post for grammar, clarity, and SEO
Add supporting visuals
Final proofread and publish
Brainstorm 4 new topics
Create outline for each episode
Add intros and outros and background music where applicable
Create podcast episode show notes for SEO and publish
Brainstorm 4 new topics
Create outlines for each video
1-2 days (depending on complexity)
Add supporting images and sound effects
Write video description and create video thumbnail and publish
Plot out days you want to publish new posts for the month
Create a theme or topic for each post of the day
Assign content type (photo, graphic, video, etc.) for each topic
Create content as needed (shoot photos, make illustrations, design quotes, etc.)
Write out captions per post
Plot out posts on social media scheduling app
How often should you be creating content to grow an audience?
Sometimes content creators ask the question, "How often should I publish new content to grow my audience?"
And honestly, I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to this question.
I know I hate hearing this answer, so forgive me for saying this. But it depends.
Many creators have gained success through daily posts. Others post once a week and still gain new followers and fans. Yet others still might post once or twice a month and still see their audience grow.
My official recommendation is this:
Instead of thinking how often you should be creating content to grow your audience, think about how much time is enough to create high-value content given your resources.
If you need an entire week to create a fantastic, cinematic video for YouTube, then give yourself that week.
If you need two days to record separate segments for a podcast episode because you're a busy-body, then let yourself take those two days.
Don't subscribe to other people's hard metric for when you ought to be publishing new things. Your content creation workflow is just like life: deeply personal.
Aim to be consistent in a way that is sustainable and still fulfilling for you.
How will you build your content creation workflow?
Whew, what a massive post! Did you manage to read through everything? (If you did, you deserve a big ol' kudos!)
Use this entire guide to help you create a productive content creation workflow that works for your life—instead of feeling like you're constantly running after a goal or schedule that doesn't make sense to you and your current circumstances.
You might need to take time to implement each step, but don't worry. This post won't be going anywhere, so add this page to your Bookmarks, and come back to it as you progress through each step.