At one time or another, you have probably asked yourself if you should create content for your business.
When we start talking about finding clients, there are a few siren songs that lure people in:
- I should work on my SEO
- I should spend more time on social media
- I should start a blog/podcast/email list/YouTube channel etc.
…and they all boil down to creating content.
But creating content is a HUGE investment of time or money.
So before you start your own content strategy, let’s break down a few basic questions to see if it makes sense for you.
Why would someone give your content their attention?
When someone checks out your thing – whatever it is – they are giving you their most precious resource: their attention.
Why would they do that?
In my interview with James Clear, he talks about one question he asks himself while he’s creating anything:
What is the object of the reader’s desire?
Of course, “reader” could also be viewer, listener, and so on.
But the point is, they aren’t doing it as a favor – at least not for long. You need to be doing something for them. And typically, it’s either:
- Educating them
- Entertaining them
In rare cases, it can be both. But you need to be REALLY good at one or the other before you can credibly try and do both.
And in my opinion, it’s a lot harder to try and win on entertainment. If you do, you’re competing with Netflix, Hulu, fiction books, TikTok…any mammoth company competing for your attention on the basis of entertainment.
There is a much more viable path forward for someone trying to create specific, educational content for someone trying to learn something.
Who is your content for?
Once you’ve determined if your content is going to be educational or entertaining, really define who your audience is.
Freelancing School is for creatives who want to earn a living with their skills.
It’s educational – I’m not even pretending to be entertaining! But I know exactly who my reader is and what they are trying to learn.
If you don’t make your work for a specific type of person, it probably will never reach anyone. It has a chance to go beyond that group, but it needs to really hit for someone.
Why should your content exist?
Let me beat this drum again – ask yourself this one question:
What is the object of the reader’s desire?
Every article I write has its own answer to that question. For this piece, I’ve picked up on a common question among my readers: Should I be creating content?
In this piece, I’m attempting to answer that question.
Whatever YOU are thinking about making – why should it exist? What is the desire your audience has that this is answering?
Think about it in terms of a literal question someone would type into Google. If you aren’t answering a question for someone, then will have a hard time getting their attention.
Is your content better than the alternatives?
This is a tough one. But, in reality, not only do you need to speak to the object of the reader’s desire…you need to do it better than the alternatives.
Because ultimately, someone would have to choose YOUR work over someone else’s. What makes yours better than theirs?
There is one silver lining: you aren’t competing with the entire planet on this.
You are only competing with what your reader is aware of.
If you don’t address a topic as well as a competitor, but your audience isn’t aware of that competitor, you’re going to be OK. How could they possible choose someone they aren’t even aware of?
But if there is a big, well-known alternative playing in your space, you need to create a better piece of content.
How will you distribute your content?
Speaking of awareness…how will your potential audience become aware of YOUR content?
Of course we all want to have our own channels of distribution. You want a big email list, subscribers, and followers.
Do you already have that?
If not, how will you get in front of people?
You can either:
- Partner with others who have an audience
- Build up your audience yourself
- Bank on organic search (SEO) traffic
And you see the classic Catch-22: You want to have an audience, but you can’t have that without content. But your content isn’t very useful without an audience.
The conclusion is pretty simple (and common): for a long time, it’s going to feel like you’re screaming into the void.
It’s going to feel like no one is listening, and you’re going to question why you’re doing it. But, over time, more people start tuning in. It’s a long-term game.
They will find it because someone else shared it with them, or because they found it organically.
But for people to share your work – it has to be REALLY, REALLY good. When is the last time you shared something? Why did you do that?
It had to be remarkable for you to do that. And creating remarkable work is hard.
Really think hard about partnerships. Partnerships are great for a kickstart – either with individuals (here’s a recent collaboration I did with Alex Cattoni):
But partnerships can be with platforms too – if you publish on Medium, you have the added benefit of their own organic traffic.
Can your content generate organic traffic?
When you tell yourself that you wish people found you via Google or some other search…you are probably underestimating the reality of that.
Check out these two graphs from Backlinko:
- The #1 result has 10x as much traffic as the #10 result
- After page one, clicks fall off a cliff
So for you to really have useful results from SEO, you need to be in the top 10 results (page one) shown for a given search query.
And to do that takes a lot of understanding for how search engines work. You need to format the piece technically well, as well as have a GREAT response to whatever question has been asked.
Are you willing to be create content consistently?
In any case, no matter how you want to build your audience, you will need to commit to a consistent schedule.
And before you use the example of Tim Urban, one of the best bloggers on the planet that posts very infrequently – don’t. He is an exception, not the rule!
That doesn’t mean you have to share something every single week. In fact, Pacific Content found that the best frequency for their clients’ podcasts was every two weeks.
But it’s about showing that you take your work seriously and building trust. If I don’t know when you’ll show up with something new, how can I be on the look out for it?
If you aren’t taking it seriously, why should I take you seriously?
If you aren’t consistent in creating content, it’s unlikely that anyone will be consistent in checking it out.
Could your time be better used elsewhere?
In just about all cases, I would argue that it’s more worthwhile to use your time in places other than quote-unquote “content.”
Now, again, I’m investing there heavily. And frankly, I know that most people won’t be willing to commit to a schedule in the same way that I have.
There is a sort of compromise: create small bites of content on social media.
Tweets, LinkedIn posts, photos and videos on Instagram…by showing up there regularly with some useful content you can stay in peoples’ line of sight and top of mind for them.
Those who use social media best invest a LOT of time into their social content, too. But if you can’t budget the time to create a full content strategy and maintain a schedule, those platforms will at least allow you to maintain some level of visibility.
For most creatives, there are three places in particular that I think make more sense to invest your time:
- Building strong, genuine relationships
- Learning new skills
- Working on your own side projects
In my opinion, both of these areas have a MUCH quicker return on your investment in terms of finding new clients.
Relationships are the fastest way to new work. Skills help you to improve and there sell more work. And side projects help you sharpen your axe while also creating more interesting pieces to put into your portfolio – which will lead to more work.
If you still want to create content
If you still want to move forward with creating content, then take these considerations:
- Create a strategy and frequency that you will commit to
- Work to dominate one platform before trying to expand to multiple
- Determine who is it for, and why do they need it?
- Ensure that your content is differentiated
- Have a plan for distribution
- Learn the basics of SEO if you will rely on search
- Put in the time upfront to research keywords and competitive content before you start creating
If you do all of those things, and you do them consistently over a period of years (not months) then you have a chance for creating content being worthwhile.
And check out my full interview with James Clear, which is full of wisdom when it comes to creating content.