How to Create Content When You Don’t Know How to Write

By January 4, 2015 Content Creation

Creating content is hard.

Creating content when you don’t know how to write is even harder.

How many times have you stared at a blank screen, trying to come up with the perfect opening?

It’s more than you’d like to admit, isn’t it?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Loads of people go through it. Some never get out of it. They give up producing something valuable because they can’t stand staring at a blank screen anymore.

So they stop trying. Defeated by writer’s block.

The thing is, We’re all told to focus on a million things. Do this, do that, focus on SEO, focus on social media, focus on content marketing.

When you have to pay attention to a million things, something as simple as writing starts to feel like a highwire act. One small mistake and you’re dead.

Yes, SEO is important. Social media can be helpful. Teaching people something valuable is an awesome way to do marketing.

But focusing on a million things takes the attention away from the one thing that actually matters.

Creating useful content that kicks butt.

To give you some ideas, I wrote down a couple of ways you can create awesome web content without writing.

(And yes I do realize the irony of writing a giant guide about creating content without writing.)

I’ve put together a bunch of resources that will help you rock your content creation. It contains more in-depth tutorials for podcasting, a list of 53+ free sources for high-quality images, and resources to help you write killer headlines. Check them out here

 

Video

video can be a great way to create content when you’re not really confident in your own writing ability. You don’t need much equipment, it’s inexpensive, and all you really need to be able to do is talk. Video is great when you:

    • want to provide instruction — It’s an excellent way of demonstrating something. People can follow along while you take them through the steps.
    • want to build rapport — Creating video content (especially where you’re in front of the camera) builds an incredible amount of trust. The viewers get to see and hear a real human being, not just a bunch of letters. It’s a lot harder to convey emotions through writing, so in this case videos are awesome.
    • don’t have a lot of time — Writing a 1000+ word blog post takes a good chunk of time. Talking 1000+ words, however, takes a lot less time (if you know what you’re talking about, of course.)

How to create good video content

For your first project, I recommend creating a short video where you show something on your screen. It’s the easiest to make and it needs the least amount of equipment.

step 1) Download screen capture software

The first thing you’ll need to do is to download software that can capture your screen. For Windows, you can use Camstudio.

Alternatively, you can use Chrome extensions such as Screencastify to record your screen. Don’t get too caught up with what software you should use. Use something that will do the trick.

Save the complicated and expensive stuff for later.

Screencastify

Screencastify is a simple chrome extension that captures your screen

  Step 2) Prepare the audio (and what to do if you don’t have a microphone)

You could do a video without sound, but it will get confusing really quickly.

The beauty of using video is that you can explain them very clearly how it’s done.

If you don’t have a microphone, you can use the one on your phone. Most phones have the ability to record sound.

The downside of this is, well, that it will sound like you recorded it with your phone. These days, microphones are pretty cheap, so if you’re planning on creating videos a lot I suggest you get a (semi)decent one.

Step 3) Prepare the content

You’ll need some sort of outline to avoid going too far off topic. This doesn’t have to be detailed. Its only purpose is to remind you of what you’re going to say. For example, an outline for our short video could be:

  • Intro
  • Tell them why video is important
  • show them how to create their first video
  • Outro

Doesn’t take much writing as you can see. If you know what you’re talking about you’ll have no trouble keeping the content going.

Step 4) Hit record

Now’s the time to start recording your video. The key is to do it all in one take. This will prevent you from obsessing about getting everything right.

Step 5) Trim and upload

The higher end recording packages will allow you to trim everything within one program. For now, use a basic movie editor to trim any unwanted space from the footage.

If you used your phone as a mic you’ll need to put the video and the audio together.

After that, you upload the video to Youtube and send it to your subscribers.  

Podcasts

Video sound too complicated?  You can always try your hand at podcasting.

It’s, in essence, a radio show.

You just speak into your microphone, edit it, and send it to people.

The biggest advantage of podcasting is engagement. People don’t accidentally listen to podcasts. They listen because they want to. They’re either doing some boring task, driving to work or commuting some other way.

Podcasting helps you:

  • Interact with your audience — People listen to you, pay attention to you, and will most likely ask you questions when they don’t understand something. The more questions you get, the more chances you have to connect with your audience.
  • Reach new audiences — The same way you can write blogposts for another blog, you can join other people’s podcast. When you do you’ll get access to a whole new audience. If they like what you’re saying, they may become a regular listener.
  • Engage with people who aren’t on their computers — some people don’t listen to podcasts when they’re on their computer. They listen to them when they’re commuting or doing some boring task.

 

How to create your first podcast

Step 1) Get the right equipment

Since a podcast is all audio you can’t afford to have shitty quality.

There’s a million microphones out there, ranging from super cheap to incredibly expensive. Here’s a little buying guide from LifeHacker to get you started.

The next thing you’ll need is software to record with.

You can use Garageband on Mac or you can download Audacity if you’re on a PC.

Lastly, if other people are joining your podcast, you’ll want to use Skype. That way, you can record the podcast without having to get everybody in the same room (or country).

Step 2) Create an outline

Just like the video, we’re going to need an outline to make everything go smooth. You can create it as general or detailed as you want it, whatever makes it easy for you.

You also want to decide what kind of show you actually want to create. Do you want to do this solo? Do you want to partner up with people? It’s important to think about the type of show beforehand.

Some styles like the dynamic duo can get old pretty quickly.

Step 3) Record

Next thing you have to do is just hit record and start talking. That’s pretty much it.

Step 4) Edit

Most podcasts use what’s called a bumper in front of their actual recording. It’s the intro music or standard greeting that comes before every episode.

This is usually done by a professional voice over artist. If you want to do it yourself, go for it. If you want to hire someone with a great radio voice, you can either go to voices or Fiverr.

Step 5) Create a feed and submit to iTunes

Now that you have your podcast recorded, it’s time to create a feed and submit it to iTunes so people can listen to it. Explaining this whole process here would take up another 1000 words but you can find a good tutorial here.  

Slide decks

Slideshare is the quiet giant of social networks. It’s relatively new, but it has a massive userbase. So massive that it has become the main source of leads for some companies. But what makes slide decks so useful?

  • Easier to understand information — People are better able to understand information when it’s visual. It might be cheesy as hell, but the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true.
  • Easily shared — Well-designed slide decks have a higher perceived value because they look super high quality. That makes it easier for them to get loads of shares.
  • Easy to make — You don’t need much, if anything at all. You don’t even need Powerpoint or Keynote. You can do it all completely free with Google presentations if you want to. The rest is just knowing what to put where (we’ll go into that into that a little later.

How to create your first slide deck

Step 1)Create a new Google presentation

Go to Google drive and create a new presentation by clicking the big red “new” button and selecting Google Slides.

Google Slides

Step 2)Follow these simple design principles

The difference between a shitty, boring PowerPoint and a professional looking presentation is design.

Don’t worry if you think you’re not a designer, the basic design principles are not that hard. What better way to explain them than with a good slide deck.

 

Roundups

Probably the easiest way to create content is to curate that of others. By going through different articles and selecting the best ones, you’re adding extra value.

One company who built a massive content machine doing this is Buzzfeed.

Most of their popular articles are just lists and they get a TON of shares. The benefits of doing roundups are:

  • Easy to create — You’re going to promote content that others have made, so in that aspect it’s not a lot of work. Most of the effort goes into research
  • Gets shared like crazy — Seriously, they do. Check out BuzzFeed again if you have any doubts.
  • Potential for a lot of traffic — It’s quite an honour to be included in a roundup. It means you’re doing something right. If you create a roundup and you let the person know they’re in it, chances are they’ll help promote the article.

 

How to create your first roundup

Step 1)Find an angle

In order to create an effective roundup, you’ll need to have a certain angle that ties everything together.

For example, you could create a roundup dedicated to landing page design. Having a specific angle will make it easier for you to gather articles.

Step 2)Headlines, headlines, headlines

When it comes to roundups, headlines are the most important thing you should worry about. If nobody likes your headline, the rest doesn’t matter.

The good thing is you don’t really have to know how to write to create a good headline. Most headlines get “assembled”.

What I mean by “assembled” is that people take certain headline formulas and adapt them to their needs. Not a lot of thinking needed.

If you need some help with headlines you can check out the headline part of my landing page guide. (I do recommend practicing writing headlines, though. It’s a crucial skill to have.)

Step 3) Create your roundup

Creating your roundup is pretty easy. You just put all your resources in a single post and add a little description.

Step 4) Contact everyone in your roundup

If you’ve created a roundup of other people’s advice, contact those people and tell them you’ve included them in an article.

I’ve done this with some of my articles and most of the time they tweet about it or help you promote it. The email doesn’t have to be long. You could just write something like:

“Hey ____ I just wanted to let you know that I included you in my article (link) I hope you have a great day. –Robin”

Outsourcing

If you’re hellbound on having a lot of written content on your site you can outsource it. The benefits of outsourcing are:

  • Gives you the chance to do something else — Other people are doing the work, so you have a lot of time to do other things.
  • All the benefits or regular writing — Since it isn’t going to be different than writing the content yourself the benefits (like SEO) are going to stay the same.

How to outsource your first project

Step 1) Create a detailed outline

The first thing you’ll want to do is to create a detailed outline (as detailed as possible). Not only will the freelancer be happier, they will be able to finish their work faster and cheaper than they originally would.

Step 2) Find freelancers

Next you can head over to Elance or Odesk (or reach out to individual freelancers) and pitch them your job. If they like it, they’ll give you an offer. Some tips when it comes to hiring freelancers:

  • You get what you pay for — For some reason people don’t value creative work and think $5 is an appropriate price for a high-quality article. In reality, if freelancers get paid next to nothing you’ll get work that’s rushed, bland, and complete and utter crap. Pay them enough so they can give your project the time and energy it deserves.
  • Add details to filter the copy-pasters — Ask them to start out with a specific word, make them solve a simple riddle, or make them solve some simple math. When they don’t start out with your word or riddle, you’ll know they didn’t read your brief and you can disregard them immediately

 

Variations to spice things up

Now that we’ve seen all the main types of content, here are some variations you can try.  

Interviews

Besides being pretty easy to produce, interviews are a great way to connect with experts in your field.

A notable example of someone who built his business on the power of interviews is Andrew Warner from Mixergy.

He’s interviewed a lot of fascinating people, from Tim Ferriss to Seth Godin to Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales. Here’s what interviews can do for you:

  • You’ll learn a ton of new stuff — Interviewing people who are good at what they do is an incredible opportunity to learn something new.
  • You’ll meet a lot of new people — Interviews are great for networking. By doing  interviews you’re building relationships with people you admire.
  • Win-win-win — Interviews are great for you, your audience, and the people you are interviewing. You get the content and they get access to a whole new audience.
  • Gain credibility — When people see you interview big names, they’ll automatically associate you with them. It’s the same reason corporations spend tens of thousands of dollars to get some movie star to promote their product.
  • Gain a big audience — When you interview big names, they’ll share the interview you did with them. Because of this, you’ll gain loads of traffic.

 

Tips for creating great interviews

Start with people in your network.

The easiest way to get started is by interviewing people you already know. You’ll be more at ease and the interview will be better.

Always write down your first question

Good interviews flow naturally. Both people contribute to the conversation and play off of what the other has said. However,  Andrew Warner suggests writing your first question down. First questions are too important to just improvise.

Ask for referrals

Once you’ve done your interview, ask your interviewee if he knows someone else you can interview. When they do, ask them if they can introduce you.

The chances of getting your next interview will be higher if you get introduced by a friend.

Ask influencers at key moments

You’ve got a higher chance of getting a big influencer on board when you ask them right before a product or a book launch. They’ll be more willing to do interviews because they get they a chance to promote their own product.

Think about talk shows. Movie stars don’t go on talk shows for fun. They’re there to promote their new film or project their working on.  

Infographics

These were all the rage a while back. Everybody was making infographics.

I don’t blame them, though. Infographics are a great way of providing content to people. They’re interesting to look at, they’re useful, and they get shared like crazy.

The downside, however, is that they’re expensive to make and you can’t really do it yourself. Well, you can, but unless you’re a graphic designer it will probably look like crap.

Tips for creating killer infographics

Unless you’re an expert designer, I wouldn’t try to make the infographics yourself.

The success of your infographic depends on how well it’s made and how attractive it looks. It’s definitely not easy to do it yourself if you don’t have any design experience.

That said, I’m still going to show you how you can get your infographics made for the least amount of money.

Gather interesting info

Not only does the success of your infographic depend on good design, if it doesn’t have good info in it then it’s not going to succeed either. A couple of ways you can get good info:

 

Use slides to create mockups for your designer

While I don’t recommend making the final thing yourself, creating a mockup can reduce costs.

A good mockup makes it easier for your designer to understand what kind of infographic you want and where you want the info to go.

You can do this using PowerPoint (or any other presentation software).

Here’s an example. I made this using Google slides. I just Googled “infographic design elements”, put them in a google slide, downloaded the slides as images, and put them together in photoshop.  

Infographic made with Google slides

Not going to win any prices with this, but it can show your designer what kind of infographic you want

 

Get it transcribed

Instead of having a freelancer create your content, you can have it transcribed.

You just record the audio version using the techniques I mentioned in the podcasting section and you give it to someone else to transcribe it. The benefits of this are:

  • All the SEO benefits of written content — The end product is text so there’s not going to be much different than writing your own content.
  • It’s faster — Most people speak faster than they can write. Some speak even faster than they can think, but that’s a whole different story.

 

tips on getting your piece of content transcribed

There’s two ways you can get your audio turned into text. You can either get it transcribed by using voice recognition software, or you can have humans do it.

Don’t think software can transcribe that well? Blogging legend Jon Morrow built his blogging success solely on the power of his voice. He uses software called Dragon NaturallySpeaking to convert his words into text.With great success.

If you want other people to transcribe your audio, here’s how to do it:

Step 1) Chop up your audio in 5-10 minute chunks

If you let one person transcribe everything it’s going to take them a long time. If you have 3 people each transcribing 10 minutes of audio it’s going to get done a lot quicker.

Since they only have to type out what you said, their writing style won’t really matter.

Step 2) Go to Fiverr and look at the transcription gigs

You could use Elance, craigslist, or even mechanical turk. Fiverr might be the easiest, though.

Step 3) Give your audio to different people.

Like I said above the reason you’d want to give different pieces to different people is to make it go faster. If you’d give it to one person he or she might be to do it in a week or two (if they don’t have that many gigs).

Give it to different people and you might have it in 3-4 days.

Step 4) Paste it together

The final thing you need to do is take all the transcriptions and paste them together into one big post. Done!  

Have people guest post for you

Instead of spending hours writing the posts yourself, how about you let someone else do it.

Hooray for efficiency!

You do have to have an established website to do this, otherwise there’s not much of an incentive to guest post for you.

Think about it. Why do people guest post? For fun? Maybe. To get more traffic to their own website? Most definitely.

How to get your first guest post

The bigger your site is, the easier it will be to get someone to guest post for you. That’s because there is more of an incentive to do so.

Step 1)Go to places where people share content

Find people who want to guest post for you by going to popular forums and hubs where a lot of content is shared.

For example, if you’re in marketing, you’ll want to go to a website like inbound.org and take a look around at who posts good articles.

Step 2)Look for people who share good content Next we need to look for good content that’s being shared. That way we can figure out who created it so we can contact them.

Here’s an example of an article that got quite a bit of good feedback. How to find guest posts  As you can see the post did pretty well. It also shows us the site it came from so it’s easy to find the person who wrote it.

Step 3)Contact the author

Now we need to contact the author and ask him if he wants to write an article for us.

Like I said before, this becomes a lot easier when you have a big website or a very engaged audience. People guest post because they want more traffic/subscribers. If people wouldn’t get anything from guest posting about 90% of them would stop doing it.

This step is pretty easy. You just send them an email explaining why guest posting for your site would be such an awesome thing to do.

Emphasize that you can bring them traffic or that you have a highly engaged audience.

Step 4)Promote the hell out of them

If they do decide to write a post for you, it’s your job to promote the hell out of them.

They’re taking the time to create content for your website. The least you can do is make sure it get’s seen.

So share the article they created on forums, LinkedIn, or mail your list. Do whatever you need to do to send as much traffic to the article as possible.  

Image gallery

In the roundup section above, we went over how BuzzFeed created a content machine using this strategy. The cool thing about it is, their top performing pieces of content are nothing but pictures

Buzzfeed sharecount

Their articles get so many shares it screws up the display

   Both of these posts have over a million shares and yet, they’re nothing but pictures. You can do a lot with image galleries. You can create BuzzFeed-like articles, or you can create a collection of inspiring quotes

Some tips for image galleries

Use tools like share as image or Canva

Before you open Photoshop or any other image editor, try tools like Share as image or canva. These tools make it extremely easy for you to share images without having to tinker with complicated software.

Headlines are just as important

Just because we’re going to use images as our main source of content doesn’t mean we should skip over creating good headlines. Headlines are what get’s people to click.  

What to do next

By now you have a lot of ideas about how you can create content without having to write that much. Here’s what I want you to do now:  

  • Tell me your favorite way of creating content
  • Check out the bonus area for more resources that will help you to create content that kicks butt.

 

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