One of the biggest complaints that we hear from our clients is a lack of time. So in today’s post, we’re going to cover some easy ways to get back at least two hours of your time each week with content planning.

Now, this isn’t a complicated process. And it’s not revolutionary. But when you do it, and when you do it consistently, not only will you get some precious time back, but you’re also going to get a lot of your mental bandwidth back as well. This is crucial because it frees you up to focus on other revenue-generating activities.

What is Content Planning?

Simply put (because it’s a simple concept), content planning is taking the time to plan and create all of the content your organization will need for the next few weeks to months. This content includes but is not limited to social media content, blog content, video content, SMS campaigns, and/or email marketing campaigns.

We at Absolute Holdings Group always help our clients plan their content either a month or even a full quarter ahead of time. Planning and creating that much content so far ahead of time may seem intimidating, but any content you can plan for and create ahead of time is time (and money) that you’re putting back in your pocket down the road.

One benefit of planning your content is that you can “batch” the work. This makes content creation more time-efficient, and it also helps your content become more organized and cohesive. Clear, concise, cohesive content is essential for a business’s success because potential customers rarely convert if they’re confused about your message and what it is you’re providing. Creating a batch of content at once allows you to ensure that all your content serves your audience best and works towards your goals.

Content that isn’t clear and cohesive is just noise, and we all know there’s too much noise out there. Planning and creating your content ahead of time is like writing music instead of just making up a song on the spot.

What Tools Do I Need?

As a marketing agency, we have (and use) a whole host of tools and resources to help our clients. But really all you need is a reliable spreadsheet, like Microsoft Excel or Apache OpenOffice Calc. We use Google Sheets which also enables collaboration with all our team members.

Sure, fancy project management software and programs that allow you to create your own visual content can make things easier for you and save you some money in the long run, but if you’re a business owner who’s just starting out, you don’t need to subscribe to an online service or spend countless hours learning how to use design software. Like we said: You just need a spreadsheet.

To save time on proofreading and editing when composing blog posts and other written content, you may wish to use a tool like Grammarly, which has a free version and a more thorough paid version. Grammarly checks your writing as you go and points out grammatical and spelling errors (though it often gets thrown by linguistic nuance or creative verbiage, so if professionalism in your written content is very important to you and you tend to write more like an author than a blogger, consider hiring a copyeditor).

For creating visual content, the “best” options are Adobe, Photoshop, or InDesign. We say “best” because they’re really only the best if you already know how to use them and already happen to own the software. For beginners and business owners looking to save money, Canva and Easil are two excellent options with free versions as well as more extensive paid versions. They’re very easy to use and don’t require any programming skills.

For video content, we recommend and Again, there are limited free versions available for each platform as well as paid versions with much more bells and whistles. You may think you need to have a very professional, polished-looking (read: expensive) video to stand out, but really, the most important factors that make a video successful are: a) sound quality, so make sure you speak loudly and into the mic; b) delivery, which means following a script if you’re not good at winging it (or if you say “um” a lot); c) quality content that both informs and entertains your audience; and d) making sure the video actually works.

If the thought of using this many tools is making your head spin, take a breath, step back, and realize that your audience may not require you to use all of these tools. Put some thought into who your audience really is, and that may help you narrow down the platforms you should focus on. Not all types of audiences respond to all types of content, so there’s no point wearing yourself out with videos and blog posts and email campaigns and social media if your target audience typically only pays attention to one or two of those things.

Now that we’ve given you the tools to create your content, let’s talk about tools to schedule your content. Scheduling your content publishes it automatically for you according to a preprogrammed schedule, so you don’t have to find a way to remember to publish everything on time yourself. For Facebook and Instagram, we recommend leveraging the power of the native scheduling software Creator Studio. Pinterest can also be scheduled natively within the app’s own functionality, but if you plan on emphasizing Pinterest as part of your marketing, we highly recommend Tailwind. LinkedIn and Twitter both currently require a third-party scheduling program, and there are several options available for you to choose from depending on your own preferences.

The bottom line with scheduling is that it doesn’t matter so much how you do it, just that you do it, both frequently and consistently.

How Do I Perfect My Workflow?

Obviously everyone’s idea of the “perfect” workflow is going to be a little different, and what works for one business may not work as well for another. We suggest creating a content overview as step one of your workflow because that allows you to plan out not only the amount of content you’ll need, but also the different categories that content will fall into and the exact days/dates you need to publish it. This helps you streamline the message of your content and make it all more connected and cohesive.

For example, if you are planning an email campaign to announce the launch of a new product or service, all your social media content leading up to and immediately after the launch should bring it to your audience’s attention and point out the benefits of the product or service as well so that your clients and customers can clearly see “what’s in it for me”.

Once you have charted out how much and what kind of content you plan to produce and when, we recommend creating your copy that same day if at all possible. And by copy, we mean only the written part of your content, such as subject lines, emails, social media posts, blog posts, and any other kind of written text your content overview includes.

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the idea of creating all your content in one day—it just needs to be completed, not perfected. One of our copywriters had a bad habit when he first started out of editing as he wrote. You cannot do that—it will slow you down to a crawl. Eventually he learned the trick is to write first, edit later. Get all your thoughts out on paper (or on a screen, at least), and then let it sit for a day.

That’s right; take a day off after writing all your copy and work on other revenue-generating activities, or if you can spare the time, just let your mind and body rest. Then come back and review your copy with fresh eyes and do your proofreading and editing. It’s also helpful to have someone else review your copy; they can catch mistakes that you might’ve missed. The more eyes that review your writing, the better it will end up being.

(Note: Some people recommend starting with images and building your content around them. At AHG, we take the opposite approach, because we’ve seen clients get stuck on an image they really want to use and then have to stretch and warp their content to fit the image, which causes the original intent of the message to become lost or confusing. If your desired image is not a good fit for your content, you have to be able to acknowledge that and move on. It’s easier to start with the message and then find a good image to match.)

Once you’ve completed this workflow—planning your content, creating an overview, writing your copy, and selecting your images—go ahead and schedule a specific time to complete your next cycle. It may take more time than you expect to complete the workflow the first few times, but as you get the hang of it, you’ll free up more and more time for you and your team to focus on non-marketing-related revenue-generating activities. And that helps your business succeed!

How Can I Learn More?

If you’d like even more information on content planning, leave a comment for us below and we’ll send you information about our upcoming workshop in which we’ll delve into the real nitty-gritty of content planning: choosing the right type of content for your business, creating that content in a way that will best serve your clients, planning your content creation most efficiently, and more.

And if you’re not already part of our free Facebook group, head over to Facebook and search “Practical Marketing for Business Owners.” There you’ll find all sorts of goodies to help you keep ahead of the marketing curve with practical, actionable tips, ideas, and tools.