Every innovative business that has a presence online has a content calendar. It’s a must when you’re constantly creating content for different channels and want to be on top of your game.
As a freelance writer, you are a business, even if you might not think of yourself this way.
And you, as a business, have to do multiple things and wear multiple hats — one of them being a hat of a marketer. Ah, the most favorite hat that we, as freelance writers, have to wear, am I right?
Now, as a freelancer, you’re probably doing two types of writing:
- Writing for clients
- Writing for your personal brand
While writing for clients doesn’t require having a content calendar, writing for your personal brand does.
There are also two types of freelance writers out there:
- Those who write under their client’s name (ghostwriting) and rely on testimonials from past clients to get work.
- Those who write under their own name, even for clients, and rely on clippings as well as testimonials to get work (even though testimonials don’t matter that much in this case).
Now, of course, I am not saying that there are no freelance writers in between, but that’s the two distinct camps I’ve noticed in my three years freelancing.
A content calendar is going to be important for both groups of freelancers, so no matter which road you’re taking, you’ll find value in taking the time to set up your content calendar.
Let’s start by taking a look at how having a content calendar will help you streamline your business and ensure success.
#1: Having a content calendar minimizes the decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is a phrase that is loved by online entrepreneurs and folks in Silicon Valley, and it’s used every time someone asks Mark Zuckerberg why he always wears the same shirt.
And it’s a real thing that affects our life and business. Every day we have a limited amount of “brain juice,” as I like to call it, for making decisions and getting shit done.
As a freelance writer, I have many tasks to do throughout the day, and I always try to minimize the amount of time I spend on thinking and planning and focus heavily on executing instead.
For this reason, I plan my week’s schedule every Sunday so that I don’t have to wake up every day and think about what do I have to do.
And I also plan my content calendar every month so that I don’t have to think about the marketing I need to do throughout the month.
Creating a content calendar for your personal brand writing and marketing will help you save the “brain juice” and not be plagued by decision fatigue when it’s time to write or create content for your socials.
#2: Your content calendar will keep you on track
When I first started working as a freelance writer, I didn’t even know that my personal brand was a thing. I just wanted to make money writing.
I started writing as a ghostwriter because I didn’t know any better at the time. And because I wasn’t getting clippings under my own name, I started a blog where I wrote under my own name.
The problem I had was that I wanted to write about a lot of different topics — wellness, lifestyle, business, online marketing, social media, branding, and personal development.
I would pick a topic the day of and would write about the thing that was on my mind — no direction or solid strategy in mind.
While in the end, I think it was good because it made me a better writer, the more I wrote, but it was not a good business strategy.
I was wasting plenty of time with my personal brand that wasn’t going in the right direction, and it wasn’t translating into more clients and more money.
Once I set up a content calendar and gave myself three solid topics to write on, my blog started seeing traction, and people were even sharing my content:
My mess of a blog turned into something more reputable I wasn’t ashamed to showcase to potential clients. And it was all because I had a content calendar with a solid strategy I could follow.
If you’re struggling with sticking with one direction for your personal brand as a writer, a content calendar will help you get and stay on track.
#3: It’s great for tracking progress
I’m a huge believer in tracking progress. Whether it would be with your workouts, weight loss, or small business wins.
It’s something that’s hard to do, and most people don’t think it’s worth the time, but it can have huge benefits for your business success and your self-esteem.
Tracking progress and seeing how far you’ve come build confidence, and it will motivate you to move forward when the times get rough, and you feel like giving up.
Also, you’ll be able to look back at your marketing material and content you’ve published at the end of the year when it’s time to re-evaluate your marketing efforts.
It will be easy to see what worked and what didn’t and whether it’s worth creating content like that in the future.
Here is how my personal content calendar looks like
Now that you know why I’m a huge advocate of freelance writers using content calendars for their businesses let me take you through my personal content calendar and how I use it.
My content strategy
Before last year, I fell into the camp of freelancers who wrote for clients under their client’s name. I didn’t have any clippings under my own name, just testimonials, and my personal blog.
In the second half of 2020, things started shifting as I changed my freelance business strategy and started looking for clients who wanted me to write under my name.
I’m mentioning this because I think it’s important you know where I stand.
I decided not to write on my personal blog anymore and start writing on Medium instead because I could get my writing in front of more people.
Having clippings at publications like Better Marketing, The Ascent, and Sexography helps entice clients because they know that not all writers get accepted to those publications. In contrast, anyone can write a blog post and pin it on Pinterest to get shares.
I don’t want to discourage you from writing on your own blog. I think every freelance writer has to see what fits best for them and decide for themselves.
But I wanted to be transparent and say that I do pay a lot of attention to my personal brand content because it lands me clients and makes me money. And it wasn’t always the case when I used to write on my own personal blog.
What goes into my content calendar
My content calendar includes all channels I create content for:
I have a section for Medium, where I put articles I publish and the date they were published on. It also includes my monthly Writer’s Life newsletter, podcast, and social media channels I use for my personal brand.
For 2021 I decided to focus only on TikTok and Instagram to market myself as a writer, but you can see Twitter included as well. I don’t create content for Twitter, but I wanted to include it just in case that changes throughout the year.
Content planning process
As I’ve mentioned already at the beginning, at the end of every month, I set a day for marketing planning and prep.
During that day, I’ll spend time looking over my business plan as well as content plans for different channels and put things into my next month’s content calendar.
I don’t put my Medium articles because I never know when I’ll be publishing them, as I only publish with publications. This is the only thing I fill in the day that the article goes live and not before.
With my Instagram, I like to plan the whole month in advance, what goes on my feed as well as IGTV.
I post once a week on my weed, once a week to IGTV, and daily on Instagram stories.
As for TikTok, my content process is quite elaborate, and it takes the longest to plan.
I’ll gather TikTok ideas throughout the month and save them. Then, I’ll create scripts on my notes app and film TikToks for the whole month in advance, saving them to drafts.
Then, I’ll note content for each day in the content calendar. I post five days a week on TikTok.
Now, I’m new to TikTok, and I’ve only been doing this for a month, so the process might change. But this is where it is at right now.
Also, you can see different colors in my content calendar. I like to color code things in my Google Sheets as I’m a very visual person. So, when I skip something — I’ll mark it as red. And if I’ve published something — I’ll mark it as green.
It’s great for tracking progress and adjusting your strategy later.
It might look like having a content calendar and maintaining it is a lot of work, but trust me — it’s not.
Once you have your template ready, it will take you no more than a few hours per month to sit down and plan your content. And you won’t have to spend time thinking about what to do next, saving yourself time and “brain juice”.
The key to a successful freelance career is consistency. It’s about showing up every day and continuing to work on your craft and your business.
And having a content calendar is the best way to ensure that consistency.