Ezines in 10 Minutes a Day – Part 3 – Scheduling & Writing

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 04, 2010 in: Business Marketing, Tips in 10, Tools & Resources

We all have different writing styles and varying levels of interest or ability in writing. In my case, I like to write and I have great ideas but I’m an “in a nutshell” person. I tend to blaze through material I’m familiar with and inadvertently expect people to read my mind to fill in the rest :-D.

So, the first thing I want to do is empower you: If you are not a strong writer, that does not mean you can’t have an ezine, newsletter, or autoresponder. Like other aspects of your business, you can outsource it to someone else by hiring a copywriter or editor to do it for you (or to at least help with what you’ve started). It makes sense to only do the work you want to do, or can do well. It’s better for your business to outsource the rest, freeing up your time to do things that you can do well (and that you enjoy doing).

If you must know (and I can’t believe I am letting you in on this), I only write about 50% – 70% of my material. Now, that doesn’t mean that I just let a writer make up the other 30% to 50%. I usually put together the topics, ideas, summaries, census data, etc. on the rest (and accept input from the writer, too) and then check everything before it goes out. I am writing this right now, but you won’t see it until my writer has double-checked it!

That being said, if you want to write your ezine on your own, I am going to talk about how to effectively create a schedule (and stick to it) and write great ezines. Then I’ll offer some tips and guidance for those times when you want to have a writer or editor helping you out.

Your schedule
The first thing you must do is decide how often you are going to distribute. For Tips in 10 I distribute weekly (once every 7 days) and I use an autoresponder, so I have to be aware of this situation (I’ll tell you why in a second). Another newsletter I write gets distributed twice a month (every 15 days) but is not an autoresponder; that newsletter is called Happy Hour.

For Happy Hour I have 15 days to write the material before distribution, from the time of the last distribution. This is okay with me because the point of Happy Hour is to let the users of IAC-EZ know about the new release and goings-on at the company in the last 15 days. In other words, I could not write it weeks or months ahead of time; I have to wait until I have the details of what happened the past two weeks. So, about 5 days before distribution (I distribute the 15th and 30th) I start writing the newsletter.

For Tips in 10 it is different. I distribute weekly and it is an autoresponder. That means I can write these whenever but I have to make sure to load them in my autoresponder program, so that it can distribute every 7 days. The one catch is I have to make sure I always have more newsletters loaded in than my earliest subscriber is on. In other words, when someone subscribes, they start out with #1, then 7 days later they get #2, etc. I have to make sure I am always one issue ahead of my first subscriber so that there is never a week where he (yes it is a “he”, you never forget your first subscriber!) does not have a newsletter.

I have protected myself from this in two ways:

1. Before offering my newsletter for subscription, I made sure I had 4 newsletters written and loaded, so that means automatically I am 4 weeks ahead of my first subscriber.

2. I have made myself a schedule: 6 newsletters a month. Since I only distribute 4 (on long months maybe 5) a month, that means I will always be ahead. This protects me in case I go on vacation, or have an emergency.

I told this to a client before and they asked “so your newsletter goes on forever?”. Well, it depends. I have dozens of ideas and many options for Tips in 10: I can give you things you can do once for 10 minutes, or I can give you things you can do regularly in just 10 minutes a day, or I can give tips where the “call to action” is a 10 minute investment. So, for now, I have enough ideas to keep Tips in 10 going on for quite awhile. However, some entrepreneurs have defined time frames. For example, one of my clients has a 21 day e-course she has on an autoresponder. They get one email a day for 21 days. Then it is over.

So, right now we have to get you to make a schedule.

Is your upcoming newsletter or ezine going to be an autoresponder or a manual distribution?

If a newsletter:

1. How often do you want to distribute your newsletter?
2. What is the purpose of your newsletter? (Will it contain up-to-date information that cannot be pre-written or is it something that you can write in advance?)

If it is up-to-date information, you are obviously going to have to set aside time to write these newsletters prior to your scheduled distribution date. If it is something you can write in advance, think of doing so, so that you are never saddled with a strict deadline. If you are going to send out 2 a month, write 2 in the last week of the month for the next month. Or write 3 a month, so you always have the extra ready for the next date in case you miss it.

If an autoresponder:

1. How often do you want to distribute your autoresponder?
2. Does your autoresponder have a pre-determined time frame (i.e. is it a 21 day e-course?).

If your autoresponder has a pre-determined time frame, I would tell you to make sure you have 50% of it written and in your autoresponder system prior to accepting subscribers then set a plan to write the next 50% over the first half of the time frame. In other words, if it is a 21 day course, have 10 to 11 of them written and loaded into the system before accepting subscribers and have a plan to write the rest over the next 10-11 days. Or, my preference would be to write the entire thing before accepting subscribers.

If it is an ongoing autoresponder, like Tips in 10, I would determine how many you need a month, make sure you have a month’s worth of ezines loaded, and create a writing schedule that permits you to write the quantity you need in a month plus an extra 1 or 2 every month.

My schedule is 6 a month. I don’t set myself to writing on a specific day or time, but 6 a month means I have to write 1.5 a week, minimum. I try to write more if I can — perhaps 2 a week — but I make it one of my daily goals when I have the time. Some people may need to pre-schedule or want to write all 6 at once; that is fine.

What helps is to have a topic list: A list of ideas. What I find problematic (especially for people who aren’t strong writers) is when you go to write and you can’t think of what to write; you have a block. So, I have an ongoing list where everytime I have an idea for Tips in 10 I put it on the list. Once I write it I cross it out.

So, here’s your goal (should you accept the challenge!)

1. Determine your list type – autoresponder or not?
2. Determine your distribution schedule
3. Plan writing into your calendar
4. Start an idea list

Writing
Now… to the writing aspect. If you are not a strong writer. Here are things you can do:

1. Write it yourself: If you decide to write it yourself, write it however you feel comfortable and get a second set of eyes to edit. Don’t feel like you need to start at the beginning and write to the end. Lots of writers find it easier to start writing in the middle then add a beginning and an end when they are done. Start by writing the main topic then listing the subtopics. Then, under each subtopic, write point form notes about the information you need to cover in that subtopic. Then, go back and turn each point form notation into a few sentences or a paragraph, as appropriate.

2. Write summaries: Draft a paragraph or two about the concept and have a writer write it out (but make sure that you check it before you send it out, no matter what!). Make sure you invite the writer to ask questions so that they know they can rely on you as a resource when they are drafting work for you.

3. Write topics: When you work well with a writer, you can just send them your ideas and they can take control. (i.e., “Hey [writer], can you write ‘How to navigate Twitter in 10 minutes a day’? Thanks.” ) Note: This is difficult, because you have to find a writer that knows what you know (or the topic well) otherwise he/she may miss the whole concept.

4. Ask for ideas: Tell the writer the point of the ezine and see if he/she has any topics/ideas to contribute that they can ghostwrite for you.

5. A combination of the above!

You are probably thinking “where do I find this writer?” Well, that is the hard part (and, to be honest, I’m not sure it can be accomplished in 10 minutes). Finding a writer that sounds like you, writes well, knows what you know, and can keep with your schedule is difficult, and you will probably have to go through several before you find the right one. You might not “mesh” with the first couple. Many people start by locating writers on www.guru.com and www.elance.com. Others find copywriters on Twitter or Google. I have a few that I like, and I will list them for you below (tell them Heather sent you!), however, keep in mind that a writer to an entrepreneur is like a bathing suit to a woman. Not everyone is going to fit right, not everyone is going to feel right, and you will probably try on 20 before you decide on one.

Here are some writers that I’ve worked with and recommend:

www.wordsforhirellc.com : Karen Swim
www.aaronhoos.com : Aaron Hoos
www.northernlightspress.ca : Louise Edgerton
www.menwithpens.ca : A big team

To work with them (or with any writer you find through Guru, Elance, Twitter, or Google), get in touch and tell them about your project. Visit their websites, ask to see samples, and consider trying them out on one small project (like just one issue of your ezine). When you get the work back from them, decide how much work it will take to get it ready to send. If it requires little or no editing from you and it sounds like you, then you’ve found yourself a writer. If their work just doesn’t sound like you or it requires a lot of changes, you might need to keep looking. The right writer is out there for you, just might have to try on 20 to find the one!

Summary
Ezines can be a great business builder but they can also seem like a lot of work (if you’re not prepared). Deadlines are relentless so put together a realistic plan for your ezine and make sure that you go into ezine publishing fully prepared with pre-written content (if possible) and a plan to stay ahead of the deadlines! Then, write the ezines yourself or share the load with a writer who can provide you with good content that supports your brand and captures your “voice”.

Heather Recommends:

I love working with coaches, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to help them become more successful. If you'd like to improve your business, find out how I can help.

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