Tell me if any of these scenarios sound familiar:
- You sit down in front of a blank page to write a new blog post. You make a start, but you’re not sure where to go next.
- You often find yourself completely rewriting your draft posts because they just don’t seem to work.
- After publishing a post, you rush around fixing all the little things you missed – the “read more” tag you left out, the featured image you forgot to resize, and the “further reading” suggestions you didn’t turn into hyperlinks like you intended.
- Writing and publishing posts always seems to take longer than you expected.
- You can’t imagine taking on an assistant because it would take so long to train them how to do everything you need them to do.
If you’re like most bloggers, at least some of those things probably happen every week.
The good news is there are a couple of easy ways to solve all these problems: templates and checklists.
Templates and checklists are used by the biggest blogs out there. (At ProBlogger and Digital Photography School they’re essential to the smooth running of the blogs).
If you’re worried that using a template or checklist might stifle your creativity, look at it this way: maybe you could be more creative if you had enough structure in place so you can focus on writing your post instead of everything else.
Templates vs Checklists
Templates are great tools for helping you produce a particular piece of content. For instance, you might have:
- A template for your typical blog posts: You might have a feature image, a short introduction, three to five main points, and a call to action at the end.
- A template for creating branded images on your blog: You can set this up in your image editing program of choice and use it again and again, dropping in a new image and adding new text as appropriate.
- A template for replying to certain types of email enquiry. If you need to respond to would-be guest posters, potential advertisers, or even readers asking common questions, it can really help to use a template rather than having to type out a fresh reply from scratch.
- A template for your email newsletter. Your email service provider probably has plenty of built-in templates you can choose from, so this might be something you already have in place. But if you find it difficult to fill out particular sections, you may want to make some additional notes on their structure.
Checklists give you a series of things to check you’ve completed when undertaking a particular task. For instance, you might have:
- A checklist for publishing a blog post: This could include things such as giving the post a category, scheduling it at the right time (e.g. “10am Wednesday”) and quickly previewing it to make sure everything looks correct. You can see an example of the CoSchedule checklist we use in this post.
- A checklist for sending out your email newsletter: This may include things such as sending it to yourself first, making sure the links all work, and double-checking you’re sending it to the right list.
- A checklist for launching a new product: This might be quite a long checklist, and one you don’t use very frequently. But don’t let that put you off creating it. Product launches involve a lot of moving pieces, and you don’t want to miss something important (or end up stressing out more than necessary).
- A checklist for editing and uploading your podcast episodes. This is the sort of task you could easily hand off to an assistant. So creating a checklist now might make handing it over much easier in the future.
I’m going to walk you through two very useful resources you can create for yourself: a template for writing your blog posts and a checklist for publishing them.
Creating a Blog Post Template
A very simple blog post template might look like this:
- Main body
To make your template useful, though, you’ll probably want to make it a bit more detailed than that.
For instance, your template might look like this:
- Feature image
- Pose a question to the reader (e.g. “How often do you find yourself going to bed later than you meant to?”)
- Write a few short paragraphs that lead into the post
- Three to five main points, each with a subheading
- Each point has a “Further reading” or “tip” suggestion at the end, immediately before the subheading for the next point
- Sum up the post in two or three sentences
- Prompt the reader to take action (e.g. “leave a comment to tell us…” or “for more help with this, check out my book on…”)
Your ideal template might look quite different from this. For instance, perhaps you want to have part or all of your introduction before the feature image, or maybe you want to write short posts that have just one or two key points and a very short conclusion.
Have a go at coming up with your own template for your posts. Don’t worry about making it “perfect”. Templates and checklists are living documents that can be tweaked and perfected over time.
You might want to have several varieties of template for different types of post. You could also choose another blogger’s post and break it down into an outline, then use that as the basis for a template.
Creating a Blog Post Publishing Checklist
Once you start using checklists, you’ll find they make your life so much easier. It doesn’t take any longer to glance over a checklist than to call up your mental “checklist” in your head. In fact, you’ll probably find it’s quicker to use the checklist as you won’t be struggling to remember everything.
Many blogs use checklists for common, repeated administrative tasks. And one great task to pick for your first checklist is publishing a blog post.
Here’s how your checklist might look:
- Copy the edited post into the WordPress editor
- Add a featured image
- Include a “read more” tag at an appropriate point (if appropriate for your blog’s theme)
- Set an appropriate category for the post
- Set the post’s permalink
- Preview the post and check that it looks as expected
- Check all links are working correctly
- Schedule the post for 10am Wednesday
Of course, you may have different tasks you want to include on your checklist. Perhaps you’ll publish the post straight away and then schedule a tweet about it.
Your checklist may well change over time. Perhaps there’s a task you want to add that you hadn’t originally thought of, or maybe you find a new way of doing something.
Having this type of checklist makes it much easier to work with an assistant, if that’s something you choose to do in the future. You can simply give them the checklist and ask them to work through it for each post, rather than trusting them to remember a long list of instructions you gave them over the phone.
Templates and Checklists for You to Try Out Today
As well as creating your own templates and checklists, you can use ready-made ones. Don’t feel you have to use them exactly as they were created. You can always tweak or modify them to suit your blog.
Here are some great ones to start off with.
Template and checklists (among many more resources) available in our (FREE) Ultimate Guide to Start a Blog Course. Sign up or log in to directly access the checklists below.
- Is a Blog Right for You checklist
- Choosing Your Blogging Niche checklist
- Blog Launch checklist
- Setting up Your Blog’s Email List checklist
Template and checklists (among many more resources) available in our (paid) 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Course. Sign up or login to directly access the checklists below.
- Editorial Calendar template
- Social Media Schedule template
- Publishing Process checklist
- SMART Blogging Goals template
Templates and checklists take a bit of up-front time to create, or to modify to your exact needs. But once you have them, you can use them again and again to save time (and stress).
I’d love to hear how you use templates and/or checklists. Do you use any on your blog? How have they helped you? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters