Last week I shared about planning for maternity leave (or a sabbatical) as a creative entrepreneur. The post featured 11 things I did in advance to prepare to take a 3-4 month maternity leave with my first baby boy (who could be here any day now!). But one of the key elements to that planning was pre-creating content so my business didn’t just fall silent while out of the office.
Because so many of my clients come from engaging with the content & education I share, I knew that I wanted to maintain connecting with my audience through maternity leave, even if I wasn’t actively writing the content every week & engaging live. Instead, I started brainstorming what it would look like to create 4 months worth of content to have prepared before I popped up that autoresponder. Truthfully, I was worried about the idea. I’m so used to being actively engaged in my business & brand, that pre-planning that far in advance just isn’t like me… but the more I sat down to it, I realized that there really were three options:
So number 1 it was!
I began with an action plan to tackling 4 months of content ahead of time – namely blog & newsletter content. I did decide I’d keep my Instagram to sharing live, as that is just how I roll… and I knew there would be plenty of baby posts I’d want to share once Baby C arrives!
If you’re looking to take a maternity leave or a sabbatical & are ready to knock out content ahead of time, here is my process for you!
How long will you be out? If you’ll be out for 2 months, I recommend starting 2-3 months before you’ll be out of office. Giving yourself ample time is key here. For example, I shared a bit here, but because I’d be taking 4 months off, I began creating content 4 months prior to my maternity leave starting. Stepping out in November meant beginning content creation in July – starting with content mapping (more below!) & then kicking off weekly writing & scheduling. By starting ahead of time the equal length of time I’d be out, I was able to write 2 blog posts/newsletters per week instead of 1. Initially, it was overwhelming to think of HOW much I needed to accomplish, but once I passed 2 weeks of writing, I had already tackled the next month’s content. To give you an idea, now it’s currently the first week of September while I’m writing this draft, and I’m already writing for November. Just 2 blogs/newsletters per week can really snowball & get great momentum! Just start, and I guarantee it gets easier!
Ok, I know so many of you all are paper planner people. But hear me out on this one… go digital for this portion! Start with my free Content Creation Calendar Template. (Note: Click File > Make a Copy to start editing your own calendar). Type out every date you want to publish content on for your planning period. Open up your real calendar (this can be your paper planner! 😉 ) and note on the “Important Events” column any specific events or dates you want to incorporate into your calendar. For example: if part of your brand incorporates chocolate chip cookies, you might note when National Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is (May 15 in case you’re wondering). Additionally, this is when you could incorporate dates/events that would guide your topics & themes like:
There are two ways to go about building out the topics of your content calendar. First, you can theme each month based on your cornerstone content – think of this as the content & topics you want to be known for… the things you are an expert in. Themes are best used in the months/weeks leading up to launches. Example: if you’re launching a course for wedding planners to get backend business savvy, you might incorporate a theme surrounding your best business tools & tips in the months leading up to the launch. This allows people to get to know you FOR that topic & associate you as the expert. On the flipside, during seasons where you’re building awareness & getting eyes on your content, you can incorporate content into your calendar related to any of your cornerstone content and from any of your brand buckets. Learn how to craft a content creation goldmine with these tips! When you’re slating your content for your time away, pull from the inspiration & ideas that you’ve been stockpiling in your spreadsheet for months. I literally have hundreds of blog post ideas & questions to answer/elaborate on in my content spreadsheet! When you have a list of options, it’s easy to fill in the calendar the rest of the way. One thing to note: make sure you’re including a variety of content: from education, to inspiration, to entertainment, to relationship building, to direct selling. Incorporating a variety of writing & content styles gives people a refresher with something new each week or month, depending how often you’re publishing content.
One more tip for slating your content is this: don’t reinvent the wheel… repurpose it. Did you create something months (YEARS?) ago that was a success that could be repurposed, elaborated on, or restructured now to be refreshed content for your audience? Or maybe even majority of your audience didn’t even see said content because it was used in such a small capacity? Add that to your content calendar and reuse it. I believe it was my friend/client Shannan Monson who once told me: “If content hasn’t been used 10 times in different ways, it hasn’t been used enough.” Truth – so don’t be ashamed to repurpose & rework… most people probably won’t even remember it from the first time around anyway.
List out 5-10 friends & peers who you love & respect. Draft up an email & invite them to contribute a guest post to your blog. These experts can fill in the spots where you’d love to include a fresh perspective or something different for your audience that you might not be able to offer. And know that when they head out for an extended period of time, maternity leave, or sabbatical, you can & should return the favor! Plus, it’s such a great opportunity on both sides to gain new eyes on your brand from other similar audiences.
Put it on your calendar… otherwise it feels daunting. Give yourself 1 or 2 time slots each week where you’ll churn out the content. I like to batch the content for each topic, instead of doing ALL blog posts and then ALL newsletters. There is no sense in refreshing your memory every time about what your content was on if you can go ahead and let the snowball effect do the work for you. Once you’ve already written for one platform, it’s simple to repurpose for another!
What are your 3 main content platforms? (Example: Blog, newsletter, Instagram for yours truly!). Remember, you DON’T have to create content for every single platform. Better to do a few well than all of them not so well. Ron Swanson has a great quote on this.
I recommend starting with your Primary Platform – where your audience engages the most with you or you’re looking to build your brand the most. 1. Get out that first draft. This doesn’t have to be pretty or fancy or perfectly worded – just get it out. An outline even! 2. Clean up that first draft… finalize & elaborate until it’s how you’d like it. 3. Create content for your Second Platform. Finalize that. 4. You guessed it – create content for your Third Platform. For me specifically, I’ll create Instagram content live, as I like to be able to incorporate more of the day-to-day conversation in the IG content, as well. However, I do have countless images stockpiled in Planoly ready for the using whenever I need them! That means that while I’m not prewriting the captions in advance, I am making it easy on myself to pop in the copy when I’m ready!
Every time you finish a piece of content, note it in your Content Creation Calendar Template. At first, writing 4 months of content ahead of time will seem daunting, and then suddenly, you’ll get in a groove & gain momentum! But only if you plan ahead, slate a content calendar, and stick to your timeline!
Finally, when all is said & done and you’ve successfully achieved the goal of creating months of content in advance, pass off the final touches. If you’re going on maternity leave or sabbatical, hire a VA to ensure that everything goes out as it should. They can do the final checks & reviews for approval before it officially goes live. This ensures that should anything change, or if content needs to be shifted for any reason (example: you have something you just MUST share live & in a time-sensitive manner!), the VA can be responsible for tending to it all.
When content goes live, share about it if you’re still active on social media. And if not, go back to the section before on writing & get your Third Platform content pre-populated! Make it as easy on yourself as possible & then know that if something isn’t exactly right, it. is. OKAY! You’re still creating high quality content that supports your mission as a business, serves others, and sells your services, products, and expertise! And that alone, is a win!!
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by this all… but know that you don’t HAVE to share weekly… whatever you do decide, make a plan & stick to it. The earlier you start, the easier it will be when you are ready to take time off & have peace of mind knowing your audience won’t be left high and dry and your business won’t look like a desert.
How do you pre-plan and pre-write content? I’d love to hear your best tip!