The 12-months challenge that helps you become a content creator.
How much time does it take to become a successful content creator — this is the next one million dollar question. But nobody can give you an answer.
Content creation has become one of the most fascinating and researched jobs in the last few years. But having success as a content creator requires much more than simple luck.
There will always be the lucky viral creator whose first video made a million views. But if you rely on that, your passion is already doomed because luck is beatable.
If you work for a long time, its influence decreases, beaten by the effect of your content. So instead of focusing on how to become a successful content creator, you should only focus on the creation process.
Why ignoring success can make you successful?
Success is counterintuitive.
It fills you with expectations and never shows up on time. So instead of obsessing about it, just let it go.
Becoming a content creator is easier than you think — you only need to focus on three prerequisites:
- Create content.
- Share it with others.
- And repeat the process.
Yet many aspiring bloggers and video makers give up because of the struggles, uncertainty, and failures they face during their first year. So here is a guide that helps you focus on specific topics in your first 12 months of work. Hoping that, in this way, you can avoid most of the errors inexperienced creators make and focus on the right things.
Here is how to become a content creator in one year.
Month 1 — Set up and create a content strategy.
When trying to become a content creator, it is not always clear how to start. And many questions are pounding in your head:
- Is it better to buy a domain first and then start blogging? Or is it better to write on a well-established platform and then transfer the audience to my private space?
- Should I write in-depth scripts for my videos or talk freely following a bullet point list?
- Do I need to share my content on all the available social media platforms, or pick one and stick with it?
And many other more.
But for your first month, you can only focus on two things: pick a friendly platform and create a simple content strategy.
1. Pick a friendly platform.
First, you need to pick the best platform for your content. Usually, the best choice is the one you use more frequently because you already know how it works and which are its trends. So you can use this knowledge to build an audience faster.
But you can also pick a platform you don’t know that much if you think it might fit your content better. It will take you more time to understand how content creators exploit it, but it is worth the investment.
Once you pick a platform for your content, you can limit yourself to studying it during your first month. So make an account, consume as much content as possible, and take notes.
2. Create a simple content strategy.
Second, you need to create a content strategy. And in the first month of your new career, it doesn’t need to be anything sophisticated. You just need to pick one or two topics you would like to talk about and follow two types of people:
- Relevant content creators that reached success talking about those topics. From them, you can learn which approach works best, when to publish your content and how to promote it.
- Beginner content creators that only have a few followers. From them, you can learn which strategies work on a smaller audience. But also how to build connections and interact with your future customers.
- Start with topics you understand.
- Ignore short-term success, and aim for long-term returns.
- Don’t invest too much in accessories.
Month 2 — Create your first posts.
In the second month of your content creation career, you can create and share your first posts. So pick a publishing ratio, like one article or video per week, and create content with consistency.
Your motivation will swing at high frequencies if this is your first time. For this reason, keep your attention on the following focus points.
a. Choose publication schedules that align with your skill.
If you have never written an article before, writing two per week may be too much. And since you want to avoid failures during the first weeks, start with a simple schedule, and increase it only if you are not struggling.
b. Research ideas for new content.
In the beginning, creating fresh content every week might become stressful. So search for content ideas from other creators, and try to explain the same topics with your style.
c. Keep creating.
Keep creating. Make it a habit. Do it every day, even multiple times, if you feel like it. And if you don’t, force yourself to do it at least once per day.
- Don’t compare your statistics with other people. You just started. Give yourself time to grow.
- Keep exercising. You are preparing for a marathon that could last for most of your life. You want to get there prepared.
- Ignore originality and focus on the craft. For example, you can construct a writing style by copying other people’s work (without publishing it).
Month 3 — Create a content calendar.
After experiencing free writing for a month, you can create your first content calendar.
Having a calendar helps your audience understand your schedule and create an expectation. But it also makes you align with your strategy and refine your niche.
So before creating one, you need to make a few choices:
- Which is the audience you are addressing? And, if there are multiple ones, on which days will you address each of them?
- Which content types are you writing, and when will they come out?
- Which systems will you use to schedule your posts? Usually, content creation platforms already have a scheduling system, but not every social network has one. For Twitter, for example, you may want to use software like Buffer. For Facebook, you can use the Facebook Creator Studio.
Also, it is better to create two types of content calendars.
The Overview Calendar
The first calendar contains an overview of the topics to discuss and their average period. For example, you may want to focus on goal setting and evaluation because many people search for those topics at the end of the year.
The Monthly Calendar
The second calendar is a precise schedule of the content you want to create and the publication day. Usually, it covers a shorter period, like a month, and helps you organize better.
- Don’t overstuff your calendar. Your time is limited, and you can only do so much.
- Whatever happens, you need to deliver the promised content. So if you need one more day to finish your piece, drop everything else and make sure you publish.
- Schedule at least one free day a week. Your creativity needs to reframe. And if you can’t stop working, schedule easy tasks, like reviewing comments or interacting on socials.
Month 4 — Set up a subscription model.
Subscriptions are everything — this is the most important lesson I learned from Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi.
People can follow you for many reasons. Maybe they loved one of your pieces, all of them, or they only need attention. You can’t know if you will still have that follow in two days, and you have no further information about it.
But when people subscribe to your newsletter, for example, they give you much more information on what they like and dislike. They allow you to build a deeper level of relationship through their email inbox, which is a powerful tool to have as a content creator.
The platform you choose for your content may fail tomorrow, and the audience you built there will be gone forever. But if you grew a newsletter, you can save at least part of that audience.
Also, most online sales pass through email marketing nowadays. And you can’t ignore this revenue system if you want to become a content creator.
So here are three steps to create a basic subscription model from scratch.
How to create your subscription model in 3 steps
1 — Offer exclusive extra content for your subscribers.
You can get emails from your audience in many ways. But offering exclusive content is still the most efficient one.
It could be a short ebook, an infographic, a printable template, or anything else.
For example, in my newsletter, I offer people printable templates that connect with my articles and which they can use to improve their productivity and motivation. But that’s not enough. I also engage with them by offering monthly challenges for content creators and tips on how to improve their craft.
2— Write an efficient Call To Action (CTA).
Competing to catch the attention of an average online user is challenging. And your only chance is your Call to Action.
So if you want your audience to know your offer, you need to create a catchy CTA that attracts and convinces people to give you their emails. For example, you need to use strong words that drive action or CTAs that trigger emotions and needs in the reader. And don’t worry if your first try is awful. You will improve it with time.
3 — Make this content your priority.
If you fail somebody online, they will not give you a second chance.
So once you create a subscription model and commit to your subscribers, keep your promise. Make this content your top priority, and give people the reward they deserve for believing in you.
- You don’t need a domain to create a subscription model — many free services for email marketing are available. From my experience, the best ones are Mailchimp, Hubspot, and ConvertKit. But some platforms, like Medium and Quora, even give you their internal systems to gather emails.
Month 5 — Build a social media strategy.
Social promotion is one of the fundamental abilities of a successful content creator.
What’s the point of creating content nobody will read?
So every time you publish a piece of content, make sure to promote it as much as you can.
Usually, it is better to start with one social media platform because you need to build an audience there as you did for your content. So make sure to study the platform and understand its trends, how people use it, and which value they provide to the audience.
Twitter, for example, is a great social media for promotional purposes. But if you only promote your posts without adding any other value, the algorithm will penalize you. And people won’t follow somebody that only publishes links to other platforms.
As for your content, build a social media strategy that keeps tracking the posts, their efficiency, and how many you should publish daily. Also, keep a low promotional-over-original content ratio.
- Don’t focus on too many platforms at once. You can try two, but it is better to start with one.
- Promoting your content doesn’t mean copying slices of it. Edit it until it fits the target social network. Otherwise, you will not reach many people.
- At this moment, you will probably use too many tools to create your content. Therefore, organize them for the best efficiency possible.
Month 6 — Use SEO.
SEO is a set of rules that helps your content reach a broader audience through search engines like Google or Bing. And even if you can ignore it for the first months, if you want to become a content creator, you need to start reading about its best practices.
In the sixth month, you can focus on two main tasks:
- Write good SEO headlines to show the values you are providing with your content.
- Research keywords to find uncovered or high search volumes topics in your niche.
- Don’t underestimate the power of SEO. Optimizing your content for search engines is the first step towards high discoverability.
- Make it natural. If you force SEO in your content, your audience will find it unreal and not resonate with your values. So avoid filling your content with keywords.
Month 7 — Optimize your strategies.
One of the fundamental traits of a successful content creator is adaptability. And if you want to become one, you need to learn how to optimize your strategies and give up what is not working for something different.
Every six months, you can review your work to understand what succeeded and what you should stop doing. And the best way to have instant feedback is to split all your content into three lists:
- The first list contains content that is working. Here, you can put your best performing pieces or even promotional posts with many interactions.
- The second list contains content you still think can work but needs some refinements. Often, this list includes topics similar to the first list, but for some reason, they didn’t work. Maybe because the title is not catchy enough, your SEO strategy needs a review, or your social promotion didn’t work that well.
- The third list contains content that is not working. Usually, you will fill it with pieces with too much creativity but insufficient or inappropriate value for the audience. Or, sometimes, even content that does not trigger the interest of your audience.
So once you analyze these three lists, you can decide what you should continue doing, what you should drop, and what you can still try to do.
- Most content creators never improve because they don’t know what to keep or drop. They never change their strategy because of pride, and they will fail. Don’t be one of those creators.
- Usually, if your strategy does not work for six months, it is time to change something and see if you can solve any issues. You can always turn back to your initial habits in the worst-case scenario.
Month 8 — Create a performance review system.
Optimizing a strategy means changing up the core tasks of your work and trying to solve problems that prevent your posts from succeeding. But since online posts take longer to rank in search engines, you can’t change your plan each month.
For this reason, you need a performance review system for shorter feedback on your work. So, each month, you can optimize some of the tasks you are neglecting.
The best way to have a meaningful report is by rating your performance on a template. And based on your inputs, the template should give you positive or negative feedback. For example, for blogging, I use the following template.
Also, there will be months in which you may underperform on each of your tasks, but that doesn’t mean you are a horrible content creator. Sometimes, the pressure is too much, and you need to escape it. But until you come back, do not worry.
- Positive feedback doesn’t mean you can neglect one of your tasks to give more time to another. On the contrary, if something works, keep making it work.
Month 9 — Repurpose your content.
In the ninth month, you will not run out of content (I hope). But it is time to exploit some of the posts that performed best and use them to create similar content with fresh ideas.
Repurposing content means discussing old ideas in a renewed way. And you can do it both for your content and promotional posts.
So make a list of your best-performing article — you should already have one from two months before — and find new ways of talking about the same topics.
Why does repurposing content work?
Repurposing content works for four main reasons:
- It gives you more content to publish with a high chance of success.
- It gives you credibility because you can show off how much you know about a topic.
- Different stories attract different parts of the same niche. So if you want to expand your audience, you need to write about various topics.
- It improves creative thinking because it forces you to find new connections between topics you already discussed.
Yet, you don’t want to base your strategy on these posts. You can split the content into 80% fresh and 20% repurposed. But don’t exceed with repurposed content, or it will stall your business.
Also, the audience won’t be happy if you keep talking about the same things. So try to contain it.
- You can repurpose both content and social media posts. Over time, new people will follow you, but they can’t know about your previous work, so keep promoting it.
- There are many guides on how to repurpose content online. So before making any mistakes, check them out.
Month 10 — Expand your reach.
You can’t know if you want to become a content creator until you experience the freedom of this job. So in the tenth month, you may want to expand your reach by working on other platforms or promoting your work on other social networks.
You can spread your main content by copying it on many platforms and setting canonical links. But for social media, you can’t duplicate posts and expect good results.
Each social network has its power and format, so learn how to exploit them before creating useless content.
For example, if you have never made a graphic, don’t try Pinterest because you heard people built businesses with it. And don’t exclude unconventional social media like Reddit. Although they may seem hard to master, they may attract part of your niche.
Also, you can try out platforms that gather data for their customers, like Deepstash, Mix, Squid, or Feedly. Make a small investment there, and see how it goes.
- Since this is an experimental phase, do not lose your time on challenging platforms. Give yourself one to three months to understand their potential, and leave them if you cannot gain traction. You can always turn back later.
- Value automation over everything else. If you want to scale up your business, find software or services to automate most of it.
Month 11 — Make premium content.
Once you master the basics, you need to monetize your work to become a content creator. And there are many ways you can do that.
Since you are building a mailing list, you already have some subscribers. So you can experiment with them first. But you don’t want to act like a sellout, or they will unsubscribe.
Also, you can use your work to grow your email list. As I said before, premium work is the best way to convince people to subscribe when you gift it. And there are so many types of premium content you can make it is impossible not to find anything suitable for your current situation.
You can offer ebooks, research, surveys, executive guides, infographics, printable templates, webinars, online courses, and case study newsletters. The possibilities are infinite.
- Premium content is your principal income source, so give it more attention.
- Once you have premium content, talk about it in your posts. Create specific CTAs and hook your audience with them.
Month 12 — Final review.
In the last month of your path, you can decide if you still want to become a content creator. And if so, which are the goals for the following year?
How will you find more time, or more efficient systems, to work on your passion and transform it into a job?
With the system described above, you can decide if your strategy needs some improvement or if you are doing great. But most of all, you want to define realistic goals to conquer your dreams.
- In your evaluation, exclude anomalies. So if a post went viral, but it is the only one, don’t build your entire strategy on it. Virality is something you can pursue but not something you can control. And removing those singularities from your final review is the best choice.
- You can replicate the same 12-months strategy also for your second year. With the advantage that you already have a structure to follow, you only need to improve it.
Becoming a content creator is no easy job. You need to work on many things and avoid the common errors that could make you fail. But this does not mean you are less of a creator if you cannot do everything I listed.
Content creation is a job that suits creativity. And it may take you more time to achieve what others accomplished in one year. Or you may find other ways to become successful without following this guide.
But whatever you do, make sure to enjoy the process. You will learn so many things on your path. And even if you decide content creation is not for you, it will be an experience you will never forget.
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