I write three product guides per week, each 2,000 to 4,000 words.
This forms the foundation of my monthly income, and it also takes up more time than just about anything else I do project wise.
1,000 words generally takes me an hour, so simple math says the articles should take me about nine hours per week.
But I’m also responsible for creating graphics, finding YouTube videos, editing, formatting, embedding the media, and creating social media posts for each guide. It’s fair to say this takes at least an additional 90 minutes each. That means the three guides take an average of 13.5 hours per week liberally speaking. 15 hours is probably closer to the mark.
I Thought I Was Optimized to the Hilt Already
I’ve maintained a similar schedule for a long time. In fact, with all my other projects, 5,000-word days are often the norm.
So, I’ve had a lot of time to experiment and look at this problem from different angles. There are many known and predictable factors with something like a product guide (more on this in a moment), and it’s gotten to the point where it’s less of a creative challenge and more a matter of just putting the hours in.
I’d looked at all the angles, spent time outlining, created templates, batch processed, and experimented with other tricks and hacks. So, despite the desire to get this work done more efficiently in my weekly schedule, I was already optimized to the hilt.
Or so I thought.
Here’s What I Realized Today…
An article is made up of different parts. It seems kind of obvious, but how often do you think about it?
A product guide is essentially made up of:
List of individual products (usually five to 15)
Shopping tips / FAQ
The parts that tend to move rather quickly are the introduction, shopping tips and FAQs section, and conclusion. In other words, everything other than the list of products, which is the most research and labor intensive, time-consuming part.
So, the Weird Mental Hack I Discovered Was This:
I started telling myself that I was just writing product descriptions. And if I dedicated myself to that task, for all three guides, without worrying about the other parts, I would have 80% of the work done. The remaining 20% of the articles would basically take care of themselves.
So, that’s what I did today. I focused on writing product descriptions, which basically amounts to summarizing what the developer says about them and inserting some personal thoughts into the equation.
Today, in the time that it usually takes me to barely write one full guide (in other words, about 3,000 words), I was able to write nearly 5,000 words. As result, one guide is nearly 80% complete. Another is about 70% complete. The third is started.
Because, as I said, 80% is not about the word count, but rather a matter of whether the product list has been developed in full. The other 20% takes less time and is much easier to write – so, this part is better left to later, when my creative energies are waning, as opposed to when they’re at their height.
Here’s Your Takeaway:
If you live in a create on demand world like I do, then doing your work more efficiently is the difference between finishing your weekly to-do list and not. It’s the difference between earning an extra $200 to $500 per week and not. It’s the difference between falling behind on your tasks and having a head start on next week.
The takeaway, then, is to identify the different parts of an article and to understand which sections take the greatest effort. These are the parts that you want to tackle first. And, if you can look at them through a new lens, it could boost your productivity too.
In my case, instead of looking at each product guide as a self-contained article, I identified the commonalities and began work on the most challenging parts before worrying about the rest. My lens was transformed from “a list of individual products” to “product descriptions.” That changed the way I thought about the guides.
Basically, the top-down approach to writing articles might not be the most efficient method. We know that we’ll need an introduction of some kind. We know that we’ll need a conclusion too. But starting at A and ending at Z might stifle your creativity instead of unleashing it.
And it’s the same thing with any other type of project you might be working on. Anything you do for a long time, even things you enjoy, can become familiar, and as they say, familiarity breeds contempt. You may be at the point where you’re working on the same things you’ve worked on for years, and you might think there’s no room left for optimization.
If you can reframe how you think about it, though, you might be able to squeeze enough efficiency out of your new approach for it to be worthwhile.
I still hold to the notion that your own blog is the best place to put your own content. That said, modern writing platforms offer quite a bit in terms of monetization and exposure. Medium, specifically, has been getting plenty of press in the last few years.
But if you’re just getting on Medium now, you’re probably arriving a little late to the game. Even 2020 and 2021 were tough years to try to build a following, get traffic, and monetize your stories.
So, in this episode of Thought Thursday, I compare Medium to Tealfeed and consider which is the superior blogging platform.
A lot of artists tend to think there are many ways of generating traffic online.
But from a mile high perspective, there are only a few:
Publishing: on your own blog, on social media sites, on other platforms.
Dream 100: guest posts, radio appearances, magazine interviews, etc.
Affiliates: people promoting your product(s) or funnels in exchange for commissions.
Advertising: Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
Author Dan Kennedy goes so far as to say the whole of the internet is just one channel.
Regardless, what does it mean that we only have a few traffic channels we can utilize?
It means that if you aren’t already using each of these channels, you’re missing out on some serious traffic.
Here we’re going to be looking specifically at publishing, and while not every artist should commit to the regular and ongoing publishing of content, there are still opportunities that shouldn’t be ignored.
Your website acts as your Electronic Press Kit (EPK), and at minimum you’re going to need a compelling bio.
But over time, your website can become the absolute authority on everything to do with you, and there’s virtually no excuse not to build it up to that point.
Here are the main opportunities artists tend to miss:
Your lyrics are your intellectual property. For some reason, a lot of artists resist sharing their lyrics on their website. Only god himself knows why. Maybe they’re just lazy.
If you don’t post your lyrics, someone else will (on their websites), without much regard for their accuracy. Lyrics websites are a significant business, and they don’t make their money by posting one artist’s lyrics – they make money by posting lyrics far and wide, from as many artists as they possibly can. That boosts their searchability.
Your website should be the authoritative source for your lyrics, so far as I’m concerned. The traffic may not be significant unless you’re well-known, but that’s not an excuse to lose out on what is rightfully yours.
Your band name, songs you write, EPs and albums you release, and virtually every term specific to your work as an artist or a band is what I would consider a “branded” keyword.
Now, it’s completely understandable that some of your song titles (and maybe even EP or album titles) won’t be entirely unique to you.
Even so, not creating content around your releases is a big mistake. You exercise no control over your own content when you don’t write anything about it on your website.
So, when people search for it, they’ll be brought to Amazon, or Apple Music, or Spotify, where you can’t command attention (because of distractions) or control the message (because there’s a limit to the amount of information these platforms show).
This isn’t terribly professional. Not to mention – you’re missing out on traffic that should be yours (and would be if you just put a little effort into it).
The days of your website being a static business card or brochure are long since gone. Websites are dynamic, living, breathing creatures if done correctly.
Updates pertinent to your music (shows, releases, interviews, etc.) should first and foremost reside on your website (preferably on your blog). The tendency is to push all this to social media, and I’m not saying not to do that. What I’m saying is, updates unique to you should be on your website. Your audience shouldn’t have to go onto social media to find relevant updates (or vice versa).
Publishing to multiple destinations isn’t going to require that much more of your time, and it’s going to help you grow your online portfolio.
You are sending your email subscribers weekly email campaigns, aren’t you?
Most artists are smart enough to know the importance of email, but it’s worth pointing out that this is another key publishing channel.
And while you might not be writing multi-page essays about your last tour stop, you should still be sending out regular updates to your fans.
And even this content can be turned into more down the line (retrospectives, physical newsletters, books, etc.).
You’re Already Doing the Work
And the main takeaway here is to notice how many different places you’re publishing already (even if you think you aren’t).
How much more work would it take to organize your content assets and set your website in order? To ensure you have updates shared on both your website and social media channels? To create a dedicated archive of the work you’ve done, and targeting relevant keywords that are either unique to you, or have a strong association with your brand?
You will not regret the time invested in building out your own platform, because that’s an asset you can hold onto. And entrepreneurs should be building assets.
I write a new piece of content daily. I schedule it to publish at 1 PM PST on my blog. This content is created deliberately, and with intention. It’s usually a small piece that forms a bigger whole long-term. Not everyone knows that or understands why it matters.
What I’ve just described, though, is a structure. And a structure is something you put in place to ensure your success.
This is not a conversation about content though. It’s a conversation about ensuring that you’re consistent in taking the actions that lead you where you want to go. Structure crates consistency.
For instance, you could have a structure built around songwriting. Every Friday, you sit down to write for an hour at 3 PM. After your session’s over, you share a short clip of the song you’ve written on Instagram. That would be a structure.
And what would it help you achieve over the long haul? Maybe not mass fame or fortune. But it could be a piece of the puzzle that helps your music career. Maybe you’d never run out of songs or song ideas again. And maybe your Instagram following would grow, even if gradually. That would be cool, right?
But the reality is this is how most things work. As much as we desire instant gratification, it’s not available much of the time. So, it’s our habits that help create momentum. You can’t expect your career to blow up just because. It probably won’t.
As for the habit of publishing I mentioned earlier, do you know what that helps me do?
Obviously, publishing a 300- to 800-word blog post daily isn’t going to propel me to superstardom. Plenty of people publish amazing content every single day.
You know what it does do though? It helps me write my next book. And a book is far more valuable than a blog post. Small pieces start form the bigger whole. And it doesn’t need to take a fully year. I could have another book in 90 days.
Setting aside time to write songs daily or weekly can help you create your next album. And if you’re consistent, you could have that done in a shorter period than you might think.
Don’t lose sight of the long-term as you’re facing short-term decisions. A small habit could be the snowball that starts rolling down the hill, gains momentum, and turns into an avalanche of success.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.