A lot of people do not create a content calendar because they have a hard time coming up with so many different content ideas. You might be nodding along saying “yup, Sarah, that’s me!”
But I want you to think about how nice it would be to be able to choose from a vault of pre made content or know exactly what you are going to be talking about on any given day instead of waking up, staring at a blank cursor, getting frustrated and then giving up. Or just slapping a piece of content out into the world for the sake of posting with no greater purpose in mind.
There is a time and place for those random moments, sure. But as a general rule we want our content to be working for us. Not against us.
So let’s talk about how we can plan for things weeks, months, even a year ahead and create content that supports it!
01. LOOK AT YOUR YEAR AT A GLANCE
Life is forever changing and I don’t know about you but planning content an entire year in advance would really stress me out. Typically, I like to just look at my year from a glance when I create a content calendar. Most of the time I would do this towards the end of the year when I am planning for the next year ahead, so depending on when you read this, could depend on how far in advance you are looking.
But whatever month it may be, let’s look at the rest of the year. Maybe that’s only 1 month away or maybe it’s 6 months away. It really doesn’t matter too much because we are just looking at it from a glance.
What promotions am I going to offer, will I offer any new packages? Do I want to add anything new to my current business?
Again, this is only a glance and a general idea so it’s okay for this to change down the road. But it will help you start to map things out better as we dive deeper and deeper into the details.
For example: as a wedding photographer I always looked at my year and knew a few things to be true. November-February is engagement season AKA when the most proposals are happening. And May-October was wedding season.
With that information I knew that I was going to likely be slammed in the month of May and October (those always seemed to be my busiest months). But during the holiday season/right after Valentine’s day, I would go really hard on promoting wedding content because so many couples would be looking to book their vendors in the months of March & April.
02. BREAK DOWN YOUR YEAR INTO 4 QUARTERS
Once I knew what my year as a whole was going to look like, then my next step to create a content calendar is to break it down into 4 quarters.
Q1: January-March / Q2: April-June / Q3: July-September / Q4: October-December
For each quarter I would set goals and milestones that I wanted to achieve based on my year at a glance. These goals can be whatever you want. Everything from finances, to social media milestones, new offers, etc.
Let’s say you wanted to make 6 figures in a year. If you break that down that means you have to have made approximately $25,000 each quarter. Then, you can break that down into months, weeks, even days. I often find that the more you break something down, the less intimidating it feels to achieve.
Or maybe you want to book & photograph 25 weddings next year. That’s roughly 2 weddings each month or 6 weddings each quarter.
Keeping in mind that booking season typically falls right after the holidays are over. So Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 will likely have a heavy focus on wedding planning tips for new brides to be, and generating new leads.
Then, when you step into Quarter 3 where you might be in the thick of a current wedding season, you are probably going to be more focused on serving your current clients and not trying to sell to new ones quite as much. So use that as a time to get a lot of behind the scenes content, create a killer client experience for those who have already said “YES” to you and your main focus may be word of mouth marketing. AKA your clients do the marketing for you!
So once you have quarterly goals written out and a more specific idea of what you want to achieve in those 3 month spans, it’s time to focus on the content that is going to get you there.
03. PLAN OUT MONTHLY CONTENT
When you create a content calendar, focus on 1 quarter at a time. Usually by the 2nd or 3rd month of the quarter is when I would start to plan and create for the next quarter ahead.
There are a few things to consider when it comes to planning out your monthly content. First, you want to be thinking about your content pillars. Then, your overall goal for the quarter. And finally, how you are going to lead your audience closer to that goal.
If my goal as a business owner is to sell 100 of my hand crafted coffee mugs each quarter, then I will create a huge dump list of content ideas that I think will help show people why they should buy those coffee mugs.
Write down your content pillars and below each one, start listing whatever comes to your brain that could be content related to that category. I’ll list a few random general ideas off the top of my head:
- Share testimonials from people who already have and use your coffee mugs AKA social proof
- Show a behind the scenes process of you making the coffee mugs
- Create coffee content in general: recipe ideas, fun coffee drinks to make at home
- Content that reflects the idea customer you are trying to reach
You have to have a good idea of knowing who it is that you are trying to get your content to reach. Saying you want to sell your coffee mugs to anyone and everyone is not specific enough. What kind of person are they?
Before you start plugging things into certain days, having just a master list of content is really helpful because you have something to refer back to. Working backwards when it comes to content planning is really helpful!
04. SERVE, SERVE, SERVE, THEN SELL
People are much more likely to purchase something if they like, know, and trust you. And the only way you are going to generate those feelings for them is by serving them free content 90% of the time and only directly selling to them 10% of the time.
A huge set back for so many business owners is they do not have the patience for the natural flow that this process creates. Sure, you may not make a bunch of money out the gate by doing this, but what you are able to do is create and solidify your brand which establishes a relationship with your ideal customers. This turns them into raving fans that continue to purchase from you down the road and tell all their friends about you.
Your content pillars are what help you build that connection. Talking about your actual business and coffee mugs (aside from directly selling them) shows people the product quality and the process that goes into each mug which makes it appear more valuable. That builds trust.
Creating coffee related content such as recipes, and age specific content makes you seem like a real person. You are going to come off more relatable, and that helps people like and know you.
05. DETERMINE YOUR POSTING SCHEDULE
So now that we have those foundational steps to create a content calendar, how do we tie it all together? First, you need to determine your posting schedule. How often can you realistically post content consistently? If 5 days per week is too much for you, do not make that your goal.
Something is better than nothing, so if you can start small, get into some kind of routine or groove and then add on more from there, that is a much better plan than trying to do too much all at once.
Let’s say your plan is to post 3 days per week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
And since you have 3 content pillars, you want to assign a content pillar to each day of the week.
Now that you have a category assigned to the day of the week, you can go to your master list you created earlier and assign it to that particular day for the week.
Most months have about 4 weeks on average. Which means if you are posting 3 times each week, that is 12 pieces of content you need to create for the month.
You could easily batch work on those over the course of a couple of days and have an entire month done and ready to go.
WHAT’S THE BEST PLACE TO MANAGE A CONTENT CALENDAR?
We have gone over how to break down your year into quarters, months, and even weeks. Creating a posting schedule, and serving over selling. But what is the most efficient way to organize all of this content?
There is no one size fits all since everyone processes things differently and has different needs depending on the type of content, the size of their business and so on.
Here are a few ways that I have created content calendars in the past:
First would be the good ol’ pen and paper. I love to write things down and visualize things and still do this method quite often. However I did find it to be a bit of a struggle when it came to taking my work on the go. I was now having to carry around a notebook everywhere I went to remember what content was supposed to be posted when.
Then I started using Google sheets and Google docs. I actually do still use this to a point in the same way that I used my pen and paper. Just in digital format. This is the platform that I use for creating a quick spreadsheet to plug in my different content ideas into each day so that I have a really good idea at a glance of what is going to get posted on each day of the month.
But the real game changer for me has been Trello. This is the platform I started using to plan, organize, and keep track of all my content.
The best part is that it’s free! Trello allows me to assign pieces of content to certain days, attach images and graphics for each post, write descriptions and create checklists. So I can know what piece of content is happening on what day as well as what needs to be done before I can hit publish.
Over on my Youtube channel is a video that walks you through how I use Trello to create a content calendar. You can watch the video at the link below!
Trello Video: https://youtu.be/yCSYMn-NO6I
When it comes to creating a content calendar there really is no right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing is that it helps you create some kind of plan to keep you accountable and consistent because once you are able to achieve those 2 things, your business is going to flourish.
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I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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