One of the hardest parts about building a product and launching it to the world is that it takes so much time. Getting started is hard enough, but the next steps can be a nightmare to implement.
Research. Drafting. Editing. Graphic design.
There’s a lot on that checklist to tick off, so to speed things along and make your job a little easier, I’ve gathered 21 of my best content creation productivity hacks into one easy to read eBook.
In the following pages, you’ll find nearly two dozen tips for getting your product completed and to the market faster without sacrificing quality.
Enjoy and keep your eyes out for more productivity and content creation hacks in your inbox and on the blog.
Use Evernote to Organize Research
Evernote is a perfect tool for a content creator. It’s available on every possible platform you might use, it syncs automatically, and it can capture anything – from PDFs to snippets of text in a blog post.
Every Evernote account looks different – yours should be no different to match your habits – but there are some standards (and a few good hacks) in books like Evernote Essentials by AUTHOR.
It’s loaded with tips on how to setup a capture system, manage it, and keep it organized for research and much more.
Store All of Your Outlines in a Single Folder
Many content developers, if they bother to create an outline, will toss it aside when done, or write over the top of it in the draft of their product.
A few years ago, I started saving all of my outlines in a single folder where I could see them later. This was especially useful when writing about topics in the same niche, or if I needed to jump start a project with a clever idea for a new chapter.
The sixth time someone asked me to write a book about everyday weight loss tips, this came in very handy.
It also helps you create a habit and put greater value on the outlines you generate as an actual deliverable – the more time you spend on your outline, the better the finished product will be.
Use Day One to Jot Down Product Ideas Constantly
To me, journaling is a must. There’s something therapeutic about jotting down your thoughts about a project, making note when you complete something especially time consuming, and ensuring you have a record of what you’ve done.
Evernote can offer the same functionality, but I prefer a more journal-specific layout. This has waffled back and forth between a handwritten notebook (a moleskine most often) or DayOne, a $5 journaling app for the Mac and iOS.
Whether you prefer to type your thoughts or write them out by hand, integrate some form of journaling into your day, even if it’s just bullets of what you did and the challenges you faced (and overcame).
Join Industry Forums and ASK People What They’d Buy
One of the biggest challenges of writing an info product is that you either don’t know the niche as well as some other people or you know it so well that you have no idea what information people would be willing to buy from you.
So instead of spending three weeks writing the draft for a product you’re not quite sure someone will purchase, join industry-specific forums and ask people what they would be interested in.
Join conversations, look for common questions, look for key pain points that people bring up over and over again, and just plain listen.
Heck, you can even ask people what they would buy if you were to write it.
This basic step can save you weeks of hard work and ensure your product is more in line with what your target customers are actually interested in.
Buy Some of Your Research Materials and Build a Library
If you plan on writing about a topic more than once or if you are a freelance writer and suspect that the topic will come up again, buy your research materials.
Yes, you could probably find everything you need online in some form or another, but having a physical copy that you can reference whenever you need a new idea or want to clarify something, and that you can write in with a pen, is a big boon here.
Even from outlining to writing a draft, you are likely to forget some things or want to quote a passage you read a few days ago.
And having those books in your library will create a feeling of expertise in you that permeates your work. By taking the actions of an expert, you’ll start to feel like one, and the work you do will be that much better because of it.
Write Notes in Books with a Pen to Find Ideas Later
This is such a good one that I’m going to mention it again.
The human mind works better in tandem with visual cues, creating memories and building new ideas from them. Typing doesn’t provide that kind of tactile feedback, no matter how much faster it might be.
Whether you do this in a separate notebook or you write directly in the books (which I prefer to do), actually writing out your thoughts is a surefire way to create a stronger, deeper connection with the material and start forming more advanced ideas, sometimes even without actively doing it.
Record Short Videos Whenever You Have an Idea
This is a quick and easy one that I started doing three years ago when I switched to a Macbook. These days, any laptop, phone or tablet allows you to do the same, though, so it’s a universal tip.
Whenever you have an idea, instead of writing it down, take 30-45 seconds and record yourself describing it. This works so well for many reasons.
To start you can feel and see your own enthusiasm in the idea when you watch them back later. Second, some of these videos can actually make good micro blog posts or YouTube content. You don’t need a big long script and carefully produced videos to start publishing – just good ideas and a platform.
I’d say 1 in every 5 videos is actually worth sharing, but if you do this a dozen times a week, that’s two new videos a week and a TON of new ideas to work with.
Write a Blog or Record a Video Regularly – These Become Products
A blog is a powerful platform building tool, but it is also an incredibly useful resource for developing new content.
Look at Darren Rowse, Derek Halpern, or Seth Godin. All of them have released products that are extended or even just collected editions of their blog posts.
Those micro posts and feature length pieces are just as strong as a full length eBook or course – clean them up, add some additional detail and resources, and launch them as standalone pieces and they will work that much better for what you are trying to do.
When it comes to blogging, though, don’t think with a product in mind. Try to solve problems your audience has within the space provided. The same goes for video.
And be consistent. Write once a week on the same day, every week and you’ll get better results than posting on random days every now and then.
Use the Twenty Minute Rule to Focus On One Task at a Time
When I talk about the twenty minute rule, most people understand the core reasoning. Set aside a certain amount of time every day to focus on a single task and you’ll get it done much faster.
That is very much true, but I want to take a step further – and when I started doing this I started getting so much more done.
Here’s how it started.
I was writing a book for a client about productivity and one section was about getting into “the zone” and how if you ever find yourself there, drop all else and keep working until you’re out of it. The amount of work you get done while “in the zone” is so much greater than when you’re not that it’s worth dropping your other responsibilities (when possible) to keep working.
But it happens rarely. I wondered how to create that zone experience so I started timing myself, and without fail, every morning when I started working, I wouldn’t hit that “stream of work” mode until I’d been at any one task for at least twenty minutes.
From there on, I would start setting aside twenty minute blocks of time, even when a task would only take 5 minutes, I’d block it with like tasks and work for at least twenty minutes at a time on those tasks.
The idea is that by pushing past the initial disinterest or exhaustion, you’ll hit your stride by the 20 minute point and either get some real work done in that 20 minute period or keep going.
Try it – you’ll see what I mean.
Reuse Sections from Previous Books with Some Rewriting
If you’re a freelance writer, this does NOT apply to you. Never reuse content from one of your other projects, even if you’re just rewriting – super dangerous.
For everyone else, if you’re creating your own products, this is not only an option, it’s HIGHLY recommended.
Creating content from scratch is hard. It takes a long time and finding the right angle to talk about a subject can be exhausting. So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with rehashing your own ideas in a new format.
For example, the contents of this eBook were originally in another as a list of tips. I expanded it for this product and didn’t have to create a new list. The same is true of the last page about the twenty minute rule – I wrote a blog post about that a couple of years ago.
Don’t get lazy and start copy-pasting your content, but don’t feel like you need to reinvent the wheel every time you create a new product. It’s exhausting and unnecessary.
Spin Out Sections from Longer Products to Create Bonuses
One of my favorite clients was Mark Ling. I worked with Mark for more than five years and in that time, I learned a LOT about Internet marketing and building an information product business just by watching how he invested his time and money, and the integrity he put into his products.
One of the things he would often do, and that I have long since emulated, is to spin out sections of a larger product as bonus content. Again, this isn’t about reusing content or copy-pasting it into a new format.
It’s about taking the one or two most interesting and most valuable parts of your core product and creating smaller, free bonuses around them, or expanding on them in certain ways that supplement the main product.
This can be in the form of an app, a software tool on a website, the resources that the main product says you will need (his AffiloJetPack product provided over 100 free articles and 500 free emails to those creating their first affiliate sites).
This kind of content adds value, yes, but more importantly, it SUPPORTS the core message of your product and helps people to succeed.
At the end of the day, if you help people succeed, the money YOU are going to make will come with it.
Crossover Between Products to Create Synergy
Writing a new eBook from scratch is exhausting. It’s also time consuming and risky if you’re jumping into a new niche every time you do it. Why spend all that time doing research in a new niche that you’ve ALREADY mastered?
Instead of pumping a ton of energy into a new product, use what you’ve already created as a foundation and look for synergy between it and other, newer products.
There’s a risk in diversification, not because multiple markets are a bad thing, but because splitting your expertise in too many directions can water it down. Worse, it can keep you from ever truly becoming an expert at anything.
For a freelance writer, jumping around is a must, but even with paychecks on the line there were plenty of topics I avoided for my entire tenure in this industry. Things I knew I didn’t have time to learn anything about, and because of that I became known for certain kinds of writing – making money online, online gaming, weight loss, self help, and dating being the core niches I wrote the bulk of my products in.
Spend At Least 10 Minutes EVERY DAY Writing Something, Even When Not Building a New Product
There was a time in my life when I used to write 10,000 words per day…on AVERAGE. I would sit down for 8 hours a day and just write. Eighty percent of it was for clients and I made a very good living writing from 7am-3pm every single day.
Back then, it wasn’t hard to motivate myself to write. I was already doing it – heck writing something that I enjoyed and that wasn’t for a client was a treat.
But when I started my own agency and later took a job in Manhattan with a larger marketing agency, that time dwindled. There were weeks at a time when I didn’t write anything at all, so when I did it was a lot harder than I remembered.
It took longer, the quality wasn’t as high, and I felt like I was constantly struggling against writer’s block.
That only lasted for a few months, because I quickly realized I needed to keep my writer’s mind sharp.
The same goes for any kind of content creation. Videos, podcasts, articles, blogs, eBooks – if you don’t produce content consistently, you risk getting rusty and the entire act becomes that much harder to start back up.
So spend at least 10 minutes a day writing SOMETHING.
A blog is an extremely useful tool for this reason alone – it keeps you on point.
Reward Yourself Whenever Finishing a Product
One of the primary reasons people quit when developing new products is that they don’t get the immediate rush of satisfaction they expect when it’s done.
Simply finishing an infoproduct is only half the battle. It still needs to be launched and marketed, and even then, it might not succeed. There’s always a risk in this industry – otherwise I’d be a millionaire many times over by now (I’m not).
What I am, however, is a seasoned writer who has seen the launches of more than 250 products in his career. And while some of those launches crashed and burned, their developers came back to me for the next product and again and again.
They did so because they know the quality of the product, while incredibly important, doesn’t necessarily make or break a product. And the really good marketers – they’d always hit a homerun at some point, by refining and learning from mistakes.
The point of all this is that, if you are looking for instant validation and positive feedback upon finishing your eBook, you could be disappointed. So instead, reward yourself in a different way.
Create an incentive to reward yourself when that book is done. A conference you want to go to, free time to spend playing a video game, a day at the beach – whatever will push you to not only finish, but want to do it again.
Creating a habit through positive feedback will allow you to find greater success day after day in this industry.
Practice Creating MVPs to Streamline Your Thoughts
We’re on number 15 right now and I haven’t mentioned MVP’s yet – some of you are probably wondering why, especially if you’ve read The Lean Startup. The hot trend right now is the minimum viable product – the barebones version of what you can sell to your target market.
I absolutely agree with (and practice) this philosophy. A minimum viable product allows you to test your ideas, get feedback faster, and finish a product quickly (overcoming that long and arduous creation hump).
But there’s a reason I put this one later in the list. Part of the problem with the MVP solution is that people use it as an excuse to do less work. A product still needs to be VIABLE for it to be a successful MVP.
And that gets overlooked because all of these business experts tell you that you can launch a product before it’s even done.
Whatever you create, make sure it is complete in THAT iteration. It should solve a specific problem and offer value in the form in which you launch it.
That said, MVP development offers an opportunity to start streamlining your thoughts and building an oeuvre of products. Maybe the first couple don’t sell right away – but because the turnaround is so short, you can keep building and keep testing. It’s the fastest and often times most gratifying way to build your business if you plan on launching info products.
For more on this, read The Lean Startup. See the end of this guide for a full reading list of books that hit on this and other topics we’re discussing.
After Launching a Product, Go Through and Remove Everything Not Needed to See What the Bare Basics Were
Consider this a sort of post-op exam of the product after it’s successful been launched. All too often, a failed product is just that – a failure, and a successful product is something to celebrate.
But the only way to get better and to learn from failures (and successes) is to dissect what you did, what worked in what you did, and more importantly what did not.
That’s why, after I finish a product, and after it has launched (whether I launched it or someone else did), I’ll read back through and, based on the feedback I get from my audience, I’ll rip it apart.
I’ll remove every sentence, word, and paragraph that wasn’t needed, paring it down to the bare basics – the four or five key points that people tell me were the most powerful in the book.
I then ask myself “why” I wrote the rest. Did I have preconceptions about the needs of my audience? Was I trying to extend the length? Was I just plain wrong?
This exercise helps me refine what I know about a niche and helps me build better products in the future.
Create a Video and Audio Version of Your Product
Quite possibly the easiest way to upgrade your product, make a few extra sales, and iterate to the next level is to reproduce your existing product in a new format.
Audio recordings are one of the most effective ways to justify a higher pricing tier – they take time and have high perceived value, but if you record them yourself, it’s relatively easy to do.
Video is a bit more work, but it can lead to an entirely new product – complete with tutorials of things you only previously touched on.
If you’re not sure about either, download something free link Jing and test the recording process in advance – it’s fast and easy and it allows you to see what your screencasts would look like without spending $300 on Camtasia.
Bring on a Partner to Build a Cohesive Voice You Can Share
Even if you’re the most motivated person in the world, there will be days when you just can’t get yourself up and to the keyboard. Whether you’re worn out from negative feedback, can’t see the end of a long project, or just ran out of energy, it happens to the best of us.
But it happens a lot less often when you have a partner there to help drive you. Two people feed off of each other, especially if they are at the same level of ambition and drive.
In these partnerships, you can build a more cohesive, shared voice as well, and that means more products delivered at a higher overall quality.
If you don’t have someone in mind already, consider a Mastermind Group. Warrior Forum has a networking forum for anyone seeking a group in their area, or you can be more direct and look for a JV in their JV section.
If your business is more formalized or larger in scope, sites like FounderDating are also very effective platforms for finding people who match your expectations and desires in a new business.
Exercise Right Before Writing to Open Your Synapses
If you want your mind to help you out, treat your body well. That means spending a few minutes every day exercising, ideally right before you start writing.
When I started dating my wife, my schedule was turned upside down. She worked as a deli manager, which meant she was awake at 4am every day and in bed by 9pm. So I started shifting my schedule. Previously I had worked 10am-6pm (sometimes later) – I was single and worked at home, and very much enjoyed having that freedom.
But spending 1-2 hours with my girlfriend wasn’t ideal, so I started waking up earlier.
And I realized in doing so that I was extremely effective early in the day. When I was at my desk by 7am, I would get 90% of my work done before noon every day. It was fantastic.
But actually waking up that early was extremely hard. So I started exercising, rolling out of bed and jogging for 15 minutes before I sat down to write. I woke me up, helped me sleep better that night, and I became even MORE efficient with what I did write.
There are a dozen scientific reasons why exercise helps you to write more efficiently, but for me it’s the results that matter – treat your body well and your mind will benefit.
Avoid Coffee and Alcohol If Possible to Speed Up Thinking
We’re a nation of addicts – whether it’s coffee in the morning or alcohol after work, we’re either up or we’re down.
Don’t get me wrong – I love a good cup of coffee and beer is one of my few vices – but both make me less efficient.
With coffee there are a few factors. First, I don’t sleep as well when I drink coffee regularly, and I can’t get moving when I have a caffeine addiction. I didn’t drink coffee for 5 years during the period I was starting my business – I’ve since gone back to that and the results are telling.
As for alcohol, this one’s a no brainer. It’s a downer and slows mental capacities. Of course a glass of wine every now and then doesn’t hurt anyone, but it needs to be in severe moderation, and never before you try to get some work done.
One last thing on this front. Both of these are diuretics, which means less hydration and a greater chance of dehydration. Want to have a hard time writing? Get dehydrated and try to stay in a good mood while working. It’s not easy.
Don’t Be Afraid to Work Aimlessly
I have a habit of over planning. I want everything to be mapped out in advance so I can be as efficient as possible. It can paralyze me at times and it slows down progress, especially if I’m afraid of failing due to lack of planning.
To combat this, I maintain an 80/20 rule with my work time. On any given day, I strive to spend 80% of my time producing and working towards predefined goals and a maximum of 20% of my time planning and developing new goals.
Otherwise, I fall into a habit of refining and reworking my goals over and over again.
It’s incredibly inefficient and can be a huge waste of time if I’m not careful – worse, it will wear me out on any one goal because I spend far too much time working it through in my mind.
So if you’re not sure what to do next, work aimlessly. Pick a topic at random and work on it until you have a better idea. If you don’t have a better idea, your random topic may just be worth the time you invested into it.
One caveat here – direct research is not planning time. It’s hard work and if you have a plan in place for how to carry out your research, it’s worth doing.