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sustainable content creation workflow

How to Build a Sustainable (And Profitable) Content Creation Workflow

In this article, Matt Giaro shares systems and mental models for maintaining a sustainable content creation workflow.

Jul 20, 2023 8 min readFlow
Photo of Matt Giaro
Matt Giaro

Founder @ Matt Giaro

Being a content creator can be overwhelming.

We all start with the dream of being our own boss and escaping the nine-to-five tyranny. But we end up being the worst boss we’ve ever met.

No vacations. No time off. Always in hustle mode.

That’s why many creators silently burn out. They silently stop posting. They don’t reply to DMs anymore. They disappear. But burnout is taboo. It goes against the four-hour workweek and sipping coconut in a hammock in Thailand narrative.

I know because I've been there.

I recall the days when I bit off more than I could chew, juggling multiple tasks at once, putting in the extra hours, and never saying "no" to a new project. I ended up hating everything I had built for myself. And this experience pushed me to rethink my approach to running my business when creating content.

But why can content creation be so overwhelming? We're told to produce high-quality content to grow our online presence consistently. But, staying on this never-ending content treadmill can often leave us feeling mentally and creatively drained.

This is where a sustainable content creation workflow comes into play.

By ‘sustainable,’ I mean a content creation strategy you can maintain over the long haul. One that keeps you excited about what you're doing without taking a toll on the quality of the output or your well-being. The aim is to strike a balance between productivity and personal fulfillment.

No. The goal is not to make the most amount of racks in the shortest amount of time. The reason is that the business game is an infinite one.

It's an infinite game where the objective is to win and keep playing. The journey is more important than the destination itself. It’s not about making the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time.

It’s about being in the game.

That’s why you need to know how to get through the ups and downs, stay motivated, and keep the wheels of your business turning without burning out.

So what are the strategies for building a content creation workflow that keeps you happy, fulfilled and, most importantly, avoids the burnout trap?

The Three Elements of Creating a Sustainable Workflow: The ABCs

When it comes to crafting a sustainable content creation workflow, I've developed a three-step holistic system.

It makes content creation as simple as "ABC."

Each letter of this acronym represents a crucial aspect of your content strategy:

A: Attract the Right Audience

You could write the best content, show up every day, and create the best courses. Without an audience, your business can't flourish.

However, it's not just about attracting an audience. It's about bringing in the 'right' people—those who’ll really resonate with your message.

At the core of this concept is the principle of '1,000 true fans'. It’s a theory that suggests you don't need millions of customers to succeed but rather a core group of dedicated followers who consistently support your work.

Creating content to attract your loyal followers is the first step in your sustainable content strategy.

B: Build a Relationship with Your Audience

Your followers aren't just numbers on your social media dashboard or rows in a CSV file.

They're real people who crave connection and trust.

This is even more important today due to the rise of Artificial Intelligence and soulless, one-click-generated content.

But now comes the question: How can you build a strong relationship with strangers on the Internet?

The secret is to understand how humans are wired. Take, for example, the "Mere Exposure Effect." A simple bias that stands for the fact that we develop a preference for things merely because we are familiar with them. Nothing else.

That’s why creating content consistently is so important.

By showing up consistently and sharing valuable content, you create a familiar presence in your audience's lives that will inevitably lead to trust.

C: Convert Your Audience into Paying Customers

The ultimate goal of any content strategy is conversion: turning your audience members into paying customers.

By offering something of value, you not only help your audience solve their problems but also create a sustainable income source for your business.

This could involve creating online courses or offering specialized services that leverage your expertise.

But remember: having a valuable offer is only half the battle won.

You must also create a compelling launch strategy to ensure your audience knows what you offer and how it can help them.

Unless your content strategy tackles all three aspects of the ABC framework, you’ll always find yourself running after time.

How to Find the Right Content Publishing Schedule

Many content creators feel immense pressure to "do it all, at the same time."

The hustle culture often leads us to believe that we must be everywhere at once. But let's be real: unless you have a team supporting you, trying to manage every platform and every form of content is mental suicide.

So, how do we avoid this pitfall?

The answer lies in establishing a publishing schedule that suits your capacity and business needs. Your schedule should be designed to facilitate the ABC elements discussed earlier: attract, build, and convert.

For instance, your schedule might include publishing two social media posts daily to attract and build a relationship with your audience.

With this, you might plan to launch a new offer (along with the promo material) every month to convert your audience into customers.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to this.

Your publishing schedule should be tailored to your circumstances, resources, and goals. Not backward. It should allow you to create quality content consistently and, most importantly… have fun doing it!

Practice makes the master

You can create content faster as you become more proficient in creating content and understanding what your audience wants. Practice makes the master. Only at this stage might you consider diversifying the platforms you’re using.

But until then, it's vital to start small and give yourself the space to grow one medium at a time.

When it comes to content creation, consistency trumps quantity.

Mastering Your Mental States for Better, Faster Content Creation

Content creation isn't just about typing words on a flickering screen.

It's a mental process that requires enough bandwidth. When you understand this process and learn to navigate it effectively, you'll find that you can create more high-quality content without spending more time on it.

The key lies in mastering your mental states.

There are four distinct mental states you need to be aware of when it comes to content creation.

They all start with the letter "P": Prepare, Produce, Polish, and Publish.

Once you learn how to tap into these states, you'll gain control over your content creation process and master consistency.

sustainable content creation workflow

Prepare: Cultivate Your Raw Ideas

The first stage is the 'Prepare' stage.

This is the brainstorming stage. It requires divergent thinking. Here's where you generate a wide array of content ideas, especially if you struggle with writer’s block or don’t know what to write about.

It’s not that you don’t have ideas. You simply have them at different times.

The solution is to prepare your content ideas upfront before you start sitting in front of your keyboard.

These ideas often hit when your brain relaxes and turns on the default mode network—when you're in the shower, during a drive, or while walking your dog. When you have these sparks of inspiration, capture them in your favorite note-taking app. This builds a reservoir of content ideas you can draw from when you're ready to create.

This step alone can be a game-changer. It relieves the burden of having to generate new ideas each time you sit down to write.

Produce: Get Your Ideas on Paper

Once you've gathered a library of ideas, the next step is 'Producing.'

This stage involves convergent thinking, taking those broad ideas and narrowing them down into a focused piece of content. It requires focus. The only goal is getting your thoughts down on paper.

It’s easy to try to iron out all your mistakes while creating your first draft. The secret is to refrain from judging your work. Don’t try to correct mistakes or misspellings.

Simply flesh out your ideas and get your ugly first draft on paper.

Polish: The Secret to Great Content

The next state of mind is 'Polishing.

This is where your content truly starts to shine. It requires you to step back from your work, switch on your analytical brain, and refine what you've written.

A common mistake many creators make is attempting to produce and polish simultaneously. This is a recipe for cognitive overload.

What separates the pros from the amateurs is the understanding that these processes require different mental states and should be tackled separately.

The best way is to let your first draft breathe. Never write and edit on the same day.

Publish: Automate to Save Your Sanity

The final stage is 'Publishing.'

This involves getting your content out there on your chosen platforms. It mostly consists of mechanical tasks that don’t require a lot of bandwidth, like scheduling posts.

This is when automation tools like Buffer come into play. Those tools are “mind saving.” Take the time to batch schedule your content in one sitting and forget about it.

By distinguishing these four mental states and dedicating specific time slots to each, you can streamline your content creation process and make it less mentally taxing.

This approach lets you maintain a consistent content schedule, enhance creative output, and prevent burnout. All while growing your business.

Go Weekly, Not Daily: The Power of a Weekly Routine

Understanding the four mental states is just the beginning.

It's crucial to implement a 'batching' strategy to make the most of your content creation process. Batching involves grouping similar tasks that require similar mental states, allowing you to streamline your work process and maximize output.

Now, you might be wondering, why not multitask? After all, juggling multiple tasks seems to be a badge of honor in today's fast-paced world.

However, studies and experts suggest multitasking can reduce productivity and even drop your IQ by 10 percent. When you switch between tasks requiring different mental states, you're forcing your brain to constantly change gears, which can be mentally taxing and counterproductive.

This brings us to the concept of a weekly routine instead of a daily one. A weekly schedule allows you to dedicate specific days to specific mental states, thereby avoiding the mental strain caused by frequent task-switching.

For instance, you could

  • dedicate Mondays to brainstorming and capturing raw content ideas (the Prepare stage)
  • Tuesdays and Wednesdays could be focused on fleshing out these ideas into draft content (the Produce stage)
  • Thursdays could be reserved for refining and polishing these drafts (the Polish stage)
  • Finally, Fridays could be your publishing day, where you schedule your posts and get your content out there (the Publish stage).

This way, each day of your week is focused on one specific mental state. This allows you to dive deep into the corresponding tasks without the cognitive drain caused by multitasking. A weekly routine like this improves your productivity and significantly contributes to maintaining a sustainable content creation workflow that helps prevent burnout.

How to Step Back from Your Business (Without Feeling Guilty)

In our constant pursuit of success and productivity, we often forget a crucial component of a healthy, sustainable workflow: rest.

Ironically, stepping back from our business contributes to our overall productivity and well-being.

Take sleep as an example.

It’s a non-negotiable part of maintaining optimal cognitive function. During sleep, our brain processes information, consolidates memory, and regenerates itself for the next day.

Neglecting sleep in the name of 'hustling' can lead to decreased focus, creativity, and productivity in the long run.

Boredom or simply doing nothing is vital to slowing down our minds in this fast-paced world. It's during these periods of apparent idleness that our brain switches to what's known as the default mode network, which helps with coming up with unique insights and boosting creativity.

Embracing boredom helps you come up with fresh ideas and unique insights.

Did you know that busyness has diminishing returns on creativity? The more hours we put into our work, the more successful we'll be is nothing else than a myth.

So permit yourself to step back. Block out time to rest and be bored. Find a hobby, spend time with loved ones, or simply sit back and watch the world go by.

Being an entrepreneur doesn't mean being 'on' all the time.

A sustainable content creation workflow (and a sustainable business) require balance, including the balance between work and rest.

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