I’ve written before on why blogging is great for freelancers. But I also know several freelancers who are reluctant to start a blog because they doubt their ability to continually come up with fresh content ideas. No matter what stage your blog is at, it’s helpful to have some go-to sources of content inspiration to hand. So whether you’re thinking about starting a blog or an established freelancer looking to shake up your content plan, hopefully this list will come in handy.
Here are 10 places to find new content ideas when you’re not sure what to blog about:
1. Look at the questions people are asking
The great thing about the internet is there are lots of opportunities to find real questions that real people are looking for answers to.
Check out relevant industry forums and get yourself on Quora, if you’re not already on there – it’s an awesome site where anyone can pose a question which anyone can answer, with questions organised into different categories. It’s full of useful information, and a great place to see what type of topics people want to know more about in your field.
2. Find a great video to write about
There are most likely thousands of videos on YouTube and Vimeo that your readers would be interested in, which could form the basis of a great blog post. Share a few of the key takeaways or your own thoughts on the subject, then embed the video so your readers can watch it in full.
3. Build on your existing content
OK, this is more one for established bloggers, but don’t forget you have a whole archive full of content that shouldn’t be dismissed just because it isn’t the shiny new thing anymore!
For example, if you’ve got several posts on similar topics – say, a number of recipes that would be ideal for brunch, you could round them up into a new post called: 10 delicious brunch ideas. Alternatively, you could share your top 10 blog posts of the year, your favourite posts of all time, the most memorable quotes from interviews you’ve published… you get the idea!
4. Write a response to another post
If you read something that really speaks to you, why not write a post in response offering your own insights and experiences on the subject. If you link to the original article, the author may even share your post with their own audience.
5. Study your analytics
If you’re blogging for business purposes, Google Analytics is your new best friend. It’s a powerful (and free) tool that gives you all sorts of useful information about who’s reading your content, which content is attracting the most visitors, how people are finding your posts (via search engines, Twitter etc) and a whole lot more that can help inform your editorial strategy.
For example, while your content strategy will depend on your goals for your space, if one of your posts is performing well and getting good engagement on social media, then it’s probably worth thinking about other content you could create along similar lines – for example, could that post form part of a new series?
6. Look at what’s going on in the world
Search Google News for terms relevant to your field and you’ll often find stories that could form the basis of a good blog post. For example, you may find an industry leader has made an insightful comment or prediction, or new legislation is being debated which could affect your industry. Or you might discover an event coming up that you could attend and write about. Whether or not this practice directly inspires blog posts every time, it’s always good to stay on top of news and developments in your field.
As well as looking at topical events, also look at what’s trending in the world. You don’t necessarily want to follow the crowd, but it can still be enlightening to see what people are sharing and talking about online. There are some great resources for doing this in this post on the Buffer blog, including Twitter trends and Buzzsumo (where you enter a keyword and it brings up the most shared articles around that topic).
7. Use constraints to approach a subject in a fresh way
If you’re struggling to come up with new content ideas, self-imposed constraints can be a great way to spark creativity. For example, as an exercise, try taking one of your older posts and thinking about how you could cover the same topic from a completely new angle, or in a different format. Or you could try setting yourself a strict deadline or word length. You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with when you set yourself strict limitations.
8. Read something completely unrelated to your field
I love this article on Joss Whedon’s creative process where he talks about the importance of “filling the tanks”. Creating requires a lot of mental energy – that’s why, as much as we might love writing / designing / making music, we will often procrastinate when it comes down to doing the creative bit, seeking solace in less taxing tasks.
It’s only natural then, that if you’re continually drawing on your creativity, you have to stop and recharge once in a while. In the article mentioned above, Joss talks about how he takes breaks from creating specifically to “refill the tanks”. During this time, he’ll try and consume as much creative material as possible, from a wide range of different sources.
For example, he shares how he came up with the idea for Firefly after reading The Killer Angels, a detailed account of the Battle of Gettysburg, which gave him the idea to create a series that was part Sci-Fi, part Western.
9. Ask your readers what they want
Of course, one of the best ways to come up with new content ideas and create stuff your readers will love is to ask them what they want to know or would be most interested in reading / listening to from you, either on social media, in a dedicated post or in an annual reader survey.
For example, blogger Gala Darling recently put out an open call on Facebook asking her readers to pose her questions, then answered some of the best ones in this blog post.
10. Go out and do stuff
And finally, one of the best ways to make sure you never run out of new content ideas is to go out and do things you can blog about! It sounds obvious I know, but sometimes when we’re caught up with everything that goes into managing an online space, as well as potentially juggling a day job / freelance clients / a family, it can be hard to tear yourself away from your desk or find time to get out into the big wide world.
But if you’re stuck in a rut that’s often the best thing you can do for yourself. Trying to force creativity doesn’t usually work, whereas taking a break and doing something else can leave you feeling inspired and renewed, as well as giving your unconscious mind time to chew things over and come up with great new ideas.
And that’s it for now! Before you go, tell me: what are your go-to sources of inspiration when you’re putting together your content plan or not sure what to blog about? I’d love to hear in the comments below…