Where to Start? Start With Your Content
There is something that many of the creative people I know have a problem with, including myself. We have a tendency to procrastinate the more “difficult” creative work that needs to be done with other creative work that also needs to be done. That’s the problem with creative work: it arguably all needs to be done... and which part of the creative process should come first isn’t always obvious. It’s also debatable, since creatives generally establish their own order of doing things based on what works the best for them.
With all this uncertainty in play, it’s no surprise that one of the questions I get asked most often is where to start. And as creatives, we may all give different answers to that question... but I think there is one answer that will always work, no matter what you want to start.
Start with Your Content
Content is one of those things that is ironically easy to procrastinate. It is at the absolute core of everything you are doing, but the prevalence of other things that need to get done (that may be quicker, less intellectually demanding, or just “more fun”) make content easy to ignore. While it’s good to break the habit of procrastinating on content creation early, it’s also necessary when you’re first getting started. Because defining your niche, name, brand, mission, categories or even design (or whatever else you might have heard you are supposed to do first) is going to be difficult if you don’t even know what you’re creating yet.
So start with your content.
Start with post ideas: write down potential post titles, outlines, paragraphs, or even sentences. You don’t need to spend time turning every idea into a complete post, just get as many as you can down on paper. Some will automatically expand into complete posts. Some won’t... and that’s fine. Figuring out the topics you would like to write about in theory – but may not actually want to write about in practice – is just as important as figuring out the topics you do enjoy writing about.
Although I’m using the word “write” for simplicity, this also applies to other content mediums. For example: if you want to be a photographer, you need start by taking pictures of things that look interesting to you. Because it is difficult to learn how to edit your work, decide how you want to market your work and build a brand around your work... until you start creating some work.
Define Your Mission and Categories
One of the problems with the idea of finding your passion and then making it your career is that it is difficult to determine what field you may be passionate about if you have never worked in many (or any) of the fields available to you. This same problem applies to trying to decide what topics you want to focus on and categories of content you want to create... before you’ve ever created any content in the first place.
Starting with your content first makes categorizing your content much easier.
Use the content you’ve brainstormed, drafted and completed to decide what it is you want to create overall. What do the posts and paragraphs you’ve written have in common? What do those post titles and sentences you can’t seem to make into a complete post have in common? What are you trying to say, and who are you saying it to (who are you trying to help)?
While categories make your content easier to navigate at some level of volume, they are less important when you are first starting than you might think. It may take some time after you launch to decide how your content should best be categorized... and that’s fine. Don’t let a lack of defined categories prevent you from launching (after all, this site doesn’t have any content categories yet… but we can still create and share content). As far as a mission statement or about page is concerned, you should have something available explaining what you are doing to readers or followers on the day of your launch, but this initial description doesn’t have to be permanent. As your content and overall brand changes and grows, your mission and about page can (and should) also change and grow.
Decide on Your Design and Branding
Generally, design and branding are the first things that people ask me about when they want to launch a new project. However, just as your mission or about page and your categories or topics will be difficult to define before you’ve created any content... the name of your project and the overall design aesthetic will also be difficult to determine if you try to start with this step first.
For a lot of us, design is one of the fun parts of the process... which makes it a dangerous procrastination tool. Once you have the type of content you want to create defined, even if it isn’t formally categorized, give yourself some time to play around with themes and templates that fit that content. However, once you’ve finalized a design and launched, commit to sticking with that design for at least the first few months. It’s far too easy to log into your site to create content, and instead waste hours going through every single font possibility under the sun for the 10th time.
Ultimately, projects that start with a focus on content have a better chance of being successful long term.
If you do the work up front to decide what type of content you want to create, you’ve saved yourself from realizing you don’t really love creating the content in that niche that you may have thought sounded interesting or unique at first.
At the end of the day, being able to consistently create authentic content - and enjoying the process of creating that content - is the most important factor in whether or not a project will be successful.
So start with your content... and everything else will fall into place.