Marketing Yourself #4: How to Preserve Your Sanity By Making a Content Calendar

Hello, folks! Welcome back to my continuing series in which I invite you to learn along with me as I run myself like I would run any other content marketing job. Today’s post is lesson 4. You can find the previous lessons here:

In today’s lesson we’re going to talk about content planning. But before we go any further, I’ll just throw out the usual reminder that if you find this content useful, please do throw me a tip on Ko-fi.

Why should I plan my content ahead of time?

Content planning is important because, as we talked about in the previous lesson, the Hungry Algorithm Beast is always… well. Hungry. Planning your content ahead of time is crucial to making your online marketing efforts sustainable, because having a plan will help you make sure that you’re not sitting at your computer trying desperately to think of something to put out when it’s time to make another post.

Now, because I’ve never believed in lying about when something that is good for you also sucks, I’m going to acknowledge content planning SUCKS. Especially if you don’t have a previously-established rhythm of content. I honestly don’t know a single content marketer who has ever said “oh great, I get to go do content planning now”.

HOWEVER. PLANNING YOUR CONTENT will make your online marketing efforts a million times easier for two reasons:

  1. You won’t have the pressure of having to sit down in front of your computer to pull something out of your ass, because you’ll already know what you’re supposed to create.
  2. Planning your content will let you “work ahead”, which give you the freedom to write off a bad productivity or mental health day. Being creative isn’t just a tap you can turn on and off, especially during a pandemic when we’re all operating at a cognitive deficit. Having a plan will mean you can create content when you’re able to. By the same token, this means that when you’re having a Bad COVID Feelings Day, you can rest and recharge without beating yourself up because you’re not being a good Productive Worker Drone.

So. You know. Put on your Adulting Socks (because let’s face it, no one’s wearing Adulting Pants during COVID) and just get it done.

Actually Making The Plan

Remember all those notes I had you take during the last lesson? Pull out those notes and either find a monthly calendar template for October or fire up Excel and create one. You’re going to fill in the calendar with content that you can commit to producing over the course of the next month, with the goal of spreading it through the month as evenly as possible.

Step 1: are there any notable dates, holidays, or events coming up?

Are there any major holidays celebrated where your target audience lives that you should mention during the month you’re planning? Are there any online conferences or events that would be interesting to your audience? Or anything otherwise pre-scheduled that you want to be able to mention?

Fill that in before you do anything else! And make sure you do some Googling to make sure that there’s not anything you weren’t previously aware of.

Step 2: create a few basic content categories and set a realistic output goal

What are the different types of content you can produce that would be relevant to your audience, where relevance is supported by the research you did in Part 3? And, importantly, how many pieces of each type of content can you realistically commit to being able to produce in one month? Please note, “piece of content” doesn’t have to mean something big! It can be something quite small, like a Twitter thread, or even a shitpost.

Sidebar: If a shitpost is relevant to your brand and relevant to your audience, absolutely plan on making shitposts part of your content schedule. There are companies whose entire social media feeds are 100% shitposts, like the Canadian generic brand No Name, whose Twitter feed is an unparalleled social media masterpiece.

BE. REALISTIC. It is always better to plan small and realize that you are able to create more than it is to plan big and have your marketing efforts crash and burn because you over-commit and burn yourself out.

Depending on what you’re doing, this could look pretty different, but don’t worry. After I lay out the steps, I’ll break down what I’m doing so you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Step 3: evenly distribute your content through the month

Now enter your content categories into your calendar, being sure that for each type of content, evenly distribute your planned items through the month.

Then comes the worst part. DECIDE WHAT TO MAKE AND WRITE IT DOWN. This is the part that’s going to suck. That’s okay. Caffeine up and power through it.

Detailed example: My calendar for September

Sometimes it can be hard to grasp what you’re aiming for without a detailed example, so I’m going to share the calendar that I’m working from right now in creating content for September. (Ignore the different font colors – that’s just reminders for me about what is done at time of writing this post and what I have yet to do.)

Click for larger view; your calendar might not look this dense and that’s okay – start slow!

Step 1: Notable holidays and other relevant occasions. My brand is equal parts: game design, social justice, and queer stuff. So I’ve marked Labor Day, Bisexual Awareness Week, and Bisexual Visibility Day as occasions I want to mark.

Step 2: I’ve got three major types of original content: Marketing Myself posts, Twitter threads/rants, and current project updates. I’ve also added in weekly boosts of old content, because I’ve got a vast trove of old content that’s still relevant – be it blog posts, old Twitter threads, or roleplaying games.

Promoting old content is great because we’re building an audience here and there’s always going to be new folks who weren’t around for old stuff you made. (Just don’t go super crazy with it, or people will get annoyed and tune out.) In my schedule, I’ve got reshares of old content scheduled for once a week, with the pattern being one “thing you can buy” for every two “thing you can read for free”.

Right now, you might not have a large quantity of old material you’re sitting on. That’s okay! Regular content creation will give you a respectable content repository in just a few months.

Step 3: The easiest way for me to schedule things is to assign content types to days of the week. That way when I plan future months, that’s one decision already made. So in my calendar, old content gets shared on Monday, Marketing posts are on Tuesdays, Twitter rants on Wednesdays, and highlights of current projects every other Thursday.

Now, you’ll note that not all of my content types have clear definitions for what I’m going to make. My Marketing Yourself series is clearly defined – with topics broken out by week. Current project highlights are also loosely defined. But Twitter rants and old shit? Well. This is a case of do as I say and not as I do. Normally I’d be working a month ahead, but I didn’t decide I was going to start this experiment of running myself like a content gig until the last week of August, so I’m playing catch-up with myself.

Once you’ve made your content plan, now it’s time for the easy part! Actually making your content.

Stay tuned for next week, where we’ll talk about how to SCHEDULE the content you’ve planned and created so that you have consistent and even content flow.

Marketing Yourself #3: Content Research

Welcome to Lesson 3 in my ongoing series, in which you can follow along with me as I run myself like a Content Marketing job. Previous installments include Lesson 1 – in which I set out the things you need to follow along, and Lesson 2 – setting up your analytics tracking.

In today’s installment, we’re going to learn about… Content research! Because if the first rule of Marketing is: “a marketing plan is worthless without GOALS. And GOALS are meaningless without MEASUREMENTS”, then the second rule is this: “Always START by researching the market and your competitors”.

As always, if you find this content useful, please do throw me a tip on Ko-fi. Marketing degrees aren’t cheap and I’m standing here with my hat out, giving away this information for free.

This one is a bit longer, but I promise it’s all important.

FIRST: Why Do We Need To Do Research?

The ultimate goal of this research is being able to come up with a schedule of content to produce and publish that is relevant to the audience you are looking to capture, because the unfortunate reality of the internet is that you need to publish relevant content consistently over time in order to gain traction with search engines and social media algorithms. (Don’t worry, in future lessons, we’ll talk about ways to giving the Hungry Algorithm Beast a consistent feeding schedule easier and less stressful for you to maintain.)

You need to be able to put out bits of content regularly to keep both audiences and the Hungry Algorithm Beast engaged, and you need to make sure that content is going to land. Which is why… research!

The Things You Need to Research

FIRST: Key Competitors

The first part of any marketing plan is identifying your “key competitors”. In the business world, that would mean the companies that have products or services that are most similar to yours that are in direct competition for the same customers. In the creative world, where the thing you’re marketing yourself, identifying your “key competitors” is more aspirational than competitive. This is because when the thing you’re marketing is yourself, it’s nonsensical to say that one person is “direct competition” for another. (Liking Lizzo doesn’t mean you can’t like Nicki Minaj, even if you feel the world is poorer for her not being in a certain music video.)


Start by identifying who are 3 to 5 people who are established, have large audiences, and do something similar to what you do. Those are your key competitors.

Next, do a deep dive into their public online presence, and take notes.

(Absolutely DO NOT creep their non-public social media, and DO NOT go liking, retweeting, otherwise engaging with all of their content at once. That will probably get you blocked for being creepy, and you would deserve it.)

What do they have on their website? What social media channels are they using? How have they monetized what they are doing? What conversations are they having with their followers on their public online channels?

SECOND: Community Adjacent Influencers

Your key competitors are influencers within your particular community who are directly relevant to the thing you’re doing and the audience that you want to capture, but audiences are made up of people who have multiple interests and are part of many different audiences. So ask yourself, what are some communities that have interests adjacent to the audience that you’re looking to gain traction with? Who are the influencers within those communities who are saying things that are relevant to your audience? And what can you learn from them about reaching out to their communities?

It’s hard to be more specific without concrete examples, so – let’s use me as an example: I’m a queer designer of indie tabletop games, but in building my audience I don’t want to focus on just queer indie tabletop gamers. Adjacent audiences that I would be happy to reach include players of trad games like D&D, video gamers, board gamers, and card gamers. Each of these audiences has ongoing conversations that are distinct to their subcommunity, but most gamers play several different types of games. Reaching out to all those other gamers increases my chances of reaching someone who wants to play what I’m making, or who is willing to promote my game to their friends.

Even then, “gamers” is still too narrow a focus. Widening my scope, I can look at capturing audiences like genre fiction writers and readers, queer activists and advocates, social justice types, and nerd culture afficianados – because the games that I write and make speak directly to the interests of all of those people as well.

So what can I say that will be relevant to all of those people? What content can I create that will be relevant to all of those different audiences?

New Stalker Meme Memes | Creepy Memes, Creepy Stalker Memes, Reddit Memes

Coming up with the answer to that on your own would be an overwhelming or maybe impossible task, which is why we do the research. If I was just starting out in publishing, I would take each of those audiences I defined and find out who the influencers are. What content are they making that connects with the audience I want to reach? What can I learn from them?

TAKE LOTS OF NOTES. And again, don’t be creepy.

LAST: Sources of Community-Relevant News

Talking only about yourself is the best way to make sure your online marketing tanks, so it’s important to not do that. The goal is to get other people to find you interesting enough to promote your work, and people who only talk about themselves are boring.

Keep talking only about yourself It's so interesting - Sarcastic Nicholas  Cage | Make a Meme

This is why you need to curate a list of sources to follow that will give you things you can share that are relevant to the audience you want to capture that aren’t about you.

This one is super easy! Follow all of those accounts now, then check your feed regularly and share anything that seems interesting or relevant. Done!

Important caveat: Make sure that your sources feed will show you stories about people who aren’t white dudes. Include sources by queer and BIMPOC people, okay? More than one or two. Otherwise you are going to cut off queer and BIMPOC folks as a potential audience by publicly never talking about queer and BIMPOC folks.

Once you have done all this, it’s time to move on to actually making a content schedule – which we’ll talk about next week. See you next Tuesday!