“A 2016 report by Spera found that more than one-third of millennials are independent workers, a number that is likely to increase. Some researchers even predicted that more than half of all American workers will move into the gig economy within five years.”
I snapped a picture of that statistic from page 77 in the April issue of Southwest: The Magazine just five minutes ago while on a flight home from Texas. While our plane was in line to take off on the runway, I started scanning the magazine in the seatback pocket until we got to 10,000 feet in the air and I could open my computer and begin catching up on my writing. The statistic jumped out to me for obvious reasons—I help people start businesses in this ever-growing “gig economy.” I snapped a picture on my phone to save it for future use.
What use, you might ask? Well, anything really. See, that piece of information isn’t just a flat, one-dimensional statistic. It’s an idea—and ideas are never one-dimensional. They are multi-dimensional and what you can do with them is endless.
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That one statistic can be built out into a blog idea about starting a business in the gig economy. (Which it likely will be.) It can be used in media pitches to give media outlets an angle to bring me on as a guest. (Which my publicist, Elizabeth, and I will try.) It can be a supporting point in a stage talk I give, a graphic on Instagram that I post, or inspiration for a new podcast episode. (All of which might happen as well.) It’s the seed for multiple content ideas.
I’ve written and spoken before about the role of content in your marketing. Marketing is the vehicle that drives sales in your business, and content is the fuel for that marketing. Realizing how important it is, people ask me all of the time how to create content for their business. Coming up with content is one of my natural strengths. I have a running list on my phone right now of over a hundred content ideas. I have ideas faster than I can write or teach them—and I have a team helping me! But coming up with content is also a skill that can be learned, so I want to give you three steps to create content. These can be applied in your marketing regardless of the type of business that you have.
- Be a noticer.
Most of my content comes from life. I just notice things around me. Remember when I wrote about how to find your potential and told the story of the kid on the monkey bars? Someone else might have been on the playground that day and not thought anything of that. I not only noticed it, but I also saw a content opportunity there. There was a life lesson in that 30-second moment.
Pay attention to articles, information, stories, statistics, and news. Any of those might give you inspiration for a content idea. And one of the best places to get content ideas is to pay attention to common questions people ask you. When you create content that answers common questions you receive, you know you’re meeting a need that your audience has.
- Capture it.
Once you’ve got your idea, you need to capture it. This is so important! If it’s 2:00 a.m. and you wake up with an idea, write it down. If you’re at coffee with someone and they ask you a great question that you realize could be a content topic, ask for a moment to pause the conversation and save that idea on a napkin. When you’re on the playground and you see a cool moment between a mother and son on the monkey bars, pull your phone out and make a quick note. If you do not save it, you will not remember it. (And when you make a note, write down enough information so that you know what you’re thinking at the time. I can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve lost because I didn’t understand my own cryptic notes later! I had no idea what I meant or what I was thinking!) Trust me on this one. You’ve got to capture it or it’s gone.
- Build it out.
After you find and capture your idea, you need to build it out. For example, each statistic, story, or question is not a one-dimensional piece of information. It’s an idea with multiple options that can be taken a variety of angles. It’s just a seed, but when you plant it, water it, and give it sunlight, it can grow into something much larger and more beautiful. It’s much more useful to your audience then. Most people enjoy flowers much more than just seeds! It’s your job to take that seed of an idea and turn it into a piece of content that does something for your audience.
These three steps are exactly what I do to create content. For example, here was my thought process this morning when I read the statistic in the magazine:
That’s an interesting statistic. That can be a blog post. I’ll take a picture of it.
I saw something that gave me an idea for an article and I saved it. People ask me all the time how I get content and that’s how I do it. I notice things, save them, and build them out.
Now that’s another content idea!
And now here you are reading this article about how to create content.
Over time and with a little practice, you’ll begin seeing content everywhere. You’ll get in the habit of capturing ideas and building them into something incredibly valuable for your audience. As you get better at this, you’ll begin to see multiple angles for every idea you have. You might even be on a Southwest flight and read a quick statistic, and that statistic turns into a blog post before you have to close your computer during your descent to your destination.
Content is everywhere. You just have to have the eyes to see it, the discipline to save it, and the determination to build it out.