Back when I first started my business, having an editorial calendar was really not a part of my whole content marketing strategy. I simply posted whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without much forethought or reasoning behind it!
After I’d been publishing blog posts for a few months, I started to get into somewhat of a rhythm. My posts would go out every week at 6am on Mondays, and I also tried to do a weekly newsletter on Thursdays.
But, let’s be honest — that’s still not really much of a plan!
And it’s certainly not an actual editorial calendar. I needed to get my shiz together!
The worst part is that I wouldn’t even do any planning of my posts at all. One time I talked to a biz bestie of mine, and she was shocked that my process for writing blog posts was simply to….write them. And then publish them.
No editing process, no outline, no anything!
What the heck was I thinking?! I could not expect to have an effective online presence if I wasn’t be strategic about my content.
Well, to be honest — even years later, I still don’t do outlines (there’s always something to work on!). But I do have a super awesome editorial calendar that I can’t wait to share with you!
How to Create a Super Effective Editorial Calendar
While I’m calling this an editorial calendar, it’s actually really more of a content calendar, since it includes overarching themes and even what my newsletter topics will be!
When I originally created the calendar, I tried a few different options out first before I stuck with one method. And now I’ve been using this method consistently since 2016. (So you know that it really works!)
Choosing a Style of Calendar
This is such a personal decision, and there are so many options out there!
Are you a paper planner girl? Or maybe you LOVE Google Calendar?
Any type of organizational tool can work for this. I even know some people who use Trello and Asana as editorial calendars!
When it comes to how I like to organize things, I’m totally a spreadsheet girl. I do use other tools for other purposes (duh — I love Asana!). But for my editorial calendar? Spreadsheet all the way!
I have a editorial calendar template in Google Sheets that I use for this, and I pretty much always keep the tab open on my computer. (Although since it’s Google Sheets, you can also access it from your phone, or someone else’s computer if you need to!)
Back when I wasn’t that organized about my content, I used Google Calendar. But eventually I realized that I wanted to include more information than it was allowing me to, and everything was getting way too cluttered.
So it was time to upgrade to a spreadsheet! (And boy, am I glad that I did.)
Planning Your Calendar
The first step is to decide how far in advance you want to plan this baby out.
It’s totally up to you how you want to set it up. Personally, the way I use my editorial calendar template is that I plan a whole year in advance!
This is especially helpful if you know you have some type of event or launch way in advance, and want to make sure to leave room for sharing content specific to that on certain dates.
Although I have my editorial calendar template open for the whole year at once, I don’t input the whole thing at once. I actually tried doing that before, but I didn’t like it.
Without fail, a few months after planning everything out in advance, I would decide to go a different direction with my content and then would have to totally re-do it. Ugh!
So, I have the space to add future posts way in advance if I want to, but typically I only officially plan out 1 quarter at a time. (I create a recurring task in my Asana to remind me to do this!)
If you’re having trouble deciding how far out in advance you want to plan, I recommend basing it on how often you post. Do you have unique content going out every single day? Maybe do 1 month at a time? Or if you only do 1 piece of content a month, 6-12 months might make more sense for you.
Making Use of Overarching Themes
There are a couple different ways you can use themes in your editorial calendar.
One popular way (I used to do this!) is to have each month/week/quarter/year be related to a single topic. So, for example, you could have Instagram month, and all your content would be about that one topic.
Now, I’ve switched it up a little bit and tend to kind of alternate and have a bit more variety. I have several different themes that I frequently post about. So I just try to make sure my content fits in one of those themes. These correspond with the different blog post categories on my website.
As a reader, you probably won’t even really notice when someone is using themes in their editorial calendar — but, behind the scenes, I really enjoy how easy it is to organize everything when you force yourself to think about it in terms of themes and not just “what do I want to talk about?”
Staying within these themes also helps me stay on-brand. I don’t get way off topic talking about things that don’t relate to my business and my clients. I could spend a lot of space writing about my cats (Sam and Ellie!) and dog (Hannah!) but if I stray too far and never relate back to my readers, I am not going to keep your interest. That’s why I talk about my personal interests within the confines of my themes.
But at the same time, adding themes into your editorial calendar certainly isn’t necessary! If you’re someone who does better writing on the fly, or if you focus a lot on current events, this sort of thing wouldn’t be best for you. (You can just remove that piece from the editorial calendar template!).
If you are a lifestyle blogger, working in “seasons” could actually create a very effective editorial calendar for you, as you could write posts based on the relevant holidays or certain times of the year. For instance: “back to school” or “spring fashion.”
As you can tell, your editorial calendar is going to be based off your business, which can vary from person to person.
Nailing Down the Nitty Gritty
Once you’ve decided the main aspects of your calendar, it’s time to input the smaller details, like the actual specific things you will be posting about, and what days your newsletter sends out.
Here’s an up-close look at what types of details I like to include in my editorial calendar.
I’ve organized it so that, at a glance, I can immediately see:
- Which days blog posts are going out
- Which days newsletters are going out
- How many guest posts I have that month
- How many blog posts still need to be written (I highlight things in gray when they are completed)
There’s also information included about what types and how many content upgrades I’m sending out each month, and whether or not I have guest posts that I’m writing for other people’s blogs (that’s what the “location” column is for).
It’s really a one-stop shop for all of my content! I love using this editorial calendar template so, so much.
An Effective Editorial Calendar Helps with Guest Posting!
One of my favorite benefits of this editorial calendar is how much it helps me secure guest posters for my blog.
I get quite a few guest post submissions (head over here to submit your own!), and it used to be a little overwhelming and hard to remember what was going on before I had this handy spreadsheet.
Now, when I get a submission and approve it, I can instantly see what dates I have available for that post (based on topic and general availability). Super handy!
It even reminds me to submit my own guest posts out when I look at it and don’t see any on tap for the upcoming month.
Related: Accepting Guest Posts: How to Create an Easy System
All around, having this editorial calendar template in my life has been a HUGE timesaver and productivity helper.
Now, I’m getting blog posts written weeks (if not months!) in advance. So I don’t have to be rushing last-minute on a Sunday night to get something published in the morning. And that’s a good thing.
Download my editorial template and get your shiz together, too!