A client asked how much time I spend on content creation, and I was feeling type-ey (this Corsair K70 RGB MK.2 Low Profile Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is still feeling great to work on!), and so I answered at length. He said it was fine to share the question and response with y’all:
Can I ask you, how many hours/days per week do you try to spend on content creation (total of all kinds - books, emails, courses, podcasts)? And how many should it be?
Happy to share what this is like for me! The big neon sign caveat is that I have an audience-based business, and I’m either advising people or facilitating group learning experiences. Those are both the kinds of services that work well with a
invest a TON of time in thinking, research, and writing and then monetizing that investment through advisory services or by creating group experiences model. I’m not sure I’d apply this model wholesale to a business that does things for clients, but if the goal is to move more towards more profitable advisory services (as I know yours is), then there’s something relevant in how I approach content creation. If I’m not doing consulting work (which I’m not, most of the time; my main focus now is TEI, my workshops, and writing a book), then I spend 9.5 hours/week interacting with clients on scheduled calls. 180m for TEI, 180m for 1:1 coaching, 180m for workshops, and 30m of pro-bono work. Each of those things listed above entails some “administrative overhead” in the form of answering queries on Slack, setting up new workshop cohorts, and the like. Outside of stuff I that leaves a fossil record on my calendar, I don’t formally track how I use my time, so it’s hard to say exactly how much admin overhead my client work entails, but most weeks it’s quite minimal. Maybe a few hours. I waste a colossal amount of time each week getting nothing useful done; doomscrolling Twitter, aimlessly switching between windows on the computer, and so forth. It’s shameful, but that’s the truth. If it turned out to be 10h/week, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. The rest of my working time is available for content creation! And a lot of that additional time is indeed used for content creation. I truly love doing it. The structured content creation right now is 4 emails I send my list each week, and one TEI Talk each week. As you know, I’ve experimented a lot with various approaches to emails. For years I followed an approach I refer to as
cowpaths -> roads, which means following my own interest, even if it’s only loosely coupled to what I believe will create reader/subscriber value (or completely un-coupled from such, as my unsubscribe rate will attest to!). As these cowpaths of interest return again and again to certain topics or questions, the cowpaths become roads, which get turned – as I have time and energy – into things that are more substantial, like books, workshops, and so on. Two-ish years ago, one of the outcomes of this cowpathing was The Expertise Incubator framework. I have long wanted to create a free public curriculum that explains this framework and supports those who want to give it a try. So a while ago I started a talks series – TEI Talks – which was a way of creating a weekly deadline to force myself to create this content. This has had several interesting effects on my content creation. The work I needed to put in to make these weekly talks good made it harder for me to publish daily in the way I was, even with the considerable amount of time I’ve made available for publishing. So, I re-allocated my “publishing budget”. I do these weekly talks on Fridays, and spend a lot of time in the preceding week prepping the outline and slides, and for each talk I try to practice the talk twice before delivering it. My emails are somewhat more formulaic and structured now. I don’t mean formulaic in a bad way… just more that I’m sticking to a formula in the structure of the emails. Monday is a short essay, Tuesday is a list of upcoming events that I want my audience to know about, Wednesday is an answer to a list reader-submitted question, and Thursday is a list of links to cool stuff folks in the audience/community are doing. You might guess that the Tue/Thur emails are less taxing to put together, and you would be right about that. :) The second interesting effect on my content creation is that the talks represent a different medium; they’re speaking rather than writing and this switch in media has had a VERY positive effect on my thinking. It’s forced me to connect disparate threads that were lying about – unconnected and underutilized – and make them into models like this:
(I don’t expect that model to be self-explanatory but it doesn’t have to be! It’s there to support a talk where some of the explanation happens. :) ) This kind of content creation feels to me like it could never be compressed into a timeboxed half-day on a calendar. Parts of the thinking happen while sitting in an Adirondack chair gazing at the desert, parts happen while walking along the trail pictured below, and parts happen literally while giving the TEI Talk during which I wish I had already had this level of clarity. (I’ll prep the best I can for the talk and while I’m delivering it I’ll still get some new insight into the subject of that talk!)
I’m a believer in balancing work and recreation, but my schedule is arranged such that I can do this but appear to be working a lot. Maybe I am! I’m driven by a mission, but I can also go hiking at 2pm a lot of days, and on some of them I do! And on other days, I can be consumed by figuring out a sticky part of a TEI Talk and let that consumption dominate my day. With the book, I’m actually rewriting it from scratch. I just could never find peace with the previous braindump-ey approach, so I’ve let it sit for some months (that’s the fancy way of saying I lost momentum and got distracted with other stuff) and have come up with a new approach that I think is better, and it will literally be easier and probably faster to just rewrite it from scratch. Right now, I’m putting together a detailed outline of the book. I generally write those 4 emails I send each week over the Fri/Sat of the preceding week, and I work on the book outline for an hour or so first thing each weekday. I suppose the TL;DR is that I spend what would be to many folks and would have been to me 5 years ago a shocking amount of time on content production. It’s taken me years to get to the point where the economics of the business can support this much investment in future value creation, but that is indeed how I see the content creation activity: it’s investing in future value that I can monetize down the road. Another way of thinking about this: the content creation is client work, it’s just for clients that haven’t shown up yet and who – because of the content creation work – will be more profitable to serve than if I hadn’t invested in the content. (Yes, I’m trying to help some part of your brain make a case for investing more in content creation. :) ) How much should you invest? I look forward to seeing the outcome of your answer to that! :) -P PS: What are you up to? If you’d like to share a current or completed project that involved growth or risk with my email list, please use this very brief form to do so: https://airtable.com/shrggV8bWtGa2JMxG