I’m frequently asked how long it takes to write a blog post. And I always say, it depends on how long you want it to be and what you want it to say.
If you’re writing from personal opinion like I am now, or you’re an expert on a topic, it will be far quicker than if you’re writing an authoritative piece on behalf of someone else or a company.
That said, it still takes longer than you think.
However, delve a little deeper and the stats show that writers who spend over six hours are more successful than those who spend less than four.
“It takes a ton of time to create a post that’s legitimately unique, useful and worth sharing.”
And I agree.
Having trained as a journalist and written for The Guardian, it was drummed into me early on that copy has to be newsworthy, accurate and unique.
It’s also unforgivable to not do background research before writing a story. In the internet age, you’ll be quickly found out if you’ve got something wrong and you'll lose any audience trust you once had.
So, let’s take a look at the stages of writing a credible blog post.
Stage 1: Research
Time: 1 hour +
No matter what topic I’m writing about, I always begin with research starting with the most credible forms of media – such as The BBC, Wired, New York Times, and The FT to get an overview of the current trends.
Finally, but not exclusively, I read opinion pieces from other industry experts before forming a narrative in my mind.
Top tip: Write down the key trends, names of experts, and create a list of useful URLs to refer back to at a later stage.
Stage 2: Interview an expert
Time: 1 hour +
Once I know what the trends are, I interview my client’s expert on the topic.
I always send my questions in advance, so they have time to prepare and form their own their unique views on the subject.
It’s a more efficient use of my clients’ precious time if they come to the meeting prepared. Plus, it means we can get straight into the nitty gritty and avoid the umms and ahhs.
All my interviews are recorded so I can transcribe what the interviewee says for verbatim and can be reminded of context when I’m writing my first draft.
(I used to transcribe all my interviews. But now use UK Transcription Service if I need the text to be 100 per cent accurate and I’m on a tight deadline. Alternatively, I use an automated transcription service called Otter.ai. It gets most of the words right, most of the time – but still you need to re-listen to some parts of the interview again as it guesses some of the audio!).
Top tip: If you ask your questions in the right order, it makes writing so much easier.
Stage 3: Building the blog post
Time: 3 hours +
This stage of the process is like a puzzle. I know I have all the right pieces of information in front of me, but I need to put them together, in a way that fits.
The journalist in me always begins with – what’s the latest or what’s the most unique?
I want to pique the reader’s interest - perhaps the expert has an opinion that’s controversial or the client wants to say something new. If so, the intro will start with that. If not, what’s on-trend.
Then I’ll build the narrative – What do I want the piece to say? Want the reader to take-away? What are the key messages? The SEO keywords and phrases?
The most successful content is broken up into useful bite-sized, scannable pieces – listicles, how-tos, and step-by-steps are a popular way to do this.
Next, I’ll go back over the information and grab pieces of text and put them into an order: most important, most commonly asked, most interesting, most newsworthy goes first before supporting each with evidence, such as a quote or stat. This gives the piece its structure.
Writing the headline comes after this. In newspapers, headlines are written by the sub editors – experts in their field. They read the text, find the best angle and then craft the headline.
Top tip: If you write your headline first, it will constrain the content of your text.
Stage 4: Creating the flow
Time: 1 hour +
By now I know what I want the piece to say and have the information in the right place. I just need to hone the flow, the language, and the tone of voice.
Do I want it to be chatty or authoritative? Is the piece going to an American audience or UK?
And it’s here that I try to simplify complicated language (which experts love to use) and spot repetition.
Our minds can get stuck on using the same words and phrases and you’ll find these'll pepper the text without you realising.
Top tip: Refine the words and be honest with yourself, can you rewrite the sentence/paragraph in another way?
Stage 5: Taking a break
Time: 30 minutes +
I always need take a break midway through the process. I completely distract myself with a practical task or watch something that takes my mind off the topic.
Since lockdown began, there’s always someone in the house to talk to, a wash to put on, a snack to make or a dishwasher to unload!
Top tip: Whilst on your break, don’t consciously think about the blog, your subconscious is already working hard behind the scenes!
Stage 6: The edit
Time: 2 hours +
Back at my desk, and with a fresh pair of eyes, I’ll read and reread the text.
I’ll finish sentences that I’ve abandoned mid-way – ones I where didn’t know what to say or how to say it. Somehow in the break, my mind will have come up with a solution.
I'll look for errors, repetition, mistakes, text order. Sense checking. Tense checking. Fact checking. Cross referencing.
Questioning: Does the text reflect what’s promised in the headline? Does it include all the key messages?
Top tip: Read the text aloud to find the clunky parts.
Stage 7: Adding the nuts and bolts
Time: 45 minutes +
When I’m happy with the flow, and have double-checked the quotes are verbatim and in context, I’ll put the copy (in this case) into WordPress.
Now I’ll add links where I’ve referenced research or quoted an expert (which takes longer than you think!). Where possible, I’ll source images or embed video.
Top tip: Add a Call To Action (CTA) at the end – guide the reader and tell them to what you'd like them to do next.
Stage 8: Send for copy and wait for approval
Time: 45 minutes +
In a blog like this, I am both the writer and editor. It’s my company, my blog, my neck on the line. I need to please myself. Once I’m happy, I’ll do a final proofread and then publish.
For a client, this is the moment they get to see my interpretation of their thoughts on the page.
Have I understood what their product does? Have I used the correct terms? Can they see any errors? Can they add/enhance the text by coming up with another point they’d not thought of before?
Amending the copy is a collaborative process.
Clients will suggest new sentences or ask for specific points to be incorporated within the text. These will alter the tone and affect the flow.
However, it's my job to think of how to weave the new words into the text, so they make sense and are written in the same style as the copy.
Top tip: Number one rule of writing: Don’t be precious about your words.
Stage 9: Check and check again
Time: 15 minutes +
Before publishing, I always check the text and check it again.
In my old Guardian days this was done by my colleagues. On deadline nights, we trawled through mocked-up pages tasked with finding mistakes. Despite copy going through three rigorous rounds of editing; typos and errors still made it through!
On one occasion, I was summoned to the Corrections editor’s desk as I’d spelt a former Israeli Prime Minister’s name incorrectly. The paper had to publish an apology.
I went to my editor in floods of tears embarrassed and remorseful. Kind and forgiving, he told me this funny story:
He'd interviewed a hedge fund manager named Hugh Pie. Written and filed his copy.
During subbing process one of the subs shouted over – ‘is this guy really called Hugh Pie?’ ‘Yeah’, he responded. The pages were proofread by a further two people and went to press.
The next morning, my editor scanned his article and saw the glaring typo. He’d inadvertently called the hedge fund manager ‘Huge Pie’. The funny part is, Huge Pie never called in to complain!
Top tip: Typos and mistakes happen. So, when you spot them, correct them. Apologise if they’ve inadvertently offended anyone. Move on.
Total time: Approximately 10 hours
Asking how long it takes to write a blog is like asking ‘how long is a piece of string?’ Some are faster to write than others! Ultimately, they're never as simple or as quick to write as they are to read.
Expert in your field? Know what you want to say but no time to say it? Get in touch with us today and we can help you release your inner voice.