(Originally published November 2017)

Just about every small business owner, freelancer and marketer knows blogging is a critical content marketing tool. But boy, is it hard to stick with it!

The problem is, blogging seems to end up at the bottom of the task list every day because so many other business tasks are higher in priority. We squeeze it in when there’s time, but then we don’t always feel like it when we do have time.

But blog we should, whether we’re blogging as part of our jobs and we get paid to do it, or we’re doing it to market ourselves as freelancers or to build credibility within our fields.

So how do we start blogging and stick with it? Try this advice…

Step 1: Know your goal

The first way to make sure you keep blogging on a regular basis is to be clear on your blog’s goal.

Let’s say you started running, but you didn’t have a goal for running. You just decided one day to run. How long would you stick with it? How far would you run? Would you run the next day or the day after that if you didn’t have a goal? Probably not.

But if you decided to run because you wanted to get into better shape, or to lose weight before your cousin’s wedding, or because you wanted to do a 5K…any of those reasons would give you something to work toward and that would make it easier to stick with running. You’d have a goal and by having a goal, you’d be more likely to stay motivated and keep running.

The same applies to your blog. Without a goal for your blog, how likely are you to stick with blogging? With a goal, however, you have something you’re working toward. Now that goal can be any number of things—to build your personal or business brand, to establish credibility and show expertise, for SEO, to content to share or send to your email list, etc.

Your goal for your blog is whatever you want it to be. But you have to have a goal.

Step 2: Know your audience

Also be clear about your intended audience, because you can’t very well have a goal if you don’t also have an audience in mind. To whom are you writing when you write your blog posts? Are you writing to people who work in human relations? Or chiropractors? Or CEOs? Why are they your audience?

And what do you want them to get from reading your blog? What do you want them to do? Click on a link? Follow you on social media? Subscribe to your email list?

Without knowing whom you are writing to and what you want them to do or get out of reading your blog, it will be hard for you to stay focused and to stick with blogging.

Step 3: Establish your voice

How do you want to come across? What kind of impression do you want to make? You can come across as friendly, witty, authoritative, casual, formal, or some other way. Your voice is up to you; only make sure it’s authentic.

The point is not to have amazing content every week. The point is to blog every week.

Step 4: Keep a running list of ideas

The fourth step to make sure you blog week after week is to make sure you always have something to say. I’m sure most if not all of us have sat down to the computer at least once and thought, “Now what am I going to blog about?”

There are two things you can do to make sure you always have something to say on any given day: one, keep a running list of topics and two, be creative about those topics.

With a running list of ideas, you have topics to choose from when you sit down to write. For my own running list of ideas, I have a Word doc that is almost always open on my laptop, where I copy and paste thoughts, snippets, links to websites and things like that that I come across during my work day.

But ideas don’t just hit when you’re at your laptop, so get into the habit of jotting down ideas whenever because they will come to you at crazy times and you won’t remember them later. I’ve even called myself and left a voicemail with an idea when driving.

Two, be creative and think outside the box. What else can you write about? What kinds of topics might go on your list that aren’t strictly related to your business but still of interest to your readers? If they care about what you’re doing or selling, what else are they likely to care about? If you’re stuck on this, ask some people. Sometimes those outside of your job or business can have the best insight for coming up with topic ideas.

Step 5: Have a stash of shortcuts

Speaking of repositories like your running list of ideas, the fifth way to make sure you blog week after week is to make a library of shortcuts too. You won’t always have the time you want for blogging! Sorry to break it to you, but it’s true. You will have weeks when carving out an hour will seem impossible, let alone two hours. You’ll be sick, or your child will be sick, or something else will happen, because trust me, something will happen. And your blogging time will go out the window.

So have a little stash of relevant memes, photos, links, or something similar that you can turn into a blog post in 15 minutes. The point is not to have amazing content every week. The point is to blog every week. And sometimes you have to cut yourself a little slack.

Step 6: Know how you like to write

Some people like to write directly in WordPress. Some people like to write in Word. Some people like to write with pen on paper. Some want to sit at their desks. Others are more inspired when at the coffee shop. Some people write better first thing in the morning and others late in the evening. A glass of wine gets the words flowing for some while a triple shot of espresso does it for others. Classical music is one blogger’s first choice while jazz music does it for someone else. Figure out what works for you. When you figure out how you like to write, you will be more likely to write. Plus you’re training your brain for the job when you write in the same setting each time!

Step 7: Let go of expectations

Let’s be honest. Not every blog post you write is going to be one you’re proud of. Writing is not like doing math. Math is a constant. Every day the same equation works out to the same answer. Writing isn’t like that. Writing comes easier some days than others. Some days you’re more inspired, or excited. Other days you’re worried about the client who hasn’t paid yet or the sick kid staying home from school. With writing, you’ll have days that you’re on and days that you’re off.

Some of your posts will be great, and others, not so much. Some might even suck. That’s okay. Do not skip writing because you’re not in the mood or you think you’re writing poorly. Just relax. Let go of the expectations. And focus on getting the blogging done. Every. Week.

Step 8: Schedule it!

This last way to make sure you blog week after week after week is to put it on your schedule!

If you say, “I’ll write a post after all of these other pressing tasks are done,” you probably won’t ever write your blog. It doesn’t matter how well intentioned you are. You must put your blogging on your calendar, for the same day and time every week, and treat that as set in stone.

Put it on your calendar just like you put your meetings and deadlines on your calendar. Make it non-negotiable. If a client wants to schedule a meeting during blogging time, just say you’re not available…because you’re not.

Bonus tip: Just keep blogging

Finally, just keep blogging. It’s like running: The more you do it, the easier it is to stick with it, and you’ll even miss it when you don’t go running. It’s the same with blogging: Keep doing it week after week after week, and it will get easier.

And now, go write a blog post!

Sharon Ernst is a retired freelance copywriter now on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes.