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10,000 Hours in 10 Minutes: Sara Lancaster on Content Creation

sara lancaster

Sara Lancaster

Spending 10,000 hours learning a given skill is great, but spending 10 minutes is better; if only because the latter leaves 9,999 hours to watch reruns of The Office. This week we’re talking to content creation maestro, Sara Lancaster.

Via her site No 2. Pen, Sara offers a wide range of content creation, as well as writing freebies for people who want to succeed online, but not enough to pay for it. Is offering free stuff a good idea? Does writing every single day crush your ability to find focus on a single subject? We asked Sara to find out.

Writing content for a diverse range of sources must leave your mind rather cluttered. Is there anything in particular you’ve found that helps you clear out your head when you need to focus on a given subject?

I set a goal to write for four hours a day and not much more than that. Any more than that and my brain feels like pudding. The rest of the time I spend in meetings, managing my business, or working on a different creative project. Plus, I always take a lunch break even if it’s just an hour at the gym to clear my head.

Your site offers people “writing freebies” in the form of blog post ideas AND writing templates. Do you feel that free content is a good way to attract paying customers?

I think of my free writing resources much like I think of my blog. I create this content to prove my expertise to potential clients and also to attract links from other site owners (something essential for SEO).

Creating new content every day, do you ever struggle to make everything you create or write unique? If so, what do you do in these situations?

Of course. I’m only human. That’s why I subscribe to a lot of different newsletters and publications (many of which are outside my industry) and follow a lot different types of people on Twitter. If you make it a point to read a variety of different things and make it a point to get out of the office and attend seminars, talks, and networking events, etc., that will keep you fresh.

Looking at No. 2 pen’s “Why Hire Us” page, you note that you price yourself relatively in the middle of the market, not too cheap and not insanely expensive. Are there pros and cons you personally see to pricing yourself at either extreme?

Absolutely. The worst option being too cheap. I’ve learned that if you don’t charge enough your clients will second guess all you do and ask you to work for free. Who can pay the bills that way? I choose not to charge top dollar because I enjoy working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. I find my price range works for my ideal clients.

Your sales pitch seems very laid back, what with the free content you provide and the emphasis placed on people viewing your previous work before committing. Are you in the mindset that good work sells itself?

Most definitely. I always refer clients to my writing samples to ensure they like my style. Finding a copywriter is just like anything else in business. There are likely dozens of options, but you have to choose one that works well with you and your company’s personality.

How do you deal with writing about subjects, products, or brands you personally aren’t interested in? Are there any techniques you use to make such subject more interesting to yourself or is there perhaps something else you do when this arises?

Often times I’ll bring in a writer friend to help out with big projects or projects that I’m burnt out on. If I’m not interested in the subject matter at all, then I’ll refer the company to another writing agency. If I truly hate the work, then that will shine through. I’d rather use that time seeking out work I enjoy.

Your site also notes the use of a “refined Q&A approach” when dealing with new customers, how have you refined the traditional Q&A method and what could others learn from it?

Most copywriters have a questionnaire they ask their clients to complete. It helps us understand the client’s goals and preferences. Since I’ve been doing this for more than five years, I’ve probably changed up my questionnaire 20 times. It’s to the point now that I can usually get all the background information I need without much other follow up.

When it comes to writing content for your own blog, how do you normally come up with ideas are they inspired by the work No 2 Pen does, or from your own mind?

One of my favorite sources of blog post inspiration is customer questions and concerns. I often send links to clients to help them understand specific aspects of marketing. My second favorite method for coming up with blog post ideas is to pick a narrow theme and write a series of posts on that subject. For example, I write a post each month that features daily blog post ideas for businesses and I regularly write posts that feature examples of sharp web content.

Finally, the No 2 pencil theme is prevalent across your website and it’s connotations with writing and what not are well known, has anyone ever contacted your website actually looking to buy stationary? It seems like something that someone, somewhere would do, if only to justify the asking of this question.

Nope, never happened. Some people are curious about the name, but it doesn’t seem to confuse people.


For more from Sara Lancaster, you’re invited to check out her site, or if you’re so inclined, her blog where you can gain a unique look into the mind of a professional content creator. Thanks for the quality time, Sara!

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