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Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer: Get Published on Major Blogs and Publications

I’ve come to notice one thing over the years: social proof can make or break your career as a freelance writer. Try to take a look at the profile of most freelance writers that command mouthwatering rates from clients and you shouldn’t be surprised to find that they have been featured in (or have written for) at least a few prominent publications/magazines.

I’ve found that one of the reasons why I can command huge rates with my clients is due to the fact that I have lots of social proof; being featured in Fast Company, Huffington Post, Inc.com, Digital Journal, etc. is nothing to sneeze at. This is an advantage I have that makes it easy for me to:

  • Easily close freelance writing deals
  • Command better rates
  • Work on my own terms since I’m seen as an authority/expert

However, the purpose of the Earn Your First $1,000 as a Freelance Writer challenge is to show YOU, a beginner, how to achieve the same. A core part of this process is helping you get published on major publications; I’ll be using these same techniques for the alias I created for this challenge, and I can assure you that it WORKS!

Without further ado, let’s get started:

Start Small

I’ve noticed that most major publications won’t as much as take a glance at you if you haven’t been published anywhere else. As a beginner freelance writer, this can pose a bit of a challenge.

The solution to this, however, is to first attempt to get published on one or two small blogs. Once you’ve been published on these small blogs, you can then leverage this to get published on bigger publications.

Ultimately, you want to take advantage of name and status of major publications to boost your credibility and perceived value; as such, while the smaller blogs can serve as a way to showcase samples of your work, they are just a means to an end. Your main target is the bigger blogs.

To get published on smaller blogs, simply look for one or two average blogs in your niche and attempt to guest post on them; you can follow the advice in the section on “how to decide on ideas to pitch” (below) when trying to get published on small blogs, too.

How to Effectively Reach Out to a Publication and Get Published

If you’re like a lot of writers, you’ve probably reached out to major publications before in an attempt to get published on them only to hear nothing from them. After doing this for a while without response, it’s natural to give up.

You are not alone.

I’ve done the very same thing for a long time, and I had no success until I evolved my approach. I eventually discovered one of the main reasons why most people fail to get published on top publications, and it is usually due to this mistake: PITCHING A MAJOR PUBLICATION DIRECTLY USING A CONTACT/SUBMISSIONS FORM. At least, it has been so for me.

I’ll tell you this, no matter how much a MAJOR publication urges you to use their submissions/contact form, try it first but expect it not to work. It’s sad, but doing so has never worked for me. I know many writers who have tried using submissions forms to get published on major publications unsuccessfully, but they only got published after using the alternative means I will recommend.

I read somewhere (I’m not sure where, anymore) that the submissions form on the Huffington Post gets thousands of submissions daily. That’s every single day, and I’m sure there’s no way they can realistically go through all those submissions.

For major publications, telling you to contact them through a submissions form is the easiest thing for them, but they will naturally hide the fact that thousands of submissions often get through those forms in a day and that it is impossible to go through all these submissions.

What to do instead: Instead of reaching out to publications via their submissions contact form, or through a generic “contributions” email address, find the email address of a relevant editor (an editor in the section you want to get published in) and pitch that editor a relevant. I’ve also had success with pitching managing editors, and in the case of the Huffington Post, many writers have had success with pitching Arianna Huffington directly.

Again, submitting via a generic form is usually recipe for failure. Try it, but be ready to use an alternative approach if it doesn’t work.

This is different for blogs, though, since they are more smaller and manageable. So if you have the email address of a blog’s editor, go for it! If a blog asks you to use a submissions form, you are also likely to get published that way.

How to Find Editors of Major Publications

So once you’ve realized that you have to pitch an editor directly, how do you find the right editor to pitch? Here are a few tips that have worked for me:

1. The Masthead: Every major publication has a “masthead,” “staff list,” “team” page or some other page that lists the name (and, often, the email address) of their staff. You can simply scan this list for the details of the editor you need to pitch.

2. The Content: If a publication doesn’t have a masthead, or if you can’t find it, all hope is not lost. Simply visit the relevant category on the site you want to be featured on, read several articles to find out who is the editor (usually this is the name that pops up the most) and note it down.

3. Google Search: If all else fails, a simple search for “{Publication} {Category} Editor” should work just fine. E.g., “New York Times Business Editor.”

4. Twitter: Most editors at reputable publications proudly showcase the fact that they are editors of a major publication on their social media profiles. Simply searching for them on Twitter can yield positive results.

How to Find Editor Emails

Once you’ve found the name of an editor, the next step is to find their email. Here are a few tips:

  • Use Google search to try to find their email. A simple search such as “{Editor’s name} email” should do the trick; you can also try variations of this, but you will find most editor’s emails after combing through the first few results.
  • Carefully check the blog/publication for the editor’s email; most publications publicly list the email address of their editors in the editor’s profile, or in the editor’s article.
  • Use email finder apps like Voila Norbert and RocketReach to find the email address of editors; these apps let you insert a name and domain name and they will automatically find the correct email for you.
  • Find the editor’s LinkedIn profile and use Lusha to find and verify this email address.

How to Decide on Ideas to Pitch

Once you find the right person to pitch at a publication, what will ultimately make or break your chances of getting featured is the ideas you pitch. If you pitch the right idea, you might find yourself published on your favorite publication in a matter of days. If you pitch the wrong idea, don’t be surprised if you hear nothing.

If your idea is good enough, even if you’re not the best writer, many editors will happily work with you until you have something fit for publication.

That said, when pitching blogs and publications, I don’t aim to be the next genius whose idea will change the world. Instead, I have just one goal: get published. To do this, without necessarily having a groundbreaking idea, here’s what I do:

  • I look at the most recent articles on a blog/publication and look for a pattern; I formulate my own unique idea that adheres to this pattern. For example, some publications prefer listicles, some prefer humor, some prefer hard facts, etc. You just have to find out what a publication want and give it to them.
  • I look at the most popular articles on the publication and look for a pattern; I formulate a unique idea that follows this pattern.
  • I try to see if a publication is looking for any topic in particular at that point in time; some publications dedicate certain months to certain topics, so they are usually looking for articles around that topic. Pitch something relevant and you will be published.
  • I try to see if the editor expresses interest in certain types of articles on social media; Occasionally, editors tweet to ask that people who have experience, or who can write, about certain topics to reach out to them. This might be your opportunity to get published.
  • I look for patterns in the content they republish; in an attempt to grow the reach of their publications, editors usually scour the web for great content. Once they find content they like, they liaise with the owner to allow them republish it on their publication. Simply noticing a pattern of what an editor likes, and pitching something similar, will give you an edge.

How to Craft a Winning Pitch

When all is said and done, you want to get into action. It’s time to start pitching. It’s time to learn how to craft a winning pitch. Here are a few tips:

  • Make your title simple and/or specific; I have the best success with titles that use the format, “Writing for {Publication}” or titles that specify my idea while letting them know it’s a piece I want to contribute e.g, “Guest Post: {My Post Title}.”
  • Start by establishing social proof; Since you’re a beginner, you can skip this part. However, I’ll replace it with some kind of comment that makes it clear that you follow the publication and are familiar/impressed with their kind of content. This places you above the pack.
  • Go straight to the point; simple pitches always win. Editors are busy people and they don’t have the time to go through pages of content in an email. Going straight to the point will give you an edge.
  • Outline your idea; include the title and concept so that the editor has an idea what your article will look like.

Here are some example templates that have landed me a guest post on some of the biggest blogs:

Template 1 (with social proof):

Hi {Editor’s name},

I’d like to inquire about writing for {publication name}. I’m a contributor to {publication 1}, {publication 2} and other major publications, andit will be an honor to become a contributor to {publication name}, too.

Here is my first proposed article:

Title: {Insert Content Title}

Concept: {Explain what my article will be about, and, if possible, highlight some key points}

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,
{My Name}

Template 2 (without social proof):

Hi {Editor’s name},

I hope all is well with you.

Thanks for the great work over at {publication name}! 🙂

I’d like to join {publication name} blogging team. My proposed first article is titled {Insert article title} and I have attached it to this email.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thanks,
{My Name}

Note: I’ve used the first template to help my clients get published on some of the world’s biggest publications, and the second was used specifically for The Huffington Post.

A quick analysis of the above templates show a few things:

  • They are very short and to the point; the last thing you want to do is send pages of content to a busy editor.
  • The first template, which is the most successful by far, references social proof I’ve gotten and gives clear insight into the article I plan to submit.

The Art of the Follow Up

I manage ghostwriting campaigns for several clients and have repeatedly helped them get featured on some of the biggest publications in the world. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about getting published on major publications is that of follow up.

There are several reasons why an editor might not reply to your email: perhaps he/she is busy, didn’t get your email, didn’t feel your idea was relevant at the time, planned to reply but forgot, etc. There are just so many reasons, but many writers, wrongly, feel that an editor didn’t reply because the editor didn’t like them or their idea. So they stop and get discouraged.

No matter the reason, however, ALWAYS follow up with editors that do not reply. How soon should you follow up? Research says that 90 percent of people will reply within 48 hours or never; my personal experience agrees with this. Feel free to follow up within 2 – 4 days  of your first pitch. If no response, follow up about a week after. If no response again, send another follow up another week after. I tend to send up to three followups before finally giving up on a particular publication.

How to Leverage Early Success to Gain More Success

Getting your article published in your first major publication can seem impossible. It’s an uphill battle, and many people will simply ignore you and treat you as if you don’t exist. That’s because you are a “nobody” at the moment. It’s up to you to change this by turning yourself into a somebody; persist until you get that first one or two articles published in major publications and you’re golden! Things will suddenly become easier from there.

Once you’ve been published in one or two major publications, leverage this fact to get published in others. Highlight the fact that you’ve been published in a major publication anytime you pitch another major publication.

Having been published in a few major places, your cold pitches will suddenly have more power to them.

PS. Not having a byline on major publications shouldn’t stop you from prospecting for clients; you can still cold pitch and prospect for clients in the interim. Getting published on major publications is a long-term strategy for significantly boosting your rates.

Action Steps:

1. Identify 5 – 10 major blogs/publications that you can write for to boost social proof; not all of them will respond to you, so it’s better that your list is big enough.

2. Create your own “Blog/Publications Outreach spreadsheet” and fill the spreadsheet with information about the blogs/publications you found. Since most of these publications won’t reply to your pitch, and follow up is a core part of the process, this spreadsheet makes it easy to track your pitch and follow up efforts.

3. Start pitching the blogs and publications following the instructions in this article.

Onibalusi

Welcome! I'm Bamidele Onibalusi, a young writer and blogger. I believe writers are unique and highly talented individuals that should be given the respect they deserve. This blog offers practical advice to help you become truly in charge of your writing career.

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