Note from Bamidele: Monica Leftwich first got on my radar when she sent me the following email:
“I just wanted to say thank you for compiling your “110 Websites That Pay” list. I submitted an article to The Penny Hoarder and it got accepted! I was kinda scared my article would just be ignored because Penny Hoarder is quite popular but an editor responded within a few days of submitting. So, thank you so very much!“
Then she sent another email:
“Thought I’d let you know that the editors for ThePennyhoarder.com are editing my article as we speak and it will be available shortly.
However, I also wanted to share the good news of me being invited to blog for the Huffington Post today! I recall reading a very simple template you used (I think you posted a screen shot of the actual email) to guest blog for a client. I ran with a similar idea when sending a guest blog to HuffPost editors…and would you believe Mrs. Arianna Huffington’s assistant responded back with an invite to set up a HuffPost blog account? Albeit, there is no pay in blogging with the HuffPost, but the exposure potential is there!
I must thank you again for your simplicity and detail in your ebooks. Of all the freelance writing guides I’ve read, I have to say your strategies helped the most. Thank you again!“
Now, I couldn’t help but pay attention. It instantly became clear that Monica is a go-getter who is going places, and I wasn’t surprised when I heard later that she got published on Washington Post. Besides being a smart, talented writer and an action taker, what interests me the most about Monica is the fact that she’s found a process for repeatedly getting featured on major publications. I excitedly invited her to be a part of this case study for Writers in Charge where she shares exactly how she gets published on major publications. Enjoy!
Everyone wants to get published in well-known publications. It gives you exposure, it increases your credibility, and it makes it easier to get high paying clients… But it’s hard to get noticed when thousands of people are bombarding the editors with their pitches.
Monica Leftwich only started freelancing in 2014, but she’s already a contributor to The Huffington Post and Washington Post, and she has attracted a lot of attention with a few of her controversial articles.
How did she manage to avoid the slush pile?
“Maybe I should give this a shot…”
Monica got interested in freelance writing when she stumbled upon some well-known blogs in that niche.
“I started reading about successful writers, people like Carol Tice and Bamidele Onibalusi, who were making good money, and I thought, you know what, I’m busy, but I do have a little bit of free time, so maybe I should give this a shot.”
She found her first client on a website called Writer Access. She responded to an ad about beauty and natural hair for African American women, got the job, and wrote her first paid article. Soon, that client asked her to write for them regularly. In her words, “That’s how I realized, wow, okay, I can make some extra money doing this”.
She started applying for jobs on places like Elance and oDesk.“It was pretty random. One client asked me to write a white paper, another wanted web content, yet another was interested in technical writing… I even created a flyer for someone’s website!” She ended up working with 5-10 clients during that first year of freelancing. “The pay wasn’t always great, but it did give me some writing experience, and it helped me build my portfolio!”
Getting Published on The Huffington Post
Monica then started thinking about how to move up from random clients to more bigger publications. She had a controversial story idea that she thought might work well for The Huffington Post, so she emailed one of the editors, and was told to submit her pitch via the submission form. She did that, received no response, and realized that she needed to find another way in.
“I did some research on other writers who got published on The Huffington Post, and several of them mentioned that instead of going to a specific editor with their idea they went directly to Arianna Huffington, because she often says in her interviews that people are more than welcome to email her with story ideas”.
So she looked up her email address, crafted a short pitch, and pressed “Send.” “I thought, what’s it gonna hurt? I’ll either hear from her or I won’t hear from her.”
She got a reply from one of Arianna’s assistants saying that Arianna was unavailable (she was vacationing in Greece), but that he really enjoyed Monica’s pitch, and he wanted her to go ahead and write the post. “He gave me a Huffington Post blogging account right there!”
When “Why I Simply Don’t Give a Damn About My $100k+ in Student Loans” went live, the controversial topic attracted a lot of attention — way more attention than what Monica had expected! “I was quite surprised by it all. I got a ton of emails and Facebook messages saying, ‘Hey, your post was great, now I’m less stressed about my student loans and have more peace of mind!’ Roland Martin mentioned me on one of his radio shows. I was featured in USA Today. It was pretty crazy. Currently, the article generated nearly 8,000 comments across social media.”
Getting Published on Washington Post
Getting published on The Huffington Post gave Monica the confidence to look for a place where she could write about a topic that was close to her heart. “I’ve been a single mother for many years now, and I wanted to start writing about parenting and dating as a single parent, so I was trying to find a venue for that.” So when she heard about an upcoming interview with one of Washington Post’s editors, she saw an opportunity…
“I’m subscribed to this website called Beyond Your Blog, and one day I got an email from them saying that they are going to be interviewing Washington Post editor, Lisa Bonos (she’s the editor of a blog called Soloish that talks about modern dating).
I was able to catch that interview, and during it she said what type of material she’s looking for and how you can get set up with a writer’s account at Washington Post.”
Monica reached out to the Soloish editor with a pitch for yet another controversial post… And the editor loved it!
“He wouldn’t kiss me until I got tested for STDs” got mixed responses. “A lot of readers assumed that I was basically calling people who are currently living with STDs dirty, which was not the case at all. I would never belittle someone living with a disease. I was just telling my story concerning STDs”.
Monica wasn’t upset about the backlash, though. “People misinterpreting your writing is an inevitable part of being a writer, that comes with the territory. Some people will choose to be upset about something that you didn’t even say even after you have explained your position. There’s nothing you can do about it. All you can do is be honest and write from the heart.”
Monica’s Top 3 Tips for Writers In Charge Audience
What is Monica’s advice to our readers who want to get published on well-known publications?
- Don’t be scared to be controversial. “Once again, it’s important to be honest and write from the heart, because that’s how you connect with the readers. So don’t shy away from controversial topics. Write what’s really on your mind.”
- Have a thick skin. “Look, not everybody is going to like what you have to say, in fact, some people might get pretty upset about it. Don’t take it personally and don’t let all those comments, tweets, and emails get to you. Honestly, if you aren’t making at least one person upset, you can’t call yourself a true writer.”
- Do your homework. “Don’t just pitch random editors willy nilly. Read the blogs that you want to get published on and get a sense of the content they are interested in. You might have a great story idea, but if you are pitching to the wrong publications over and over again, you won’t get anywhere.”
What’s next for Monica?
“I’d like to get more clients. I’m looking for other publications I could contribute to. I think it’s important to have several streams of income.
I’d also like to write a personal finance book for single parents. I have significant student loan debt, but I’m paying that off slowly but surely, which takes some creativity given that I have 2 children to feed. Once everything is paid off, I’d like to write a book about how I was able to do that, and hopefully help other single parents take control of their finances.”
Where to Find Monica
If you’d like to find Monica online and learn from her (or maybe even reach out to her), she can be found on her main website at MonicaLeftwich.com. You can also check out her blog, A Rich Single Mom.