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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cracking the Editor’s Code: Writing a Killer Guest Post as a Freelance Blogger

Cracking the Editor’s Code: Writing a Killer Guest Post as a Freelance Blogger

Freelance bloggers are constantly looking for ways to spread their talent to outlets all over the internet. Let’s be honest, having your own blog is nice — but, when you get published on a website with hundreds of thousands of unique visitors a month, it feels great!
Getting content published to big name websites isn’t easy, but it IS worth it. The satisfaction of getting your creativity out to scores of people while making money is perhaps one of the most rewarding feelings on planet Earth.
The biggest hurdle that you’ll have to champion when sending out a guest post pitch involves getting past the editor of the website. Editors, in particular head editors, act as gatekeepers for the publication. Their primary responsibility is making sure that high quality, amazing content gets published to the site that they operate.
If you can get the editor’s attention in a POSITIVE way you stand a good chance at getting published. We are going to dissect the steps involved in getting the pitching editor to take a look at your pitch — and respond favorably!
The editor’s code is complex, there is no doubt about it. But if you have the proper resources and know-how, you too can get a piece published just about anywhere.

Ready, Set, Research

This first tip might come off as shocking, but it NEEDS mentioning. When you plan on pitching to a website please, please, (did I mention please?) research the website in question before you even think about writing your first email to them.
It’s unbelievable how many people pitch to websites without knowing what the heck they do or discuss. Sadly, this is a trend that is never going to end. There will forever be those people who think that their idea is so good, so breathtaking, that it doesn’t matter that their pitch has NOTHING to do with niche of the aforementioned website.
Imagine this; you own a website that specializes in nothing but care for farm animals and crop tips. You wake up, grab some coffee, and hop online. The first email in your inbox says “AMAZING PITCH!” You click on it and it’s someone pitching an article about the finer points of taking apart a Boeing 757 engine.  What do you do?
If you are a normal, rational human being, you chuckle, and hit “delete.” Some editors don’t give freelance bloggers the time for a rejection if they pitch so broadly off-topic. Their thought process isn’t hard to figure out. “They didn’t take the time to even see what we are about, so why should I take the time to respond to them?”
Make sure that you know the theme of the website you’re pitching to — it’s that simple. You can figure this out by reading through the website; even a quick skim can give you a ROUGH idea! However, I recommend reading their “About” page, “FAQ”, and of course, blog posts. It helps to know exactly what kind of content they enjoy before submitting your pitch!

Be Professional, Be Personal

Now that you know what their website is about, you can start thinking about your pitch IDEA (but not setup, we will get to that later) and what you’re going to say in your email.
We’ve all received the “DEAR SIR OR MADAM” type of email before, and no one takes them seriously. So avoid this opening at all costs. Instead, consider taking on a more personable approach that draws the editor in. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by being professional and mildly personal.
Chances are, the name of the editor is readily available somewhere on the website. I suggest you look either on the “Contact” page, or on random blog posts throughout the website. You may see someone labeled as the head editor on the byline or the bottom of the page.
If you have pored over every inch of the website and can’t find the name of the editor, don’t worry! You can simply start the email off by saying something like, “Hi there! I hope you are having a great day! I’m a freelance blogger…” If you CAN’T nail the personal aspect of it, you can, at the very least, send a message that is professional and friendly.

Read the Darn Guidelines

I cannot even begin to stress how important it is that you follow the guidelines. Believe it or not, there are people who regularly skip over this step as if it doesn’t exist. It’s reminiscent of the first tip — people believe that their idea is so perfect that there is no way the editor will deny them, even if they fail to follow simple directions.
The fact is, the editor came up with the guidelines for a reason. This information is meant for use by freelance bloggers who want to publish on their website. The goal is to put a format in place that will allow the editors to do 3 things:
  1. See an overview of the pitch
  2. Quickly tell if the blogger has a good idea
  3. Gauge the blogger’s ability to follow directions
So how do you follow the guidelines AND inject your own personality? It’s easier than you think! Your career is centered around the words that you use and your ability to string them together in a concise and engaging way. So all you have to do is continue doing your thing, but within the parameters of the guidelines.

Let’s Get Creative

Your goal is to SELL your idea to the editor. And to sell your idea, you have to inject your pitch with the same engaging tone and idea you use in any other writing you submit.
Make your thoughts stand out from the pack by using exciting language, presenting a fresh idea, and/or showing your commitment to the niche in question. Let’s go back and pretend we own the farmer’s website again. Which of the following pitches would you likely accept?
  • Pitch A: Best Ways to Harvest Your Crops
  • Pitch B: Farmer Hacks: Genius Tips and Tricks for Collecting Your Annual Harvest
Based on the title alone, most people would choose pitch B. It stands out, it delivers a clear message, and most of all, it’s ENGAGING. You need to bring this level of creativity to every single one of your guest posts. Editors get hundreds, if not thousands, of emails a week — what you write needs to immediately catch and hold their attention.

Double — No, TRIPLE — Check Your Pitch

First impressions are everything. When you send that email out to an editor, there is no second chance to get their attention. Once you’ve finished your pitch, take some time and proofread, proofread, proofread.
Make sure that your spelling and grammar are on point, check for clear, concise thoughts in your writing, and ask yourself, “Would I dig this if I were an editor?” Answer yourself honestly.
Luckily, there are many tools that can help you edit and refine your work.
For example, Grammarly helps you to check your work with a fine tooth comb. The “free version” looks for large, glaring issues, while the paid version is for people who like near-perfect work. Tools like this can help you tweak your language, suggest better words for you to use, and even track your word usage across every document you put through your account.
Another great tool is the Hemingway Editor app. You can use this program for free, or pay for a standalone version. This program focuses on sentence structure and helps you write more concise, easy to understand sentences. There is even an included readability tool that lets you see the “grade level” of your writing.

Handle Rejection with Dignity

Rejection hurts. There is no way around it. When you get that email back saying that your pitch wasn’t up to par, it’s going to feel like you just got punched in the gut.
You can’t let that feeling get the best of you. No matter what.
Rejection is part of pitching. Every single freelance blogger has had a rejected pitch.
Think of it this way: every “no” is one step closer to a “yes.”
Honestly, if you follow the guidelines, double check your work, and show respect, you have done literally everything in your power. It’s time to move on and see if you can get an idea accepted elsewhere.
HOWEVER, don’t forget to respond to the editor before you delete their rejection. This shows them that you are a professional, and it leaves the door open for future opportunities. My general response emails look something like this:
“Hello, (editor name)!
I wanted to thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I also greatly appreciate your feedback.  I understand that my pitch may not be a good fit for (insert website name) at this time. If another potential idea comes up, I may reach out to you again. In the meantime, if you have any other suggestions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch!
Thank you again, and have a great day!
-(Writer name)”

Code Cracked!

As freelance bloggers, we all want success. The only way we are able to become successful is through constant, thoughtful, consistent pitching.
Strive to add your own personal touch to everything that you do, and that includes the pitches you send off to editors. They want to see your style, and the pitch is the first test to see if you’re going to be a good fit.
So follow the advice in this article, keep pitching, be respectful, and handle rejection like an adult. It takes time and effort to build momentum but before you know it, you’ll have a whole portfolio of pieces under YOUR name.

Psst… Want More Help to Perfect Your Pitches?

How to Pitch a Blog Post book coverIn their new Kindle book, How to Pitch a Blog Post, Sophie Lizard (this blog’s owner) and Lauren Tharp (this blog’s managing editor) share all of their best tips and tricks for reaching out to blogs and offering them your writing.
You’ll learn…
  • who to pitch…
  • what to pitch…
  • how to pitch…
  • when to pitch…
  • what to do after you hit “Send”…
  • and even what to do when your pitch is accepted!
Plus the book includes a handy pitching template you can use and re-use to make pitching your blog post ideas a breeze every time.

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