Editor’s Note: A great way to create buzz about your business is to publish articles as an expert in your field. But how do you gain access to the sites that your audience reads? We turned to writer Kerry Winfrey for her tips on getting your foot in the freelance writing door.
When people find out I write for HelloGiggles, their first question is, “Do you know Zooey Deschanel?” The answer to that one is easy: no. The second question is, “How did you start writing for them?” That answer is a little longer, but it’s still pretty basic.
I either write regularly for or have written one-off pieces on a variety of websites, and guess what? I didn’t start writing for them through magic or connections! That means this could all be yours!
I thought it might be helpful if I shared the specifics of how I pitch articles/posts. And keep in mind: I’m no big shot. I write for a few websites. But, then again, I write for a few websites, and that (to me) is pretty awesome. If you want to do the same thing, here’s what I suggest.
1. BLOG. I’m a broken record, I know. By now, you’re like, “I get it. Everyone should blog.” Well, everyone SHOULD. Everyone who wants to write, anyway. Write everyday and blog as often as you can. Develop your voice and your portfolio.
2. Figure out what sites are a good fit. When I pitched HelloGiggles, I’d been reading the site everyday for awhile. I had a very clear idea of their tone and preferred topics, and I knew I would fit in. What sites do you like to read? Do you think you could write for them? Don’t ever pitch a site you know nothing about. Read it for awhile (at the very least, read a ton of the archives in one exhausting binge) before submitting anything. For example, I always submit to sites that focus on female-centered topics. I write for sites that are all about strong women or entertainment or both. I wouldn’t submit to Men’s Health.
3. Find the contact info and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS! HelloGiggles has a “Contribute” tab. For most of the sites I’ve written for, I just found the contact info on the site and sent it to whoever it said. I didn’t know anyone there. Some websites want you to send the entire article, and some want you to send just a pitch. Just make sure you do exactly what they say. If you’re supposed to have a certain word in your subject line, for God’s sake, make sure that word’s in your subject line! This is not the time to be all loosey-goosey.
4. Keep an eye out. When I pitched my HelloGiggles column, the site had a call for open submissions. Since I knew they were looking for columns, I knew there was actually a need for what I was pitching. Keep an eye on your favorite sites, which should be easy since you’re reading them anyway. If they say they’re looking for writers, pitch right away! HG responded to my email within the day, so don’t hesitate when it comes to stuff like this. This is where having a blog comes in handy…you have a whole backlog of writing and sample columns if you ever need to send them in.
5. Keep your email short. I always start out by saying I’m a fan of the website, because I only email websites I actually read. But keep it real; don’t go overboard. Give a quick description of the article you’ve attached (or the article you want to write). Tell them, briefly, who you are and give them your blog URL and any relevant sites you’ve written for. I always explain why I think my submission would fit in with the site’s objectives/readership. I have no idea if you’re supposed to do that, but I do, and it works okay. But, seriously, keep it brief. A short paragraph or two is ideal!
6. Always remember to attach your submission. Don’t, say, forget to attach your file because you’re sleep-deprived and then feel embarrassed when the website emails you the next day and says, “Is there supposed to be an attachment?” Not that I’ve done that or anything.
7. Follow up! This is SUPER IMPORTANT and the thing I feel like most people don’t do. Mostly I think that because I didn’t do it. Fun fact: before I was actually published on HelloGiggles, they said they were going to publish articles I’d submitted on two separate occasions. Then, for whatever reason, I never heard from them again. At the time, I assumed they’d just changed their minds or they hated me or I was the worst writer on the face of the Earth and would never amount to anything. But now that I’m actually writing for them, I think they were just busy and let my submissions slip through the cracks. If I don’t hear about a submission in a week, I send a VERY short follow-up email. Just something like, “I’m just checking in on the submission I sent you last week, (insert awesome title here).” Add in a bit about how you’re looking forward to hearing from them and then get outta there.
8. Be nice! I mean, duh. You already knew that. But I end every email with some variation of “Have a great day!” I don’t know if you’re supposed to do that. Probably you’re not. But that’s just who I am. So maybe this tip should actually be called “Be yourself!”
9. Keep it up. If you get rejected, submit something else. Or submit the same thing to another site, if you still think it’s good. It is absolutely no big deal to get rejected. Just keep going! Similarly, if your submission is accepted, keep up the good work! Continue turning things in by your deadline. Keep submitting to that site.
10. There is no harm in reaching out. Don’t think your writing isn’t good enough for whatever site you like. How do you know? Maybe it is! You’ve been practicing and developing your work on your blog. You’re probably better than you think. Just remember that you’re basically emailing someone and asking if they’d like to use your content. I mean, they’re the ones who are making out like bandits here. You truly never know if a website will like your work unless you send it in! So just do it.
Guest blogger Kerry Winfrey is an office worker by day, freelance writer by night. Kind of like Flashdance, but she doesn't have to wear a welding mask. She writes about young adult books for HelloGiggles and blogs at her website, Welcome to Ladyville.