You’ve got a book to promote, or a product, or a service — and you need a bigger audience to get it moving out into the world.
Why not borrow one (an audience, that is)?
Guest writing for other websites is a fantastic way to get your name, message, and offer in front of tens of thousands of readers (depending on the size of the site you’re writing for). And the best part? It won’t cost you a penny.
Why aren’t more writers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders doing it? Why aren’t you doing it?
Because you think you’re not ready. Even though you almost certainly are …
I work with writers every day, and I hear the three “Myths of Guest Blogging” you’ll see below again and again. Let’s dispel them right now, before we get into the good stuff …
Myth #1: “I need to have a well-established blog”
You don’t need to have thousands of readers before you start guest writing for other sites.
Content editors don’t care about the size of your audience: they care about the quality of your writing.
I used to guest post without a blog at all — and not a single editor ever cared. It’s usually a good idea to have a site of your own to send readers back to, but don’t let a small audience be the excuse that keeps you from guest posting.
Myth #2: “I don’t write well enough”
Yes, your guest post needs to be well-written. That doesn’t mean you need a PhD in English Literature, or a glittering résumé.
Pick a single topic. Write a clear, concise, useful post. Then edit it … carefully. You’ll put yourself way ahead of the crowd.
Myth #3: “I have to build up a relationship before pitching a guest post”
Some blogs don’t accept unsolicited guest posts; others are so overwhelmed with submissions that they only use a fraction of the material they receive. It can help if the site owner knows your name — but that’s definitely not a requirement.
Sure, you want to cultivate relationships with editors … and writing a terrific guest post makes a great start. Tweets and blog comments are fine, but they shouldn’t be your primary strategy. Your primary strategy is writing excellent posts.
The Takeaway: To be a successful guest writer for other websites, you don’t need to have a huge audience of your own, you don’t need to be the next Shakespeare, and you don’t need the big blog editors to know your name. All you need to do is write well.
Getting your guest post onto a big blog in your niche means:
- Extra traffic to your blog
- More sales of your products
- The opportunity to add “I’ve written for …” to your résumé or About page
Even if your post gets rejected, you’ll have a fantastic piece of pillar content for your own site.
But to maximize your chances of acceptance, here are 5 steps you need to master:
Step #1: Research your target site carefully
Some bloggers write a guest post, then look for a blog to submit it to.
Often, that means the post won’t be a great fit — and the editor will reject it.
Instead, pick your target blog first. Read at least ten posts, ideally a mix of guest posts and posts by the regular blogger(s). If you’re not finding any guest posts, that’s a sign that you need to pick another blog, at least for now.
- How long are the posts, particularly the guest posts? Is there a range from long to short? Or do they mostly tend to fall into a fairly narrow range of word counts?
- What’s the writing style like? Chatty, aggressive, kooky, gentle?
- What topics have been covered recently? Could you contribute something that’s relevant, but that also fills a gap?
- Can you figure out what their “bread and butter” topics are — the topics that they’ll always need to find fresh content for?
- Could you write a compelling, useful follow-up to a recent ultra-popular post?
Look for guest post guidelines, most large blogs have them. Follow any instructions about formatting, images, writing style, linking, and so on.
Step #2: Develop your idea
A strong idea will make the writing easy; a weak idea will just waste your time.
Come up with a list of five possible topics, then pick the best one.
Make sure you can do justice to your idea.
Don’t choose something that sounds amazing if you know you’ll struggle to write it. A simple idea, executed well, is worth far more than a hyped-up but ultimately disappointing post.
Instead of “Everything you need to know about WordPress”, try “7 Essential Tips for WordPress Beginners”.
Step #3: Write your guest post
Set aside time for writing your guest post.
It’s all too easy to keep putting it off for another day. Aim to write when you’re at your best, whether that’s at 7 am or 10 pm.
If you’re struggling to get started, skip the introduction and move straight into the main body of the post.
If you’re still stuck, set a timer for 20 minutes and just write. Don’t worry if it’s horrible, just keep your fingers moving.
Even if you end up scrapping a lot of your material, you’ll find something that’s worth keeping.
Step #4: Edit your post
Few writers produce great first drafts. Editing is your chance to hone your words so they’re as effective and powerful as possible.
Start by editing the post as a whole. Look for unnecessary tangents (sometimes these make good seeds for follow-up posts), badly-ordered information, and vital missing pieces. Fix these before you move on.
Once you’re happy with the shape and flow of the post, focus on the individual sentences and words. Rewrite any clumsy, awkward, or weak sentences. Change any words that hit the wrong note.
Don’t neglect the all-powerful Rule of 24.
Step #5: Add your bio
Sure, it’s exciting to see your name on a big blog — but you’ve got other motives for guest writing too.
If you want to drive traffic to your blog, newsletter, or sales page, you’ll need to make good use of your bio.
- Be written in the third person
- Have a clear call to action
- Include a link
If you’re linking to your blog, choose a specific post, ideally one that’s related to the guest post. “Click here to learn how to get your blog set up” is a stronger call to action than “Read my blog.”
For some good examples of guest writer bios, scroll through the posts here on Copyblogger.
Step #6: Send it off!
This is the hardest step.
My very first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for at least a week before I plucked up the courage to email it in.
Once you’ve edited and polished your post, you have to let it go.
Write that email, take a deep breath, and hit “send.”
A few weeks from now, you could have your writing in front of an audience of tens of thousands of readers.
So write that guest post.
Trust me, you’re ready.
About the Author: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. If you’re struggling to get inspired, check out her Twenty-Five Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Writing.