If you want to write about anything you’d like, as often as you’d like, there’s a place for that: your own website.
It’s a modern privilege that gives writers the freedom to digitally publish their work publicly, with the potential to reach any reader with an internet connection.
Can you imagine going back in time and telling that to someone who only wrote on paper? Someone whose only readers were those in physical possession of their writing?
We’re so lucky.
But we may miss out on ways to spread our writing, because we’re not as accustomed to the practices our writer predecessors needed to implement to get their work in front of new readers.
I want to show you how to seize more contemporary opportunities with classic grit.
And the practice I’m going to talk about is guest posting.
While I know you’ve heard the benefits of guest posting before, I don’t think it’s often discussed as a practice.
A lot has to happen before more readers discover your writing, and one big obstacle blocks many internet-era writers …
Has our entitlement cup runneth over?
Since we’re so used to writing on our own sites, it’s natural to think our own style is acceptable on other sites.
The misconception is that once you find a site that has an audience you want to connect with, you can offer that site a typical article you’d write and lock down a publishing spot on their editorial calendar.
While it’s certainly possible to have that experience with guest posting, many large publications aren’t interested in publishing a post that would appear on your blog.
Instead, they may be interested in your expertise and point of view, but they need you to craft an article that honors their editorial standards and would appear on their blog.
In order to work, pre-internet writers had to follow a publication’s editorial standards.
They didn’t have the luxury of publishing whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted; they had to learn to trust an editor’s vision for their writing in order to get their articles in front of new readers.
An example: monster truck racing for ladies
I want to demonstrate how the practice of guest posting — or contributing to a publication other than your own — can help you both grow your audience and grow professionally.
In this scenario, monster truck racing has recently surged in popularity among women. Women can’t get enough information about monster truck competitions, so Edith Editor at Cosmopolitan magazine gets a pitch from Frank Freelancer.
Frank regularly contributes to The Monster Truck Times and runs his own blog, Big Wheel Freaks, where he specifically writes about monster truck races.
Edith likes Frank’s article idea, but she needs to educate him on the type of content that is the right fit for Cosmopolitan. She’ll give him their writer guidelines so he can match the tone and style of his article to the publication’s specifications.
Since Frank is a pro, he knows he needs to be flexible. He understands that Cosmopolitan subscribers aren’t used to reading the usual content he writes for The Monster Truck Times and Big Wheel Freaks.
If he wants to connect with Cosmopolitan’s audience (which he does), he has to adapt his writing based on Edith’s guidance. Frank knows that working writers don’t always get to write exactly what they want, and he welcomes the opportunity to strengthen his creative muscles.
Plus, he understands that if Cosmopolitan publishes his writing, he gains authority and validation as a trustworthy source of information. He has a chance to capture the attention of new people who aren’t familiar with his work and then direct them to his typical articles.
If he didn’t view the situation with that attitude, Edith wouldn’t be able to publish his article and she’d find another monster truck writer with more experience working for a professional publication.
Practice the process of guest posting
So, as you can see, my view on guest posting is more involved than simply getting another website to agree to publish one of your articles.
It’s a process of finding publications that are looking for what you offer and collaborating with them.
Successful guest posting consists of:
- Building relationships
- Learning and following rules
- Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor
Let’s look at each one …
The way two people connect and bond may look nothing like what another two people experience, so I think it’s best to view relationship-building as an art form with a variety of factors that are different for everyone.
But that also makes the process a bit difficult to describe.
First, accept that every relationship develops differently. You’ll rarely be able to duplicate something that worked for someone else and get the same results — your copycat version will seem forced and inauthentic.
Second, relationship-building needs you to detach from possible outcomes. For example, when you have an authentic interest in talking to a blogger whose site you enjoy, you’ll genuinely enjoy chatting with them in blog comments or having a quick email exchange.
The experience of connection is the reward.
On the other hand, if you contact someone because you want something from them, you’ll be preoccupied with getting that person to agree to your request. You might even feel entitled to their time and attention.
Your agenda is always more obvious than you realize — and it’s not attractive.
Connect with people you want to meet without needing anything from them. If a relationship grows naturally, somewhere down the line you’ll probably both be happy to help each other out.
Learning and following rules
The first “rule” on your radar should be familiarizing yourself with what certain publications are looking for, or not looking for …
Now’s a good time to mention that Copyblogger does not currently review unsolicited guest post pitches. However, many publications do review them and display guidelines on their sites to help you shape your submissions.
Those guidelines aren’t arbitrary. They are what the publication wants you to submit to optimize your chances of getting the “yes” response that you’d like, so study and follow the instructions.
You want to be intimately familiar with any site you pitch to (like how Frank Freelancer knew Edith Editor would be looking for a monster truck writer), so even if pitch guidelines aren’t available, you’ll naturally know how to grab their attention.
For instance, some publications prefer receiving a full article for consideration while others want to see an outline before the author finishes writing.
Regardless of your publication’s preference, demonstrate that you can offer their readers a new perspective, but that you’re also a professional who will meet their standards.
Pitching to smaller publications is a great way to practice guest posting.
Many won’t have as many rules as larger sites, so getting your writing published is sometimes a quicker process. Even though their audiences may contain fewer people, those individuals may be highly engaged with the site’s content, which helps you initiate new relationships and invite those readers back to your site.
Adapting your writing to become a regular contributor
It’s definitely an accomplishment to have a site other than your own publish your writing. But guest posting will be the most beneficial to your writing career if you aim to become a regular contributor — to one site or several.
Guest posting can help influence your area of expertise. Keep learning about the topics that the sites you’ve contributed to want to share with their readers.
For example, Frank Freelancer might enjoy writing for Cosmopolitan and continue to perform detailed research on relevant subjects for the magazine. He’ll treat his Cosmopolitan articles with great care and submit his best work.
As you grow a long-term relationship with a publication, they’ll get to know you better as well and appreciate your professional attributes, such as meeting deadlines and submitting drafts without typos.
When you contribute value over time, the publication will also be much more willing to help you out with a favor, if you ever need one.
Finding loyal readers requires the same persistence writers have needed since the birth of the first writing instrument … but I think those ancient writers would have preferred to have access to new audiences on the internet. Don’t squander your upper hand.
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