If you’re looking for a way to attract new clients and/or boost the online presence that your freelance business has, you’ll be glad to know that there’s a strategy that can do both: guest posting.
I’ve been using guest posting as a marketing tool for three years now and it’s my favourite strategy for promoting my services. It’s perfect for any freelance writer as you get to work your writing magic whilst reaching a new audience, and I’d recommend it to anyone, no matter what stage your business is in.
In this guide, I’ve put together the step-by-step method that I use to research, plan and find contacts, along with how to ensure that your article gets accepted.
Why should I be guest posting?
Before we even get started about how to dive straight in with writing for publications, I just wanted to drill-down and make you realise why it’s so good — especially a for a freelance writer.
I started my freelance writing career when I got a job as a copywriter in an online marketing/SEO agency. Part of my job role was to guest post on sites to boost the Domain Authority of both our and our client’s websites.
Despite it being mainly for SEO value, it taught me a lot about the value of posting on high-authority websites (and even started doing it in my own time because I loved it so much).
Samples for your portfolio
Writing for large publications like The Huffington Post, Inc. and Fast Company are fantastic websites to be associated with — and they’re great names to fill up your portfolio with.
Websites like this have high expectations and will only publish the best content, meaning that if a potential client stumbles across your portfolio and notices that you’ve been published, they’re likely to get the wow-factor even before reading your actual writing.
Set up a page on your freelance writing website that displays the logos of where your writing has been featured. This can be on your Portfolio page but I included mine within my Testimonials so people can view the content whilst reading glowing reviews about my writing *cheese*!
Here’s an example the testimonials page on my site:
Over each image, I’ve hyperlinked to my author profiles or one-off pieces that I’ve written for each website.
I’ve also included the logos of publications where work isn’t bylined with my own name, although I cannot link to these for confidentiality/ghostwriting reasons. Even though the content isn’t linkable, I’ve made this clear in the text above the logos for prospective clients to understand.
Since I offer ghostwriting services, this also helps the potential client trust that writing I do on their behalf is confidential.
Writing for publications and writing for clients are completely different. The chances are, your client writing won’t be exposed to millions of people. If you’re writing for an authoritative publication, it probably will be.
I’ve always found that there’s much more pressure on writing for publications than it has for a client. Because the editors of these sites are busy, you need to crack down on creating an amazing pitch. If your client is a smaller brand, they’ll probably have more time to comb through your email and you don’t have to make it as punchy.#TopTip: Guest posting for high-profile websites is fantastic for your freelancing portfolio! Click To Tweet
Often with these publications, you have to write the article before you’ve spoken to the editor, meaning your writing really does need to be top-notch if you’ve got any chance of getting published.
Recognition & potential for new clients
Along with learning tonnes about writing through this type of content posting, I believe that it was the sole thing that kicked off my freelance writing career. People started to contact me through my work they’d seen online and a consistent flow of leads was coming to me without directly targeting them.
For example, after posting an article on Social Media Examiner, the CEO of a social media marketing tool reached out to me through Twitter and asked me to contribute to their site. Not bad considering the only promotion I did of the piece was through Twitter after it’d been published, eh?
What I’m saying is, the audience of these publications are probably including hundreds of people that fit your ideal customer mould. From CEOs of multi-million businesses to smaller brands in your town, they’re likely to be reading the magazine and your content will be visible to them.
I touched on it briefly earlier but I just wanted to explore the SEO benefits of being published in these publications a little bit more, purely because of how beneficial it actually is for your freelance writing website.
Any SEO strategy will also have a link building strategy incorporated within it. That’s because a search engine will pick up on trusted and authoritative sites linking to yours, leading to Google thinking that your site is actually providing people with some value. In turn, it’ll be more likely to rank you for search terms and your Domain Authority will increase.
Once your site has been optimised for SEO and you’re gaining credible back links, you’ll see your organic traffic increase as well as your search rankings for your main keywords.
Who should I guest post for?
Once you’ve (hopefully!) realised that guest posting is a credible way to boost your business’ website and find new clients, it’s time to start thinking about where you want to write.Although high-profile websites are great for SEO, niche sites are often better for guest posting. Click To Tweet
Before jumping to writing pitches for any ol’ website, you’ll want to get a grip on what type of writing samples – and publications – you want to use within your portfolio.
There are two forms of guest posting strategies:
High authority sites
The most wow-ing strategy is to guest post on high-authority sites. This is usually done by writing for big-name publications like those listed below:
The chances are, you’ll have heard of at least one of these websites. Similarly, your clients will, too. After all, they’re some of the biggest publications in the world and getting your work featured here is bound to impress a prospective client!
That being said, opting for this guest posting strategy isn’t likely to help with certain goals.
Let’s take Lifehack, for example. It’s a generalist website yet has a high DA (making it fab for SEO), but their readers are unlikely to be your ideal clients. Yes, a small volume may read the post and decide that they need your product or services, but it’s not going to be as successful in terms of attracting new clients.
In short-form, choose this strategy if SEO is your primary reason for guest posting.
Guest posting on a niche website is the other strategy that your website or blog can use to attract new clients.
Unlike high-profile publications, sites like these have a targeted audience; hence why you have more chance of finding clients through this form of guest posting.
Let’s say you’re a freelance writer that focuses on digital marketing. You might want to get featured on the following sites:
Personally, I’ve found these niche sites harder to break into as you really need to know your stuff and the majority won’t take a look at your work if you’re a newbie without credible samples.
For this reason, I used a combination of both strategies to get started. I begun with high-authority sites where I didn’t have to position myself as an expert, then used these samples as a reason for niche sites to let me write for them.
Guest posting on niche sites is definitely the better option if you’re looking to attract new clients and grow your website audience with relevant people.
Finding contacts to pitch
Finding the correct contacts to pitch your guest post idea is just – if not – more important than finding the right publication. You’ll want to find somebody who works there and if in a high-authority website, you’ve got the best chances of success with pitching to an editor that works within the subject you’re wanting to write about.
For example, let’s say that a marketing expert wants to publish a piece on how businesses can use SEO to attract new clients. Instead of pitching to the general “contact@publication” email address, do a search for ‘business’ or ‘editor’ who manages that section of the site.
You can do this by:
The easiest way to find contacts is through Twitter. Use your search bar to type the @handle of the publication (i.e. @HuffPostUK), and the word of your topic. For the marketing expert, this would look something like this:
(If you can’t find anything industry-specific through this method, try searching for a general “editor”. The chances are, you’ll have better luck with your pitch being read by this person than it would be through a general submission address.)
Once you’ve found their Twitter account, follow them and don’t be shy about interacting. That way, when you come to pitch, it won’t technically be a cold email… More luke-warm.
Some editors have their email address listed in their bio for people wanting to get in touch. If that’s the case, you can move straight onto your pitch. If not, use a tool called AllMyTweets, enter their Twitter handle and search for “contact” or “email”.
If you’re not that social media-savvy (or prefer a good ol’ Google search), you can also search the site to find a relevant contact to pitch your guest post to.
Let’s take Forbes.com, for example; a publication where you’re looking to submit an article about how much you love running a small business. Searching for an editor that specialises in business content is easy and can be done by typing the following into your search bar:
[site:forbes.com small business editor]
An author profile page will show up on the Forbes website, and now it’s just down to you to send them a kick-ass pitch for your guest post.
Write for Us pages
I’d usually avoid going for general ‘write for us’ pages as submissions can be easily lost, but it can work if the site is pretty private – and you can’t find an email address.
You can do a Google search to find the general pitching email address by typing the following into your search bar:
[site:yourwebsiteexample.com “write for us”]
This was the exact method I used to land my writing on Social Media Examiner. I was given the guidelines, asked to suggest some articles and given a contact address to send my article to once the draft had been done.
Crafting your guest post pitch
Without a doubt, I found crafting a pitch the most difficult thing about getting guest posts. Heck, I still find it nerve-wracking when I send cold emails for my freelance writing business, but I like to think that my current structure is much better than the first few I sent!
In your pitch, you’ll want to include:
- Your name and writing niche
- Links to previous samples
- Your proposed guest post idea (along with 2-3 sentences about what the article covers)
- Why the article would be a good fit for their site
Unlike a freelance writing pitch, you don’t need to mention any kind of fee for your writing. The vast majority of sites accepting guest post don’t offer monetary compensation, but you definitely get your time’s worth in the exposure that you’ll receive in return for the article.
Some other tips for creating a guest post pitch that lands a writing gig are:
- Address the editor by their first name
- Mention articles that you like (written by them, if appropriate) to show them that you’ve done your research
- Add personality – don’t be like the other pitches they receive!
- Mention your experience with writing about the topic – i.e. if I want to pitch a guest post about marketing a business, I mention that I worked within an SEO agency for two years
Unfortunately, you should expect a handful of your guest post pitches to receive no response. Whether your pitch needs tweaking slightly or it’s simply slipped through the editor’s inbox, it’s a good idea to follow-up with your pitch to double-check that they’ve not missed it.
Keep a list of the places you’ve pitched to – and on what date – to easily view when you last got in touch with each contact. I usually tend to follow-up with pitches 4-5 days after I send them by simply forwarding the original message, adding something like this:
I just wanted to check-in and see if you received the guest post idea outlined below. It’d be great if you could let me know if you’d like me to send this over or alternatively, if you have any similar sections of the site that require content.
By re-sending the original pitch, they’ll have something to rejig their mind. If they missed it in the first place, it also helps save time re-sending it again to see if they’re interested.
I also like to ask the editor if there are any gaps in their content calendar that I could create a guest post around. However, this only works when contacting topic-specific editors.
If your follow-up pitch email still receives radio silence, it could be for many reasons, with the most common being:
- Your article idea wasn’t suitable for that editor
- The email address you contacted isn’t being used
- Your pitch slipped through the net (twice)
It can be hard to find exactly why you didn’t get a response, but I always use the following method to try again:
- Find another editor using the researching steps outlined above
- Suggest another article idea or play around with the existing idea and give the article a new title
The most important thing to remember is don’t give up! Losing confidence is bound to set you back. If you’re feeling stuck with a certain site, move onto another. You can always come back to it later!Don't forget to follow up with your guest post pitches after you've sent them! Click To Tweet
Writing your guest post
If you got a nod to send the guest post over, congratulations – you’re halfway there! Now it’s time to write the article.
Generally, sites that accept guest posts have a list of guidelines that they’d like their guest writers to follow. If these aren’t listed on the contact or submission page, it might be useful to ask your contact.
When writing your guest post, you will want to think about:
- Word count
- Their linking policy – does the site want you to link to other articles on their site within your piece? Are you able to link back to your own website?
- Document file – Google Doc or Microsoft Word doc?
- Does the site allow an author bio? Will you need an accompanying photo?
Once you’ve gotten hold of the guidelines, start writing and send it over!
When your contact comes back on the guest post you sent over, they might have a few tweaks. Generally, this is nothing to worry about but I’d always recommend getting your work proof-read by an expert to avoid the publication being off-put.
Once the final article is ready to go, the editor will give you a publication date. However, it’s not time to rest yet – there’s still some more work to do!
When your article has been published, it’s a good idea to:
Share the guest post on social media
In return for the publication giving your writing a feature, it’s a good idea to share your article on social media. This acts as a ‘thanks’ to the editor, as well as promoting your work.
If you’re a freelance writer, don’t be afraid to share the guest post a few times on social media. Any companies looking for freelancers may be using sites like LinkedIn to recruit people for new opportunities and if they see real samples of your work, they might be more inclined to hire you.
You should feature the guest post in your online portfolio, too.
Reply to comments
Guest posting isn’t all about getting a backlink and filling your portfolio. In fact, it’s a great method for networking and building professional relationships with like-minded people who can act as business support mentors.
Replying to any comments that you receive is a fantastic way of doing this. If somebody has read your article and have taken the time to respond to it, don’t be afraid of commenting back and visiting their website.
You never know; the commenter on your guest post could turn into a client – or recommend you to their contacts – further down the line.
Phew! Four hours and multiple cups of coffee later, we’ve finally gotten to the end.
Hopefully you’ve learned the best method for guest posting and can use it for your business to find new clients and boost the authority of your website.
If you’d like some help crafting guest posts for your business, I’d love to help. I’m a freelance writer and have been featured in many of these publications. Get in touch and let’s have a chat about what you’re looking for.