Seeing your name on top sites and in big publications is a pretty hot feeling. I know that feeling personally. And many freelance writers want to know how they can get their work right in the spotlight. Well, Kelly Watson’s here to tell you just how easy it is – and exactly how to get your work published by some really big names. Go for it!
To date, I’ve had my work published twice by Forbes.com. As a freelance journalist, seeing my name in print was nothing new. But each time I announced the Forbes posts on my Facebook page, friends and colleagues reacted with awe.
“How’d you do that?” some asked, as if I was privy to a secret formula that let me create bylines with the wave of my magic wand.
You don’t need a magic wand to have your articles and blog posts published by top media outlets. All you need are a couple of great ideas, a decent command of the English language and the determination to keep working after the rejection letters roll in.
Here’s how I did it:
Know your publication
There’s no faster way to ruin your credibility than to pitch editors a topic that’s completely irrelevant. Prevent this by checking the publication to see:
- What topics it covers
- Who writes the articles
- What style articles are written in
- How long articles are
I knew Forbes accepted blog posts from freelance writers, so I figured my odds were good. I also noticed that list posts were popular, so editors would probably be open to accepting one.
Craft your query
At the heart of most freelance writers’ professions is the query letter: a one-page document describing the proposed article, how long it will be, what sources it will reference and the writer’s past experience.
If you’re pitching a guest blog post, editors may want to see the finished document before they accept. But be careful – sending a finished article to a magazine publisher is a sure sign of a newbie.
Because Forbes also has a print version, I decided to go the more formal route and pitch the blog post with a traditional query letter instead of sending the whole thing (which hadn’t been written yet anyway).
Send the pitch
Nobody likes getting letters addressed “to whom it may concern.” Do your homework to find out the name of the editor of the publication. If you’re pitching to a magazine, look at the masthead in the front pages of a recent issue. If you’re pitching a website, look for “Editorial Guidelines” or “Contributor information”.
If you can’t find the right information or you’re still not sure who to contact, call the publication and ask.
Never send a pitch to more than one publication at a time. You don’t want to risk getting two acceptance letters and having to turn one down. Editors hate this, and they won’t look kindly upon your future queries.
Getting no response could mean that editors didn’t like your idea, but more likely it means that your query was lost in the shuffle.
If you don’t hear back within two or three weeks, follow up with a brief email or telephone call reminding editors of the query and asking them to respond within two weeks’ time. Attach a copy of the original query to the email. If you still don’t hear back, you can either follow up a second time or pitch the article elsewhere.
Review the contract
If editors accept your query, they’ll probably ask you to sign a contract. This contract specifies what rights the publication has to your work and how much money (if any) you’ll receive.
I try to hold publishers to first publication rights – that means they have the right to publish my article first, but I can then sell the content again or post it on my blog. Avoid work-for-hire contracts that take all rights to your work (unless they pay well).
Write the article
Once you’ve signed the contract, you’ll need to write the article. Don’t get lazy – stick to the agreed-upon word count and meet all deadlines. Also, read the article aloud at least once to catch any hidden typos. The less editing you make others do, the more likely you are to land repeat assignments.
If possible, send your article in a few days early. Don’t send it more than a week in advance, however, or it might get filed and forgotten about. I give most editors a call when sending the article to let them know it’s on the way. That way they expect it and can let me know if it doesn’t appear in their inbox that day.
Promote, promote, promote
Once the article has published, do your part to promote it. This builds your credibility and makes editors more likely to hire you in the future. (After all, they benefit from your promotional efforts, too!)
If your article is posted online, link to it from Facebook, Twitter and other social media accounts. Leave comments if possible and encourage others to do the same.
If you feel the experience went smoothly, you can ask the editor for a short testimonial. I do this often, and include the responses under the published articles on my website. This way, other editors can see that I’m an experienced writer who always meets her deadlines.
Kelly Watson is a freelance journalist and copywriter who blogs about small business marketing. Check out her site today.