Becoming a guest contributor for a publication is an extremely powerful way for thought leaders to build their credibility. Being published in a national, specialist, or trade publication in your area of expertise is a great way to show people that you are an authority on a subject.
Not only does it help with your exposure, but it can help you find new client leads, network with like-minded people, and become a reputable figure in the industry. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about what it means to be a guest contributor, why it matters, and how to do it.
What Does It Mean To Be A Guest Contributor?
Being a guest contributor on a website means that you contribute articles, either on a one-off or regular basis. It will involve pitching ideas, and sometimes completed articles, to the editorial team and working with them on a piece that fits their content and style. A guest article might be a comment piece on a recent news story, an advice column, or a personal essay.
Being a guest contributor not only gives you an opportunity to publish your content, but it highlights you as an expert and thought leader to their readership. It shows off your knowledge and broad understanding of your industry that you are able to offer perspective on. Being a guest contributor usually means writing digital content, but occasionally publications may offer you a spot in print.
Why Are Guest Contributors Beneficial?
Being a guest contributor is valuable to publications because it allows them to publish content with the expertise of people outside their staff writers. As an entrepreneur or thought leader, you will be able to speak to experience and valuable lessons that others don’t have. It also allows publications and readers to hear from diverse voices with unique perspectives and shows that the publication is closely involved with key people in the industry.
How To Build Up Your Portfolio
The first step to becoming a guest contributor is building up your writing samples. When you approach an outlet as a first-time writer, they will usually request a previous writing example. This doesn’t necessarily need to be published — it can be a Google Doc, or maybe something you shared on your own blog or Medium page.
When you are trying to build your portfolio, publications will value your bylines from other outlets. It shows that you can adapt to various writing styles, that you are valued in the industry, and that you are a reliable contributor. So when you approach an editor for the first time, make sure to hyperlink to some previous work and spotlight your best pieces.
How To Find Guest Contributor Post Opportunities
Guest contributor opportunities won’t necessarily always be advertised. But most publications will be open to taking submissions from freelance writers and experts. You can email to introduce yourself to editors, or even send a cold pitch suggesting an idea and introduce yourself at the same time. The important thing to remember is that editors want people to pitch them. You can pitch as many ideas as you want, and if it’s not a fit, they can only say no.
Another way to find guest contributor opportunities is to check if the websites you enjoy reading take finished drafts. Some will let you fill out a form and submit a finished piece, which they will publish if it meets their requirements. Other websites will ask you to email a finished draft to their editorial team, which is how larger sites like TechCrunch and Inc work. If a website does not advertise that it takes guest submissions, it’s always worth emailing to ask.
How To Write A Pitch
The easiest way to get in touch with an editor about guest contributor opportunities is to send them a clean pitch of your idea. Pitching an editorial idea will vary from a PR pitch. Often, editors want a concise paragraph that sums up your idea, which can be followed by bullet points of potential things you will cover. It should also emphasize how it would work for that particular publication, and why you are the right person to write it. You can either open or close your email with a couple of sentences about who you are, your background, writing experience, and links to previous articles or your portfolio.
It’s crucial to remember that many publications want ideas, not finished pieces. This allows you to work with them on fine-tuning an idea that suits them. Below is a reliable structure to follow when writing a pitch:
Hi [first name],
I hope you’re well.
I’m just getting in touch to see if [publication name] would be interested in an article about [idea]?
*1-2 short paragraphs outlining the idea*
I could see this being a good fit for [publication] because…
This is particularly relevant right now because…
Just to introduce myself, I am the founder and CEO of [company]. I have spent X years in the industry and have witnessed many of the aforementioned business trends taking place in real-time. I have written previously for [name some bylines]/ you can take a look at some of my writing samples here [links].
It would be great to hear your thoughts and discuss further?
How To Improve Your Writing
The best way to improve your chances of being invited to become a regular guest contributor is by showing them that you have read and taken on board their contributor guidelines. By being someone whose work is easy to edit, you are improving your relationship with the outlet and proving you are a strong, reliable writer.
The easiest way to improve your writing is to follow guest contributor guidelines. Before submitting anything, make sure you check the website to see if they have published their contributor guidelines. You should also read their recent articles to match the tone and style. This is the easiest way to make a good first impression with an editor. Additionally, you should always put the piece through a spell checker like Grammarly. Alternatively, you can ask a colleague who knows the topic to edit for you. It is very difficult to proofread your own work, so make a habit of having a second pair of eyes go over it before sending to the editor.
How To Promote Your Work as a Guest Contributor
Once your guest article is published, make sure you share it far and wide. Publishing on LinkedIn is the perfect way to get the piece in front of your industry network, and they are the people most likely to engage and share further. You can also include it in your email newsletter and post across your other social platforms.
If a publication sees that you have a large, engaged audience to share your work with, and boosts their website traffic as a result, they are more likely to work with you again in the future.
Paying For Leadership Networks and Councils
There are some opportunities to write as a guest contributor for very prestigious publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes, by applying for a particular type of membership and paying an annual fee. If your budget allows and you meet the requirements, this can be a fantastic way to improve your exposure and write content regularly that helps you grow as a thought leader. We wrote a whole guest post about how this can help you here.
Pay, Get Paid, Or Write For Free?
Being a guest contributor can get a little financially confusing. You will find there are usually three options: pay to write, get paid, or write for free. Paying to write your guest article is essentially a type of sponsored content. Rather than have their editorial team write an advertorial about your business, it can be a more personal way to spotlight your personal brand or business, packaged up in an opinion piece.
In some circumstances, you will get paid to write. This is how freelance journalists make a living, but not every publication has a budget for this. If you are a guest contributor with a large portfolio and many different bylines, you may have more leverage to negotiate a fee.
The final option is to write for free. Any freelance journalist would tell you to never write for free, but when you are doing so under your company name, in a context that allows you to organically spotlight your work, there is value here that is not monetary. Additionally, if you have no prior writing experience, writing for free can be a good way to build up your portfolio to give you the necessary experience to be paid for your writing in the future.
Working With Ghostwriters And Editors
Business owners are very busy people, and finding the time to sit down and write an article can be challenging. Working with a ghostwriter or an assistant editor can be a great way to get the best out of your ideas and writing. Ghostwriting is very common, and some of the biggest celebrities in the world work with ghostwriters on their autobiographies. Working with one means outlining your ideas to a writer and having them write from your perspective. You can then work together on the editing process to make sure it reflects your views and captures your voice.
Ultimately, you don’t have to be the strongest writer to become a guest contributor, but you do need to be passionate about your industry and have great ideas that can bring great content to a publication.
Find out how Otter PR can help you become a guest contributor and grow your portfolio by booking a free consultation today.