Pitching articles is a vital part of freelance writing. It’s also a major priority for businesses looking for exposure.
That’s because the easiest way to get backlinks to your website on reputable sites is to put them there yourself. It’s also a great way to introduce your ideas to a larger audience.
For me, it was always about the prestige of being published in specific outlets. I view myself as a creative professional and content creator.
This blog was initially published on Blogspot and was meant to document my life when I thought I was going to die after blowing the whistle on Bank of America.
Guest blogging wasn’t about making money to me – it was me reaching out to journalists and editors to get my story heard.
That’s why when you read my articles on this blog, they’re very different than what you’ll read on outlets like Forbes, Fast Company, High Times, Huffington Post, and Cracked.
Priorities changed as I gained experience over 7 years of freelancing. I needed to make money. I started writing about more than just myself.
I also learned new things, gained new experiences, and saw things from new perspectives in my new life.
But even as I shifted the focus of this blog, I still stick to the same basic pitch to media outlets today.
It’s a simple process and a simple pitch that gets my foot into doors when I need to expand my writing network.
There are four steps you can follow to pitch any story to any outlet you want.
Enough about me – let’s get started.
1. Targeting the Right Outlets
The first step is targeting the right outlets. Everyone has a niche, and it’s important to target publications interested in that niche.
I’m sure you think you have a mainstream message that’s universally appealing.
Successful blog posts are always niches. Always.
Even the most successful and recognizable films, songs, books, and commercials all started as a niche.
Star Wars, for example, is a Science Fiction film. Even more specifically, it’s a space opera. The reason it’s so widely loved today is because George Lucas focused on creating a great space opera science fiction film.
Do the same with blogging.
My niche is whistleblowing. Every pitch I send is about an aspect of my personal journey and story as a whistleblower.
Sometimes it’s related to the mortgage, insurance, and banking industry. Wells Fargo getting in trouble in 2017 for the exact force-placed insurance scam I’ve been bringing up since 2011 helped me gain interest from publications looking to discuss politics.
It also helped that blowing the whistle landed me in Joe Arpaio’s Tent City.
So when Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio, my story was again made relevant.
I’m also an expert on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which recently came under attack. Its one of the agencies I worked with at the beginning of my whistleblower career.
All I had to do in all three instances was pitch my story to any publication discussing the story. I could then provide my own perspective.
Do some research on things happening in the news and correlate your experience and knowledge with current events.
That magic formula will help you determine the right place to be published.
And don’t stick to just one. Pitch to several outlets at once. It’ll increase your odds of being published immediately while lessening the blow if you’re rejected at one (which is going to continue happening throughout your career).
Once you have your publication list, it’s time to find contacts to pitch your article to.
2. Finding the Right Contacts
Who to pitch your article to largely depends on where you’re pitching. Every publication has its own processes and procedures for accepting pitches.
Some don’t accept unsolicited pitches at all. Many popular publications that do accept pitches are often inundated with them.
Be sure to follow the process exactly. I’ll review a couple different outlets I’ve successfully pitched to. They may not always stay the same, but this is what it looks like as of the time of this writing (or when I originally was published)
Although HuffPost invited me to blog for them, it’s changed a lot since 2011. It’s sure to change again.
For now, it has a link to a Google Form on the Contact Us page of its website.
Click on it, and you’ll have several fields to fill out.
Notice they ask for the actual draft of the article. This means you’ll have to write it before pitching. This is common, but don’t ever pitch the finished article unless asked.
I can’t stress enough that your odds of being published are dependent on your ability to follow the publication’s rules.
If all the company wants is a synopsis, send the synopsis. With that being said, your best bet is to write an article before pitching it.
Even if the publication doesn’t want the full article, your work will already be done.
HuffPost accepts pitches in a variety of verticals, but they typically all end up in the HuffPost Blog.
This is because HP Blog isn’t indexed in Google. It’s the company’s way of stopping they type of content marketing I mentioned in this article’s introduction and was the subject of my article for Cracked.
Another important difference between Cracked and HuffPost is Cracked (barely) pays contributors. HuffPost harvests slave labor.
Cracked has an interesting method of generating content.
To get published, you’ll need to login to the Cracked Forums and enter the Writer’s Workshop thread.
It’s a tough place to push a story through, and there’s even a story graveyard in the forums for writers who abandoned their ideas during the lengthy process.
It took several months to get my story published and was completely rewritten from its original form (not always a good thing).
Although I had a second article set to publish in Cracked, I abandoned it because of the titling process. It’s something you should be aware of.
The original title of my article had nothing to do with fake reviews, and I several times tried removing the sarcastic quotes Ryan Menezes added to disrespect everything about my career.
He claims the editors choose the titles at the last minute, and refuses to let you see it until it’s published. You just wake up one day and learn some shithead with no life experience thinks it’s ok to mock other people’s life work. He can choke on a bag of dicks.
That’ll be an entire article in itself, but know that if you want to be published in Cracked, you’re going to be put through the ringer.
To find the exact publication guidelines for your specific dream publication, just search “Contribute to (Insert publication name here)” on your favorite search engine.
But don’t just stop there.
3. Hedge Your Bets with Multiple Pitches
Pitching to one publication is very limiting. The industry isn’t what it used to be, and there are millions of outlets you can pitch to these days.
Since you already have the story written, getting it published is necessary.
Find more outlets and pitch to competitors.
If you don’t know competitors, one way to check is through SEMRush. Let’s take a look at HuffPost’s organic search competitors.
Here we see Buzzfeed, NY Times, CNN, Daily Mail, and the Guardian.
HuffPost also uses a ton of paid search and has competitors there too.
One is About.com, which was rebranded to DotDash in early 2017.
Dotdash gives you another place to pitch, with 6 different verticals – money (The Balance), education (Thought Co), healthy living (Very Well), travel (Trip Savvy), tech (Lifewire), and home decorating/DIY (The Spruce).
Don’t just stop there – keep digging through search engines for the biggest, most popular outlets that deal with the topic you want to write about.
If you still haven’t been able to get published, there are a few easy routes to bypass an editor and get your name and article on a major platform.
4. The Easy Alternatives
There are other places to gain more traffic than your own personal blog.
I would only recommend syndicating your content on these sites, though. That means you should publish on your owned blog first, then republish on these sites. This ensures you gain ad revenue from your blog.
Be careful only posting article fragments on these platforms, as they frown on these.
Let’s take a look at HuffPost on Amazon’s other Alexa.
It’s ranked 69 in the U.S. (stop snickering) and 263 in the world.
That’s why it’s such a coveted outlet to marketers. But there are two other comparable sites.
Here’s the Alexa ranking for Buzzfeed.
Buzzfeed actually outranks HuffPost, and you getting published there is as easy as creating an account and publishing your article.
Also, like HuffPost, these articles aren’t indexed in Google. However, if it gets enough traffic, the Buzzfeed editorial staff will feature the article on its main site, and it’ll…well…feed the buzz…
Of course, your article has to be very image-intensive. Thankfully the platform encourages you to scrape these from around the Internet (and cite the source).
Also, there’s Medium.
It’s not rated as high as Buzzfeed and HuffPost, but it’s still a very popular website.
Publishing on Medium can give you more exposure than your own blog, especially at the beginning stages of your writing career.
Medium is similar to WordPress in that it’s a community of bloggers for bloggers.
It also gets a ton of traffic, and you can really build out your audience on this site.
The writing industry is tough. I’m competing with over 30 million other bloggers every year.
It’s hard to stand out in this environment, and one of the best ways to do it is by getting published in high-profile sites.
The more sites you can get under your belt, the better off you are.
Some people spend their entire career writing for one outlet, such as the NY Times at best or some small, unknown blog at worst.
Personally, I’ve blogged for myself, High Times, HuffPost, Fast Company, Forbes, Cracked, Paste Magazine, Cannabis Now, Marijuana Stocks, Small Business Daily, Gaiam, Elephant Journal, MindBodyGreen, Hardcore Droid, Cardfellow, Updato, and dozens of other places large and small.
I’m a freelancer, not a corporate puppet. But I still need to pay my bills like everyone else.
So I’ll keep pitching my stories everywhere I can. Keep an eye out for more big things coming in 2018.
And if you have any other tips I missed or questions for clarification on how to successfully pitch an article, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.