It’s no secret that I think guest posts are a good idea.
They drive traffic to your website. They increase your audience. They show off your knowledge and authority.
In order to take advantage of the benefits of guest posting, you have to be able to put together a good pitch.
And while there are plenty of resources out there for writers looking for tips on pitching guest posts, when you’re a small business owner, knowing where to start can feel like more of a challenge.
What do you say? How to you introduce yourself? What if you’ve never had anything published (online or in print) before? How do you make the approach without coming across to sales-y or sleazy?
Here’s the good news:
You don’t have to be a professional writer to professionally pitch a guest post. You just have to follow six basic rules.
1. Write a real email to a real person
Don’t write a form email where you (hopefully) remember to insert the correct name of the website you’re pitching. Don’t address the one person who runs the site and “Dear Editors.” Don’t use the wrong name.
Instead, write a real email from a real person to a real person. Write as yourself, in your professional, conversational voice. Start with a salutation, have a body paragraph or two, and sign off in some way using your real name.
I usually end emails with “Take care.” You may prefer, “Regards,” “Thanks for your time,” or “All the best.” Any of these are fine, but make sure you have an actual signature to show respect and professionalism.
Address the person who manages the site or edits the blog directly. You may have to hunt down this information on the site itself or on LinkedIn, but you should definitely find it.
First names are generally fine in email — “Hi Katharine” will never make me delete an email, but “Dear Madam or Sir” definitely will. If you’re pitching a bigger site or publication, Mr. or Ms. might be a better approach, but most people who work in the online space are used to a slightly less formal mode of address via email.
2. Do your research
Before you pitch, you need to know something about the site itself. Who makes up the audience? What sort of pieces do they publish? What have they published recently (you don’t want to pitch an idea that just ran last week). You want to be able to show that you are a good fit for the site’s readers, and to do that, you need to know something about them.
A big mistake that a lot of small business owners make when pitching other websites? Not checking to see whether they actually publish other writers.
I’m currently accepting guest post pitches, but that wasn’t always true. Every single post on this site was planned, written, and published by your girl right here. But I can’t tell you the number of poorly-written emails I received over the past couple years from people suggesting that I publish their (unspecified) guest posts.
Now, if you have your own blog or website, there’s very little to be lost by approaching another business owner or website and suggesting a mutually relevant, post swap. For example, if you’re a photographer, you could suggest a post swap to a caterer. Or, if you run a bookstore, you could suggest a post swap with a local author. As long as you have overlapping audiences, this can be a really great way to expand your reach online!
But when pitching a blog or website that you don’t already have a relationship with, you must, must, must make sure that they actually accept guest posts. Otherwise, they’ll be exasperated, and you’ll have wasted your time.
3. Show your expertise
Usually, when a writer sends a pitch for a guest post (or any post) it includes links to samples of their writing on the same topic.
As a small business owner, you may or may not have samples to use. This is totally fine! You can still show your expertise.
Now, showing your expertise doesn’t mean writing a small essay about your professional accomplishments, or linking to every client testimonial you’ve ever received. (No one likes that guy.)
Instead, say a little something about why your experience makes you qualified to speak to their audience. Are you pitching an online magazine for entrepreneurs because you’ve successfully started and sold a business? Do you want to write for a wedding planning blog because you’re a florist who has worked with dozens of couples? Does your experience as an accountant make you qualified to share advice about taxes for a financial blog?
You don’t have to go into a lot of detail; in fact, it’s generally better to keep things short and snappy.
But you do need to show why you are an authority on your subject and how the site’s readers can benefit from your insight.
This also includes making it easy for the owner/editor to do their own research. Either in your signature or in the body of the email, include links to your website and any social media accounts that show who you are and why you are qualified to write on your topic.
4. Have a concrete idea
When you pitch a site, don’t just ask if they’d be interested in “a guest post,” “a guest post for restaurant,” or even “a guest post about wedding planning.”
This is where you show that you’ve done your research by proposing an actual, thought-out, concrete idea to which the site owner can say yes, no, or that’s not quite right but send me a few other ideas.
Generally, you want to pitch your idea one of three ways:
- Post titles only. Ask whether the editor/site owner would be interested in a post on “Five Signs You Need a New Accountant” or “Three Surprising Ways Small Businesses Waste Money.” Suggest 3-5 headlines and offer to provide more information on whichever ideas they like.
- Title + short description. Propose 2-3 titles, then give a little insight into what you’d actually write on the topic. This can be as simple as “Five Effective Strategies to Motivate Your Employees: tips from successful managers to help you boost sales and increase employee retention.”
- A single, in-depth idea. You can also send one detailed pitch for a single idea. To do this, you need to have a good idea what you’ll be writing about, including sources or experts you’ll talk to, you’re main 3-5 points, and an overview of the content of the post.
Which pitch style you go with is up to you, though you may find that the website itself gives you an idea of which they’d prefer. Which brings us to…
5. Follow the guidelines
These six rules are a good starting point — and if there are no additional guidelines on the site you’re pitching, they’ll usually get your foot in the door.
But if there are additional guidelines, follow them. Websites don’t post these guidelines to be difficult. They post them to (a) make it easier to wade through all the emails that come in; (b) see whether you’ve actually bothered to do your research and learn about the site before posting; and (c) make sure you can follow directions (because people who can’t follow directions are a pain to work with).
Even if the guidelines seem silly — like asking for “Raspberry Pie” as the subject line (yes, I’ve seen this before) — they are there for a reason. Follow them, otherwise you torpedo your chances of actually getting that guest post published.
This one is so simple, but so critical. I cannot tell you the number of email I receive with misspellings, poor grammar, bad research, or missing parts of sentences. If you can’t craft a simple, readable email, there’s no way anyone is going to trust you to write a good guest post for their site.
Proofread your email. Then proofread it again. (When I edit things, I like to read them in reverse, starting with the last paragraph and working back to the beginning in order to keep my brain from reading what I intended to write.)
Especially when you don’t have writing samples to share, your pitch email is where you show that you are a competent writer (something not everyone is!)
If you do nothing else on this list, proofread your pitch email.
Sample Guest Post Pitch
Of course, rules seem simple when you see them written out, but they can get more complicated to actually follow. So if you’re wondering what an actual pitch email should look like, I’ve got a simple one for you.
This is the sort of pitch I’m currently looking for; other sites might expect something different (remember: read those guidelines!)
I saw that you’re currently looking for guest posts for Katharine Writes, and I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself and send a few ideas your way!
My name is Kendra Hopper; I’m a business consultant specializing in advising start-ups and small businesses on how to attract talent and create a productive work environment. After working with dozens of clients in over fifteen different industries, I’ve got a lot of insight into what makes a job appealing to employees and how even the newest business can attract stellar talent. I’d love to share those insights with your audience.
A few ideas I had:
1. Create a Job Ad to Attract the Employees Your Small Business Needs: Dos and don’ts for posting to job boards, including the five phrases that will actually turn off the employees you’re hoping to hire.
2. Five Ways to Make Your Start-Up More Productive: How to create a work environment that motivates employees, including how to be flexible without compromising your business’ needs.
I’d be happy to provide more detail on either of these ideas or to suggest a few others if neither of them are quite the right fit.
Thanks so much for your time; I look forward to hearing back from you!
It’s not a long email, but it is thought-out, well-written, and shows that the writer has done some research — exactly what a site owner or editor wants to see.
What questions or suggestions do you have for pitching a guest post? Share them in the comments!
PS – If you’d like to submit your own guest post to Katharine Writes, see the guidelines here!