How to Get Your First Writing Sample
It’s a catch-22: you want to pitch a publication, but you need a writing sample. But you can’t get samples unless you pitch a publication. All is not lost: you can get your initial clip if you follow some simple steps.
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The easiest way to get a sample is probably to pitch a guest post on a blog. Be aware that this will more than likely be unpaid (but there certainly are blogs that pay for guest posts).
You may have to write your first two or three posts for free. The secret is to know when to move on to paid writing and when it’s OK to write for free.
Here’s how to pitch your first guest post.
1. First, familiarize yourself with the blog and the author/editor.
Ensure you understand the blog, its voice, and its audience. The best way to do this is to pitch a blog you already read and are familiar with, but you’ll still need to read Writer’s Guidelines to ensure your pitch has a higher chance of being accepted.
If you’re pitching a blog that you don’t already read, take some time to go through some posts, but especially the comments section. This will give you an idea of the audience and what they like.
2. Make a connection with the blogger.
Whether you connect on Facebook, re-tweet something they wrote, or make comments on their blog (preferably all of these), make sure the blogger knows you exist before pitching them. While this isn’t mandatory, it increases your chances of getting your pitch noticed.
3. Read Writer’s Guidelines… and follow them.
Reading the Writer’s Guidelines serves several purposes:
It’ll tell you if the blog accepts guest posts in the first place (several blogs don’t).
It’ll tell you if the blog pays for guest posts (several blogs don’t).
If the blog does accept guest posts, the Writer’s Guidelines will tell you exactly how to pitch and how to write an article that’s more likely to be published.
Ignore writer’s guidelines, and you’re probably wasting your time pitching. There’s certainly a time and a place to ignore some aspects of writer’s guidelines, but for the most part, you should follow them to a T—especially for print publications.
4. If possible, send the pitch directly to the blogger or editor, rather than through a submissions portal.
Here’s where sometimes it’s OK to ignore portions of the Writer’s Guidelines. If those guidelines don’t specifically say “we only read pitches that are submitted through the portal,” it may be a good idea to pitch the blogger or editor directly.
Having said that, just getting a blogger or editor’s email address will not help you get published, and going on social media to ask for it makes you look lazy. It might piss some people off, too.
You still need to do all of the legwork of familiarizing yourself with the blog, learning how to write in its voice for the appropriate audience, and find a connection with the blogger. Getting the direct email address comes after all this, and you need to find it on your own. After all, knowing how to research anything is what makes a good MultiTalented Writer. That includes knowing how to get that contact info.
However, if the Writer’s Guidelines specifically ask you not to email the editor/blogger directly, don’t. Use the appropriate channels and follow up.
Doing all of these things will make it more likely that you’ll get published on a blog or multi-author site. This is one time where it’s OK to work for free—when you’re trying to get established. But know when to stop. Once you have 2-3 samples, start looking for paid gigs. There are several ways to do this.
If blogging is your thing, this is a great resource for finding paying gigs. If your thing is freelance writing, this is another great resource. And if you’re a MultiTalented Writer, you can’t go wrong with The Writer’s Market. I buy the paper copy every year.
What will you pitch next?
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