Writing and publishing articles or blog posts as an expert in your professional specialty can help you become more credible as well as more visible. A well-written piece on a subject of interest to your target market will get clients’ attention, demonstrate your expertise, and increase your name recognition. When your writing is published by someone other than yourself, the boost to your credibility can be substantial.
But if you’ve only ever published your writing on your own blog or website, the process of getting published elsewhere may seem intimidating. Here’s a step-by-step guide to publishing your writing with the aim of attracting more clients.
1. Find the right publication venues.
The first step in getting an article or blog post published is to identify what venues would be appropriate for your writing. What do the people in your target market read? Consider blogs, newsletters, ezines, websites, magazines, trade journals, and newspapers. Ask your clients and prospects what online and print publications they subscribe to. Notice which periodicals are lying on their desks or coffee tables. Find out what websites or blogs they frequently visit.
To find the right kind of blogs, websites, or online editions of print publications, type your specialty and the word “articles” or “guest post” into Google. For example, “conflict resolution articles” or “retirement planning guest post.” (Don’t use quotes in making your search.) For many publications, you can look them up by subject in online directories of writing markets, such as those published by Writer’s Market or Duotrope.
If you are new to getting your writing published, start with small publications that don’t require writing experience. The newsletter of your professional association is an excellent first target. Other possibilities are blogs authored by people you know, resource websites for your market niche; newsletters or ezines produced by other professionals with a similar target market; and neighborhood newspapers or advertising periodicals.
2. Determine their submission guidelines.
When you have some venues in mind, don’t just write an article or post and submit it until you check their editorial guidelines. Many print publications and some online venues and blogs prefer that you query them first. Look for submission guidelines posted on the venue’s website, listed in a box near the table of contents or inside the front cover, or in a newspaper’s editorial section.
If you don’t find any guidelines, contact the editor for your subject area (usually listed in one of the same places) or the blogger, and ask. Or, go ahead and submit a query, as described below.
3. Pitch your article idea.
Some venues accept article or guest post queries by phone, but most want them in writing. When you contact an editor or blogger, be prepared to pitch your article idea. Tell them your proposed topic, why it is of interest to their readers, and why you should be the one who writes about it. Small venues will usually give you a yes or no based on just a brief pitch. Larger venues may ask you to send a formal query letter and include some samples of your writing.
When a publication requests queries, don’t try to skip the query step by sending a completed piece in the hope that it will get printed. Many editors won’t even look at it, and you will have wasted everyone’s time. Only if the venue states it accepts completed or previously published articles should you send the piece instead of a query.
When writing a query, begin with a strong lead paragraph, written just as if it were the opening paragraph of the finished piece. You want to capture the editor’s interest, introduce your topic, and show that you can write. Continue the query by describing two or three key points you intend for your article to make.
Then propose the piece itself: “I would like to write a 1500-word article on the benefits to employers of integrated disability management programs. I plan to interview three employers who have experienced significant cost reductions…”
Conclude your query with a brief description of your background that indicates why you are qualified to write the article. If you have previously been published, include links to two sample articles with your query.
The elapsed time it takes editors and bloggers to respond to a query varies widely. Unless you have been told otherwise, follow up after thirty days if you haven’t heard anything. This is particularly important with a publication that only accepts pieces which haven’t been previously published. With first-run articles, you shouldn’t send the same query to another editor until you are sure the first one doesn’t want it.
4. Write and submit your article.
The editors and content producers who will be considering your work for publication want pieces that will inform, inspire, or entertain their audience. What they don’t want are articles that are primarily promotional. A graphic designer would easily be able to place articles on keys to creating a great logo or how to choose colors for a marketing piece. But few editors will be interested in an article on how to work with a graphic designer or reasons why you should hire one.
A useful guideline for judging the promotional level of your articles is to ask yourself: “Would a reader be able to use the information in this article even if they never hired me, or a professional like me, to assist them?” If the answer is no, your article is probably too promotional.
An article is not a book; keep each article focused on one topic. Many new writers fail at producing good articles because they try to cram too much into them. Pieces written for the web are typically 300-800 words, but some venues prefer longer pieces. A typical newspaper or magazine article is 750-1500 words, although some are longer.
Choose just one central idea for each article, and provide three to five key points that support that topic. If you discover while you’re writing that other good ideas begin to emerge, put them aside – those can be topics for future articles.
When you find a home for your piece by way of a query, submitting the completed piece by the deadline the venue gave you is absolutely essential. When writing for venues that don’t require advance queries, just be sure to submit your completed articles according to whatever guidelines they have set. With venues that accept previously-published articles, you can submit the same article simultaneously to as many publications as you like.
5. Take maximum advantage of getting published.
After your article is published, seek out as many ways as possible to let people know about your new status as a recognized expert. Post about your published articles on social media. Put links to them on your website. Include copies of them in your marketing kit. Send a notice about your article, or a copy of it, to everyone on your prospect list. Hand out copies of your articles at speaking engagements or trade shows. Frame them and hang them on your office wall.
Once you have successfully placed a number of articles, consider finding a venue for an ongoing column. Landing a regular column with a publication venue respected by your target market can be a major milestone in establishing you as an expert, and can significantly boost your name recognition.
Ultimately, each one of your published pieces can become a silent salesperson for your professional services, spreading the word about your expertise to many more places than you could ever reach with advertising and promotion techniques alone.