If there’s one constant we all deal with as freelance bloggers, it’s rejection.
It happens to all of us. In different ways. Sometimes it’s a polite no thank you, sometimes it’s silence, and sometimes it’s a scathing commentary of why our idea sucks on every level.
Whether you’ve sent a quick query letter, spent hours on the perfect pitch, or written a whole piece from scratch, there’s only one thing you want, and that’s an acceptance. There are no guarantees in the world of freelance blogging, but there are some steps you can take to improve your chances.
Target Blogs with Specific Submissions Guidelines
Bloggers who’ve gone to the trouble of setting out specifics know exactly what they’re looking for. Give it to them, and you’re in (probably). Sure, there’s always a chance they’ve just accepted a similar piece or your idea just doesn’t fire them up, but your chances of acceptance are high if you find super specific guidelines and follow them.
I recently submitted a piece to a parenting blog with some of the most detailed guidelines I’d ever seen. I followed them to the letter and got an immediate acceptance. When bloggers are professional enough to tell you exactly what they want, don’t waste that resource. Show them you can take direction. It’s an underrated skill among freelancers.
Specific guidelines may also include payment details, rights required and whether you get a link in your bio. So you know how much you’ll be paid, when (and how) payment will arrive, when you can sell the post to another market and whether you’ll be able to drive traffic to your website. This really helps you plan your freelance blogging career.
Pitch Blogs that are Actively Seeking Submissions
Policies change very quickly in the blogosphere. Make sure every blog you pitch has reasonably current guidelines, as well as recent posts by freelancers.
It’s not unusual to pitch a blogger who clearly states they pay for freelance posts only to be told they don’t do that anymore. Maybe they no longer have the budget, or there’s been a simple change of policy. It’s frustrating, especially if you spent a lot of time studying the blog and pitched an idea that’s perfect for it (and will need a lot of work to repurpose for another market).
Look for a date on those guidelines. If they’ve been sitting there for four years untouched, it’s unlikely they’re still current. Then take a look at how many recent posts are by freelancers or guest posters. There should be several in the last six months if the blog is still regularly using freelancers.
Approach Blogs You Love and Read
There are plenty of blogs offering freelance opportunities. So pitch the ones you love, read, subscribe to and follow on social media: the ones you’re really familiar with.
There are three reasons this is a good idea.
- It cuts down research time. You MUST be familiar with a blog before you pitch, so you might as well enjoy the ‘research process’ by reading lots of great, entertaining, informative posts on a topic that’s relevant to you.
- You really will write a better, more targeted post if you’re a genuine reader. Every blog tries to meet the needs of its typical readers. That’s much easier to do if you are a typical reader.
- The blog owner or editor may know your name. Yes, little old you. If you’re following them on social media (and especially if you regularly share their posts) your name may ring a bell. That can’t hurt, and may put you ahead of the guy they’ve never heard of whose pitch is sitting next to yours in their inbox.
Consider Submitting Finished Posts
Many blogs like to see a pitch first and work with you on an idea, but some state they’re happy to see a finished piece. I used to think writing without pitching first was a waste of time, then I tried it. And surprised myself. Almost every piece I’ve submitted this way has been accepted.
A finished piece is a way to get the attention of a blogger when you know you can write a great piece for this niche but don’t have the clips to prove it. When you start out (or if you’re breaking into a new niche) finding a blog that accepts finished posts may be the only way to show you really can write the perfect piece for this market.
A few tips:
- Check those guidelines carefully. Never send a finished piece to a blogger who asks for a pitch. That’s just annoying.
- Don’t stress if you spend time on this and still get rejected. It’s frustrating, but with a little more work, almost any post can be rewritten for a new market.
- Expect a heavy edit. All professional bloggers edit freelance contributions. If you’ve written a piece on spec, it may need more editing. This is not something to get precious about. The editor is your friend. She will improve your post.
Submit to Paying Markets
Obviously you need to be paid if you’re going to make a career of this. But free guest posting is tempting when you’re trying to get those first few clips. I certainly did some when I started out, but something interesting happened when I stopped. My acceptance rate went up. Way up. I thought I was putting my all into guest posting, but sometimes the very fact you’re pitching paid markets makes you up your game and puts you in a more professional mind set.
Bloggers that don’t pay may actually be more difficult to work for, too. Sometimes (though not always) they can be less professional, less competent at promoting your work and less experienced at editing.
Take Some Risks
Many freelancers are risk-averse. I certainly am. I recently had a post accepted by a parenting blogger, who later contacted me and said that while she was still willing to post it (and pay for it), she thought it was good enough to submit to a much bigger market. She suggested The Washington Post parenting section, and gave me the direct email of the editor. I’m so naturally cautious I almost stuck with the acceptance I already had, which was a stupid idea. I had the email of a Washington Post editor in front of me, after all. I took her advice and quickly received an acceptance, offering three times more money.
Sometimes the one reason you don’t approach bigger markets is the fear of rejection, but you can’t get accepted by a market you don’t pitch.
The tweaks above reversed my freelance acceptance rate. I went from about 80% of my submissions being rejected, to about 80% being accepted. I can’t promise your results will be the same, but I’d love to think they’ll have an impact. Give them a try, and let us know what works for you.