We’re always striving to offer super-actionable and hands-on advice here at Horkey Handbook. We want freelance writers to succeed, because we know how confusing this journey can be when you’re just starting out.
With that in mind, we’re launching a new series on the blog this week. It’s called How I Got Published On, and it will offer practical advice from writers who were published on major websites.
The first post in the series comes from Laura Harris, and it’s packed with tips on how to get published on Scary Mommy, one of the most popular parenting websites out there. Thank you for sharing your experience, Laura!
A hundred bucks and a million readers. That’s what knocked me off my feet when I realized my pitch actually got accepted by Scary Mommy.
The mega mom blog with its very own confessional page has over one million devoted followers on Facebook and paid $100 for original articles.
And somehow, my article got accepted for publication. I’ll show you how.
Prior to publishing on Scary Mommy, I was a 28-year-old stay-at-home mom behind on her laundry, writing each day, and filled with self-doubt. For the previous few months, I had been ghost writing for $5 per article for content mills.
And, in my mind, I was getting nowhere.
I’d also been wrestling with the first signs of depression. I came very close to closing my laptop and giving up the dream.
My silent struggle finally loosened its grip when I did two things:
- I began studying the art of freelance writing. It was like lifting the curtain to let the first few rays of sunshine into a room.
- I ended the silence. I wrote my feelings, my struggles, and my mess all out for my husband and God and my own heart to read. I wondered if any other moms struggled like I had, so I did the second bravest thing I’ve ever done (the first was to break the silence). I submitted my story to Scary Mommy.
Sure, I had a compelling story, but it wasn’t purely by chance that Scary Mommy accepted my work.
In fact, I’d already pitched them once before and was rejected. I’m pretty sure that article was about diaper blowouts or something wholesome like that.
So, here is a step-by-step account of how my Scary Mommy pitch got accepted. Hopefully it will be instructive and encouraging to you on your freelancing journey.
Here are the four things that helped me get published on Scary Mommy:
1. I was regularly blogging.
When I was a kid, I kept a journal.
In middle school, I wrote pages of notes to my friends (I think they call it “texting” now?).
When I left for college in 2006, I started this newfangled thing called a “blog” and wrote about ridiculous things like cramming eight friends into a Saturn just to go to Walmart.
In 2015, I went from hobby blogger to paid freelancer, started a self-hosted blog, learned about SEO, social media marketing, lead magnets, graphic design, and monetizing.
I was actively blogging and guest posting, even if it was just one post per week.
That made the biggest improvement in my ability to create crispy content that editors wanted.
(Gina’s Tip: Corinne Kerston wrote a great post about using your blog to get high-paying clients.)
2. I studied Scary Mommy’s content.
A lot of their articles seemed snarky and loud at first glance, so part of me thought my PG rated content lacking f-bombs wouldn’t fly.
But the deeper I dug, the more I realized there were a number of pieces that rattled me to my core with their beautiful vulnerability.
Now that was something I wanted to write.
Scan their content and see how it’s laid out. Read a few list posts. Read some how to guides. Read something that speaks to you.
What can you write that lines up with that style but hasn’t been done before?
3. I studied what my mom friends were sharing.
Perhaps you’re not on Facebook as much as other social media platforms, but I encourage you to log on and scan your newsfeed for ONE thing:
Articles shared by moms.
They don’t even have be Scary Mommy articles. Are your mom friends sharing articles about adoption? Public school versus homeschooling? Post pregnancy weight gain/loss? Now, what angle can you spin from that topic that makes it unique and relevant?
4. I wrote a pitch that grabbed the editor’s attention.
When I took Gina’s course 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success, I learned a lot about pitching effectively to editors. Here I was, basically a no-name, writing pitches to places like The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Babble, and The Penny Hoarder.
What made me so bold to face potential rejection from the big leagues? (All but one of those websites DID reject me the first time.)
The right tools.
In Gina’s course, I learned how to craft a concise pitch that immediately provided value to the editor and stayed on point. I learned how to highlight my credentials, create an online writing portfolio, promote my own samples, and be more confident.
Below is my actual pitch to Scary Mommy’s editor.
Once my article went live, something unprecedented happened. Four days in, it was shared over 100,000 times (and that’s just on Facebook alone). It just so happened to be my 29th birthday. Talk about an unbelievable birthday present.
The Unexpected Perks
Five months after it went viral, a publicity manager who works with Fox 21st Century Television reached out to me because of my article. She arranged for me to interview a celebrity who was portraying a mother struggling with depression in a television show. I conducted the interview (with shaking hands!) and wrote an article that was picked up by The Huffington Post.
Will that always happen?
Certainly not. I don’t know how it happened to me. I live in the Midwest. My neighbors are Amish. I kid you not.
But, if I hadn’t taken the time to learn the steps and study how to freelance, NONE of it would have happened.
One Last Thought
Don’t let one elusive publication be the end goal. I’ve been rejected by Scary Mommy TWICE after my euphoric birthday article. Guess what? I submitted those articles to other mom blogs and got published (and PAID) for them.
You can see a list of publications that currently pay writers $100 or more here.
Case in point: If you don’t get on Scary Mommy, don’t assume your message isn’t valuable!
You have a message. The better equipped you are to tell that message, the greater it will spread. Keep writing, and keep learning.
P.S. I’m still behind on my laundry.
Laura Harris is a writer for hire, wife, and mother of two rockstar kids. She has been featured on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, BonBon Break, LifeHack and more. When she’s not on an adventure with her family or curled up with a book, you can find her at LauraHarrisWrites.com and encouraging other work-at-home moms on Facebook.