This is a guest post by Niklas Goeke, a freelance writer and habit coach who managed to significantly expand his audience after being published on Lifehack.org.
Niklas stopped by today to share his best tips and tricks to help you get published on a high profile website.
Thanks for sharing, Nik!
Wouldn’t you just love to see your face on The Huffington Post?
Or maybe have your work show up on Business Insider?
When I first started blogging, showing up on sites like Lifehack was my dream.
How would I, with no credibility and no experience, ever make it on the front page of these giants?
Finally, after four months of relentless blogging, I found a way.
On September 16th this year, I applied to become a contributing writer for Lifehack, and 8 days later, my first post went live. Keep reading to learn how I did it (and how you can too!).
Table of Contents
- Reverse Engineering
- Step 1: Pick a Platform
- Step 2: Find out Their Requirements
- Step 3: Overdeliver on ALL of the Requirements
- Recap: 3 Steps to a Recurring Writing Gig
I know how tough it is to get your writing in front of a larger audience, especially if you’re just starting out as a freelance writer. But a recurring writing gig is one way to help you get yourself out there on a consistent basis.
That’s why today I’ll show you how to reverse engineer your way onto a major platform.
After today’s post, not only will you be able to get on big outlets, but you can also soon add a new fancy logo to your social proof trophy collection. I’ll show you the exact steps I took to become a contributing writer on Lifehack and how you can use the same framework to start writing regularly for the big guys too.
This simple 2-step process requires:
- No credibility
- No existing audience
- No inside connections
Just a bit of creativity and hard work. (It also works when pitching to get paid writing jobs.)
Note: There are several bonus freebies to help you implement the ideas from this post. I show you where to find the time to execute this strategy, how to craft a great author bio and what to do to promote your posts. Be sure you don’t miss out on the bonus section.
Not sure what niches you can specialize in as a freelance writer? We’ve done some research and brainstorming for you, and we came up with over 200 niches to choose from. Here’s the list:
Step 1: Pick a Platform
If you ever want to become a good writer, guess what you have to do a fair share of?
Nope, it’s not writing (although that helps I hear).
The two go hand-in-hand and since you like writing, chances are you like reading almost as much anyways.
And that’s a good thing, according to Mr. Stephen King here:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
But today’s a writing day, not a reading day. We’ll just use what you read as a basis for what to write.
Which platform you want to be on depends heavily on what niche you are writing in.
Therefore, your first step is to make a list of the big sites in your industry, on which you read articles regularly. Anyone can come up with at least three for almost any niche.
Since my blog is all about self-improvement (I teach people about increasing willpower, habits, productivity, etc.), here are my top three:
- Tiny Buddha
When you regularly land on these sites during research for a blog post, or just to learn something new about your industry, that’s a good sign they should be on your list.
After you list out your top , use Google to come up with seven more.
Search for “top + [your industry] + sites.”
Note: We’re using the keyword “sites” because we don’t want blogs owned by single people. We want the big syndicators and multi-authored sites.
In my case, I found this brilliant list of the top 100 personal development blogs on The Start of Happiness with an entire section dedicated to large, multi-authored websites.
But let’s say you’re in another industry, such as personal finance. Before you ask “Will this work for me?” I’ll show you. I have no clue about personal finance, but even I can come up with three big sites that talk about this topic:
- Business Insider
- The Huffington Post
- Entrepreneur (with an entire section on personal finance).
The last one I just guessed and had to verify, but…
“Coming up with 10 big sites in your industry shouldn’t take you longer than 10 minutes.”
Step 2: Find out Their Requirements
None of these sites will let you write for them just by having a nice profile pic.
They all have requirements. It’s time to find out what they are.
To do this, snoop around their menu. Look for signal words like “write for us,” “contribute,” “submissions,” “work with us,” etc.
Also check their “About” page. Be sure to scroll all the way down to check the footer as well (they often hide the good stuff there).
Chances are most of the websites on the list you’ve just made won’t be a good fit for you, because they:
- Only employ full time writers (Lifehacker)
- Only take one-off submissions (Tiny Buddha)
- Only republish content that’s already performed well (Lifehacker, Business Insider, etc.)
What you want is a contributing author position. Why?
Because getting on a big site once isn’t enough.
Just like guest posts, one-off submissions are good, they get you some traffic and become an asset over time. But the internet is a fast-paced place and people will forget your name faster than you can say “recurring writer.”
As with step 1, finding a site that takes contributing authors from your 10 options shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.
Just pick the first one that matches our criteria (big in your industry and takes regular writers) and run with it.
To continue the finance example, Wise Bread has a “Write for us” section under their “More” tab, which actually looks like a good fit, so let’s go for it!
Step 3: Overdeliver on ALL of the Requirements
Once you have a good fit and found their requirements, it’s time to overdeliver on ALL of them.
This is the secret to success. In business and in life. It’s my only rule. I must follow it at all times. I keep it on top of my Evernote.
I’m not the best in anything I do, and neither are you. But you don’t need to be.
You can always just outwork people.
These sites get 10, 20, 50, 500 applications per day. Guess what stands out in a world where thousands of good people are available for any job?
Someone who does their homework. Who’s not afraid to put in hours for what they want.
It’s like waking up early. Everyone hates actually doing it. But everyone loves the feeling of having woken up early.
Today no one wants to work. Everybody wants to own the end result, but no one wants to go through the process. But that’s what you must do.
Note: This business principle is a straight rip off of Bryan Harris’ Santa Clause Formula.
In my case, the Lifehack application was a simple form you had to fill in. Name, email, what topics I would cover and my “why” in 140 characters or less.
Okay, not much to do there. But then I found this:
They asked me to come up with 10 subheadlines or bullet points for the topic, “10 Forgotten Truths About Happiness.” I scratched my head, made my brain sweat and Googled around for 20 minutes.
Eventually, I came up with 23 bullet points. I more than doubled their requirement!
Good start. Let’s see what else is there.
The very last requirement turned out to be the kicker.
A “link to your best work” sort of thing is almost like a free ticket to get the job.
Not only can you link up all of your very best articles (I linked to seven), but, even better, you can just write an article for them. Who takes the time to write an entire article for them, when they can just throw in a bunch of links, right?
Which is why it will make you stand out.
I picked a topic from their site I liked and knew stuff about and then wrote a full article, as if it was going on the platform. When you do this, make sure you let them know it’s JUST for the application.
Don’t be lazy. Get the details right. I even picked a license-free photo, checked the post categories, and the format at the end of each post.
The result? Two days later I get an email from Lifehack welcoming me to the Lifehack contributor family. You tell me if spending four hours writing the article was worth my time.
How can this work for you?
Let’s look at the personal finance example again.
Wise Bread has an application page as well. Here are their requirements:
They want you to write three samples of at least 500 words. How-to guides and commentary. Don’t write three. Write six. Figure out what other types of posts they have on the site and write one sample for each of them.
Format them correctly. Find pictures to go with them. Be thorough.
They already tell you in the application that you’re “welcome to submit more,” but guess how many people do it? Less than 1%.
The second requirement is another chance to overdeliver.
Five concrete and specific ideas for future posts. Headlines, basically.
Come up with 10. Or 15.
Create an outline for each one of them.
“If you want to succeed in business, you can’t be afraid to work for free.”
Recap: 3 Steps to a Recurring Writing Gig
Okay, let’s recap real quick.
Here are the three steps you have to take to become a regular contributor on a major platform in your industry:
- Step 1: Pick a platform by brainstorming sites you already read and Googling around – 10 min
- Step 2: Find out their requirements to pick a good fit – 10 min
- Step 3: Overdeliver on all of their requirements to knock their socks off – 2-10 hours
I get it. This strategy isn’t for everyone. It’s hard.
It takes work.
Plus, once you’ve landed the gig, the work is just beginning.
Do you really think you write ONE post for Lifehack and your entire career takes off? I doubt it.
It’s a long game. You write and write and write.
And eventually, that 23rd post, right before you’re about to quit, takes off and changes your entire career.
Amy Morin has published 40 posts on Lifehack. Do you know how many took off?
One. But that one post was enough. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do has been shared 750,000 times. She then went on and turned the article into a USA Today bestseller.
I want to make sure you play this game long enough to win.
So I came up with some bonuses to help you with all this.
- A bonus video where I show you how to find the time to actually execute this (without burning yourself out, even if you work full-time).
- How to come up with a sexy author bio (after all, this is your place to shine).
- The strategy I use to promote all of my posts to make sure I kickstart their viral trip around the world as best as possible (it takes less than 20 minutes per post).
To access all that good stuff, sign up for the bonus section.
What high profile site are you dying to be published on?
Nik is a freelance writer and habit coach on coach.me. He writes at niklasgoeke.com about overcoming fear, building willpower and making habits stick.