Writing articles anywhere online is an amazing way to grow your thought leadership—but writing for an established publication can really take your personal brand to the next level. The catch? To get published by someone else, you have to send in a strong pitch: a brief description of your article idea and why you’re the best one to write it. If you, like most tech professionals, are not familiar with the online publishing world, it can be hard to know how to pitch successfully.
As a ghostwriter and content strategist, I’ve helped many startup founders and company leaders pitch articles that have been picked up by the likes of Business Insider, Fast Company, Inc., Quartz, and many others. And, as an editor and journalist for over a decade, I’ve received a lot of pitches—the bulk of which, frankly, go straight to the trash.
If you want to write the type of pitch that actually gets read (and even published!), here is my expert guide on how to pitch an article.
1. Have some writing under your belt before you start pitching
While you don’t have to be a professional writer for your pitch to be taken seriously, editors will want to see examples of your writing when deciding if they want to work with you.
So, if you don’t yet have a byline to your name, choose a few ideas you’re passionate about and publish them somewhere easy like Medium, LinkedIn, or a blog on your personal website. Since these are going to be your writing samples, put in the time and effort to make sure they’re really strong. Once you start writing for other publications, you can swap out your writing samples for name-dropping purposes, but self-published articles will give you a solid foundation to start pitching.
2. Find calls for pitches or pitch guidelines
You could make a list of your dream publications, try to find some of their editorial staff online, and reach out cold with your story ideas. But, I generally find higher success rates when reaching out to publications that have actively said they’re looking for ideas.
Plenty of editorial teams will publish general information on how to pitch them. Here is a huge list of guidelines for different sites, or, if you have a particular publication in mind, try searching for “[publication name] pitch guidelines” or “[publication name] contributor guidelines” to see if you can dig up some information.
Another way editors commonly search for contributors is by putting out calls for pitches on specific topics on social media: follow editors at your target publications to be notified when they’re looking for new stories. If pitching more frequently is a goal of yours, subscribing to a newsletter that curates calls for pitches from around the internet could be a worthy investment: What Editors Want or Opportunities of the Week are two good options.
3. Brainstorm tailored story ideas
Just like how job-seeking advice tells you to tailor your resume and cover letter for each position, you should be tailoring your pitches for each publication.
Take the guidelines or calls for pitches from the publications you’re excited about one by one, and start brainstorming ideas specifically for them. Look closely at the topics they’re looking for and see where your expertise would best fit in. Head to their homepage and let their latest stories or trending articles inspire you.
Once you have a few ideas in mind, search the topic on their website and ask yourself the following:
- Has it been covered before?
- If it has been covered before, how is your idea different?
- Are you bringing a unique angle or fresh perspective?
- Why are you the best person to write this article?
You’ll want to explain all of this in your pitch so the editor understands why this is an exciting story to pursue.
4. Write a detailed (but brief) pitch email
Now it’s time to send in your pitch! Some guest contributor guidelines will stipulate a specific way of reaching out, such as by filling out a form. Another common request is to include a specific phrase (like “pitch” or “blog idea”) in the subject line of your email. Read through any instructions and do what they ask to ensure your pitch doesn’t get ignored before it’s even been read!
Then, your job is to make your idea (or ideas—it’s generally okay to submit 2-3 pitches at once) sound as compelling as possible, and quickly. Don’t make an editor read massive blocks of text, and don’t submit a completed article (unless the guidelines specifically ask for it).
Here’s a template to get you started, though you should tweak it to include any information or formatting requested in the guidelines:
Article Pitch Email Template
Hey [name of an actual person, like the editor],
I’ve got [an idea/a few ideas] I’d be thrilled to write for [publication]:
[Sample article title]: [2-3 sentence description of pitch. Include any specific expertise, stories, or data you anticipate including, or anything else that shows why this story is exciting and why you should be the one to write it.]
[Continue for any other pitches]
If none of those are a fit, I love writing about [general topics you’re an expert in, that relate to this publication] and would be thrilled to hear about the kinds of angles you’re looking for. Here is some of my past writing:
[List 2-3 relevant and impressive writing samples, hyperlinked, mentioning the publisher if it’s impressive]
A little about me: [2-3 sentence personal branding statement, with a focus on the expertise you bring for the pitch at hand.]
Thanks in advance for considering. I look forward to hearing from you!
Parting thoughts: How to pitch an article
Pitching successfully is often just as much about quantity as quality, so if you don’t hear back, don’t fret. Follow up in a few weeks, and keep on sending ideas out to other publications, too. Before you know it, your brilliant ideas will be all over the internet.