In a Facebook group for writers recently, a writer asked, “How do you become a paid regular contributor to a blog? Do you just keep pitching stories? Or somehow finagle a recurring column?”
My blog management company runs a number of blogs, so we’re constantly hiring regular contributors. But we never advertise these openings. Why? Because we pull from writers we already work with, contributors who wrote a great first post for us, then another great post, then another.
When we hire a regular contributor, we want to know we can count on that writer to submit high-quality content on a regular basis. We might take risks when assigning just one post to a writer we’ve never worked with before, but to bring on a regular contributor, especially one we’re planning to pay, we have to be absolutely certain the writer will pan out.
So how do you impress an editor to the point that they want to hire you for a recurring blogging job? Here’s what we look for:
1. High-quality writing
This sound obvious, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find awesome writers. With so many freelance writers looking for blogging work, you’d think editors would be up to our eyebrows in quality contenders. But the truth, every editor I know is on the hunt for people who write well.
If you’re up for a blogging job though, you don’t just have to write well — you have to blog well. I’ve hired writers with excellent reputations and experience… only to find out they don’t know how to blog.
What’s the difference? Blogging requires a certain style, a conversational voice that’s fun and interesting to read. And while we all hate to admit there’s a formula for good writing — because the best writers can deviate from it and still hit the nail on the head — most blog posts do follow certain guidelines. They include an engaging introduction that pulls the reader in, they talk to the reader in the “you” voice, and they’re broken down into sections or bullets that are easy to read and digest online.
If you’re able to deliver well-written blog posts consistently, editors will clamor to hire you!
2. Meet deadlines… every time
For an editor to rely on a writer on a regular basis, she has to be absolutely certain that person will meet deadlines. When writers don’t file posts when they say they will, we find ourselves scrambling for content to fill that spot, and that makes our job stressful.
Guess what editors don’t like? Stress. Guess what we do like? Writers who make our job easier.
This deadline aspect is so important that I’ve declined to work with writers simply because they missed their first deadline. Sure, emergencies happen and things come up, but if you’re working with an editor for the first time, get your work done ahead of your deadline, so you’re not trying to finish it under the wire.
As a bonus, if you complete a piece and file early, that will most certainly put you on that editor’s list of writers he wants to work with again.
3. Turn in your posts ready to publish
Take time to do little things that make the editor’s job easier. For example, look to see how the blog is formatted. Does it use H2s for subheads? Use those to format your post. Does each story include links back to other posts on that blog? Find relevant places to add those links. Is each author bio just two sentences long? Shorten your four-sentence bio before you file, so the editor doesn’t have to ask you to do it later.
Go out of your way to adhere to those little details, because it means less work for the editor. You might not know all the rules the first time you write for a blog, but if you carefully watch all changes the editor makes, you’ll be able to make those same tweaks next time before you file the post. Believe me, your editor will notice!
On several of the blogs my team manages, for example, posts need a two-sentence excerpt that shows on the homepage. First-time contributors don’t typically add this to the top of their posts, but sometimes, when we ask a contributor to write for us again… that writer adds the excerpt without us asking for it. That’s always a sign of a mutually beneficial relationship!
Look for ways to self-edit and deliver the post so it’s completely ready for publishing, and you’ll make your editor very happy.
4. Be open to edits, and note the editor’s preferences
Writing a blog post is only half the job; you also have to be ready to make edits per the editor’s request. Contributors who are easy to work with are open to ideas for making their posts better and don’t take edits personally.
While I don’t expect writers to know my preferences the first time they write for us, I do watch closely to see whether they try to incorporate my changes on subsequent posts before they file. For example, if I use track changes to add subheads to a writer’s post, I watch the next post he files to see if he added them himself. If I ask a writer to trim a post to 500 words, I hope she’ll know to do that with the next post, without me pointing it out.
In other words, I like to work with bloggers who learn quickly and are smart and thoughtful enough to incorporate feedback. This not only shows your ability, it also demonstrates that you respect my time as an editor.
Time to ask for a regular blogging gig?
Once you’ve proven just how great of a writer you are and how easy you are to work with, don’t be afraid to ask whether any regular contributor slots are available. But make sure you’ve strutted your stuff first!
Sometimes I get requests from writers who want to contribute to our blogs on a regular basis — and get paid — before they’ve even written one post. I always expect them to write for us at least three or four times before committing… and 90 percent of the time, that writer does not turn out to be the type of contributor we’re willing to invest in. This post-by-post trial period saves me from spending money on a writer who doesn’t turn in the quality we need, and it also helps me spend less time editing blog posts that aren’t up to par.
Once you’ve proven yourself, let the editor know you’d love to contribute on a more regular basis. Some blogs want regular writers to contribute once a month, while others might look for posts from regulars twice a month or even once or twice a week. This varies according to the blog, so don’t be disappointed if a once-a-month column is all the editor can offer you.
If you’ve written for the editor several times and they still don’t bite when you ask for a regular gig, it’s probably due to one of these factors:
- Your writing isn’t good enough. Keep practicing!
- The editor doesn’t have space for another regular contributor.
- The editor doesn’t have the budget to pay you regularly.
Even if you don’t score a regular blogging job, it isn’t a waste of time to ask. Budgets and blogging teams are always in flux, and if the editor truly likes your work, he’ll keep you in mind the next time an opening comes up.
Good editors have high standards. But if you check all of these boxes, you’ll put yourself in the position to land a blogging gig — or two or three! — as a regular contributor.
Have any questions you’re dying to ask a blog editor? Go for it in the comments!