Guest Post Strategy: Should You Pitch the Editor Before You Write?

Guest Post Strategy: Should You Pitch the Editor Before You Write?

When planning your guest-posting or freelance-writing strategy, you already know to start by creating a list of blogs to pitch. You’ve read their guidelines and brainstormed great article ideas for each one.

What’s next: do you query the editors with short outlines and start writing only after your proposals are approved? Or do you write the articles first, and then try to sell them?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this situation — except that you must read each site’s guidelines before pitching! — so you’ll have to decide which way works best for you. However, having tried it both ways, here are eight compelling reasons to write your posts before pitching them.

1. You already know you can write the article

Recently, an editor approved my proposal for a post (not yet written) on how anyone can be a movie producer. I had done some research prior to pitching, but I soon discovered that investing in films as a producer had since become much more expensive and complicated — making the article unsuitable for that blog’s readers. There was no way around it: I had to tell the editor I couldn’t write the article.

You don’t want to promise an article you can’t deliver, especially if you’re trying to land a new client or establish a new relationship with an editor. Of course, if you do enough research you’ll know you can complete an article — but at that point the work might be half done, so why not finish it?

2. You know it will work for a client

Sometimes you can propose and write a great article, but it isn’t quite right for your client’s blog or magazine, even if it seemed like it would be when you first pitched it. You might have to rework it in some way that’s unsatisfying or just drop it, whereas if you had written it first, you could have found the perfect outlet for that perfect article.

Once an article is finished, it’s much easier to see if it will fit well in a particular publication. Knowing this before you pitch an editor saves you the time of querying outlets that won’t be the right fit.

3. You can submit your work immediately

Many blogs and magazines specify that they want a query, not the full article. But more than once, I’ve sold an article because I put it in the email anyway. Somewhere in my query I mention “the article is below if you’re interested,” and I make sure it follows everything else, including my signature.

Yes, this violates a rule. But if an editor is interested, instead of contacting me to read more, she merely scrolls down. Otherwise, she can stop at my signature. How could that add more work or trouble to an editor’s life? Note that I’ve pasted the article into the body of my email; I’m not clogging her inbox with an unwanted attachment.

In any case, if you don’t want to risk breaking the rules, having the article already written means you can send it as soon as a client expresses interest — before that interest wanes.

4. You can pitch your post elsewhere

What do you do when you spend the time to write a great article and the client you have in mind rejects it? Sell it to someone else!

I recently sold an article several months after it was rejected by the editor of the blog for which I originally wrote it. I had to change a few lines, but I earned $35 more than the first client was paying.

[bctt tweet=”Re-pitch your unsold articles to other clients, says @stevegillman”]

Keep your unsold articles organized and regularly offer them to other clients. This is especially important if the article will go stale, like ones that mention news items or new products. If the article still doesn’t sell . . .

5. You can use it on your own blog

When your articles don’t sell you can always use them on your own blog or website. This works best if you write mainly in one niche. My specialty at the moment is personal finance, and I have several related websites. Sometimes I’m happy when my editors reject a few articles, because then I have content for my own sites (for which I seem to procrastinate otherwise).

Interestingly, the rejected articles often get the best response from my readers, perhaps because they’re edgier. Nobody wanted to touch my article on making money as a “professional cuddler,” for example, but my newsletter readers and website visitors loved the piece.

Of course, you’ll still want to get paid for your work. Consider monetizing your website with Google AdSense, promoting affiliate products, or selling your own books. My best “money site” only brings in about $200 per month now, but every little bit helps.

6. You can add it to your portfolio

When you can’t find the appropriate client for a good article, you at least have a solid addition to your portfolio. Post it on your blog or website and add the link to the clips you send in queries.

7. It’s less stressful

I can’t be the only one who gets a little stressed when facing deadlines for articles that I haven’t written on topics that may not be as interesting as I hoped.

It’s so much more relaxing to have the work done when proposing articles. And it’s likely that the quality of your articles will be higher when you aren’t rushing to meet a deadline.

8. The article is more likely to sell

Try this experiment: write a description of an article, then write the article, and then write a new description based on the finished piece.

How do your two descriptions compare? I doubt they’ll be the same, and I suspect the second one will be more interesting. Having a better description helps sell your article — because now you know exactly what you’re selling.

In any case, writing your description after the article is done helps it more accurately reflect the finished product when you include it in a query, and that makes for a satisfied client.

The bottom line

To properly propose a piece for a client, you’re going to do some research and outline an article. If you’re putting that much work into it already, why not just finish a draft of the article?

A finished post is more likely to sell, and in the case that it doesn’t, you have several more options. For your next guest post, why not try writing first?

Do you write first or query first? Why do you use your preferred method?

Filed Under: Freelancing


  • Elke Feuer says:

    I definitely write first. You never know how quickly they will respond or how busy your schedule will be. If it’s already written, it’s just a matter of reviewing and polishing rather than starting from scratch. It’s less stressful for me. 🙂

  • As an editor, I have to say I strongly disagree. I hate when people send me unsolicited completed articles. From my perspective it comes across as very NOT personalized to my audience and very self-promotional in an unappealing way. Rarely do people who send me articles before querying have a solid idea of how to write for my site. (Sorry to say, but it appears to me that they’re too busy running around pitching and writing generic articles, instead of writing useful, passionate articles.) I would much rather have potential writers pitch ideas (and themselves and their expertise) and we pick an idea together before anybody wastes time on either end.

    • Hi Becca,

      Yes, many editors don’t want unsolicted articles, but I would be a poorer writer if I followed that rule all the time. As for writing before querying, what if I wrote an article specifically for your site and then sent you a proposal? You wouldn’t know that I had already written it. If you approved the proposal but offered some ideas I could quickly modify it and send you something that works well for your site. Otherwise I could use it for one my websites or sell it (with necessary modifications) somewhere else.

      • Yes, I agree that would be a better approach – to just withhold that you’ve already written the piece. Personally, I think most successful websites are in far less of a rush than readers realize, though. I get far more queries than I say yes to and our publishing queue for guest writers is booked months in advance. When a writer emphasizes how quickly he or she can do something, it’s not a selling point. Quality, customized, thoughtful information is appealing to me. I’m in no rush and I prefer writers who are not, either. Just something for writers to consider.

  • Allison says:

    I’ve been wondering about how you manage sources when writing/pitching articles. If you’re writing the complete article before pitching, is it appropriate to interview your sources and tell them “this may or may not get published in one of these outlets”? Do most people understand that, or would they want a guarantee that they’ll be quoted in a certain outlet?

    Sorry if this a painfully obvious question — I’m new to this! 🙂

    • I usually have a website I plan to pitch and a site of my own where I plan to put the article, so I just say that it will be used on one of those two. Nobody has had a problem with that yet.

      If I was working on an article without a clear idea where I was going to sell it I would say something like, “This is a freelance article and I don’t know yet where it will be published,” but give examples of where my work has appeared. If the source has a problem with that I guess I would find a new source (not sure what else you can do at that point).

  • James says:

    This was such a helpful post. 1 question though that you alluded to – is there a general guideline on the length of time a writer should use pitch a rejected article to another publication?

  • James Edward says:

    Fabulous! I read your article it was good and helpful.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *