How to Be a Perfect Guest Writer

Illustration by Ramiro Roman

Imagine for a moment that a friend has invited you over for lunch.

When you get to your friend’s house, you not only eat their food, but you take a shower in their bathroom and sleep in their bed. Then, you put their indoor-only cat outside, take their paintings off the walls, sell their car to a man down the street, and smoke a cigar over their baby’s crib.

Is that any way for a lunch guest to behave?

Of course not!

Now imagine that you’ve been asked to be a GUEST writer. Would you walk into the publication like you owned the place?

You’d be surprised how many writers do! In fact, I get hundreds of e-mails every month from writers who do just that.

I’m the Head Editor of Be a Freelance Blogger and 133T, two online publications that depend on guest writers for content. However, despite the extremely clear guidelines on both publications, an overwhelming amount of writers don’t seem to know what guest writing is.

Let’s clear that up once and for all, shall we?

What Guest Writing Actually IS

When you write to a publication to become a guest writer, keep in mind that you’re asking to be their GUEST. You are NOT asking to “move in.” Guest writing is NOT a salaried job — or a JOB of any kind! — and it is in no way a permanent position. You’re stopping by to have a polite “lunch” at the publication.

Publications seeking guest writers are looking for one-time sources of content. They may or may not pay (133T pays, but BAFB doesn’t, for example). It’s a one-off “gig,” NOT a job.

If you’re a very good guest, you MIGHT be invited back for another “lunch” at the publication. As in, you MIGHT be asked to submit another post. But don’t count on it, and certainly don’t EXPECT it. Don’t make any unreasonable demands on your host — you are a GUEST in their “home.” Act like it.

How to Be the Perfect Guest Writer

I’m honestly SO sick of writing about this topic — mostly because it feels like no one actually reads what I’ve written. But I’m going to keep writing about it until my Head Editor inboxes are no longer filled with garbage from so-called writers who have no idea what they’re doing.

I apologize for being a bit harsh, but it’s true! Look at all these articles I’ve written on this very topic:

And you know what EVERY single one of those articles says…?

FOLLOW THE EDITOR’S GUIDELINES!!!

Not joking. I’ve written at least six posts on this topic and EVERY single one has the same advice: Follow the guidelines.

It’s honestly THAT SIMPLE, you guys! That’s ALL it takes to be a wonderful guest writer (aside from actually being a great writer). Just FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES.

If an editor asks you for a PITCH before sending in a draft… then send in a pitch before you send in a draft! Not knowing what pitching is is NOT an excuse. You’re a professional writer. You MUST know what pitching is. (And, if you don’t, refer to this post and LEARN what pitching is).

I know that I’ve been at this a lot longer than some of you. I’ve been freelance writing for sixteen years and counting at this point. But come ON. This is just embarrassing. My Head Editor inboxes are filled with absolute garbage on a daily basis. It’s getting to the point where I dread logging in to read my e-mails because I know I’m going to be wading through pages and pages of trash.

And I’ve only been in a Head Editor role for four years! Imagine how a “seasoned” editor must feel!! Yeah. Pretty crummy, right? NOW you know why it’s so friggin’ hard to get published at “big name” publications! The editors have become horrifically jaded (and with good reason!). It takes someone EXTRA SPECIAL to turn our heads and make us go “Omg! YES!”

On the flip side: Do you know how EASY it is to be “extra special” when everyone else has set the bar SO low? INCREDIBLY EASY!!! All you have to do is have a great/relevant idea, be a decent (not perfect!) writer, and FOLLOW THE EDITOR’S GUIDELINES.

Bam! That’s it. That’s all you have to do! I’m serious.

Take the time to read the editor’s guidelines (and follow them!), and the editor will take the time to read what YOU have written. Guaranteed.

Being a perfect guest writer is NOT hard.

Now, go out there and get published!

Need help finding a publication that pays? I’ve got you covered in that arena too! Download my free e-book, The Writernomicon, for a list of over 100 blogs that pay guest writers $50 or more per post.

No more excuses. Do it.

No more sending me crap. Thank you.

–Lauren*

Posted in Blogging, Freelance Life, My Favorites, Writing

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