January 15, 2018 23 comments

How to Start Pitching Guest Posts (Even If You Are A Complete Online Business Newbie)

by Regina

How to Pitch Guest Posts the Smart Way

Psst—This amazing guide on how to pitch guest posts the smart way is by Sana Choudary (catch her bio at the end of the post). Her mission is to help humans like you build your email list and revenue by getting guest posts.

Do you feel like a total newbie online? Or maybe just a newbie to building your email list through guest posting?

Do you want to guest post but aren’t sure how you can sell influencers on the benefits?

I get it. I used to feel the same way.

I had no idea:

  • How to find the right sites for guest posting?
  • How to sell them on the benefits of my guest post?
  • What to have in place before I pitch?
  • What to research or be aware of before I pitched?
  • What to include in the pitch to make them believe my post was a fit for them? Even though I was a total newbie with no readers, credentials, or other guest posts and a site so new it still had demo content!

Then one day I realized…

All my problems boiled down to one thing

Not knowing how to sell my guest posts to influencers in a human way.

I did not want to come across as an obnoxious salesperson pushing a guest post they didn’t want.

Neither did I want them to think I was some sleazy hustler goading them into accepting a post that didn’t really benefit them.

Instead, I wanted influencers to feel excited about my guest post right away!

I wanted them to know without a doubt that my guest post would be immensely valuable to them and their audience.

If I could do this they wouldn’t care that I was a newbie.

Neither would I have to take lots of time away from building my own blog, because the guest posts I’d pitch would get accepted.

And this started my journey of figuring out how to pitch guest posts in a more human way.

Even though it took a long time and a lot of work, in the end, it was all worth it because…

Selling my guest posts in a human way changed everything

I have since guest posted at:

  • Adweek even though at the time I had just started my site and didn’t have any other guest posts
  • Well-known sites like VentureBeat, NavidMoazzez.com
  • Ryan Levesque’s Ask Method community which led to the invitation to speak at their 1000 person ASKLive conference

Credibility Photo Collage
These days I don’t need to pitch guest posts often.

Because the ones I do pitch get accepted– I get 4 out of every 5 guest posts accepted.

How would you like to get 4 out of every 5 guest posts accepted?

Today I’m going to show you my three best ideas to make this happen. I also have 3 very special FREE gifts to help you even further. Make sure you read all the way to the end to get those.

Table of Contents

How to sell your guest post the human way. Hint it’s more than just building relationships

How to get your online headquarters ready for pitching

How to find the right sites for guest posting

How to pitch the right way

Your next steps + 3 more gifts to guide you along

Don’t have time to read the whole guide right now? Download the full 3,600+ word guide as a pdf here.

How to sell your guest post the human way. Hint it’s more than just building relationships

The most pervasive advice about guest posting is that you should pitch an influencer only after building a relationship.

As a result, many people spend months building relationships.

But when they finally pitch, they get rejected. Or worse get ignored.

The reason?

Even though building relationships is important to selling your guest post the human way, it isn’t the only thing you need.

You also need to show influencers that your guest post is a fit for their audience.

Typically this involves:

      1. Your online headquarters
      2. Your pitch research
      3. Your pitch itself

In the next few sections, I will share the biggest misconceptions about each as well as what you should do instead.
Let’s start with your online headquarters.

How to get your online headquarters ready for pitching

The other day I was talking to my friend Tim about his business.

Tim is a fitness coach, actively trying to sell more of his online fitness programs.

Since I believe guest posting is the quickest way to build an email list that buys, I asked Tim if he had started guest posting.

He said no and then he asked:

Ok we weren’t actually doing yoga on a beach during this conversation. But in my imagination… 🙂

“Why do you think you need content on your site first to guest post?” I asked.

“Well if I have enough content, influencers I’d reach out to would realize my work is good and is likely to provide enough value to their audiences,” said Tim.

Tim’s reasoning is sound. But it comes from the flawed assumption that influencers assess your guest post fit by reading your blog in-depth.

The reality is very different.

Most influencers will never read your blog

I mean place yourself in their shoes for a second–imagine that you are a popular and busy influencer.

Would you have the time to go read the blog of everyone who pitches you a guest post?

Probably not.

The truth is influencers try to assess the fit of the guest post based on what is written in the pitch.

In the situations where they do visit your site, they are most likely only looking at your home or about pages. Because these are the fastest ways to learn about someone and what they do.

But before you go polish up those pages up check out the four critical areas influencers are assessing on those pages, so you know exactly what, if anything, you need to improve.

Pro-tip: What should you do when your online headquarters is not a website? What if it is a podcast, Youtube channel, Facebook page or group? Don’t worry. Just apply the ideas you are about to read to the sections of your online headquarters that people would check out for a quick overview of you. For example, for a Facebook page, it might be your cover image, about section, story etc.

What influencers are looking for

When influencers visit your home and about pages, they are trying to assess how well you fit with them in four different areas.

#1 Who you help

The first thing most influencers do is try to understand who you help. They are trying to see if the people you help is either their exact audience or an audience that significantly overlaps with their own.

What type of people are your ideal clients? Is it specific to a gender, an age group, a life stage, or any other audience group?

For example, do you help women or men? If you help women what kind of women? Are they students, professionals, business people? Are they single or married? Are they younger women or older women? Do they self-identify with any particular groups? Eg. ADHD, introverts, extroverts, badasses?

#2 What problems you solve

The second thing influencers look for is an understanding of the problem or category of problems you help your audience solve. For example–do you help them with weight loss, career advancement, starting their business, growing their business etc.

In the back of their heads, they are asking themselves if the problem you solve one their audience struggles with? If yes, they then move on to the next criteria.

#3 How you help your audience

The third thing influencers look for is your unique method for helping your audience.

They are asking themselves is this a method that they don’t usually cover? Haven’t covered in a while? Or aren’t interested in covering themselves?

For example, the method I use to help with list building is guest posting. Since Regina doesn’t usually cover guest posting, we had a possible fit.

I say possible fit because it can all go south if you aren’t a match for the next and final criteria.

#4 Your values

The fourth area influencers try to understand are your values.

Specifically, they are trying to confirm that you don’t have any of their deal breakers.

For example for Regina it is:
Regina Values1
Given this, it stands to reason that Regina won’t be taking any guest posts from people who only care about making money at any expense possible.

Your Action Steps

Influencers may only spend a few seconds on this assessment of fit.

You wouldn’t want to lose a guest post opportunity simply because the possible fit wasn’t immediately clear to them, would you? So take a few minutes to make sure it is.

Want a free 9-day cheat sheet with the specific actions to take to get your online headquarters ready? Click here to download.

How to find the right sites for guest posting

Yes, the bubble-head me loves hair bands as much as I do…

A short while ago I was chatting with Priya.

Priya is a personal finance blogger, who has been trying to make guest posting work for months.

She’s contacted over 20 bloggers. But for the most part, has been met with a miserable radio silence which in her words has sent her into dark spirals of self-doubt about her business.

I knew Priya’s content was solid. I suspected her issue was pitching the wrong sites, so I asked:

“What is the most important thing to look for when finding a blog for guest posting?”

Without missing a beat she replied–“finding a site where you can add value to the audience.”

While that’s certainly important if it is the only thing you are looking for you will get in trouble.

Found a site where you can add value? Don’t stop there!

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t stop screening a site the moment you determine you can be of value to its audience.

#1 The site may not have your ideal audience

Just because you can add value to a site with your guest post, does not mean it is a site where your ideal audience hangs out.

Let me give you an example of one of my students Leila.

Leila helps stay-at-home-moms rejoin the workforce by finding remote work opportunities.

Recently she pitched an influencer who like her was in the career advice space, but unlike her, his focus was on helping professionals currently at a job get their next promotion or a raise.

While her advice on finding remote flexible work would add value to the blog, young professionals are simply not her ideal audience. Because of this, the blog was not a good guest posting opportunity for her.

#2 The site’s audience problems might be different than those of your ideal audience

Just because you think you might be able to add value, does not mean you can solve the specific problem a site’s audience may be having.

Going back to our example of Leila for a second. Even though both stay-at-home-moms and young professionals are interested in finding remote work, the problems each audience faces in finding remote work are completely different.

For eg. stay at home mothers often don’t feel confident that lucrative remote work opportunities exist. Young professionals, on the other hand, are concerned about the negative impact working remotely could have on their career advancement potential.

If Leila were to guest post on that site, she would have to spend a lot of time and effort making her solutions work for the problems faced by young professionals. And even then she might miss her mark.

#3 You may not get enough people joining your email list

If the site’s audience and their problems are very different from your own, your guest post won’t help you attract a lot of people to your email list.

Let’s go back to Leila’s example one last time. Imagine if Leila’s guest post got published–do you think the guest post’s audience would have resonated with her story and her advice?

Probably not.

Mothers resonate with Leila because in her they see another mom who has already gone through the doubt and rejection fears they face. They see in her someone who despite these challenges figured out a way to make remote jobs work.

Would a young professional resonate with the same problems and story?

Not likely. And because of this Leila would not have gotten too many people joining her email list from that guest post.

So what should I look for besides my ability to add value when finding sites for guest posting, Sana?

I’m glad you asked.

What you should look for when finding sites for guest posting

I recommend my students look at four different areas when researching sites for guest posting.

Audience fit

Take a few minutes to understand who the site is focused on helping and then confirm this includes your ideal audience. For example, let’s say you focus on helping introverted entrepreneurs. A site focused on entrepreneurs (particularly one that has a more human brand) likely includes introverted entrepreneurs, and so is a good site for you to guest post at.

Values fit

Confirm that you agree with the influencer’s most passionately held core values. Personally, I think it is unethical to guest post with an influencer if you know you don’t agree with their core values.

But even if you keep that aside for a second, posting at a site where you don’t agree with influencer values is unlikely to bring you the list building returns you really want.
For example here are some of Regina’s core values:
Regina Values2
Say for some reason you happened to disagree with these values but somehow miraculously still managed to guest post with Regina. Because most of Regina’s audience agrees with her values, chances are your post would not attract a meaningful number of people to your email list.

Even if they did join, the moment they would notice you don’t have the same values, they would immediately unsubscribe.

Strong audience relationship

Confirm the influencer has a strong relationship with their audience.

To an audience with a strong trusting relationship with an influencer, your guest post is seen as the influencer’s endorsement of your brand. This alone would inspire them to join your email list.

But when an influencer does not have a strong trusting relationship with their audience, your guest post will not lead to any list building returns.

One of the best signs of strong relationships is the level of engagement with their content. Fortunately, that is very easy to figure out using online tools. Here is a screenshot of Regina’s engagement on one of her articles using Epicbeat.

Evidence of promotion

Confirm that the site you want to guest post with promotes the author’s site and/or giveaway gift.

If you don’t, you might end up like Sam, with a hit guest post that does nothing for you:
Talk about anti-climactic!

Protip: The reason why some sites don’t promote your site or giveaway is not that they are purposefully malicious. They simply assume your main reason for guest posting is credibility, not list building. This is why you should look for evidence of promotion and avoid guest posting at sites like that.

Your Action Steps

When it comes to guest posting for list building, guest posting with the wrong site is one of the most time-consuming mistakes you can make.

So take some time to make sure you have the right site before you pitch.

Want a cheat sheet of the action steps my students use to find the right site= for them? Click here to download the free 9-day cheat sheet for this post.

How to pitch the right way

Around two weeks ago I was conducting a pitch makeover session for my student Logan.

Even though Logan has a lot of success in helping her clients end relationships compassionately, she does not feel that she has the right credentials to sell influencers on her guest post.

To compensate for this she has been packing the first 3 paragraphs of her pitches with all the credentials she can.

Her hope is that doing so will show influencers that she’s really legit so that they should let her guest post.

But her pitches have been falling on deaf ears.

I’m not surprised because time and again I’ve seen credential packed pitches backfire.

Why credential packing your pitches does NOT work

Even though most people think that packing a pitch with credentials, is the best way to logically sell the influencer on the value of their guest post, that approach rarely works.

Before an influencer can assess your pitch logically, their emotional brain needs to greenlight it first. And unless you know that your credentials have a personal meaning for the influencer, you can almost bet that it won’t.

The reason? A busy influencer’s emotional brain sees your credential packed pitch as yet another distraction from their important goals. And that can kick off a fight, flight, or freeze response. For your guest post pitch that could mean being harshly rejected, silently ignored, or placed in a deal-with-it-later-pile.
Fortunately, you can avoid this by using what I call the mouthwatering pitch cake.

What should you include in your mouthwatering pitch cake

A mouthwatering pitch cake has 3 core layers.

#1 Solid Rapport Base

The first layer of the mouthwatering pitch cake is building a solid rapport base.

You can do this by showing how you are like them. Did you happen to go to the same school? Live in the same place? Have a similar annoying family member? Struggle through a similar life experience?

You can also build rapport by showing genuine empathy and interest–What do you most resonate with about the influencer’s journey? Their advice? Their teachings?

Now is the time to share what you most relate to and its impact on you.

Pro-tip: To increase the chances of your pitch success, do rapport building pre-pitch. This is especially important when you are pitching busy influencers who are bombarded by a lot of asks.

#2 Quantifiable Demand Icing

Persuade the influencer’s emotional brain of the value of your guest post by showing them quantifiable demand.

Your goal here should be to show the influencer that the audience demand your guest post fulfills is a big one.

This is important because even if you are absolutely certain that your guest post fulfills a big audience need, they may not think so. Showing them their audience’s demand eliminates this problem.

One way to do this is by asking their audience directly within the communities they nurture their audience.

Not sure how to ask their audience? Check out how I did it for this post below.


#3 Distinguished Credibility Topper

The final layer of the mouthwatering pitch cake is what I call the distinguished credibility topper.

The distinguished credibility topper shows them why you are the best person to guest post with them on your topic.

Here is where you should use your credentials. But don’t pack in lots of credentials, instead focus on a maximum of three.

Make sure these credentials are the highest value credibility markers you have. For example, you could include names of well-known companies you have written for or worked with.

Pro-tip: haven’t worked with any related well-known companies? Replace these with one or two strong testimonials of results you have bought your audience.

Your Action Steps

My students tell me that figuring out the right angles to build rapport and the best credibility markers to use is one of their biggest challenges when it comes to selling guest posts.

Do you relate? If you do, click here to grab the 9-day cheat sheet where I help you find the best rapport angles and credibility markers for you.

Your next steps + 3 more gifts to guide you along

In the last few sections, I showed you how to start pitching guest posts, even if you are a complete online business newbie.
I covered every part of proper pre-work including:

      • What to improve on your site
      • What to research about the influencer AND
      • What to include in your successful pitch

But you know that these ideas will only help if you put them into action.

To help make it as easy as possible to take action, I have created not one but three special gifts for you.

First, I’ve put together a PDF version of this post that you can print out to jot down your biggest takeaways and ideas on.

Second, I’ve created a 9-day cheat sheet with the specific actions steps you can take to get your online headquarters ready, research your influencer, and craft your successful pitch.

Third, I’ve put together a list of The 8 ways to find the time for guest posting while building your own blog (even if your business isn’t at a full-time income yet).

Click here to download all three gifts and use them to pitch your first guest post this week!
Gift Mockups 2 1

Sana’s mission is to help humans like you build their email lists and revenue by getting guest posts. She does this by writing guest posts like this one, fueled by so much tea she might create a worldwide shortage. Download her free 9-day cheat sheet so that you too can sell your favorite influencer on the benefits of your unique guest post (and write funny bios on their site).

23 responses to “How to Start Pitching Guest Posts (Even If You Are A Complete Online Business Newbie)”

  1. Thank you Sana N Choudary for this detailed article with fantastic eBook downloads on “Guest Posting”!
    This is a great guide and a lesson within itself!

    This is one arsenal to keep in your back pocket.

  2. Sophia says:

    I have been looking forward to this post for a while, Sana, and it does not disappoint. To be honest, I always thought guest posting was just a matter of writing up an email and sending it to an influencer who’d benefit from my content, but I never thought there were so many layers involved!

    My top 3 takeaways from this post:

    1. Most influencers will never read your blog
    I was super surprised by this one, but your explanation made complete sense to me. I always figured I need to have an arsenal of content on my blog first before I can pitch, and one of the reasons that I was also held off from pitching was I thought I didn’t have good enough content. It’s reassuring know this may not be a deal breaker for many.

    2. Matching your influencers on their values
    So, so important. If I were approached by a guest poster, I know I would want someone who is similar and values the same things as me. This is a great reminder and another one of those things where many of us don’t quite think about.

    3. Understanding their audiences
    The example you gave about a site about remote work versus an audience looking for promotion is such a great example that highlights even the most similar of topics could have 2 completely different audience profiles. It reminded me of what Regina told us about “meeting people where they are at”. If we understand our audiences, that’s the foundation of it all.

    Thank you again for this super in-depth guide! I am now much more confident to pitch guest posting to others.

    (P.S. and I loved your “Mouthwatering Pitch Cake” analogy, genius! Really made me laugh!)

    • regina says:

      I couldn’t agree more with the value matching point as well, Sophia. I think Sana’s post (really . . . epic guide) is such a great resource. Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  3. I’m printing this out right now. This is so much information and I can’t wait to use it. Thank you for sharing all of this!

  4. April Smith says:

    This is such an awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing these tips.

    My favorite takeaways were these:

    – I was excited to find that my About page already covers the 4 criteria influencers are looking for. This means I can get over my fear & feeling of “not-ready-ness” and get out there!

    – Sana provided great tips for screening a site pre-pitch. This will help ensure that the influencer I pitch is a really good fit in numerous ways and it will boost the probability of a successful pitch.

    – I LOVE the clear, actionable tips for pitching – it takes a lot of the fear out of the equation. I especially love the cake analogy! Throw in some talk about baked goods and I’m hooked! 😉

    Overally a truly excellent post, and I am grateful for the information and resources. Keep rockin’, Sana!

    • So happy to hear this April. I’ve particularly tickled the fact that one of the few things I remember from my teenage baking escapades helped your business thinking. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing the super clear takeaways.

  5. Patrick says:

    Hey Sana – great post. I love the multi-layer pitch cake, it’s a great way to describe (and remember) the promo essentials. Too much to digest in one read tho’ – you’re spoiling us here…

  6. Hey Patrick – thank you for reading and that comment.

    Yes I completely understand that this post is too much to digest in one read.

    Which is why I’ve created a downloadable pdf you can download here http://sanachoudary.com/start-pitching-guest-posts-gifts/

    • Fred says:

      So kind of you to provide this for free… you could have easily called this an “eBook” and sold it1

      This post should not only inspire people to get out there and start guest posting, but also to start doing something that actually provides value (if they aren’t already) so they can sell people on guest posts in the first place. You’re probably not going to get a guest post on a site like Adweek if you don’t actually have anything good to offer, no matter how awesome your guest post idea sounds.

      • Certainly, agree with you on needing to have something of value to offer.

        But in my experience, helping hundreds of people start guest posting, the bigger issue is that people who have a lot of value to offer hold themselves back from guest posting.

        Part of this is because they want to perfect their online headquarters and pitch first.

        It is just that they are perfecting them using the wrong criteria.

        My goal with this post is to empower people with the right criteria so that they can start getting their guest posts out there.

        Thanks so much for reading and commenting Fred.

  7. Karrie says:

    Wow, that was a great post, not just the content and advice about pitching a post which was really insightful and actionable but I also got a few more things to think about on how to actually write a post in a real life example!

    1. Calls out the fears of the audience – speaking directly to them and laying them out which somehow makes them more manageable.

    2. Inspiration to take action – even if you are a newbie, you can do this with following simple steps

    3. Sana’s own social proof – clear and concise without being intimidating

    4. Actionable steps in a simple easy to follow route through the post

    5. Really easy to navigate with links to key points through the post.

    6. Attractive images with URL in it

    7. Great example stories to show context

    8. Call to actions through the post, but only enough and in the right places

    9. Three valuable freebies – made me sign up!

    10. Personality and voice through the post that add, not detract from the information.

    Not only did I learn a whole load about pitching a guest post and now feel like I could actually do it but also about how to write the actual post as well!

    Thank you Sana, really great information in an organised and simple to understand way.

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for such an informative post! I always love everything I read here, so helpful.

  9. Helene says:

    So informative! Thank you. I have guest posted several times, yet never with a lot of success. Thanks again.

  10. Sana, this post is out of this world! Your explanation of the importance of finding the sites with the right fit will make a huge difference for me. Cutting down on wasted time, energy and disappointment…big relief! Thanks so much.

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