Guest-blogging is one of the best online marketing strategies — and it’s fun, too, especially when you have momentum leading you to bigger and better opportunities on a regular basis.

Related: 4 Ways Guest Blogging Grows Your Blog Audience Quickly

The problem is, it’s notoriously hard to get started as a guest author. So, what can you do to generate that early momentum for your personal brand and become a guest author for the first time?

The advantages of guest authorship

First, you need to understand why guest authorship is so beneficial. The premise is simple: When you write posts on external publishing sites, you gain the following benefits:

  • Visibility. The more you write for external publications, the more your work is going to be seen, and the more brand recognition you’ll build. Considering that 89 percent of B2B marketers list brand awareness as their most important goal (above sales and lead generation), this is vital.
  • Authority. The more you guest post, the more you’re going to be seen as an authority figure. With enough posts and publishers under your belt, you’ll be seen as an influencer in your own right.
  • Link-building. Guest-posting also gives you the opportunity to build valuable links to your site, which will result in referral traffic and improve your SEO.
  • Gateways to more opportunities. The more you guest-post, the more attractive you’ll become to other publishers as a prospective author, which means you’ll earn even better opportunities to guest-post and contribute content in the future.

So, how can you get started and begin seeing these advantages in real-time? Here’s how:

Step 1: Build a personal brand.

Your first step is to create your personal brand. You’ll need to decide how you want to present yourself professionally, including your main areas of expertise and your main writing subjects. Claim all available social media profiles you can, and start building up a following.

QuickSprout has a detailed guide on personal branding you should read for more information.

Step 2: Create a hub.

Next, you’ll need to create a hub for yourself (usually a primary website or blog), where you can create and publish your own content regularly. This is going to serve as a sort of base of operations for forwarding your guest-post traffic and as a portfolio for potential publishers to review.

Related: Welcome to Guest Blogging 101

Spend some time perfecting the design, and load the blog with at least five highly detailed, well-written posts; these are going to serve as writing samples when you start making pitches to guest publishers.

After that, try to publish (and share) new content at least once a week to build your audience and keep your site looking up-to-date.

Step 3: Seek a publisher with few barriers to entry.

Once you have a hub in place, it’s time to choose your first publisher. High-level publishers won’t accept content from little-known sources, so it’s best to choose a publisher with few barriers to entry. Look at the following dimensions:

  • Existing authority. Is this a site that receives many awards and significant recognition? If so, this publisher probably accepts only already-established, well-credentialed authors.
  • Existing authors. How many authors does this site currently support? Does it seem open to lots of newcomers, or are there only a small number of contributors?
  • Audience size. What sort of audience does this publisher serve? When you’re starting out, you’ll need to pick a publisher with a significant but reasonable audience, in the neighborhood of thousands or tens of thousands, rather than millions.
  • Region. Local publications tend to be more open than national ones, so consider publishers in your own city.
  • Niche. Is this a general publisher, or one specific to your field of expertise? The more relevant you are to a particular publishing company, the more accepting it will be to your content. You can also compensate for this by pitching publisher-specific content instead of your usual material.
  • Needs. Finally, examine whether the publisher is looking for new contributors. Many publishers publicize whether they’re open or closed to new submissions.

If you need help finding some initial candidates, Peter Sandeen has an excellent list of guest blogging sites to help you get started.

Step 4: Make a pitch.

Once you have a target publisher in mind, the last step is to reach out with a pitch. Look for an editor’s contact information on the site (or review submission guidelines, if the site has any). If you’re struggling to find contact information, look up individual authors and find them on social media (Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn).

When you find an editor’s contact information, introduce yourself and send your pitch; though different publishers have different guidelines for pitches, most include a suggested headline, followed by a three-to-five-sentence description of the post you have in mind. Try to choose a topic that hasn’t been done yet, and one that both represents your expertise and is going to be valuable to your publisher’s audience. Moz has a fantastic guide on submitting pitches if you need further direction.

Hopefully, your pitch will be accepted, and you’ll be on your way to submitting and publishing your first guest post. Make sure you follow your publisher’s guidelines closely, and maintain a good relationship with your editor.

Related: 7 Ways the Perfect Host Makes Guest Bloggers Feel Right at Home

And, if your first attempt doesn’t work out, don’t fret — there are plenty of publishers out there, and one will be more than willing to give you your first opportunity. For more help getting started with guest posting to grow your business, see The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

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