Blogging: Cold Emails

Blogging: Cold EmailsFirst, I must apologize for my absence. I took some time to myself this summer to do things that were not writing blog posts, and it was absolutely lovely. But let’s jump right in, shall we?

As a senior writer at my place of employment, I frequently receive inquiries from hopeful freelancers asking to write content for the company blog. Some of these want to drop links for companies they work for and others just want to see their work published on a blog that gets around 15k visitors per month. Either type is fine, as long as they meet our requirements.

The emails that I receive usually go something like this:

Hi Brittany. I was just looking over the _______ company blog and think that I could offer some great content for your readers! Let me know if you accept guest posts. Thanks!

Needless to say, emails like that don’t really do a lot for me. Now, since a lot of you are freelancers or at least freelance hopefuls, I want to use this post to 1) show you the right way to contact strangers, and 2) why you shouldn’t feel bad about sending cold emails.

Our basic requirements are as follows:

  • We’ll need to see 2-3 writing samples
  • You may not include affiliate (paid) links
  • The content must be 100% original (barring any direct quotes)
  • You have to suggest a couple of suitable topics
  • You remember that we are not internet or marketing stupid

Let’s break into the reasoning behind each requirement so that you can understand why each one is so important.

Samples help to show how skilled you are when it comes to writing. When selecting a sample to include, try to choose one that has a topic related to the business you are contacting. Always send at least 2, and no more than 5. Make sure that if they were published, the site they are hosted on is reputable, there are no spelling mistakes, and that any and all links work. It’s also best if the post is actually attributed to you and not someone else.

Affiliate links are not “the devil”, but if you’re writing content for a business, it’s underhanded and unprofessional to try to scrape a profit from their readers. Never include an affiliate link in an organic post  unless you have been given permission.

Original content is an absolute must. I don’t want to get dinged for duplicate content, and I also don’t want your recycled information. If you wrote a post for a business and it fell through and never went live, that’s one thing, but if your blog post was published elsewhere you had better think twice before asking me to give it to our readers.

Suitable topics are another must. Spend time reading any content that the business has on their site. Skim some of their blog posts and peruse a few of their articles. When you send your email, include 2 or 3 topic ideas that you really think will work for them. One of the worst things that you can do is to suggest a topic to me that would never fit with what we currently cover.

For example, I was recently contacted by a potential guest blogger who suggested, specifically, maintaining a pool. This was about a week ago and we’re on the verge of snow here in Canada. That topic is not timely, and it is far too specific for me to use since we cover much more general real estate content.

We’re writers and marketers, we know about the internet. We know that you want to get in some good backlinks, we know if you are actually talented when it comes to SEO, and we know when your writing skills are subpar. We aren’t dumb, we know the motivation behind your content is completely selfish, but so is our reason for accepting it—we like free content. So be honest and don’t bother trying to butter anyone up too obviously.

A Good Cold Email

That being said, I will judge you on your initial email, and it greatly affects my reply. If you frequently send out cold emails to businesses or individuals, I would suggest trying something like this:

Hi ________,

I’m a *insert writing profession* and came across your blog through *insert where you found them*. I thought that your post *insert interesting post name related to what you want to write for them* was very *insert an adjective or two of your choice*.

I am writing to ask if you accept guest post, and if so, what your guidelines might be. I have attached some writing samples in order to give you an overview of the topics I have covered in the past and my writing style.

I thought that a post about one of the following topics would be both a fit for your blog and beneficial to your readers:

*insert topic 1
*insert topic 2

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I look forward to hearing from you.

*insert name (example: Johnny Awesomesauce)

Are Cold Emails Bad?

No. They aren’t bad. Although most businesses will be savvy to the fact that you are only contacting them to either get your name in print or promote a client, we appreciate when you at least make a good effort to be polite, clear, and thorough.

Sometimes you may not get a response at all, other times you may get a short and direct “No.” But once in awhile, you’ll come across someone who wants to give you a shot and who, even if they do say no, will tell you why. I try to be that person as often as I can because as a writer I know that we are expected to accept rejection without an explanation, and it can be very tiring.

So if you’re trying to break into the writing profession by sending out a few cold emails, good on you. Take note of the tips in this post and understand that no matter how good you are, you are going to hear the word “no” often. But sometimes, you’ll get a “yes”, and when you see your post go live to thousands of readers, it’ll all be worth it.

Do you send out cold emails? Do you look for guest posting opportunities often?

I post funny things on Facebook sometimes, so if you like funny things, pay my page a visit. If you do not like funny things, just avoid it.

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Applying for Writing Jobs

Applying for Writing JobsAs a senior writer at my day job, I have had the unfortunate task of reviewing a couple of resumes for an opening that we have for a junior writer. Luckily, the ones that I have seen have been narrowed down from a hundred and some odd resumes by someone else, so I’m getting the best of the best (or worst).

Now, before this posting I didn’t quite realize how popular a writing job would be. But it turns out it is quite a desirable position. Whether it’s due to a less than stellar economy, or it’s that there aren’t many writing jobs out there, the response to this particular posting was overwhelming.

But even the few resumes that trickled down into my hands weren’t really all that wonderful. They both had potential, but I was honestly surprised that these were the absolute best of what we had received. That’s why I am going to go over some tips for those of you looking for writing jobs, that may or may not help you to get the position.

    1. Send relevant samples. If you have content related to the business, for example, finance, send it. Even if you only have one piece. Don’t only send that one article you did for an internship. And never send personal writing, such as the speech you wrote for your cousin’s wedding. Only send creative content if it’s requested. Stick to non-fiction for businesses.
    2. Spell the company name correctly. Pay attention to not only the spelling, but the formatting.
    3. Look over your resume for spelling errors at least 3 times, and request that a friend (who has a good grasp on the relevant language) reviews it as well. Use spellcheck. Often, a spelling error on the resume of a writer merits immediate disqualification. Harsh? Maybe.
    4. After you are certain your resume is in perfect shape, and I mean perfect, save it and send as a PDF unless otherwise indicated. It will save your formatting so that it doesn’t look off.
    5. Pay attention to the categories on your resume. Creativity is not a skill, it is an attribute. Social media may be an interest, but unless you have professional experience with it, it is not a skill either. Education should be for your education only, list your awards in a separate section.
    6. Have a professional email address. Of course your email might have to end in “@gmail.com” or “@hotmail.com”, but at least have it start with something like “firstinitial.lastname”.
    7. Don’t butter yourself up too much. In your cover letter and on your resume, avoid using too many adjectives. The person looking over your resume is likely a walking thesaurus from having to read over what you and all of the other applicants have said about yourselves. Be clear, not flowery.
    8. Try to match the writing style of the business’s existing content. Look for onsite content or blog posts and get a feel for their tone and style. Reference it in your resume by saying something like, “I have attached an article that I wrote for ______, similar to the one that you published on your blog about______”. They will love to know that you’ve been paying attention.
    9. Don’t be scared to put a firm salary. Many people put a range that stretches to about a ten thousand dollar difference. That’s a lot of wiggle room. Pick a number that you think you are worth based on your skills and industry standards.
    10. Watch out for your personal social media profiles. If you’re linking to your Twitter or blog, make sure there’s nothing on there an employer shouldn’t see. Guaranteed they are going to take a look, and if they find anything damning, you’re out.

Applying for a writing position can be a little more intense than other positions since your resume is likely to be torn apart and the tiniest mistake can affect whether or not you are considered. Make sure that you have actual, relevant, professional writing experience, a variety of samples, and a good friend with a sharp eye and you’ll be starting off on the right foot.

If you don’t yet have experience or samples, start looking for internships or contract pieces before you start applying for writing positions, if possible, to build your portfolio.

What’s your experience like with applying for writing positions? Do you have any tips for other writers?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.