When you apply to become a new contributor for a popular publication, standing out from the pack is one of your biggest challenges. With so much noise in the online world, competition is at an all-time high. You need to figure out how you can separate yourself from writers who already contribute content to your targeted website.
Here are three ways to make sure your pieces get noticed for all the right reasons.
1. Provide the requested details -- every one.
Most websites have their own guidelines for contributors. And because websites vary in terms of purpose and readership, you won’t provide the same information for each publication. Make sure you understand each website's guidelines and provide the full set of information, tailored for that outlet.
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Leaving even one question unanswered can decrease your chances. Skip the fluff and provide only the information the guidelines describe.
For example, don’t use statements such as, “The best business coach online." If you have an award that carries the title, then by all means, go ahead. But proclaiming yourself a leader doesn't make it so. Providing everything requested will show you read the guidelines and could be an easy contributor to work with.
2. Don’t be vague.
Most publication guidelines require you to describe your area of expertise -- or at the least, what you plan to write about if selected as a contributor. Dedicate your focus to this topic. Whatever you do, don’t be vague in your explanation of likely content subjects.
If your area of expertise is business, understand it's too broad a category. Expand on the answer by detailing which areas of business. You might choose to highlight “ business growth through employee engagement,” as one example. The same is true of marketing, another popular topic. "The ups and downs of brand marketing" is a much better answer, particularly if you can elaborate on the response with a succinct and well-informed summary.
Being vague only will hurt your odds. Remember, you can't stand out from other potential contributors if you aren't able to articulate specifics.
3. Impress editors with interesting, creative headlines.
Research shows 80 percent of readers never make it past the headline. Do you imagine it's any different when you apply to become a contributor? If you pitch headlines for future pieces, it's critical you make them interesting from the editor's perspective.
Why? Headlines that blend in with all the others an editor sees will give the impression you'll write articles similar to those already published. Don’t give editors any reason to make this assumption. Editors typically want working titles for your planned articles, so dig deep and be creative. And don't forget the specifics.
A headline that reads, "4 Ways Marketing Can Grow Your Business" might elicit some degree of interest. The more creative "4 Ways Digital Marketing is Better Than Traditional Marketing in Today's Business World" is even better. Catch an editor's eye with a headline that isn’t as common, and you've shown you can add a fresh point of view.
Related: The 3 Rules for a Publishable Op-Ed
One final takeaway: While these pointers will increase your chances of being accepted as a contributor, you eventually must focus on the content. Being granted contributor status doesn't guarantee publication. Your writing still needs to provide value and conform to the website's standards for contributed work.