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What is a Contributing Author and How to Become One?

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Published on: 01 Sep 2022

Have you ever come across the term "contributing author" or "contributing writer"? If you have landed on this article, we are sure you are as befuddled as others about what it is and how it works. 

We interviewed a Forbes contributing author to tell you all about it. This article answers all your burning questions surrounding contributing writers and how you can become one today. Wondering if becoming a contributing writer is the right choice for you? We are here to help you decide. The writer's domain has many designations. This is why contributing writers may add to the confusion. Contributing writers are trending these days. The job has caught the attention of the new generation. And why not? Let's delve deeper into what this fine specimen of writers does. 

What is a Contributing Writer?

As the name suggests, contributing writers are either writers, thought leaders, or both. They do not work full-time with a publication. Their work is related to niche-specific writings that speak to the audience. 

Being a contributing writer means being the champion of the respective domain. You will contribute ideas and knowledge to provide research-based, first-hand, authentic information. Stick with the term 'contributor' if you want to be more technical. Becoming a good writer is not just about knowing what to do but also understanding what not to do as a writer.

How do Contributing Writers Work?

Contributing writers are thought leaders in their respective disciplines. They can be niche-specific writers who follow, study, and present written pieces that contain: 

  • facts
  • opinions
  • developments
  • predictions. 

Becoming a contributing writer is a high-yielding and gratifying career path. It offers you the correct exposure, a way to educate people, and a voice for your thoughts. If you have the slightest itch to put your ideas out there or have a knack for the art of writing, this is where you begin.

Benefits of Becoming a Contributing Writer

Benefits of becoming a contributing writer

Money is the obvious benefit of becoming a contributing writer. But, there is more to this line than just a few extra bucks. It has a lot of benefits if you work with the right publications. 

Immeasurable success:
This alternate career path can have endless possibilities for success. It can take your writing career to new heights. 

A strong and leading voice:

You can educate the masses with your platform. It gives you the power to influence people with your words. 

Freedom to work:

You are free to pick your working hours. The job involves no strict 9 to 5 work required. You can be a writer of your own will. 

High exposure:

The exposure you get helps open opportunities. Here, the information in the "about author" section stimulates this process. This further amplifies your networking possibilities. Alongside getting in touch with publications and editors, you get approached by people with queries related to your writing.

Increases knowledge:

In a dynamic world where information is gold, you can find a cave of treasure. With each project you take, you get to dive deeper. You get a bigger bite of knowledge. The research behind writing a piece gives you brand new perspectives you can take further in your career.

Apart from all these, the most significant advantage of becoming a contributing writer is that you get to dive deeper and get a bigger bite of knowledge as a part of the research that goes behind writing a piece. 

How to become a contributing writer?

Many online/offline publications allow you to become a contributing writer. Here is a list of the most preferred publications that you can approach:

  • Forbes
  • Huffington Post
  • Vogue
  • Vanity Fair
  • HBR 
  • Entrepreneur     

But how do you convince these publications that you are a valuable contributing writer?

Here is the step-by-step process laid out by an experienced contributing author:

Step 1: Gain knowledge and experience to give credibility to your knowledge. 

Gain knowledge and experience

Essentially the platforms you choose to write for are knowledge-sharing platforms with an extensive reach. The goal here is to gain their confidence.  

The first step is to gain the confidence of such a massive readership. This is achievable either by projecting your industry-stricken wisdom or your exemplary niche-specific writing. Therefore, thought leaders must up their writing game. Another significant aspect is to put together a portfolio that shows your vital writing experience. It should bring that finesse, beading together arguments and opinions backed by reason. 

How to do that?

Write for yourself: The first step to wooing your readers begins when you deal with writing as a passion rather than just a means to earn. Understand the psychology of writing to reach your readers.

Don't think that becoming a contributor for Forbes or HBR means easy money but take it as a window for your informed opinion. 

Write because you love to write and not because you think it is an easy way to earn money. When you write for yourself, the zeal is seen in your words. It sounds less commercial and more personal. The world demands relatability, and that is earned only if you pour a piece of yourself into your work. 

Don't feed grass to the lion: Your editors and readers will return for a second read-only when they have gained a substantial amount. This is possible when your article/blog is ridden with helpful information and is written in the most digestible manner. 

Firstly, know the niche you are writing for. Knowledge of new and existing research and the latest developments will back up the opinions you present. 

The second step is to build yourself as a writer. A  course in academic writing or blog writing must help. All these steps indicate that before you commence your career as a contributor, it is crucial to emerge as a champion in your bailiwick. They will prepare you for the second step in becoming a contributing writer.

Step 2: Pick a niche or a focus point

Pick a niche or a focus point

You can't be writing on everything and anything. The goal should be to pick a niche. This niche will give you a focus point to follow, study and write. For instance, the contributor we consulted writes about future technologies and content marketing. 

But is picking a niche enough? No.

Being specific about what you want to write allows editors & publications to know that you are an expert in the area with something valuable to offer. That's all they look for value.

Step 3: Create a sample repository

Create a sample repository

When you write for yourself or others, you are bound to create a repository of samples. But to make a pitch to an editor of a renowned publication, you only put your best foot forward. The secret to creating the most compelling samples is knowing what the editor wants. 

Additionally, you must be careful that they may not be explicitly stated. A thorough read of the published works of other authors will give you a benchmark on the quality of work expected.  

These three steps help you practically prepare for becoming a contributing writer. 

Next comes the pictching.

Making a Successful Pitch

What happens once you establish yourself as a contributing writer? You pitch the idea so that publications invest in you. How do you do that? We have arranged a few steps to help you understand.

Step 1: Get introduced

Building a relationship with a contributor

The way you wish to write for renowned publications like Forbes or Entrepreneur is through the editor. Here, editors play a crucial role. However, it is acceptable that you make a pitch via a cold email/call to an editor that you come across on LinkedIn. 

The best way to pitch yourself effectively is to get introduced by a fellow contributor. Ask someone with a connection to an editor to introduce you. As much as prolific writing skills are a requisite, making the right connections is indispensable. Therefore, to get introduced to an editor, first focus on building a relationship with a contributor. 

Pro tip: Finding faults in their blog/article to initiate a dialogue is not how you go about it. 

What to do: You can offer help or first-hand research for a conversation starter. Or maybe, assist them with an interview. This will also give you experience in helping writers with their work process, and you may also get quoted. 

Step 2: Pitch and follow

This step is the most important and terrifying, and a lot is at stake here. 

Making a pitch is about selling yourself as a professional. The goal of a pitch is to showcase your knowledge, your unique offering, and the value you deliver.  Sell your pitch better with outstanding communication skills. Here is how you make a compelling pitch:

Pro Tip: Make it personal but don't blow your own trumpet.

What to do: Begin with who you are and why you write for a particular niche.

Pro tip: Never discuss your work without a portfolio of carefully checked and edited evidence. 

What to do: Show your contributions to the domain concerning your previous work. Give titles to articles/blogs in the email and hyperlink them. They should be relevant and must justify your position as an aspiring contributor. Check spelling, grammar, and plagiarism before hitting 'Send'.

Pro tip: Avoid copying and pasting the entire sample you write.

What to do: Delineate why you write for a niche and lead them to the sample you have written. Give them the link and access to the Google document.

The goal of the pitch should be to show what you will bring to the table. 

Step 3: Follow up

It is only human to anticipate a reply after making a pitch. But you are allowed only one follow-up (multiple pings will only irritate someone). So, follow up wisely. 

Pro tip: Don't bug them unnecessarily by showing up in their inbox. 

What to do: Wait for a week and see if they are active on other social media platforms. Send a follow-up that reaffirms if your mail didn't end up in the spam folder.

Want to build your skills as a contributing author? How about you check out KoolStories, a free social learning platform that gives you engaging content to learn your favourite interests at your pace. Join this easy-peasy social platform and reinvent your learning style!

 

Many people, just like you, aspire to become contributing writers. Thereby, the editor is probably swamped with emails and samples. Moreover, the probability that your competitor has a more dynamic personality is high. In such a scenario, you may not want to rub someone in the wrong way. Ergo, be mindful of your pitch and follow-up. Here's what our expert has to say:

The temptation to contact the editor when you don't get an active response is high. For budding authors, it is critical to resist this. The media community is small, and word spreads fast. You don't wanna destroy your reputation before you've built one

FAQ

Is a contributor the same as an author?

No, a contributor and an author are not the same. An author is someone responsible for the entire project or work. He approves the final version of the document or the finished product and makes primary contributions to it. A contributor, on the other hand, helps with research, editing, finding sources or proofread.

Is it tough to become a contributor to high authority websites?

Yes and no. The answer depends on the approach you adopt and your writing skills. It takes a while to get noticed by such publications, and only good connections or efficient networking abilities can help speed up the process.

Do contributing writers get paid?

Yes. Contributing authors on high authority sites like Forbes, Inc., Huffington Post, Business Insider, etc., get paid for their contributions.

What is a contributing writer?

A contributing writer and a contributing author are the same things. They are not employees of a publication and work on a freelance basis to offer their expertise in specific niches.

How do you become a contributing author?

To become a contributing author, you need to follow the following four steps:

Step 1: Show your knowledge and credibility as a writer through your portfolio of works.
Step 2: Choose a niche or a domain for which you want to write.
Step 3: Make some noise on social media and gain yourself an audience or viewership.
Step 4: Make connections and get introduced to someone who can be your window to the editor.