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How to Become a Syndicated Columnist

Updated on June 13, 2019
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Prachi has been working as a freelance writer since 2012. When not writing, she helps people with web designing and development.

Columnist v/s Syndicated Columnist

A columnist is an editorial writer, who works as self-employed, or through an agency. He/She contributes regularly to a magazine, newspaper or website. While the job of reporters is to deliver the facts, the job of a columnist asks for more. It involves interpreting news and interviewing people through their own opinions and views.

On the other hand, a syndicated columnist is a columnist who gets their articles published across multiple media at the same time.

The meaning of working as a syndicated communist changed for me as I grew up. While earlier, I used to be passionate about magazine and newspapers writings, now I am over-passionate about people who write for me. The best thing is to work as a freelance syndicated columnist online. It sounds lavishing, but trust me, it’s easy if you work hard and do it on a continuous basis keeping your laziness and daydreaming aside.

How to get started with Syndication?

Some people may say something, others may something else, here’s what I say. I followed these steps to become a syndicated columnist myself, I hope it helps you too:

Guest Blogging

Guest Blogging is the first and foremost step you must take to reach the level of syndication. I once wrote nearly 100 guest posts in 5 months to reach to the potential audience and build relationships with influencers. It also helped me build a portfolio of excellent writing and establish credibility among readers and clients. This method helped me gain thousands of views on my various articles within a very short span of time.

That was not it. I also received emails from famous sites such as the Huffington Post, who found my articles worth sharing. Guest blogging helps you drive traffic from innumerable places, this is important especially when you write at only one place.

You need to work hard, have top-notch quality articles and put your courage upfront to prove your worth.

Guest Blogging vs Syndicate Writing

Guest Blogging is a good way to get started with a better career in the near future, yet many writers don’t prefer this and directly jump to syndicate writing. They are right and wrong, both. What makes guest blogging worse or better than syndicate writing? Let’s see, who wins?

Definition

Guest Blogging refers to the submission of original content on others’ sites than one's own, which is published only once.

Syndicate Writing refers to re-publication of the original piece on a different site.

Pros and Cons: Guest Blogging

Pros:

  • High-Quality content unique to a particular site
  • Opportunity to build strong relationships with other sites

Cons

  • Needs lots of time to create the final piece
  • If the content is not top-notch or is redundant, you may end up getting penalized by Google

Pros and Cons: Syndicate Writing

Pros:

  • Saves your time and gives an opportunity to earn rewards from multiple places
  • Validated content that can be pitched to famous sites

Cons:

  • SEO issues are possible since the content is not unique

Needless to say, none of these two major genres have any strong cons. While guest blogging gives you a recognition in the market, syndication helps you get recognized as an expert in the field.

Many folks go on with syndication directly, what I did was writing guest posts for famous sites and after getting enormous conversion rate, I switched to syndication.

If you are reading these lines, then there is something you must know, never be impatient and there is nothing called as a quick success. It comes only after millions of failures. You must have that willingness to work your way up and put your focus on receiving the coveted published clips.

Select a Topic

Syndicated columnists write on a variety of topics such as health, fitness, celebrities, sports and so on. Which is your favorite topic? And which of these can be sold to different publications within a defined geographical location?

Mind your Work, not the Publication Size

Never submit a shoddy work to any publication, irrespective of how small or large it is. No one expects you to deliver a Pulitzer material, indeed your submission must be error-free and a brilliant reflection of your personality as a writer. You never know who may get to read your work and give you an opportunity to work for a bigger and better publication.

Meeting deadlines and providing a flawless work will set you up as a dedicated professional that will benefit you throughout the career. Build a strong connection with the editors, you’re working with. They may be the ones writing your next recommendation.

Readers are Everything

Everything you write, your ultimate goal must be to get into the readers’ minds. Editors buy only those material that their readers demand. To be really successful, you need to have a strong base of loyal readers. When I write my column, I remember the mother and her friends sitting down in the morning to have a cup of coffee and opening the Lifestyle section to read my submission. I don’t work for editors, I work for the improvement of readers’ life.

Send the Query to the Managing Editor

There are multiple benefits of directly approaching the managing editor of a publication. The managing editor has the authority to make monetary decisions for the published work, that provides them with the “last word”. If you want the process to be quick with fewer “yes” and “no”, go directly to the managing editor. Strive to maintain a strong relationship with him/her. Proofread your work, tighten your writing schedule and give them no chances of pinpointing your mistakes as they are very busy professionals.

Save your Published Clips

When your published work is out, save them digitally or photocopy it as newsprint turns yellowish over time. Make sure the copy contains the publication date.

Keep an Eye on Your Contracts

Writers are natural artists, but that’s not enough to build your career in the world of publishing, you need to take care of lots of business-oriented tasks as well, especially contracts.

Don’t take contracts lightly, read them wisely. If you don’t understand them completely, take help. This is very important, if you fail to match any of the points in the contract, you may fall into trouble.

“Work for Hire” Deal

Here’s a very crucial point that I should inform you about contracts, be aware of a “Work for Hire” contract. If you are signing such a contract, it means you won’t be receiving any credit or have any rights for what you write for the publication. In effect, it is the publication who owns the column, not you. You’ll need to ask for permission from that particular publication if you ever wish to publish that work somewhere else.

On the contrary to that, it is better to sign a “Freelancer Contract”. You work for a limited period with the publication just like in “Work for Hire” deal, but you get to reserve the rights for your work. You are only lending your work without comprising your rights to the original work. You may also get asked not to publish your work in another publication, which you must obey.

Be a Journalist First

To be an outstanding syndicated columnist, it is better to be a great journalist first. A good journalist and good columnist are clear, accurate, compelling, concise and have an excellent writing style. Being a journalist will give you an edge to be a successful columnist.

What if you go with Self-Syndication?

You can be a syndicated columnist either through an agency or by yourself. Both of these options have the following pros and cons:

Through an Agency

Pros:

  • You don’t need to worry about business works such as marketing and sales. It is done by experts.
  • Your mind is relaxed from unnecessary tasks and has the full energy to focus on writing.
  • Agencies have strong networks and contacts, which you don’t.

Cons:

  • Agencies have the rights to take a large percentage of your profits.
  • Agencies have control over your career.

Self-Syndication

Pros:

  • You have the pleasure to be your own boss
  • You don’t need to share profits with anyone

Cons: (Not really Cons)

  • You need to work really hard not only for writing your column but also for building a market for your work
  • You’ll be solely responsible for managing promotions, sales, contracts, invoices and so on.

I do self-syndication because I feel that ultimate sense of satisfaction, a satisfaction that comes from controlling my career all by myself, there’s no one to rule over me.

The basic motive of self-syndication is to offer a column to many different publications on a non-exclusive basis, who are not in competition with each other directly. The best way to get started is by pitching local and regional newspapers because these newspapers’ circulation limit is the city and they don’t go beyond that. So, if you publish your work somewhere else in another city, it won’t matter really matter to them.

What are the advantages of working as a Syndicated Columnist?

1. Higher reach of your content and greater awareness of your brand

Being a syndicated columnist, you have the opportunity to spread a word about your name and brand across multiple places.

2. Higher authority in your industry or niche

The higher the exposure your writing skills receive, the better the perspective people will have of you. Readers will see you as a skilled person and an expert in your field after reading your quality content across different platforms.

To build trust, make sure to include links, in your bio, to all the sites where your work is published.

3. Higher chances of sharing your best resources

Syndication gives an opportunity to provide links to the blogs and websites owned by you. You get the chance to showcase your work to the masses. While many people discourage to use links in your articles, since spammers have been using this technique to target online users, you still have the option to share your best work by giving a reference to it. For example, you can write, “As I wrote in my previous article How to JumpStart your Writing Career in 7 days on the website ABC Sample Writers,…”.

What are the possible SEO issues in syndicate writing?

When your article is present at multiple places online, it becomes tough for SEO to figure out the main link. The best way is to provide a link in your syndicated content to the original content. This will help search engine to figure out the things systematically.

Who is the right person to contact?

Besides sending a pitch, make sure to contact contributions and features editor working at large and famous sites.

How to figure out the best sites for media partnerships?

As you scan through different articles written on different sites, have a closer look at articles that state, “This story originally appeared in…” This is a promising sign that the respective site allows re-publication of content.

On the other hand, to know if a site allows guest posting check out the author's bio or it may be present in the content itself if the post is a guest blog or written by a staff member.

I, as a guest writer, found sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, Search Engine Journal and Business Insider to be very helpful for starting with a guest blog.

What is the pay scale of a syndicated columnist?

While the salary of a columnist is merely around $34,000 - $40,000 on a yearly average. A syndicated columnist can earn a substantially higher income.

People who wish to become syndicated columnists must have an urge for the steady readership to command a higher income. Most of them write about health, fitness, fashion, politics, personal finance, and celebrities. Depending on the job contract, they publish either monthly, weekly or daily.

If they have a degree in English or Journalism, along with job experience as a reporter or freelance writer, their salary can reach up to $90,000 in a year or more.

An online columnist has the potential to earn higher since they can work for several online websites at the same time.

What are the perks of being a Syndicated Columnist?

Not all, but some columnists get the chance to do paid travel, share profit and earn bonuses. Deadlines are extremely crucial, yet many of them get the chance to work from home or while traveling overseas. They may also get health insurance as well as retirement benefits depending on the employer. Syndicated columnists, who come from the background of journalism, have the chance to receive Pulitzer Prices as well.

How to become a Syndicated Columnist, if you don’t meet the Educational Qualification?

While becoming a syndicated columnist comes out of hard work and dedication to writing, most of the companies hire only degree owners. Even if you lack the educational background, you still have that immense potential to become one of the most successful syndicated columnists in the world. And yes, I actually mean it. Here’s what you can do:

  • Write for School Publications
  • Start a Blog
  • Write a Guest Post
  • Write topics that you can pitch to newspapers and magazines across the country
  • Write topics that you can pitch to local periodicals

Whether you are a syndicated columnist through an agency or by self-employed, it is better to start locally because reaching the national level is quite competitive and demands experience.

People working at this post have the benefits of earning huge income because of their experience and talent to attract the audience through their writing expertise. It may seem easy and quick, but it isn’t, while it might be easy, but you need to work hard and have the patience to reach the top. It is definitely not a quick process, but surely worth it.

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