I became a Forbes contributor in early 2013 and have written over 160 articles for the publication. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about how the contributor program works, based on my experience:
I was never paid for any of the articles I wrote for Forbes. Some contributors work under an arrangement where they get paid, but I have never met any of those contributors and don’t have much insight into how that program works today.
One article per week
When I was signed up for the program I was asked to write one post per week, although this was never strictly enforced. I once went 3 weeks without posting anything. Numerous other times I went 2 weeks without posting. Nobody ever said anything to me about it.
Post whatever you want? Not quite.
When I was signed up, my editor told me “Just post the same stuff you post on your blog, but on Forbes.” In early 2016 that changed, and contributors are required to stick strictly to a narrow “swim lane” of expertise. If you’re signed up to write about PR, every post is about PR. If you’re signed up to write about digital marketing, then every article you write is focused on digital marketing. If you step out of line you hear about it from your editor.
Publish directly, no pre-publish editing
At Forbes, contributors post directly to the live site. Yeah, no editing, no quality check–just click “post” and it goes live. Editors do check the articles after they’re published and make minor edits. Sometimes if a writer goes off topic the post is taken down, even after it’s published and people have shared it around social media. That happened to me at least twice. I still think it’s the best way to go. Being able to publish immediately is one of the main reasons I wrote so much for Forbes rather than submitting my work to other outlets.
Contributors have access to some great analytics about their posts. They can see performance of posts over time, total views across all posts (views on individual posts are visible to the general public), and a slew of other data.
Contributors are given training via webinars on a regular basis. These focus on writing techniques, SEO, and other factors to improve the quality of the writing, make posts more likely to be shared on social media, and get the posts showing up better in search engines.
Although a bit dated, here are two articles from Forbes (see here and here), talking about how the Forbes contributor program came to be and how it works. If you have further questions, ask me in the comments below and if I don’t have the answers I’ll reach out to contributor friends of mine and include their answers here.Liked it? Share it!
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Hi Josh, This is something that’s on the top of my current todo list so I really appreciate the insights you’ve shared. I’ve been following you on Twitter and Facebook so looking forward to even more tips! Thanks again.
Thanks for reading Katyan! Do you have any specific questions about writing for Forbes or other publications that I can answer?
HI JOSH, who do we contact to become a contributor please?
Hi Blythe, at this time I do not know of any one email address or person you can contact to become a contributor at Forbes, in fact, most people who are becoming new contributors are being found by Forbes, rather than contacting Forbes. But if you want to pitch Forbes on becoming a contributor, I recommend you read the post How to Become a Forbes Writer. Thanks!
Hi Blythe, since you commented I created a new post, Who Do I Contact at Forbes to Become a Contributor, which I think you’ll enjoy.
This was a wonderul Wonderful read and very informational !
Great article Josh – thanks for putting these pointers together!
Hello. Great article. Just out of interest though, and please excuse my ignorance, but, why would some one want to write for Forbes if the work is unpaid?
You may not get paid directly by Forbes, but there are a lot of ways to get “paid.” If I write for Forbes about digital marketing, and that gives me increased credibility as a digital marketer, and so I’m able to charge more for my digital marketing services, then I’m getting paid for my writing on Forbes, right? I’m just not getting paid by Forbes.
Okay, I understand. Thanks for explaining that for me, Josh.
Useful to know.
Josh, Thank you for the information. I find many people are chasing something they don’t understand. Six months ago I thought I wanted to be a contributor but I wasn’t ready to produce an extra high quality article every week. Instead, I have been focused on writing more and getting to a place I am a good match for them. It will end up being a better win-win for everyone.
I need you to help me publish an article on forbes ..contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org
This is NOT how you get on Forbes. This is kind of like me walking into a bank and saying “I need you to give me a million dollars.” Well yeah, we all need that, but how likely is the bank to do this? What’s in it for them?
Fact is, banks give out millions of dollars all the time, but not just because someone asks. They do it because; 1) they’re going to get the million back with interest, 2) they’ve verified the background of the borrower to minimize risk.
If you want to get an article into Forbes you’ve got three ways to do it:
1. Become a writer for them. This isn’t easy. You need to be pretty good at writing, and great at crafting content people care about.
2. Pitch a writer. I’ve written about how to do this here. Bottom line–it’s hard to pitch someone you don’t know. It can be done, but you have to do it the right way, and it’s going to take time and effort.
3. Hire someone to pitch a writer for you. PR firms make money because they have relationships with writers. You can’t just ask a writer “Write a story for me please,” and expect them to do it. They don’t know you, so they’re going to ignore your request unless it’s very compelling (see link in #2). PR firms have spent years developing these relationships and they’re trusted by writers, so the PR firm can do what you cannot–they can call up their buddy who writes at Forbes and say “Hey, I’ve got a great article about such and such, can I pitch it to you?” and the buddy at Forbes will listen. If you’re interested in this kind of PR then contact my agency MWI.
Hi and thanks a lot for the article.
I realise it’s been many years sonce you wrote this, but I have a question about this process, from a brand owner stand point.
You say somewhere in the comments that it’s hard to pitch writers for articles (which, if I understand this correctly, is asking them if they would write a promotion piece for a fee?), and that it’s better to go through a PR agency who has a working relation with them. Does that mean that you must hire the PR firm (which is usually a monthly fee), and they contact one of the writers they know, which you also have to pay? Is that correct?
Thanks in advance
Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Yes, when you hire a PR firm (I recommend Canvas PR, because I own it) you are paying them for their relationships, and to a lesser extent their expertise. You could go out and get PR yourself, but you can’t call up a writer at [insert publication of your choice] and say, “Hey Fred, I’ve got an article on XYZ topic, would you be interested in a story on that?” and expect them to seriously consider you, not unless you’re already famous. The PR firm already has a relationship of trust with many writers, and they leverage that trust to get clients like you into those publications faster, easier, and better than you could on your own.
Most PR firms will charge a monthly retainer for this kind of work. Those retainers might be as low as $5,000/mo, but more often you’ll hear about retainers that are $15,000/mo and up. The retainer doesn’t guarantee you anything. You might pay the PR firm $15K/mo for nine months and end up with a single article in Forbes (this happens all the time). That’s why I recommend Canvas because we charge a flat fee and we guarantee the work. You know what you’re paying, you know what you’re getting, and if you don’t get it, you don’t pay.