I get a lot of emails and questions from friends and strangers alike asking me the same question: “How do I get my apartment featured on XYZ website” (or more often, “How do I get my apartment featured on Houzz?”). I realized that I’ve never actually done a post addressing how I did this, so here goes!
Since graduating college, one of my goals was to have my home featured in an online publication such as The Everygirl, The Glitter Guide, and the like. I’ve been reading these sites for years and have always swooned over the home tours that they publish. Even long before I had a blog, I always found myself so inspired and intrigued by the real-life, relatable people profiled on these sites and really wanted to share my own space with their audiences. Then, when I did start my blog about a year and a half ago, I realized that being featured on a site would be a great way to continue to build blog traffic and attract a larger audience. I guess this is similar to how a fashion blogger would want to be featured in a style roundup–both to showcase their own personal style and to garner more exposure for their brand.
Since I’m not any sort of photographer, I knew I would need to outsource the shoot and hire a professional to take quality photos. Back when I was living in Philly for grad school (and before I started my blog), I had emailed a few iPhone photos of my apartment to someone at a major lifestyle site that was accepting pitches. She soon responded and said that they would be willing to set up a shoot with a local photographer. I was thrilled, but unfortunately that never came to fruition because they didn’t have a freelancer in the Philly area (and now the site has changed how they do home tours, so I don’t think they’re accepting new submissions). I guess that’s step number one in scheduling a shoot with a publication–nothing is final until it’s final! Someone can love your space, but it can take awhile to set everything in motion and actually schedule a shoot.
When I moved to DC in the summer of 2016 and subsequently started my blog, I was thrilled to decorate my new apartment and hopefully feature it online, be it on my blog or elsewhere (writing and blogging has always been my first love and I really just wanted to be able to share pictures with you all!). As always, moving and redecorating somewhere new is always a process, so it took me awhile to figure out how I wanted to arrange everything my new apartment. Once I felt like my space was more complete, I started looking around at area photographers with reasonable rates. I found Ryan, and we scheduled a shoot for early 2017. (It was funny, because I think I emailed him some preliminary photos right before Thanksgiving, and by the time the shoot took place in late January, so many areas looked completely different!). After getting the photos back later that week, I then pitched a feature to several of my favorite sites and sent them the Google Drive link to Ryan’s photos. Since I’ve worked in PR and magazines, writing a pitch wasn’t too difficult–if you haven’t written one before, just think of it as creating an “about me” blurb about your space. In my email to each of the editors, I gave a little bit of background about myself and then described my apartment and decorating style while also establishing a bit of an angle (which was that most of my stuff was thrifted/secondhand). I then pressed send, and to my surprise, I began to get responses a few weeks later (the first one came from The Everygirl while I was sitting on the beach prior to a friend’s wedding, and I was overjoyed!)!
I will say that while I’m glad that I hired Ryan to shoot my apartment not knowing what would happen (since, if anything, I wanted to have some high quality pictures for my blog), I was essentially providing these places with free photographic content, since I had paid for the shoot out of my own pocket. A few of my coworkers at the time asked if the sites were paying me to be featured, which didn’t even occur to me! But honestly the traffic that the features brought to my blog and Instagram was well worth it–I have gained several new readers, and more importantly, I’ve connected with a wonderful online design community! Just know that unless a place reaches out to you specifically and agrees to connect you with a photographer (like I do with the people we profile on Houzz), YOU are the one fronting the cost if you’re pitching pre-shot pictures.
However, another great aspect about hiring a photographer on my own was that I own these photos and can use them however I’d like, even though they’ve now been published. When Apartment Therapy shot a longer feature in my apartment last June, they produced some amazing images, but I can’t really use them on my blog as I please due to the limitations of that contract (I’d even emailed the photographer and I asked if I could purchase any of the outtakes from that shoot that didn’t make it into the feature, but unfortunately that wasn’t allowed either). For Houzz, we also usually request that people embed the story images into their blog rather than just posting however they wish.
…speaking of Houzz! After I pitched my apartment to them, my now-editor asked if Ryan and I would be interested in working as a freelance team in the DC area. Of course I said yes, I’ve had a blast scouting out people to feature this way and have really enjoyed making design writing part of my “side hustle.” We started last May and I can’t believe we’ve been at this for almost a year now! We’ve been tasked with completing one shoot/feature a month, so it’s been a wonderful way to connect with fellow bloggers and creatives all year long.
And now the most important part…having been on both sides of the submission process, I have a better sense of what places want to see when you’re pitching:
-If you’re pitching pre-shot photos, make sure they line up with the “aesthetic” of that specific publication. A lot of sites that are popular now seem to value crisp, almost over-exposed shots, so I specifically requested that Ryan edit mine in that manner, which I think helped a lot. Also, details are great, but readers want to get a sense of an apartment’s overall layout, too. The Everygirl even requested that I draw a diagram of my space (I was out of town for a wedding that weekend, so I had to run to the grocery store and buy a pen and notepad and draw it at the kitchen table at our Airbnb, whoops!). I think people love the Pinterest-friendly vignettes that we often see but genuinely want to know where different rooms are located, etc. A lot of times when I’m reading the comments on Apartment Therapy features I notice that this is something people want.
-Having a hook helps–maybe you’re a mom whose designed a really cool playroom for your kids or is able to maintain a stylish, kid-friendly home without sacrificing style. Maybe you’ve done an adventurous renovation or some neat furniture makeovers. But there’s no one perfect formula–and it often isn’t just one person making the decision whether or not to accept a pitch. However, if you don’t have a “hook” or feel like your home is too “normal” to pitch, you could be wrong! So many people feel like their home isn’t it definitely isn’t photo shoot ready when oftentimes that isn’t the case. It isn’t about having the best or the nicest stuff–by no means do you have to be a blogger or well-known or have $5,000 furniture to be selected! We’ve featured a lot of really cool DIYers on Houzz who have made their spaces look fabulous on a budget.
-Don’t forget about the little touches that take a shoot to the next level. Obviously we don’t all keep flowers in our bathrooms or keep sliced lemons on a cutting board in our kitchen all of the time (at least I don’t!), but little additions like these make a room more photo-ready. Just think of your upcoming shoot as an excuse to treat yourself to a few bouquets, a special bottle of soap, or a new candle…I know I do!
-Home shoots are tiring. For not even being in most of the pictures, I don’t know why I always feel so wiped out after these. But managing a shoot can be exhausting! By the end I’m always ready to eat all my props (I always put out fresh fruit or croissants for a “lived in” touch, haha) and take a nap for three hours. The photographer may want to do their own thing or they may want to chat with you the entire time, but either way, it helps if you pick someone you know well and feel comfortable with (this is obviously key when you’re inviting anyone to essentially sift through every room of your house!).
-Additionally, keep in mind that if your pitch is picked up, your home WILL be on the internet (and given the nature of the internet, people are *generally* nice but can be weird/creepy. I didn’t let the AT photographer take pictures looking out the windows in my old apartment because I lived alone in a small building and didn’t want people to know exactly where I was. I still won’t post pictures of the outside of my building just to be safe. While I’d say that 95 percent of the comments on my features were super nice (like, so nice…I was blown away), there are always people who misunderstand what you’re doing/make assumptions/are having a bad day/whatever. But that’s no different than regular blogging, I suppose…(or in interactions with people you know in real life, for that matter). The key is to either respond gracefully or just not respond at all!
If you have any other questions about the process, don’t hesitate to shoot me a note!
Photos by Hado Photo