I recently wrote my first non-fiction book. Like, an actual book that was nearly 60,000 words. It was a dream come true. All those years ago when I dreamed of being a writer, I didn’t expect that the first book I wrote would have someone else’s name on it, but that’s what happened when I entered into a ghostwriting contract.
If you’ve ghostwritten content before, it’s kind of bizarre to look at a blog or a book that you wrote and see someone else’s name on it. However, it’s common nowadays for businesses to hire content writers to ghostwrite articles for them. Blogs are a great way to increase traffic to your site, but many business owners choose to hire a professional writer partly because hiring a qualified professional ensures the job will be done well, and partly because who has the time?
Early on in my writing career, I received my first byline and I was thrilled—even though I only got paid $10 for the article. If you’re trying to establish yourself as a professional writer, you might wonder if bylines matter.
Do Bylines Matter?
Simply put, a byline is a line that says who wrote the article. When you receive credit for your work and your name and/or picture goes on it, that’s a byline. Bylines matter because they’re the best way to build your portfolio. When you first start out as a freelance writer, potential clients want to see examples of what you’ve done.
Think about it in terms of mainstream magazines, publications, or even novels. What if To Kill a Mockingbird didn’t have Harper Lee’s name on it? Would it have the same impact when she told someone she had written a novel, but didn’t receive credit for it? This is the same reason why so many people hire ghostwriters. It allows them to take credit for the work created by a professional writer. Often, ghostwriters even charge more for ghostwriting projects.
It’s great to expand your writing skills and work for a variety of clients, but there have been many occasions when I didn’t mind not receiving a byline. When I create blogs for businesses that are in a niche I don’t plan on breaking into, I don’t mind ghostwriting. Getting bylines for articles in your niche is incredibly valuable. Sometimes, it’s even worth taking lower-paying jobs to receive a byline.
How Do You Get a Byline?
So let’s say you’re just starting out as a freelancer and you don’t have any bylines yet. This is normal, and when I started out, about 95% of my clients (or more!) hired me to ghostwrite for them. There will be clients that willingly offer you bylines, especially when you get hired for a contributor-based site. But what about when no one is offering? If you’re ready to build your portfolio, here are some great ways to get bylines.
Pitch to a site in your niche
If you already know what niche you would like to focus on or you have several niches to choose from, make a list of sites you would like to pitch to. Be realistic if you’re first starting out and try to come up with some lower-authority sites. Until you have credit for some of your work, it’s going to be challenging to get hired.
Create an online portfolio
I know what you’re thinking— if I need a byline to get a byline, how will I ever get one? Creating an online portfolio is one way to build credibility. When no one has given you a byline yet, it’s okay to create some writing samples of your own with your name on them. Alternatively, you can display your writing by creating a blog with your own domain, or by creating a blog on a site like Medium.
Contribute guest posts
Writing for free may not seem appealing to you, but sometimes it’s worth it if it allows you to get high-paying jobs. Guest posting is when you contribute a blog to another company’s site, and is often used to get a link back to your own site. Pitching a blog to another business in your niche builds credibility and can help you get better jobs in the future.
When you first start out as a freelance writer, that first byline seems almost magical. If you’re struggling to break into the professional writing world, try using these tips to gain some bylines and see where they take you.