It’s not what you think. A lot of people think bylines are important because we writers like to see our names published. They think that it’s all about ego.
Well, okay, maybe that’s a little bit true. It is gratifying to see my name on a piece of writing that I’m proud of.
But I have done technical writing and business copywriting for years. Both of those are areas in which the writer rarely gets a byline.
Obviously, seeing my name published is not always that big of a deal.
So why are bylines so important?
The answer is simple. A bylined piece is easy to add to your portfolio. When there’s a byline, it’s obvious that you did the writing. And a strong portfolio helps you stay in business as a freelance writer.
Back in the days when I worked as a corporate technical writer, I remember the difficulties involved with trying to review a prospective writing hire’s previous work:
- Technical writing is often propriety. Technical writers and others sometimes sign non-disclosure agreements–basically meaning that they won’t show the work they do for the company to others. That means that we often couldn’t even see what type of writing a prospect had done previously.
- No way to know who did the writing. Large technical writing projects are often completed by teams. Even if a prospective hire did have work samples, without a byline there was no way to know what role the prospective writer really played in creating the document.
The same problem exists with ghostwriting, editing, and many other types of unbylined writing projects.
How to Get the Bylined Work You Need
You need bylined work for your portfolio. Fortunately, it’s easier than it used to be to get a byline. Here are three quick tips:
- Start a blog. Your own blog is a great first step for getting bylines. And of course, you have total control over what is published.
- Provide a small byline discount. This can help when negotiating with budget-sensitive clients. Just make sure that you are working on a piece that you will want credit for before you offer the discount.
- Guest post. Submitting guest posts has its drawbacks, but a few well-placed guest posts can give you a start.
Do you focus on a type of writing where writers are rarely given credit for their work? If so, what do you do to get portfolio pieces?
How did you get your first byline?