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Ghostwriting: What’s in a Byline?

John C.

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When should you stick with ghostwriting and when is a byline better?

For many freelance writers, ghostwriting serves as an integral source of income and a way to gain more experience. Being a ghostwriter can be rewarding and allow you to take on more work, but there are also some potential disadvantages that should be carefully considered. Here’s what you need to know about ghostwriting and how to decide when you should insist on a byline.

The Pros of Ghostwriting

There are plenty of benefits to ghostwriting, which could be why so many writers choose to produce this type of work during their careers.

  • Ghostwriting often allows you more freedom in your writing. You still have to follow your clients’ guidelines on tone and style; however, the anonymity that comes with ghostwriting allows you to let go of personal restraints, experiment with different voices and challenge readers.
  • One of the biggest benefits of ghostwriting is the sheer volume of well-paid work available. There are plenty of opportunities across the web, and in recent years, that demand has only been growing.
  • There are other reasons you may want to remain anonymous. Sometimes you may come across topics or produce articles that you don’t actually want associated with your name. In other cases, you might be writing about a controversial topic that could lead to serious criticism or even harassment on social media. In such cases, anonymity can be a big plus for ghostwriters.

The Cons of Ghostwriting

Of course, there are also disadvantages to ghostwriting that you should consider.

  • Perhaps the most obvious downside to ghostwriting is the fact that you don’t get any credit for your work. You want to build your portfolio as a writer, but ghostwriting leaves you without a byline. Lacking a strong portfolio can really hurt in the long run, especially if you’re looking to attract new clients.
  • There are sometimes moral issues that arise with ghostwriting, especially if your ghostwriting leads you to write essays for students, perform in-depth research or even write a whole book. Some writers feel that these types of assignments cross ethical boundaries. If you feel uncomfortable with an assignment, it may be best to pass on it.
  • For some writers, working without a byline can degrade the quality of work. A byline sometimes offers real motivation, especially when you produce great work that receives public recognition.

When to Negotiate a Byline and When to Stick With Ghostwriting

Negotiating a byline can be tricky. For example, many writing services like Scripted explain to customers upfront that the customers are the sole owners of the content you produce. Sometimes clients offer content with a byline through writing platforms, but they’re under no obligation to do so. It never hurts to check and see if a project is offering bylines. Sometimes, customers may want your name and expertise tied to their content.

Working with private clients often puts you in a strong position to negotiate. If you think an article requires a lot of research or would look great in your portfolio, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for a byline.

Let your client know that a byline can help build your relationship together and even lead you to making that particular client a priority over others. Furthermore, if you’re an authority on a particular subject, and Google’s search algorithms already recognize your byline, it could improve a client’s SEO results. If you’re struggling to build your portfolio, you can even offer a discount in exchange for bylined writing.

Still, sometimes ghostwriting may be the way to go. Anonymity can be desirable, and there’s a wealth of work out there for ghostwriters. To only focus on bylined work would ultimately limit your options as a freelancer.

Doing both ghostwriting and bylined work is often the right path. Sometimes the choice isn’t easy, but you should always be looking out for your best interests and working towards long-term objectives.

Do you prefer ghostwriting or bylined work? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Kiran Bisht

    A good piece of advice, John. Thanks.

About John C.