If you have never had an article published, that first gig can be the most difficult one to land. If you’ve got many bylines under your belt, landing freelance writing assignments gets easier and you are likely to get paid something for most, if not all, of them. So, how do you get that first byline, or more of them, so landing paid gigs becomes common place?
How to Get Your First Byline
Some writers produce a few articles for local newspapers for free when they first start out as journalists or professional writers. Many experts frown on this practice, though, believing writers should never write anything for free.
I wrote many free articles as an intern while still in college to get those sought-after bylines that would help me get paid assignments (and a job) after graduation. Today, I still occasionally write articles for publications that provide me or my books with good “exposure.” In other words, they provide “promotional opportunities.” I try most of the time to get paid for my work, though.
Of course, blogging entails writing for free, as does guest blogging. “Free” has become much more acceptable, especially if you are trying to build platform or promote your work.
If you want to earn a living as a writer, you do, indeed, want to get paid for your writing. I studied magazine journalism in college and was taught never to write an article unless I knew beforehand I would get paid by a publication. I’ve tried to stick to this rule as much as possible—unless I’m consciously writing for free for reasons already mentioned.
Before you resign yourself to writing for free to get your first byline, here are some ways to get credit for your work and a paycheck.
Write for Local or Regional Publications
Seek out some local or regional publications that might pay you even a modest sum for your work. Get those bylines under your belt, and then approach the larger publications, such as national magazines, that pay more.
Start a Blog
Develop a “clip file” by starting your own blog. There you can build up an archive of blog posts to show to publications as you build a visibility and an expert platform online. You can also guest blog for other bloggers.
Get Your Own Online Column
Write for an organization like Examiner.com. This allows you to get a small amount of pay at the same time as developing a writers’ platform with an online news service. You can direct editors to your articles there to prove you have the ability to write.
AOL has its patch.com columnists as well. This is another way to have your own column and develop an archive of online articles. This site does not pay.
Online Article and Content Services
There are a number of other places to write online and get paid. As you develop bylines with these services or sites, you can use them to land bigger and better freelance assignments. For instance, you could write for:
- Yahoo! Contributor Network
- Demand Media Studios
- Digital Journal
- Constant Content
- Content Row
Finding Other Freelance Work
Other places to search for freelance gigs of all types—and even some longer-term or full-term writing work—include:
- duotrope.com (paid service)
- mediabistro.com (free and paid)
Of course, if you write for publications, get a copy of the most recent copy of Writer’s Market. It’s best to purchase the printed book with the online option, which allows you to check the updated search engine to find publications that pay well. Then filter through the results. This resource is also a great supplement to what you see on the newsstand or find elsewhere. It doesn’t include all publications.
Look for national publications if you want bigger pay, or regional, local or niche publications if you are just starting out. However, some of the specialty publications that cater to profitable markets or wealthy audiences also can pay quite well—even for those writers just starting out. This is especially true if you have an expertise in the subject area, so keep that in mind.