When I jumped back in to freelancing at the beginning of the year, I didn't have much of a blueprint. I decided to part ways with my employer, but hadn't planned very much beyond my exit. If there was a strategy in place, it was to put my head down, hustle and get clients and projects. I reached out to my network to source work, combed through online job sites like Upwork and Guru, and even scoured Craigslist (which turned out to be my most successful channel after referrals -- more on than another time).
In those early days, I couldn't help but notice the abundance of ghostwriting opportunities. It makes sense -- content is a key part of any marketing strategy, and thought leadership has never been hotter. So there's a huge need for content and lots of different places to publish. In short, demand is hot! I'd dabbled a little with ghostwriting several years earlier, so I accepted a few fresh assignments as I was building up my freelance portfolio this time around. I've had a good run with it over the last six months, and even got mentioned for my work the Marie Claire article, "Your Favorite Influencers Aren't Writing Their Own Content—These Women Are."
There's still a great deal of mystery surrounding ghostwriting, including among writers who seem curious about dipping a toe into the ghostwriting waters. One attraction is that the pay for ghostwriting can be quite good. Here are three other thoughts on why ghostwriting might be a good option:
1) You want to write, but aren't clear on the kind of writing you want to do
At its core, when you publish something, you share an idea with the world. What ideas do you want associated with your name? If you even have a moment of hesitation before answering that question, you should pause until you arrive at a clear answer.
There are fewer barriers to becoming a published writer than ever before, but just because you can do something (in this case, publish), doesn't mean that you should do it. While there are so many benefits to self-publishing and having less friction between ideas and audience, you need to take your own body of work seriously. Great writers don't publish the first thing that pops up. Even if your ideas change over time -- and it's likely they will -- you'll always be able to stand by a thoughtful idea.
So until you're ready to craft something thoughtful, maybe take someone else's ideas for a spin. It will expose you to fresh thoughts, and any time you step out of your own head, you expand your perspective. That's ultimately good for your writing.
2) You want the benefits of a collaborative writing/editing relationship
At its best, ghostwriting is like a symphony of substance and sentences. Ideally the person attaching their name to the piece (let's call him or her the "author") is an expert and/or has a truly unique perspective on a topic. The ghostwriter is responsible for capturing ideas and content. This is done through conversation, interviewing, and sharing of notes and bullet points. At this stage, the ghostwriter should be mastering the content so it can be clearly conveyed.
The next step is drafting that into clean copy, which the "author" can react to. It should be a back-and-forth of refining the idea and expressing it clearly in a tone and voice that accurately represents the "author."
While this kind of rigor used to happen frequently in newsrooms, so much in journalism has changed that very few places have the manpower and time to devote to major editing and collaboration. I've heard this change described anecdotally by several editors and senior reporters over the years. The news cycle is short and never-ending, and journalists have to do more with less. That means less time to parse ideas, focus on accuracy, and perfect the final product.
3) You're intrigued by the idea of working with an "influencer" or someone with name recognition
People with "big names" have a lot going on. Many of them probably don't want to or simply cannot make the time to do the writing, so they'll bring in a ghostwriter.
This excellent NPR piece on how celebrities use ghostwriters highlights the work of David Fisher who has ghostwritten for quarterback Terry Bradshaw, attorney Johnnie Cochran and comedian Leslie Nielsen. Ghostwriting is an opportunity to get a peak behind the curtain, but as the NPR piece points out, it's not always as simple as sitting down with the celebrity and getting hours of access. Still, there's a lot you can learn (both good and bad) from getting a glimpse into how famous folks run their lives. And there's lots of opportunity to get in on it. Madeleine Morel, a literary agent for ghostwriters, told NPR that approximately 60 percent of nonfiction bestseller books are ghostwritten.
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