Becky Matthews

PRO

20 September 2016

Ghostwriting: mutual benefits for clients and writers

Why ghostwriting offers a great deal for clients and copywriters alike...

Ghostwriting, it sounds funny, doesn’t it?

Like a spooky unseen presence scratching words in chalk.

‘Ghostwriting’ still has connotations of an uncredited scribe, toiling over the memoirs of the famous and influential for a paycheck rather than critical acclaim.

Plenty of ghostwriters still write books, but the term has evolved, to the benefit of all kinds of clients and writers, particularly for blog posting.

Clients, especially CEOs have a lot to say to keep a dialogue alive with their audience, but they don’t always have the time to say it. This is when they can leverage the power of a ghostwriter.

As a writer, it might feel counter-intuitive to write a post, in the knowledge that your name will not feature under the byline.

Ghostwriting is not going to fill your portfolio with shareable material either, but there are plenty of reasons why it is good for your career and professional development.

If copywriting is your bread and butter, you’re hired for your words, not for your name. That’s worth keeping in mind when pondering taking ghostwriting gigs.

So, what’s in it for businesses and freelancers?

Relationship building and trust

Clients place a lot of trust in hiring people to get their messages across, and writers are always on the lookout for a good ‘in’to work with brands and businesses. For writers, it allows them to access sectors and subjects they may not have much experience in like finance, tech or thought leadership.

Organisations can outsource their blog posts or articles in the knowledge that their writer will research the topic and their audience thoroughly. Commissioning a 500-800 word piece is a great low-risk way of testing a writer’s compatibility for your brand and fosters a good relationship for briefing on future work like white papers, reports and website copy.

Tone of voice

One of the most valuable assets a freelance copywriter or content writer has to offer is expertise on tone of voice.

Working as a ghostwriter for bigger brands who have established brand guideline and TOV documents is great when you’re a newbie because you can quickly pick up tips and best practices. Use those experiences to guide start-ups, small businesses or B2B clients who don’t have a clear tone of voice.

On that note, any ghostwriting brief should begin with some listening exercises.

For clients, anything that you can share of previous content will be gold to the ghostwriter. Aside from written examples, footage or audio recordings of keynote speeches, webinars, podcasts or interviews gives the writer the tools they need to mimic your voice and unique style with authenticity.

Return on investment

For clients, spending money on great ghostwritten posts means cutting ‘get that blog or newsletter post’ off the to-do list and into the hands of a dedicated professional.

The fee is a one off investment for a piece that can be shared time and again.

Content that is less evergreen i.e. using current affairs in a B2B/B2C context allows the client to stay on top of trending topics and increase engagement.

Writers know that putting in the time to get to know their client, research the topic and industry they are writing for (which applies to all projects) will pay off far beyond the time spent on the specific piece. Not only does it increase knowledge and expertise, they may find themselves recommended by other members of staff or to other organisations.

Quick turnarounds

One of the biggest advantages on both sides is that ghostwritten posts usually require fast turnarounds and minimal project management. A client can send off their brief, feedback on a draft and post a finished piece in a couple of days. Writers can pick up assignments and easily manage them alongside their other projects and workflow.

Regular collaboration

Hiring a ghostwriter can be so much more than simply outsourcing your writing. It can provide you with a regular person with whom to bounce around ideas, and develop your branding.

Ghostwriters have the advantage of regular feedback, and collaboration on ideas for future content, as well as a pretty decent income stream.

Creative inspiration

Most of these tips are practical, but becoming a ghostwriter has a place in the creative process too.

Writers don’t usually aspire to become the greatest writer nobody has heard of, but the skills and attributes of a ghostwriter can influence creative writing too. Anyone who writes narrative fiction will be obsessed with the minutiae of how people operate, speak and think.

Ghostwriting is a brilliant insight into how different people express themselves. Studying the research material is great for character development and dialogue. That creative insight can tease out interesting nuances and details to corporate comms that may be lacking, or perhaps just a little hidden.

Got a list of content writing in need of some attention? Who ya gonna call? ghostwriters.


What do you think?

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Lorraine Forrest-Turner

September 20, 2016 at 12:18pm

Interesting article, Becky. As a predominantly PR copywriter, I’ve written hundreds of ‘by-line’ articles and opinion pieces over the years but I’d never thought of myself as a ghostwriter. But you’re right. That’s exactly what we are. 🙂

PRO

Becky Matthews

September 20, 2016 at 9:24pm

ThanksLauren, glad it resonated!

Leif Kendall

September 21, 2016 at 10:45am

I’m in the same camp as you Lorraine – I consider myself to be a copywriter but a lot of my work could be considered ‘ghostwriting’ especially blogging or corporate comms from a director etc.

It’s a good reminder that the same job can be described in different ways.

The challenge for copwyriters is to make sure you’re considered for the right jobs – however clients might describe them.

PRO

Becky Matthews

September 21, 2016 at 12:40pm

I think it doesn’t matter what kind of writing you do (or the title you use), it’s more that this is a good strand for both businesses and writers – like an offshoot of copywriting.

You’re right about the challenges copywriters face though!

PRO

Jo Watson Davies

September 26, 2016 at 3:50pm

Hi Becky, thought-provoking article, I hadn’t really thought about ghost-blogging in this way before. It’s a fresh take on getting to know your client, opens up all sorts of possibilities for both parties.

PRO

Becky Matthews

September 26, 2016 at 4:01pm

Thanks Jo, it took me a while to realise it was worth building into my copywriting services, rather than simply something I do on occasion. Definitely, I think it can be pretty win-win, especially if you can build up an ongoing relationship with particular clients for it.