Why ghostwriting gigs are my favorite (and how they work)

Don’t tell my editors, but I adore ghostwriting. The realization came as a surprise to me, as one of the delights of magazine writing is flipping through those glossy pages and seeing your byline. People always ask me if it gets old. It doesn’t. So why am I thrilled to see an article I crafted published with someone else’s name on it? It’s all in the process.

A little back story

Back in 2007, I answered a Craigslist ad for a writer gig with a bitty little startup called hangPROUD. With one other terrific writer, I planned and penned the site’s first season of content. We were lucky—we were given a lot of leeway in the topics we wrote on and, even better, a lot of input from the site’s founders. When I moved into an editor role and hired more writers, I adopted that collaborative element, and I loved the results: one consistent voice, dozens of incredible stories.

In later editorial roles, however, I became too busy with other tasks to bring that nurturing collectiveness to the table. I could feel something was missing and I knew what it was. However, there was no way I could build that relationship—and that kind of content—given my job’s limitations. While I adored my work, I was disappointed by this aspect of it—and disappointed to find similar experiences on the other side of the table when I began freelancing.

There were—and are—bright spots. A few of the publications I write for have old-school editors who will spend weeks going back and forth on tone and reporting and phrasing. Many features they assign me turn into master classes. Needless to say, these are the articles that I am most proud of. (They include my all-time favorite Girls’ Life feature and my first published science writing in The Scientist.)

How my ghostwriting process works

My first interaction with my favorite client began with an interview for a B2B (business-to-business) outlet. I spoke with him about his area of expertise, which happens to be branding through social media, and quoted him in my article. When it went live, he was thrilled with the results, and asked if I was interested in ghostwriting articles for him on a monthly basis. It only took one quick phone call for me to say, “absolutely!” Why did I say “yes”? Because the process we’d settled on offered the teamwork I’d been craving. Here’s what we do each month:

  • He sends me a Powerpoint presentation, a webinar recording, or a few old blog posts. Often, he has ideas for headlines or formatting, which I always use for inspiration.
  • I go through his sources and search for keywords, already popular posts, and content holes we could fill. I come up with a headline (or a few headlines) first, follow that with a brief outline to keep the article on-track, and write the piece, fleshing it out with personal anecdotes from my client. I make sure to think about how he would say things, if he were the one pounding away at the keyboard.
  • Then? I sleep on it for a night and proofread it the next morning. It is sent to my client—ideally a few days before our monthly deadline—who takes a look, answers any questions I have, and gives me any suggestions or tweaks he’d like to see. I take another look at the piece, keeping those notes in mind, and then send it back, ready for publication, with an invoice.

He laughs at me sometimes because I keep saying how much fun this is. It is. It presents a challenge that I enjoy—writing in someone else’s voice—and it keeps me learning about new things, which is one of the plusses of writing nonfiction.

Ghostwriting resources

Not sure what ghostwriting is—or if it’s the right choice for your business? I had the same questions, too, once upon a time, which is why I love these guides:

Still have questions about ghostwriting? Shoot me a line (or leave me a comment—I’m an equal-opportunity conversationalist) and we’ll talk ‘em out.

Love Space Ghost? Me, too! h/t to Flickr Creative Commons and Kevin Dooley for sharing it under a CC license. Flickr Creative Commons is a great resource for bloggers and those looking for non-commercial photography. Much of it is excellent, and I highly recommend you wander over and get lost for a few minutes.

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