The do’s and don’ts of branding yourself as a freelance ghostwriter
You’ve read ghostwritten work, whether you know it or not. But the real question as a freelance writer is how to brand yourself successfully in the ghostwriting space. While a lot needs to happen to successfully break into ghostwriting, this mini-guide covers the personal branding aspects of it.
Starting a freelance ghostwriting business
A successful ghostwriting business requires three key things:
- The right mindset
- The right experience
- The right skill set
Mindset: You need to be ok with the idea that your writing will be published under someone else’s name. This is a weird feeling for many writers, especially those used to publishing under their own name. And perhaps more prominent is that you need to be ok with demanding adequate payment for your creation.
The creative world (including writing) is notoriously bad at valuing work and labor. You need to make sure you’re not one of those people, as being paid for your work is how being a freelance writer becomes sustainable. Further, you’re charging as much for the project management as you are for the actual content creation.
Experience: You don’t need ghostwriting experience to become a ghostwriter. However, it’s critical to show you have: writing experience, client management experience, and are capable of handling sensitive or confidential information. Because a ghostwriting project is not just about creating the content. You will also be in charge of corralling stakeholders, interviewing people, doing additional research, and managing edits or revisions. You have to demonstrate that you can handle that kind of work.
Skill set: You need to demonstrate that you’re capable of interviewing people and writing on a variety of topics—two things that are critical for success in the ghostwriting space. You should include this content in your freelance writing portfolio to make it easy for prospective clients to understand your work.
How to market yourself as a freelance ghostwriter
Marketing yourself as a freelance ghostwriter is a function of:
- Your personal website
- Marketplaces and communities
- Your publications
- Guest posting
- Social media presence
- How you discuss your work on sales calls
Your personal website: Not only does your site need to clearly state you are a ghostwriter, but it also needs to clearly state what kind of ghostwriting you do. Ghostwriting is a wide-ranging profession from blogs, to books, to songwriting and script writing. If you aren’t clear on what you offer, prospective clients won’t know how to reach out.
Marketplaces and communities: If you’re active on any freelance marketplaces or communities, update your profile to say you’re a ghostwriter. Then link back to your personal website, so all your internet profiles centralize to your personal website.
Your publications: If you don’t have permission to share any ghostwritten work you’ve done, then leverage your named work to demonstrate expertise. This could be content from your own blog, social media, newsletter, or any other kind of content you’ve produced with your name on it (paid or not).
If you’re trying to grow your brand a bit with named work before jumping into ghostwriting, consider doing free (or discounted) work for charities. You not only support a cause you believe in, but you also get a named work sample you can show to potential ghostwriting clients.
Guest posting: One way to grow your brand is to guest post on other blogs (either about ghostwriting or about an area you have knowledge in) or use tools like HARO to be a cited media expert. If going down the guest posting route, make sure you’re sending customized, relevant reach outs to editors.
Your post will need to fit their website style and tone, so it’s still a lot of work. In exchange though, you often get a backlink to your personal website, promotion on their social media channels, and are a named author on their site.
Social media presence: A lot of writing opportunities are found through social media - Twitter and LinkedIn being the big ones. If you don’t want to maintain an active social media presence, at least make sure you have a properly filled out profile. You can also have a pinned post that lets visitors know you aren’t active on that channel, but they can find out more through your personal website.
How you discuss your work on sales calls: When talking with prospective clients, don’t be afraid to talk about your ghostwriting process. For example, share how you typically like to interview people to learn from them. Or mention the research process you use to get up to speed on a new topic, so your prospective client knows that you’ll care about their work as much as they do. This is one of the best ways to brand yourself, since you can explain how you learn your client’s ideas then turn it into amazing content. Not only will it help you close clients, but it also helps you identify what terms or phrases resonate with clients, which can then be used in your other marketing and sales efforts.
What not to do as a ghostwriter
Three of the biggest mistakes freelance ghostwriters make include:
- Expecting credit for their work
- Accepting every job offer
- Bragging about clients without permission
- Not taking pride in your work
Don’t expect credit: You’re paid as a ghostwriter not just to produce content, but also for your client to own the rights to that content. Legally speaking, you don’t own the work you do for clients—it’s theirs, even though you created it. So if you expect credit for your work (and demand that of clients), you are setting yourself up for failure. Most clients don’t want to work with ghostwriters who demand credit for everything, since that’s not how ghostwriting works.
Don’t accept every offer: A big part of branding is knowing who you serve—and not working with anyone else. If you take on the wrong clients, it could harm your image.
Don’t brag about your clients without permission: While you may not ask for credit, bragging about clients you’ve worked with is another major pitfall. Many companies or individuals hire ghostwriters to produce content they will then present as something they developed themselves. If you brag about the work you did for a client, it could jeopardize that client’s image. If that happens, you set yourself up for people to avoid working with you because they fear you’ll “blow their cover,” so to speak.
Always take pride in your work: There’s a misconception that you don’t need to care as much about ghostwritten work, since it’s not your name on it. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You need to write every ghostwritten piece of content as if it was going to be published under your name - focus on quality, storytelling, and achieving the goal outcome. The difference is you’re working toward a client’s goal outcome instead of your own, but your effort level should be the same.
Always a writer, not always a ghost
Ghostwriting is a great career path for freelance writers. It’s not only lucrative, but you get to interact with some very cool (and often hard-to-reach) people. But you can also do other, named work as a freelance writer: it’s not either-or. The key is to make sure you balance the personal branding side of it. If you become known for your named work, you might have brands trying to leverage your credibility - that’s fine if you’re aware (and compensated), but always be clear on what type of work you’re doing before signing a contract.