I spend a lot of my working hours ghostwriting. This was never a career path that I deliberately planned on, and looking back, even if I had intended to become a ghost I have no idea how I would have gone about it. Rather, I set up my shingle as a digital marketing consultant, and somewhere in the midst of designing websites and writing product descriptions a client asked if I would like to ghostwrite a few blog posts for her. I gave it a shot, and within months it became my most popular service.
That original client is a consultant in the wellness industry, as are basically all of my other ghostwriting clients at this point. Some are authors who are too busy or burned out to keep up with the demanding pace of blogging/fan newsletters/etc. Others are great coaches and dynamic public speakers whose skills fall flat for some reason when it comes to writing. (Yes, ghostwriting is for local small businesses and the entrepreneur next door, not just rockstars writing memoirs.)
In terms of how ghosting technically works, I get to know my client very well, especially through any existing written or recorded material, so I feel confident about taking on her voice. Together we identify the scope of the project: what needs to be written; how many words; how frequently the material (chapters/blog posts/etc) will be delivered; how each piece of material fits into the overall marketing strategy, theme, and sales goals, and so on. Once all of that is figured out, I have long conversations with my client, in person or over the phone, with my tape recorder going. I prepare interview questions, and also encourage natural tangents and digressions.
Back in front of my computer, I type up the transcript of the conversation, and then push it further to make it as strong and entertaining as possible. Sometimes the words themselves don’t fully capture the feeling of what the client was saying. Sometimes the transitions need smoothing. Sometimes the client relies too much on odd phrases or unclear metaphors, and I use artistic license to straighten the material out. The finished product is grammatically correct, with accurate punctuation and spelling—a very elusive goal for some people, and hopefully worth every penny.
Sometimes people ask me if I feel conflicted about ghostwriting, and for the most part the answer is no. I don’t mind having written work go out with someone else’s name on it. When people have a knee-jerk negative reaction about it, I think that they see it more as me carefully crafting a beautiful poem (or whatever they think creative types like me do) and then selling it to the highest bidder. But that’s not the case at all. Ghostwriting isn’t an exercise in inspiration, it’s a professional task.
It’s my pleasure to use my technical knowledge and creativity to earn a living. I studied hard to hone these skills, and it’s a privilege to put them to work. Likewise, I consider the anonymity a totally fair exchange. The way I see it, the work is totally based in someone else’s ideas and hard-earned expertise; without me, the blog post or book would be less articulate, but without her, there wouldn’t be a blog post or book in the first place.
Besides, in what other career could I moonlight as a psychic, yoga instructor, ADHD specialist, shaman, business consultant, and creativity coach all in one week? No two days are alike. I’m a paid writer; I’m constantly learning; and I’m never bored!