There are a lot of benefits to being a ghostwriter: consistent work, better pay and very interesting projects. Ghostwriters, however, also have to watch their own backs in order not to be taken advantage of in ways that aren’t common for other writers and artists. Difficult clients, refusal or failure to pay, and sometimes unquantifiable agony of assigning someone else’s name to your own work are all part of the trade.
Here are some tips for ghostwriters to stay help you afloat in this intriguing industry:
10 Uncommon Tips for Ghostwriters
Work out a detailed contract
For larger projects, it’s worth it to get a lawyer to work out a contract that specifies dates, payment, terms and conditions. You’ll also want to include transcription fees in your deal (imagine spending countless hours doing your transcription work at your own expense). Besides saving you from a possible legal battle, a contract helps you understand your partner’s needs and expectations. Some clients may ask you to sign a non-compete contract.
Just say no. For more information on non-compete contracts and their consequences, click here.
Show me the money
One of the best tips for ghostwriters is to not start a large project without securing a deposit. Sometimes a client will offer a percentage of a book deal to you in exchange for paying you a lower fee. This is a serious risk to take. A lot of projects never come to fruition due to lack of funds or other issues on the client’s end. If you’ve worked out your deposit beforehand and the project gets suspended, at least you haven’t been working for free.
Check your ego at the door
People who write often have dreams of achieving fame and success with their writing. Whether you’ve ghostwritten a best-selling book or a popular blog post, it can be much more difficult than you imagine to give the credit to someone else. You must maintain the level of quality, creativity and ingenuity that you would as if you were signing your own name. Just don’t sign it. You can try to embody a Zen mindset and think of your words as gifts to the world.
If it helps. If this aspect of the job is too difficult for you to manage, then perhaps ghostwriting isn’t for you.
Get very close, but keep your distance
If you’re contracted to work on a memoir or family history, you will need to get very close to the client to understand their story. Doing so, you’ll be able to tell it from their perspective and speak in their voice as much as possible. But keep professional boundaries. Don’t have dinner together and then not talk about the book. Don’t become friends or cross the line into something more. Above all, you need to have enough objectivity to write about them without your emotions clouding your perspective.
Hello, is there anybody out there?
On the other hand, you may have a clients who’ve contracted you to write their book or blog and then disappear. Or are so busy they don’t have time to be interviewed by you, don’t return your phone calls or answer your emails in a timely manner. This is where the contract comes in handy (see #1). It’s best to include a clause in the contract that the client needs to provide you with enough time and material for you to be able to complete the work.
Another one of the best tips for ghostwriters — and all writers in general — is to set up a professional website where you offer your services. Provide sample articles for your area(s) of expertise on the website. Apply to jobs you see on freelancing sites like oDesk and Elance or writing services like JetWriters. Platforms WritersMarket.com, WritersDigest.com, and Mediabistro.com list job offerings, services, forums and groups for writers.
Talk back, a little
Even though you’re being hired by someone else to write because of your expertise, your customer may occasionally have feedback that you don’t agree with. If you feel something should stay the way it is, express it. However, if an issue starts to become a conflict, yield to their wishes and make the changes. This isn’t always one of the easiest tips for ghostwriters to follow, but it’s an important one.
Sometimes the client won’t be satisfied with the work you’ve presented. In many cases, it’s worth to put in extra unpaid time making sure your client is happy. The willingness on your part to go the extra mile will allow you to see what it actually takes to deliver top quality work. Most importantly, you’ll earn the respect of this customer who will be likely to give you more work in the future and recommend you to others. This is how you build a reputation.
Take it to the grave.
Bottom line is you’re getting paid not to exist. Don’t talk about your work to people. The higher rated the project, the more discreet you need to be. In this line of work, discretion is synonymous for professionalism. It’s not just a question of ethics, if you do come forward as the true writer, you’ll likely be breaking the conditions of a contract and could face a lawsuit.
Choose a niche, or don’t.
There’s a lot of encouragement out there for ghostwriters to develop a niche and market themselves to it, whether for books or online writing. That’s a great strategy for some writers. Another strategy, however, is to diversify. If you’re a writer who has the expertise to write about a lot of different topics, then why settle for one? There’s plenty of work out there. If specializing isn’t for you, don’t do it.
Whether you’re new to ghost writing or have been doing it for a while and want to improve your career, these tips for ghostwriters should help point you in the right direction.
Guest author Cari Bennette works as a ghost author and content writer for JetWriters blog. She wants to try herself in writing fiction and adores to provide tips on writing killer articles and blog posts.