The Key to Successful Ghostwriting

My content marketing experience over the last 15+ years has included a fair amount of my writing under my own name as well as writing under someone else’s. I’ve written blog posts, white papers, reports and other material for clients that have wound up being published or released without my name attached in any way.

That’s fine. Ghostwriting is a reality any freelancer, agency staffer or other professional should not only accept but embrace. There are, I’ve found, two keys to being successful at it:

First, put your ego to the side. You’re not going to be the star here, so don’t expect your name to be the one in lights. You’ve signed up for a job that means you’re helping someone else look good, not yourself, so don’t fight that reality.

Second, use it as a learning experience. In each case I’ve found that writing for someone else to put their byline or name on has been an opportunity to learn something new. Sometimes that’s the subject matter – I may be writing about something I’m not already familiar with – and sometimes it’s in the style of the writing.

See when you’re ghostwriting you have to write like that person. You have to get gain an understanding of how they write or speak and do your best to mimic that.

Don’t think of it as writing *for* someone else so much as it is someone else doing the writing *through* you. Read what they’ve previously written, glean what you can from emails or conversations, listen to how others talk about them. Do whatever you can to get a sense of who they are and how they communicate.

On more than several occasions, the process has included an initial draft that sounds like me. That is quickly discarded but still serves an important purpose, to get my thoughts on paper and make sure the arguments are laid out clearly and logically and that key messages are placed where they should be.

Then, among other edits and revisions, I do the tone pass. This is where I make sure it sounds like the person whose name it will be published under. I take out some of my own writing ticks and tendencies, insert what I have learned about them and make it not sound like me. Only then is it for turning in for the client or others to review.

It’s little different than what any freelance writer may encounter when writing for multiple outlets. One wants you to do X, the other Y and in each case you have to alter your own style just a little bit.

Put together, it all makes me a better writer. Sometimes that’s because it’s improved by technical skills. Other times it’s because I’m simply more flexible in my abilities because I had to adjust to meet the needs of the project or work.

Ghostwriting won’t satisfy your ego, something all writers have to one extent or another. But it will be an experience that has long-term benefits for your career.