What do writers want more than anything else in the world? To see our work published. To run around and wave a book or magazine and point to our name on the cover or below an article. (It’s harder to wave the internet around, but when you work in online formats, you try to do the same) That’s the dream – to have the world think your writing is worthy.
Why else would we work day and night at our craft?
Which is why it can sound bizarre, crazy, or even counter-intuitive for a writer to sit here and tell you, you may have to work as a ghostwriter a time or two in your career before that magical byline happens.
What’s a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter, to be blunt, is a writer who does the work and receives none of the credit. Your writing goes up on another site, often under the guise of another person entirely. Occasionally, it even gets attached to another author’s name (which SUCKS!). You have no rights to the work, and (most of the time) you can’t include the work in the your portfolio – no matter how fantastic the piece might have been.
Some clients specifically label a job as “ghostwriting,” while others skip the step, and you find out down the line as your name disappears from the posts. (Reading contracts closely is always a good clue)
Sounds awful, right?
So why in the world would an intelligent, aspiring writer EVER agree to do such a thing? Because it’s WORK! Even if your name isn’t attached to it, your voice, style, and quality gets out there for people to read. You may need to work within a specific framework, but your voice always shows through. No one else writes the way you do – no matter what. The more you write, the more people read, the more they put 2 and 2 together.
Also, as you continue to do a good job and build a solid reputation, the more clients start to contact you. A healthy job satisfaction with positive reviews attracts new clients. They aren’t going to worry whether you have your name plastered all over; they want to know you’re reliable and competent. THAT matters more and more, especially as plenty of “freelance writers” out there feel quantity matters more than quality. If you stand out for solid, dependable work, you attract MORE work.
And some clients ARE willing to let you use that ghostwriting in your portfolio. They may ask for specific reference links, but if you’re allowed to keep it and hand it to future clients? That’s worth it, isn’t it? I’ve had a couple of clients who allowed me to do so, and it built up my portfolio nicely, especially in the beginning.
Do I ENJOY writing without credit? Of course not. Who wants to do something and not get the credit for the hours they spent researching, writing, reviewing, and editing? However, it’s reliable work. Some of my highest bonuses have come from ghostwriting work. And it’s WORK. I’m not foolish enough to call myself a bonafide success and demand that I get a byline every time I turn around. (That’s how you STOP getting work)
Whether my name appears under the title or not, everything I work on SOUNDS like my writing. I have a distinct style and way of writing, and it comes across no matter the topic. As every assignment goes out and spreads through the internet, people start to get a feel for my voice. They recognize MY writing – even without my byline. That’s how I view ghostwriting.
It keeps me grounded. It reminds me to stay smart and breathe when a new contract comes up devoid of credit. And it makes that byline work all the sweeter.
If I never did any ghostwriting, I wouldn’t be the freelancer I am today – because I’d likely still be scrambling for work. Everyone starts somewhere. So before turning into a writing snob, stop and think through both sides.
Writing is writing. No one else will sound like you – and THAT’S what matters the most.