I’ve always considered writing to be my passion.
My mom taught me how to read and write when I was four, and the running joke of my life has been that no one has been able to stop me since.
However, it was never supposed to be a career path, especially ghostwriting.
When I went into law, writing would be a crucial part of my career, but to get paid to be a writer? That seemed utterly ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, I wrote under a pen name for the first part of my freelance career.
I wrote for content mills, for local real estate companies, and for agencies that paid me next to nothing for my work.
I was essentially a glorified ghostwriter, and ironically, there’s really no glory in being a ghostwriter.
For the majority of my freelance career, I was unsure how I might affect those in my industry. I struggled greatly and failed constantly, but I eventually found my footing. I fell in love with community and small businesses.
As a writer, content marketing became a natural fit. The more experience I gained, the more I wanted to come out from the shadows.
So, I took my own advice and began amplifying myself. I launched my own small business blog. I became a pro at live-tweeting conferences.
My voice mattered, and the PTSD of working for SEO content mills slowly began to wear off.
Becoming an Executive Ghostwriter
It was around this time I met Gini Dietrich, someone I’d looked up to for years.
I remember seeing her at Content Marketing World.
I shakily introduced myself.
Our interaction lasted maybe two minutes.
She had overheard me talking to someone else about what I was working on and told me to contact her if I wanted to work together.
My impostor syndrome screamed loudly inside my brain.
She was just being polite. She meets hundreds of people. Why in the world would she want to work with you?
Turns out, my impostor syndrome was a liar.
Gini asked me if I’d be interested in doing some ghostwriting for her.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The thing about being a ghostwriter for an industry leader such as Gini is that it’s not something you talk about publicly. I would mention she was a client, but never went into detail of the work I did for her.
When Gini wrote a blog about thought leadership and told the world I was her ghostwriter, it felt a little weird. I don’t know why I was surprised; her transparency is one of the reasons I’ve respected her for years. Because she created this unique opportunity, I want to share the key factors that made our professional relationship a successful one.
Ghostwriting Key No. 1: Work with clients whose expertise differ from yours
My fields of expertise are small businesses, community, and content marketing.
Gini, on the other hand, is a public relations expert. Although there are points where our expertise and experience overlap, ghostwriting for her never became about giving away my own ideas that would help me stand out in my field.
For the articles I worked on for Gini, the topics and ideas didn’t usually come out of my brain. When we began working together, Gini sent me a copy of her book to help me become immersed in her voice.
No one would ever ask me to write a guest post about public relations and crisis management even though I have experience in these topics. The reason we work well together is that, while our fields of expertise are related, they don’t usually overlap.
The writing process usually went like this:
- Gini would ask me if I’d be interested in writing about certain topics and she helped identify the audience and the angle.
- I did research to see how Gini has approached this topic in the past, and how it can be refreshed for a new post.
- If there was a new angle, or a personal experience I’ve had that could be relevant, I would ask Gini if I could incorporate it.
- I wrote the article in Gini’s voice, using thoughts she’s already put out into the world, or ideas we’ve brainstormed together.
- I would send it to her, she’d make edits to fit her voice with personal anecdotes, and it went out into the world.
Ghostwriting Key No. 2: It has to be collaborative
Gini would never ask me to write about topics that make me uncomfortable.
If there was a touchy subject, she and I would discuss it before I agreed to work on the article.
I truly enjoyed the challenge of writing for Gini because it got me out of my comfort zone and forced me to see my industry from a new angle.
If she asked me to write on a topic I have strong opinion on, and wanted to express under my own name, I would feel comfortable telling her that.
Luckily, that’s never actually come up.
Ghostwriting Key No.3: Mutual respect
Even before she wrote the blog post that named me as her ghostwriter, I’ve always felt comfortable working with Gini.
She made me feel respected, and a part of the Spin Sucks team from the get-go.
We’re the ones behind the curtain, sometimes only having communication with our clients’ assistants.
The relationship you have with a client should elevate your professional confidence, not make you doubt the choices you’ve made along the way.
Thanks to the experience I had working with Gini, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog.
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