Ghostwriting: An Expert Guide For Businesses
Content is valuable to businesses, extremely valuable. Website pages, ad campaigns, blogs, social posts…they all need to be well-written, and in a way that achieves their purpose. But good writing is hard (even for writers), which is why ghostwriting has become such a popular way for businesses to create content.
In this article, we explore the ins and outs of ghostwriting, so that you can decide whether it’s a good option for your business.
What is a ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a person who writes content on someone else’s behalf, but doesn’t get the credit. Instead, authorship of the content is credited to someone else, which gives readers the impression that they wrote the piece.
Ghostwriters are traditionally associated with books, particularly biographies where the subject is usually famous for something other than writing, like sports or the movies. But in our digital age, where content is a crucial component of good marketing and SEO, they are now used for every type of content you can think of: blogs, eBooks, industry reports, social posts, emails campaigns, and more. Why wouldn’t an overloaded business executive or marketer hire a ghostwriter to create their content? It’s their profession, after all.
A piece of content is usually more than just writing, and ghostwriters can take on as much or as little of the work as required. They may be responsible for writing and editing the piece, or just one of these. They might also be asked to complete original research and come up with ideas for the content, which is where things start to get ethically murky. If both the writing and the ideas for a piece of content are handled by the ghostwriter, the reader may be fooled into thinking that the author has expert knowledge that they don’t actually have. You’re giving them a false impression, and impairing their ability to make decisions based on reality. This isn’t the case for ghostwriters who just handle the writing and editing, however, because they are simply using their skills to make someone else’s ideas clear and engaging.
Other key skills for a ghostwriter include:
- Being able to write in the brand’s tone of voice, which is usually outlined in their style guide
- On-page SEO to improve the content’s visibility found through search engines
- The discipline necessary to write high volumes of content
Ghostwriters may not go under the guise of “ghostwriter,” but instead just call themselves “content writers,” or simply “writers.” They’re all essentially the same thing: skilled professionals who can write great content for businesses.
The benefits of ghostwriting for businesses
If you’re unsure whether to hire a ghostwriting expert for your content, here are a few reasons why you might consider it:
1. You’ll save oodles of time
As time goes on, we become more and more specialised as workers. It’s just more efficient. A bricklayer who spends 30 years building houses usually becomes excellent at building houses. The same goes for a writer who dedicates their life to their craft. They’ve developed the skills to produce reams of high-quality content, and fast. Why struggle writing a blog for two days when a professional can do it in a fraction of the time? This gives you the time to work on your own specialised job. Ghostwriters should have the writing skills, editing skills, and SEO skills skills necessary to produce great content for you, and can save you a lot of time and money in the process.
2. Content can help you to achieve your goals
Content is required for a variety of important business reasons, including:
- Educating customers on your products and services, and converting sales
- Increasing brand awareness through blogs, eBooks, and other key content types
- Creating adverts and other promotional content to increase sales
- Nurturing people through their buyer journey/sales funnel by giving them the content they need at every stage
Usually, content is handled by the marketing team. But they can benefit from the services of a professional ghostwriter, who produces high-performing content that helps the team to achieve their goals.
3. Ghostwriters can become an extension of your team
Outsourcing can be an incredibly effective tool for producing good work, without the need to take on permanent staff. If you find a skilled ghostwriter, they can essentially become an extension of your team, and be called upon whenever needed (provided they have the time). You don’t need to train them, provide them with equipment, or pay them sick or holiday leave. You simply agree terms for their services, and work with them like a regular employee.
4. You hold the rights to the content
When you hire a ghostwriter for a piece of work, they are completing it on your behalf and being paid for it, which means the copyright almost always belongs to you. That means you can edit and distribute the work as you see fit, without limitations.
There may be exceptions when the writer holds copyright of the work for their portfolio, but these are rare. To make things super clear, you’ll need to outline copyright ownership in your contract with the ghostwriter (including image copyright).
How do you find a ghostwriter?
If you’ve decided that a ghostwriter is a good choice for your business, here are a few ways that you can find them:
1. Use a freelancer marketplace
Freelancer marketplaces are websites where you can find skilled individuals for work. You can usually search for people based on their profession or skill sets, or post a job that can be bidded on. Popular examples include Upwork and Fiverr, but there are many other examples that may be brimming with capable ghostwriters.
If you find a ghostwriter through a marketplace, you can easily create an ongoing business relationship with them, where they become a valuable part of your team.
2. Use an agency
Content is a crucial part of marketing, so you’ll find countless agencies that provide ghostwriting services for businesses, some of which may be in your local area. Agencies can have plenty of experience writing content, with professional writers who have worked on the various common content types, and know what works for each of them. On the flip side, agencies have operational costs to cover, and may be more expensive than finding writers by yourself.
3. Create an advert
Digital adverts are easy and (usually) affordable, and can be a great way to find capable ghostwriters. You can run adverts through a social platform like Facebook or LinkedIn, or through a search engine like Google. You’ll just need to combine enticing copy with an eye-catching image, and you’re on your way.
How to work with a ghostwriter
When working with a ghostwriter, you will need to give them a work brief that outlines important information such as:
- The format of the piece (blog, industry report, website content, etc.)
- The title of the piece, if appropriate
- The purpose of the piece
- A minimum word count, or a word count range
- Your due date for the work
- Any keywords that are being targeted. The ghostwriter may also be able to complete this keyword research for you, but you will need to ensure they are targeting the right keywords.
- Any specific rules you have around prohibited words, tone of voice, etc.
It’s usually best to create a template that you can re-use and quickly fill out whenever you are assigning a new piece of content to a ghostwriter.
When your template brief is set up, the next crucial part is how you communicate your ideas to the writer. Usually, a ghostwriter is hired to turn an idea into a legible, compelling piece of content, and there are a few techniques that you can use to communicate the idea itself:
1. Notes technique
With this method, you provide the ghostwriter with your ideas in the form of notes, usually as bullets. You might also include references to websites, book passages, or other information that is useful to the writer, which they can choose to include in their piece.
2. Interview technique
You explain the purpose of the piece to the ghostwriter, and ask them to interview you (or a subject matter expert) for the information they need. Because this technique is in the form of a conversation, it can be more natural and free-flowing, and generate ideas that might otherwise be missed. If the ghostwriter is a skilled interviewer, they will ask additional questions based on your answers to provide even more depth.
The only downside to this technique is that the ghostwriter will need to be a speedy notetaker and capable multitasker, having to both write notes quickly, and think of additional questions at the same time. Alternatively, they can just record the interview and transcribe notes afterwards, but this adds time to their work.
3. “Leave them to it” technique
As the name suggests, this technique requires the least possible involvement from yourself. You simply provide the writer with your brief, and ask them to provide the research and ideas that go into the article. It’s the most appealing from your point of view, but you will need to ensure that the writer is a strong researcher, and has the motivation to track down credible sources of information in the form of scholarly research, subject matter experts, books, and other reputable, original sources. There’s also an ethical consideration here (as mentioned above), because none of the ideas will come from the person who is credited with authoring the article.