As a freelance copywriter, I enjoy most types of writing. But if I had to pick a favourite, it would be ghostwriting: writing copy that is credited to someone else. For example, writing in the voice of a CEO, tech entrepreneur, real estate agent or marketing consultant.
Ghostwriting requires me to step into someone else’s shoes, look at life through their eyes, and write in a way that’s true to who they are and what they believe. I embody their values and expertise and leave my opinions at the door. I love adopting other people’s mindsets and seeing things from their perspective. It keeps life interesting and it’s as close to acting as I’m ever going to get!
I think all copywriting is a form of ghostwriting. Whether you’re being paid to write for a business or an individual, the skillset is the same: you need to adopt a specific tone-of-voice and bring someone else’s ideas to life in words.
How does ghostwriting work?
To write in someone else’s voice, I need to get to know them pretty well. But most copywriter-client relationships don’t have the luxury of weekly coffee dates or long face-to-face conversations. So, I have developed a set of discerning questions (my copywriting brief) to tease out key information from clients and get a good insight into their business.
From there, I ask clients to “download” their ideas for me in a way that’s most comfortable for them. They might record a voice memo, chat to me for 20 minutes on Skype, meet me for coffee or email me bullet points/rough notes. I ask more questions along the way and gather all the information I need to write in their voice.
Clients are often blown away by how quickly I “just get it”, which always makes me feel on top of the world. It’s so rewarding to write something they are proud to publish. I remind clients that the words are all theirs – I just polished them and put them in the right order. But the ideas, thoughts, and gifts of knowledge -- that all comes from the client.
All up, prepping ideas for a ghostwriter might take a client about an hour – which is significantly less time than if they tried to write the entire piece on their own.
You’d love working with a ghostwriter if…
- You're trying to amplify your personal brand but writing is not your strength
- You'd love to write more content but you have no time
- You want to show up consistently for your audience across social media
- You want to attract more dream customers and grow your business
- Writing keeps getting moved to the bottom of your to-do list
But isn’t ghostwriting just for celebrities?
A common misconception. Yes, most celebrities probably use a ghostwriter when writing their memoirs! But you don’t have to be a big shot to employ a writer. If you’re publishing words under your name – be that on LinkedIn, Facebook, your personal blog, or in an email newsletter – then it’s important these words show you in your best light. They need to be engaging, typo-free, easy-to-read, and true to your brand: a ghostwriter can take care of all this for you, giving you more time to focus on other areas of your business.
So that’s ghostwriting for you: not nearly as creepy as it sounds! I wonder if any influential thought leader you follow is using a ghostwriter? My money is on yes…
Jess O'Connor is a freelance copywriter and ghostwriter based in Auckland, New Zealand. She loves giving people the confidence to publish their ideas.
She specialises in writing blog posts, email newsletters, and web copy for ambitious entrepreneurs. She also specialises in reading Hairy MacLary and Slinky Malinki to her 12-month-old daughter.