Ghostwriting has become an increasingly popular form of copywriting, especially common in business blog writing. How do ghostwriters take on the attributed company’s voice, and what steps should be taken to ensure a cohesive, authentic product for the client? Below we explore the art of ghostwriting and tips for success for all who engage in this multifaceted and possibly profitable endeavor.
Get to know the small business leader you’re working for; meet in person if at all possible. You will need to actively hear their voice — the words they choose, the phrases they refrain — in order to replicate it on the page. Ask them if they can be recorded, and tape them if so. Spend a good couple of hours together, if possible, to get a well-rounded perspective on what makes their and their company’s voice unique. As much as the client’s readers want strong ideas, they also crave a compelling voice. I make a face-to-face (or video call for my long distance clients) a mandatory part of the process.
Read their previous work, if they have any. By scanning an array of the company’s blogs and press, you can get a sense of their style and preferences for sentence structure and tone. If the client’s writing portfolio is sparse, talk to them and have them explain the ideas they want to communicate and the ways in which they want to execute them. Does the client have any business writers who they admire? While conversing, pay equal attention to their personality; this will inform voice, and their gestures and character will help you pinpoint the writing style needed to succeed.
Huffington Post wisely points out that while you as the ghostwriter have a fair amount of freedom, it’s imperative to know what topics are off-limits with your client. What should you not cover on behalf of their business or organization? What are their views — social, political, economic — and how should you present them? This can be difficult if your views differ, but remember you are merely the tool to execute their ideas. Biases should be put aside to make room for a fruitful collaboration. Be upfront and ask: What can I discuss? What should I avoid? Do you want to use personal anecdotes?
If your client’s voice is the hearty entrée, your voice is the spice that enhances it. Know when to appropriately pepper in your own style to bolster and clarify that of the author. It’s possible that your author is a rambler, or doesn’t know how to link thoughts clearly, or understands specific marketing tactics on a granular level and bypasses explanations. Hubspot recommends stepping in during these moments to help illuminate the topic discussed and smooth over rough patches. Keep it in the realm of the client’s style while helping out to clarify ideas the reader may not know as well as the mastermind author.
This is especially key for new relationships with small businesses. When ghostwriting for this genre, you can’t paint by numbers; you need to ensure that the writing you’re cementing on the page aligns with the ideas and voice of your client. Show the author an early draft in case you are headed in the wrong direction. Take feedback, and then progress accordingly. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about whoever you are ghostwriting for.
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