At first, the thought of hiring a ghostwriter was inconceivable to me. I love to write, and I’m good at it, so why would I ever hire someone to do it for me? Sure, I had brought in writers to help me with projects, but hiring someone to actually write on my behalf? No, thank you.
Then I got busy.
Then I had my son and got really busy.
More work, more responsibilities. Busy, busy, busy.
I happened to have a writer working for me at the time who wrote in an eerily similar voice and tone to me. So I gave it a shot, and now I see the merits of working with a ghostwriter to handle bylined articles, blog posts, essays and more—when necessary.
Here are some of the reasons I actually recommend hiring a ghostwriter and how to go about finding the right one.
When you don’t have the time.
Even if you enjoy writing, I generally recommend CEOs and other high-level executives hire ghostwriters. Simply put, you have better things to do. Like thinking about the bigger picture, making important business decisions and coming up with the very types of ideas that led someone to ask you to contribute a bylined piece in the first place.
When you don’t have the time to do it right.
Not having any time is an obvious reason to outsource. But not having enough time is just as important a consideration. We often have the best intentions when we agree to another to-do on Sunday and then Monday morning comes and all of a sudden, our week has filled up.
When you’re being asked to contribute as an expert, to have your name on something, you want it to sound good and be professional. If you tend to be a slow writer or you just don’t have enough time to do the piece justice, hire a ghostwriter.
If writing isn’t your strong suit.
You have plenty of ideas, but somehow putting them all to (virtual) paper is an exercise in futility. What happened? They sounded so good in your head! If this is you or you’re simply more of a numbers person (or graphics person or PowerPoint person, etc.), then it’s best to bring in a ghostwriter. Or maybe writing is your strong suit, but it’ll take you eight hours to churn out a draft when it will take a professional three. In these cases, I’d suggest outsourcing.
If writing doesn’t bring you joy.
This one isn’t an all or nothing. I find tremendous joy in writing. But when I think about the way I need to spend my time right now to grow my business, I would rather work on other things. And while I do spend some of my non-working hours on personal writing projects, I also have a 4-year-old who brings me joy. So working more than 40 hours a week at this point in my life does not. That is why the piece you are reading right now was written in part by somebody else. (Be honest! You couldn’t tell, could you?)
Finding the Right Ghostwriter
I have ghostwritten for a number of people. I have also hired people to ghostwrite for me. Hiring a ghostwriter is a little different than hiring a writer for another type of project. Not everyone is going to be the right fit. I have many writers I hire and respect for projects, but I have one go-to writer for projects that require using my own voice. Here are some questions to ask yourself when hiring a ghostwriter:
- How well do they adopt your tone? You don’t need to find a writer who already writes like you. Skilled ghostwriters will be able to emulate your voice and tone when provided with samples. Ask for samples of their ghostwritten work.
- Is he or she comfortable asking questions? Ghostwriters are not mind readers, and you shouldn’t expect them to be. You’ll need to provide enough information to give your writer a good sense of the messages you want to get across. But you need to find someone who is comfortable asking for clarification or additional information if you don’t.
- Do you like and trust the person? If you’re not totally comfortable being open about your ideas with the person, it will never work. And you need someone you personally enjoy working with. Without this synergy, your content will feel disjointed and won’t reflect your style.
- Does he or she show humility? I’m all for hiring the top writers in their field, but sometimes hiring a big name comes with a certain air of, well, arrogance. And working with a prima donna is particularly problematic for ghostwriting projects. You want someone who will offer suggestions to make a piece better, sure, but who will ultimately defer to your wishes. After all, it’s your byline on the piece, not theirs. If the person you’ve hired is insistent and wants to know if they can alter your ideas or messages, tell him or her, “Negative, Ghostwriter. The pattern is full.”
There’s Always a Happy Medium
Like the idea of leaning on help but don’t want to give up on writing? Or maybe you think it’d be too much work to try to explain to a writer what it is you want to cover? You always have the option of getting a first draft out and then hiring someone to polish it up or give it a complete overhaul.
To find out whether you’re in the market for a proofread, a rewrite or somewhere in between, check out our guide to the three levels of editing.