If You Become a Ghost Writer, Don’t Become a Ghost (Part 2)

If you are a ghost writer, you may spend the bulk of your time building someone else’s presence and expertise online.  It is important, however, to build and maintain your own professional reputation, as well.  In order to do this you must do two things: develop “multiple personalities” and stay motivated enough that you can write for two or more people.

Develop Multiple Personalities

In order to build your own writing presence while writing on behalf of someone else, you must learn to balance multiple personalities in one head.  No, you don’t have to become a modern version of Sybil, but you do have to develop the ability to switch styles and voices in your writing and keep them separate.

  • Develop your own writing style, and avoid using that style when writing for others. As a ghost writer, it is often your job to help create the voice and written persona of the person for whom you write.  Unfortunately, it can be easy to lend your own style to the writings of the accredited author.  As a ghost writer, however, it is often part of your job to remain anonymous. If you use the same style for both your own writing and someone else’s writing, you could put both your anonymity and your employer’s credibility on the line.
  • Avoid the temptation to promote yourself while writing for others.  Linking to your own website from a blog post you write for someone else may seem harmless.  Over time, however, readers might catch on.  For the same reason that it is important for you to maintain separate writing styles, it is usually a good idea to keep your personal writing and your ghost writing separate.
  • Spend time writing as yourself.  An easy way to develop your own voice is by simply writing and using your own byline.  You can do this in many ways – create a personal blog, communicate as yourself through social media, and participate in discussions in online forums.  In other words, do many of the same things you may already be doing for other people, but give yourself the credit.  (For more information on how to build your presence online, check out the Legal Marketing section of this website.)

Stay Motivated

It can be easy to feel burned out after writing for hours for someone else, so it is important to keep yourself motivated to write for yourself.

  • Start small and make goals.  There are many great writers who are known for just sharing pictures on their blogs, aggregating content from various news sources, or keeping their posts short and to the point.  You don’t have to write 400-word posts every day to get your name out and share your personality, but you do need to create fresh content that shows off your interests and knowledge.  Create a blog and make a habit of posting three times each week, participate in a weekly Twitter debate, leave one comment on someone else’s blog every weekday, or create another goal for yourself.  Just be sure that you are actively using your name online every week.
  • Switch gears.  When you are paid to write for someone else, you are usually required to stick to a particular style.  When you write for yourself, the sky is the limit.  If your ghost writing involves lengthy research-based articles, perhaps your personal writing could involve a journalistic style or creative writing approach.
  • Choose your own area of expertise.  When you are paid to write about a topic for someone else, you may become an expert on that topic.  But do you really want to be known by others as an expert in that particular subject?  Instead of letting ghost writing gigs determine your professional reputation, don’t be afraid to write about your own passions.  On the other hand, if you do want to build your reputation for the same topic you cover as a ghost writer, go for it.  Just be sure to maintain separate identities for your own writing and the writing you do for others.

Note: This post if part of a two-part series.  You can read part one here.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/spensawr/3641793533/)


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  • Too often ghost writing feels like a dual life. A writer starts to lose their focus as an individual and sort of falls behind the curtain. I like your concept of staying motivated. Keep your own personal goals intact, and don’t let writing for another cause you to lose sight of your focus.

  • Thanks, Wade! I completely agree with you about how easy it can be to fall behind the curtain. When I started out as a ghost writer for a fast-growing company, I had to learn how to write about a lot of new topics, and many of my own passions went on the back-burner while I did research and writing for my job. Once I started writing for myself again, however, it really helped me remember my long term, big picture goals rather than focusing on more tedious individual tasks and assignments…which made my writing in both world flow a little more freely. It also helped me become a bit braver with my writing for others since I was able to get direct feedback for my personal writing that I could apply to both my personal writing and my ghost writing.