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The proverbial secret sauce to some of the most successful entrepreneurs arrives in one flavor: ghostwriters.
Many of the world’s prominent business leaders build their success, and the success of their respective companies, by using ghostwriters to create a continuous and consistent stream of content.
As an entrepreneur, your quickest and most lucrative route towards brand awareness — both for you and your company — is through content marketing. These efforts are best highlighted by long-form written content in leading business publications like Entrepreneur, business-focused social-media platforms like LinkedIn and the now-trendy private-newsletter networks such as Substack.
But for the majority of entrepreneurs, writing either doesn’t come easily, or they don’t have time to create quality content that delivers the appropriate messaging, adds value and engages with their target audience.
This is where hiring a ghostwriter comes in. But not just any ghostwriter. You need to find one that can match your tone and style and deliver work on time.
Thinking about hiring a ghostwriter, or need some guidance on your current ghostwriter efforts?
Following is your guide, which includes insight from over 15 years of ghostwriting and training and managing a staff of ghostwriters for my clients. Take note: This is not for ghostwriting books, but long-form articles and social-media posts.
To date, I’ve written nearly 800 long-form articles for founders, CEOs and business leaders at various companies, from eight-figure enterprise-technology companies to seven-figure financial advisors to six-figure digital-marketing agency CEOs. My ghostwriting work has appeared in the world’s most-read publications, from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal to Forbes to even this publication, Entrepreneur.
One technology company attributed much of my ghostwriting to an eight-figure acquisition of his company. True growth is always behind the scenes, and ghostwriting is the foundation on which all strong content-marketing strategies are built.
How does ghostwriting work?
Ghostwriting is a simple process.
You hire one, and the ghostwriter takes your ideas and makes them a written reality. You use your name as the author, and the ghostwriter completes all the writing. You typically submit to the publication, though many reputable agencies also complete the submission process on your behalf.
What are the top benefits of using a ghostwriter?
The two top benefits of using a ghostwriter are increased productivity and brand awareness. And those two benefits arrive with multiple other benefits themselves. Here’s a breakdown.
For the successful entrepreneur, productivity is at the core of every essential duty, from blocking time daily and prioritizing tasks when the brain is freshest to making sure to put the added time in upfront to hire successful leaders that can independently run their own teams.
Productivity simplifies to one idea: Produce more quality work in less time. And when creating a content-marketing strategy, the more quality work published the better. This is where a ghostwriter adds endless value.
Quality writing takes much time and demands a single focus on a single task. Most entrepreneurs can’t commit to that sharp focus on a daily basis, which slows publishing times and brand growth. Or they’re focused on other business issues, such as product-supply issues or coaching their leadership teams.
As you’re doing what’s best to grow your business(es), your personal output of content shouldn’t stop. Using a ghostwriter allows you to do two major tasks at once, helping ultimately increase your overall productivity and the growth of your business.
Increased brand awareness
The more you’re “top of mind,” the more people will recognize your name and your brand’s name. A continuous and consistent flow of content across various publications and social-media channels delivers this top-of-mind mission while you focus on other business matters.
And the outcome of increased brand awareness will equate to increased revenue due to influencing not just new prospective clients and customers, but also existing clients through strengthening brand loyalty.
Speaking of the latter, successful entrepreneurs understand the power of delivering frequent newsletters to their existing clients, which strengthens brand loyalty. All that ghostwritten content makes creating those newsletters simple.
How do you find the optimal ghostwriter?
Finding the optimal ghostwriter takes time. But the added effort upfront will ease the pain down the road.
The best place to begin is through your business network — target the most successful entrepreneurs you know and ask them for suggestions. Keep all confidential, of course.
If that doesn’t work, search for ghostwriters on LinkedIn or other business networks, such as the Entrepreneur Leadership Network. I typically stay away from places like UpWork and Fiverr due to a lack of pre-existing relationships. Also, put posts out on LinkedIn and your other social platforms asking if anyone knows any quality ghostwriters.
The last effort would be an ad on social-media platforms. You’re sure to get hundreds of replies, which happened to me often when looking to grow my ghostwriting team. This wasted much time although I got more than a few laughs daily.
You found some ghostwriting applicants…now what?
When you find a prospect, Google his or her name. Although many ghostwriters work behind the scenes, they should at least have some other publishing experience online.
Pluses are if they’re published in larger business publications or those within your niche. You’ll want a subject matter expert (SME) although for some niches, this may be tough to find.
Now that you did some research, the first thing to do is have them sign a non-disclosure notice. NDAs are a must. I make all my clients and each ghostwriter on my staff sign them.
Ask for samples of content. The problem with most ghostwriters is they can’t share their best ghostwritten work (NDAs!). But every reputable writer has a portfolio of works. Don’t ask for resumes or education; ask for samples.
Unless you know the reputation of a ghostwriter, try a trial period or smaller campaign (three months or so) to gauge the quality and timeliness of his or her work. Due to the standard operation of a creative mind, many writers suffer from the tardiness factor.
That’s not professional, so if you’re dealing with missed deadlines after missed deadlines, flee.
For smaller ghostwriting projects like LinkedIn posting, my agency will complete a short period, say a week or two, of “trial” work at half-price. But for long-form pieces, due to the work involved of understanding the ghost author’s voice and style, my agency requires a full price for a month or work, but with some added incentives if that respective prospect signs on for a campaign.
How much does a ghostwriter cost?
Costs vary, from $750 for a LinkedIn article to $1,000 monthly for daily LinkedIn posts to $7,500 monthly for a larger campaign that may involve multiple long-form articles, a newsletter and social-media posts created to amplify those long-form articles.
Most reputable ghostwriters charge $1 to $3 per word, contingent on publication and platform.
Article costs also vary according to length. A few of my technical-focused clients have articles that need at least 2,500 words. Others require quicker, higher-level articles of 1,000 words.
Add SEO focus into the mix, which is a must nowadays for ultimate success, and you’ll pay a premium. But that premium has proven itself multiple times for many of my clients who have landed new clients and customers due to a ghostwritten article they read.
7 keys to successful ghostwriting
After you hire your ghostwriter, it’s time to create a smooth and organized process.
The following tips will help you achieve this.
1. Understand threats and rewards
Understanding a bit of neuroscience will help your conversations with your ghostwriter become stronger. Without getting into talk of the prefrontal cortex or limbic system, just know that a brain gets exhausted quickly and has limited focus time daily if constantly in threat mode versus rewards mode.
Kristen Hansen, author of Traction: The Neuroscience of Leadership and Performance, says brains scan the environment every five seconds to recognize a threat or reward. In simplest terms, frustration influences a threat state, when focus is tough and quality of work suffers. Positives like happiness, interest, gratitude and excitement influence a reward state, and this is when the quality of work strengthens.
The goal? To always have your ghostwriter in a reward state. The three major ways to influence a reward state from your ghostwriter are as follows (also ideal for influencing any of your employees for quality work):
- Increase communication.
- Clarify expectations.
- Implement reasonable deadlines.
2. Be continuous and consistent
These two words should guide the work of any content-marketing efforts, but they can become challenging when a ghostwriter is involved.
Make sure to create content continuously among the publications and channels you use. If you’re publishing on a major business publication monthly, keep it up (or increase — never decrease — output). Same for social-media channels. Publish daily on LinkedIn? Keep that flow, and you’ll garner a larger audience and following, which will increase your brand awareness.
Consistency is as vital as publishing consistent work. Make sure your voice is united among all channels. This is why it’s so vital to find the optimal ghostwriter from the beginning. All writers have a different style. I can easily tell when an author switches between ghostwriters. This destroys credibility and your overall image.
3. Publish on multiple publications
This is tough when you first begin, but the more and more content you produce, the more and more publications you can approach.
If a publication has your target reader, use it. Always stick to that scope, though. For most entrepreneurs, business publications allow you to add value to the business community, and niche publications allow you to influence your target customers and clients.
Social media does both above. Make sure to design a formula that works for social-media posting, such as influencing customers and clients once a week and adding value to fellow entrepreneurs during all other posts.
4. Know your target audience
This is essential before any writing begins. You should know your audience deeply and share all the information with your ghostwriter.
My agency creates content intake forms that help me know a client’s target audience. This intake form includes everything from questions on competitors to keywords the target audience is using to obtain material.
5. Don’t forget SEO
Talking about keywords, don’t forget about search engine optimization.
When I began ghostwriting, I was one of the few writers also thinking from an SEO perspective. This knowledge allowed my ghostwritten articles to outrank others, helping with exposure.
Ask ghostwriters about their SEO knowledge or have an SEO-focused writer tweak the ghostwritten content for search relevant enhancements, such as target keywords, proper use of subtopics (headline tags for you SEOs), internal links for publication and a strong title and meta description.
Regarding the latter, the meta description is that little snippet of text found in search results like Google explaining what that page is about. Most publications auto-generate meta descriptions, and that typically doesn’t help drive the message of the page or influence a click.
Think of these as free advertisements. Always provide a custom one, regardless if the publication will use it or not. My agency keeps them to around 150 characters (read, not words) because search engines typically truncate them afterward. Provide what the article is about, along with the benefits and a promise.
6. Amplify everything
Once your ghostwriter creates content and that content is published, there’s more work to do. This involves amplifying that content wherever possible. The quickest and easiest is by linking to the articles on social-media channels, niche forums and places like Reddit.
Don’t know what to say about the article? This is where those meta descriptions in step five can be repurposed. If the ghostwriter did a good job, those meta descriptions will provide the exact message needed to increase the chances of a clickthrough.
Also, know that most social-media platforms downplay posts with direct links. It may be wise to post some information about what you had just published and follow up with a link in the comments.
7. Be the voice of the blog
When entrepreneurs approach me for ghostwriting, they typically are focused only on leading external publications and social media. But there’s much value in also becoming the voice of their business’s blog. I call this “home base marketing,” and it helps unify your voice across all places you can reach your audience.
If you engage with a reader on a major publication, many will visit your business website. And many will go directly to your business blog.
If they see your voice as an author, you’ll establish authority. They already saw your name on a major publication, so why not also read and understand the value of your blogging?
This also helps with getting the most from every publication outlet available. And you can double down by creating an SEO-driven home-base blogging strategy. And always mention and link to other publications you’ve published on.
The easiest way to do this besides within the text of each blog is by creating an “In the News” section or something similar on your website. Make sure this section is prominently displayed in the header of your website. Again, this will help establish authority, helping you quickly influence your readers.
The benefits of hiring a ghostwriter appeal to many entrepreneurs, but a haphazard process for obtaining one can cause more anxiety than value.
After dealing with the ghostwriting process for more than 15 years as both a writer myself and a coach of other writers, a few essentials are a must. This guide covers those essentials, and then some, all created to help you build your personal and business brands and increase revenue. Onwards to your exciting ghostwriting hunt.