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Taking the Mystery Out of Ghost Blogging

This guest post is by Jennifer Brown Banks of Ghostess.

There’s no doubt about it. The thrill of a byline never gets old.

I’ve been penning pieces for publications for more than a decade, and every time I’m in a grocery store and see my name in a magazine, or have it grace the online stage, it’s still magical for me. Still.

I liken it to falling in love over and over again.

And, if you’re a serious writer, no doubt you feel the same way too.

But let’s face it: “love don’t always pay the bills”!

Enter, ghost blogging

Simply stated, ghost blogging is the practice of writing posts for others without name recognition. They get the credit, you get the cash. And sometimes, lots of it.

Ghost blogging affords today’s bloggers opportunities to expand their creative projects and their bottom line. Because more and more busy professionals are seeking “ghosts” to pen posts to increase awareness of important causes, promote products, and cultivate a connection with the public, it’s becoming a pretty popular field.

Aside from time factors, some businesses and individuals bring on ghost writers because they’re primarily “idea people.” These clients are excellent in terms of innovation and creativity, yet they lack the ability to write effectively and communicate concepts to an audience clearly.

Ghostwriters can save them time, headaches, money, and potential embarrassment.

Ethical issues

For some, ghosting practices pose ethical issues.

There are those, (both writers and readers) who sometimes perceive ghosting as dishonest, in that it misrepresents true authorship, and lacks a degree of credibility.

Maybe. Maybe not. It all depends on how you look at it.

It’s really not much different than a speechwriter penning a speech for the president, or a resume writer putting someone else in a better professional light through his skills.

Or, think of it this way. How many of us in corporate jobs have worked for bosses who presented our ideas as their own? At least with ghostwriting, somebody is paying you to be a silent partner!

What does it take to be a good ghost?

Like other genres and fields of writing, ghostwriting is not for everyone.
But, if you’re straddling the fence on it, here are a few things to consider.

1. Confidentiality is a must

In this line of work, loose lips sink ships—not to mention that they can ruin careers.

Sometimes you may have the good fortune to pen posts for a celebrity or top-dog blogger, and you’re itching to brag about it. Don’t! Like any good relationship—personal or professional—once the trust is gone, so is the union.

It should also be noted that typically, ghost clients will have writers enter into a confidentiality agreement, stating that they will not disclose their identity, or the nature of their projects. You could be sued if you violate these conditions.

2. Good ghosts should have a wide knowledge base and a wide “speaking”range

Are you well read? Have you had multiple careers? Could you be a contestant on Jeopardy Game show? If so, it’s highly likely that you’d be successful in this field.

A broad knowledge base means that you will have a basic understanding of various topics, thereby allowing you to speak with a degree of authority and authenticity. It also means that the client has to do less hand-holding and feeding you information.

3. Good ghosts should have good people skills

As a ghost, you might be required to work with someone for whom there are creative or moral differences. Or perhaps you just lack chemistry. Suck it up. Remember, it’s their vision, and their decision.

Good ghosts know when to remain silent. If you’re not able to take directions from others, or to deal with a wide range of personalities and temperaments, this wouldn’t be the best type of gig for you. Do not pass go.

4. Good ghosts have the flexibility of a rubber band

To be a good ghost, you must be flexible.

For example, a client may change the direction of the project, or he may misplace files, or you may have to work around his schedule for the successful completion of the project. Keeping cool is crucial.

5. Good ghosts are good project managers

Writing skills only touch the surface of what effective ghosting entails.

Depending upon the type of client, and the range and complexity of the project, a good ghost might also be called upon to organize information, compile data, do research, and make recommendations accordingly.

Pay for your say

How much do ghost bloggers make? There isn’t a “standard” going rate. A lot depends upon the type of client, their budget, your experience level, and the length and frequency of the project.

To apply for opportunities, check popular job boards like Pro Blogger, Craigslist.org and Ghostbloggers.net

Have you ever been a ghost blogger? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Jennifer Brown Banks is a seasoned blogger and professional ghostwriter. Her work has appeared at various top-dog sites such as: Pro Blogger, Men With Pens, Daily Blog Tips, Technorati, and The Well-Fed Writer. Visit her sites at: http://penandprosper.blogspot.com/ and http://Ghostess2.blogspot.com/.

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Comments

  1. I’ve never been to ghost blogging but thinking to enter it soon. By the way, I really loved your post, Jennifer. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Tom Clark says:

    Very interesting! I have been writing a lot recently both in the guest blog world and for my own blog and this sounds like something I have come across and I understand why. Maybe writers should be open minded to this as a balance between getting authorship on a piece and having no mention. Insightful stuff, 2nd read time for me now :)

    Best,

    Tom

  3. Tom,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and weighing in. There are many advantages to “ghosting”–it’s typically well-paid, offers a variety of assignments, and helps to hone your writing skills. I highly recommend it.

  4. Ian Eberle says:

    I’m not against the idea of ghost writing, but I will never make a ghost blog. Personally, I like to have everything in my own name so I can potentially become a blogging celebrity like Darren Rowse.

    • Ian,

      Thanks for your feedback. Another Darren? Good luck with that! :-)

      • Ian Eberle says:

        I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but almost every blogger knows his name or at least has heard of him. If you simply ghost write, nobody will know your name… That’s like being an anonymous author of a book or actor in a movie. People may love your work but they have no idea who you are.

  5. Victoria says:

    Interesting piece! The spirit has not moved me to seek out ghosting, but I believe it could be rewarding both financially and professionally. (And I guess I’ve done it without thinking about it when I’ve sold All Rights articles.)

    Thanks for sharing, guest expert on ghosts.

  6. Anjali Amit says:

    Very well-reasoned,well laid-out post. I like the way you deal with the elephant in the room–the ethical issues–up top, and after presenting both sides of the argument, leave it to the individual to decide.

    The article details what it takes to be a good ghost writer. Who would have thought that a good ghost writer needs to be a project manager too? Great post.

  7. Great article! I just started blogging and since I like writing I want to try freelancing too. Will look into ghostblogging opportuninites right now.

  8. Karen Lange says:

    Thank you, Jennifer, I appreciate your info and insight. I don’t really have a problem with ghost writing. To me, it’s similar to copywriting projects where the client has ownership of what I’ve done for them. Looking forward to finding some of these opportunities soon. :)

  9. Becky Blanton says:

    I ghost, and have for more than five years. You nailed on what it takes to be a great ghost writer. I’ve been a journalist (23 years), a cop (2 years), a massage therapist (2 years), a raft guide, a printer (3 years) a university football recruiter (1.5 years) and about 100 other things as I worked my way through college and struggled to decide what to do with my life. All the part-time and full time jobs I did are finally paying off! The time I spent working as a temp in various offices, and the people, friendships and connections I have after 40 years in the work force are DEFINITELY what give me the edge. I can pull together concepts, ideas, metaphors and insights in almost any field. I know what I don’t know and where to find it. It’s fun, exciting and can be lucrative, although most people don’t want to pay for the value, many do. What great ghost writers have comes from a lifetime of experience and you can’t just find that on Craigslist or elance. You do have to pay for it.

    As far as the non-disclosure agreements, I agree. It’s hard. I’ve written for celebrities, both in the movie and sports industry, and while just the mere mention of their names would net me more clients, and convince people that I am worth what I charge, I can’t do it. I rely on word-of-mouth and referrals. So, it’s a great gig, but also a challenging one…akin to being a member of a special forces unit in many ways.

    Ethical? Yes. 50% (or more) of the books published every year are ghosted. It’s a job. The CEO takes credit for the company he makes successful, but in reality the workers/employees and managers do the “real” work. What’s the difference? Writing is work. You can’t really ghost well unless the person hiring you has something to offer, the raw material, even if it’s just an idea. The best ghosting is collaborative, but it can be done with just the most minimal of ideas. I love it, and it sounds like you do too! Great piece. I’m assuming this was NOT ghosted? ;-)

  10. Wow, good information here. Haven’t ghost blogged, but would consider it after reading this post. Thank you, Jennifer.

  11. Tash Hughes says:

    As a business writer, I ghost write all the time – does anyone really think the CEO writes every blog post, email, annual report and so on? Of course not!

    Like, Becky, I agree that versatility and broad knowledge can help write for different clients. And that breadth and skill offers real value that some people will pay for, rather than go to cheaper places to find words put tgoether.

  12. Wow this is an excellent article! I was wondering if you would like to guest write for my blog?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

  13. I’m with you — I don’t enjoy ghost blogging because I feel like I have nothing to show for it. However, some of my top paying clients require me to ghost write. And money is always good motivation.

    -Andrew

  14. Daniel says:

    Interesting article topic, Jennifer.

    I have heard so much about Ghost Writers in other writing formats, though, I never really considered it being applied all that much in Blogging….

    Then a light went on, and I realized that a great deal of paid writing gigs online would probably be Ghost authored….including blog posts….

    Only recently I was reading through a particular site in relation to paid writing gigs, and the author alluded to writing as themselves, writing under a pen name( nome de plume) and if memory serves correct, also doing Ghost author jobs……

    Also, good point you bring up that writing is only one part of the overall tasks required, and this aptly applies to blogs in general….

    As much as we hear the old chestnut “content is king” there is so much more that needs to be done, which can often leave us a little flat when the time arrives to do the actual writing part….

  15. David Sneen says:

    BOO!!!

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist that. My blog is entitled, Hire This Blogger—in which I offer my services as a ghost writer (although I do not use that term).

    Your comment, “How many of us in corporate jobs have worked for bosses who presented our ideas as their own? At least with ghostwriting, somebody is paying you to be a silent partner!” hits the target perfectly. I am using that quote, as I discuss your well written post on Google+.

    • Hi David,

      Very clever man you are—that “Boo” made me laugh! :-)
      Thanks so much for your feedback, and for the Google+ mention.

      May “the force” be with you! :-)

  16. Martha says:

    I have my own blog and get paid to blog under my own name for other businesses. I’ve also been a journalist, where I had my own bylines as well as written editorials that were printed simply from the editorial staff or signed by our editor. I also ghost blog for a client and it has never felt unethical. She is a terrible writer, but an otherwise successful businesswoman who has great ideas. I am a pretty ethical person, and I see nothing wrong with using talented writing skills to help someone use their voice online. Great post! Ghost blogging is a practical way that writers/bloggers can get paid, as we should be! :)

  17. Jerome Serorge says:

    Thanks Jennifer ! I have a question: I just became member on sites like blogsynergy.com and myblogguest.com and i am currently forming guest blogging relationships . I haven’t yet published any of the guest posts, but i am curious as to what is the difference between publishing the author’s name and not publishing the author’s name.
    I don’t mind paying through a website like ghostbloggers.net if it is better that the blog remains a “one source” blog if it is better in any way.
    Please advice.
    Thanks,
    Jerome

    • Jerome,

      Thanks for your thoughts. The difference is that in publishing with author’s name, you can use the associated links to build your portfolio and your business. Think of it like a home: there’s pride in ownership.

  18. Sandra says:

    Interesting. I’ve ghostwritten fiction and nonfiction . . . but not blogs. Makes sense though . . . like any other “work for hire.” We writers like to think that what we do is “different,” yet, if we work for an employer, what we produce is considered to be the property of the company, regardless of whether or not it was our brilliance and insight that created something the company would have been clueless on without us.

    My primary caveat would be, “make sure you get paid what you expect to get paid.” I’ve ghosted for any number of people who have “gotten a little behind” in their payments, but could I please be patient and keep the work coming . . . the money would be there . . . and then it wasn’t. Just a LOT of excuses. WHINEY ones at that.

    In the case of blogging, I could see where you might build up a great following, then the client comes up short on cash and begs you to “maintain momentum,” until the financial crunch eases. Likelihood is, regardless of whether things get better for your client or not, YOUR financial crunch WON’T ease . . . and you’ll end up having done a bunch of work for nothing or for a drastically reduced rate because that is ALL the client is willing to give you.

    If I ghost-blogged, I would work on retainer, say $300 or $500, and charge against that at an agreed upon hourly or piecework rate. When I got close to exhausting the retainer, I would remind the client to “fill the tank.” If the client did not, I wouldn’t write. It’s a little tough, but you have to remember–You should not CARE more about the project than the client does . . . or you will, most likely, get burned.

    (This is actually the payment format I use for editing . . . Almost every time I have allowed the client to “get ahead” by not paying the retainer and keeping it up to date, I have regretted it. I have only had ONE client who paid me AFTER the fact . . . and then paid me a BONUS for completing the work within a rushed time frame. BLESS THAT CLIENT!–I have had better luck working with companies.)

    Sandra

  19. Rhea says:

    I manage a large group of ghost writers and have done some ghost writing myself. Ghost writers can save companies a lot of time and usually have a good understanding of SEO, which is SUPER essential! Nice post!

  20. Chris says:

    Hi Jennifer,
    thanks for sharing it with us. Ghost writing becomes a big niche not only in blogging, but in the whole internet marketing industry ;) I predict even some new courses for ghost writers…
    Chris

  21. Nizam says:

    Well agreed, the guest blogger gets the credit and blog owner gets the cash, but what about recognition? And yes, to have basic understanding of various topics, one should have a broad knowledge base. So that that one can interact with a degree of authority and authenticity. Thanks Jennifer for this awesome and interesting post :)

  22. thekencook says:

    You have some really accurate bullet points. I have been ghost blogging (high volume) since 2004 and it’s your point number 2 that gives me the edge. As a 53 year old with a huge array of experiences from classified operations to touring rock-n-roll musician to multi-million dollar success story to bankruptcy … and everything in between! Also it’s speed that helps as much as anything. I mean I can knock out 300-500 words in less than 30 minutes on virtually any topic from astro-physics to Chinese employment issues. And for what some are willing to pay that’s all I can invest!

    Here’s a question for you so the others can see – how do you show your “work history” when you do maintain such secrecy? For me I have clients who will simply post how great my services are but most of them won’t say which service. I do have a few over the years who have said things about my articles.

    • thekencook,

      Good feedback. In terms of work history? I simply use some other title to identify my working relationship with ghost clients. For instance, a Ghost is usually a “project manager” and a “creative consultant” too.
      Get my point? Thanks much!

  23. I’ve been ghost writing for a business for a few months now. I do wish I was getting more bylines in the meantime, but the work is consistent, which means pay is consistent. That is the nice thing about ghosting. One question, if you can answer, if much of what I’ve done is ghost writing, how do I provide clips or a resume to get more work. This deals with the confidentiality factor. Some organizations aren’t as concerned about confidentiality because they’re transparent about having a team of writers, versus the company I’m writing for now, a lot is published under the president’s name. I’d love to hear your feedback.

    Thanks,

    Sarah

    • Hi Sarah,

      If possible, you can get them (clients) to provide testimonials about your services in “general” and post them to your site. Or as I noted, previously, identify some other related role that your ghosting relationship entailed, and use those titles and experiences on your resume. Hope this helps!

  24. infoinbulk says:

    i think ghost may come and read this article