Without sharing client information, how can ghostwriters market themselves?
Ghostwriters are different from freelance writers, authors, bloggers, and other professional writers by virtue of their anonymity. That is, no one knows who they work with. A ghostwriter’s goal is to blend into a crowd, not stand out. That’s what clients pay for. In fact, clients often pay handsomely for writing and editing assistance from experts who take no credit for the work they do, and who promise to keep their role a secret.
While clients – especially high profile ones – wanting ghostwriters to stay in the background makes perfect sense, it does make it difficult for ghosts to leverage those projects to get new ones. How can you attract new clients without discussing past work?
It’s a fine line you need to walk to ensure confidentiality – which is critical – while also sharing enough information with potential clients to confirm that you have, actually, done this before. Most experts thinking about penning a book, for example, would prefer to hire someone who has ghosted other books. That’s true for most projects, don’t you think? We all want to work with someone who is not a newbie at their craft.
So how do you talk about past projects without revealing confidences.
One approach some ghosts take is to describe the project in broad terms, such as, “Was responsible for drafting weekly blog posts for an executive in a national consulting firm,” or, “Ghostwrote a nonfiction self-help book for a national speaker.”
Clients want to know what industries you’ve had experience in and are really much less concerned with the name and title of your past clients. So talk about what you did, without going into great detail about who you did it for. This may require holding back on specifics about the exact topic. “Entrepreneurship” is fine, for example, while “Entrepreneurship for corporate women over age 40,” may make it possible for your prospective client to figure out which book, and therefore which client, you’re talking about. Keep the subject-matter general.
Another approach is to list the industries you’ve done work in, as well as the types of projects you’ve worked on, without matching the two sides up. In your bio you might have a bulleted list that mentions you’ve written for clients in software development, artificial intelligence, and SaaS, let’s say. And you could have another bulleted list of the types of projects you’ve recently completed, such as white papers, blog posts, speeches, and case studies. Without mentioning corporate client names, it would be virtually impossible for someone to suspect you’re the ghostwriter for a particular senior executive at a particular company.
If you worked with an intermediary, such as an editor or agent, sometimes they can serve as references. While they may not be able to identify the particular project you worked on, they can at least confirm that you assisted one of their clients on a recent engagement and the client was very happy with the quality of your work and the speed with which you did it, for example.
Finally, you could also check back with clients to see how they feel about allowing you to discuss projects with potential clients. Sometimes, once a project has wrapped up, clients are less sensitive about revealing they worked with a ghostwriter. For some, it’s a badge of honor. And others may still want you to keep your lip zipped, which is fine. But it can’t hurt to ask if there are any circumstances under which you could talk about your project.
What other approaches have allowed you to talk about a ghostwriting project without revealing your client’s identity?