Ghostwriters: Say “Yes” When Offered More Business

Ghostwriters: Say “Yes” When Offered More Business

The potential for too many ghostwriting projects is actually a good thing, if you know these strategies for managing your workload.

Ghostwriters experience the same “feast or famine” scenario that freelance writers regularly deal with. One month work is pouring in, the next, all you hear is crickets.

Many ghostwriters experience a cycle of too much work, then too little, with anxiety spiking in between those two states of being. Some of that stress creeps in as work slows down and you fear you will never land another project as long as you live, and then as work picks up, you worry that you will have to start saying “no” to opportunities because you’re too busy. How you will manage the overflow becomes your looming crisis.

I have some advice for you – never say “no,” unless it’s work you would never take under any circumstances. Say, for example, if the pay is far too low, the client far too difficult, or the topic way beyond your area of expertise. You can say “no” to those.

But if you’re worried because you don’t want to be overwhelmed, or at least above your comfort level in terms of your workload, let me relieve your fears.

How to Manage Your Workload

Taking on more than you can handle won’t happen, even if you say “yes” to everything that comes your way, if you do the following:

  • Ask for more time. When your workload starts piling up, you can still take on new work if you negotiate more time from your newest clients. You might even offer a discount if they can extend their deadline to a more manageable completion date. Explain that while you can’t get their book done by year-end, you really want to work with them and could commit to having it done in the first quarter of next year. Most clients don’t have a due date tied to any particular event, like a conference or major speech, and the majority can be convinced to give you more time.
  • Stagger your projects. Agree to start a new project after you’ve hit a milestone on an existing project, such as completing the first chapter, or the first half of the manuscript. That way you avoid working on two projects with the same timeline.
  • Outsource. If you discover you have more on your plate than you can comfortably handle, or you want to reduce those concerns from becoming reality, line up folks who can take on some parts of your task. For example, you might find a transcriptionist to take the typing up of interviews off your hands. Or hire a virtual assistant to line up interviews for you. Hire an editor to improve your hastily-prepared rough draft, or a researcher to hunt down elusive statistics or sources so that you can stay focused on the work your client hired you to do – the writing.
  • Partner. If you can’t convince the client to give you additional time, you could ask to bring in a colleague to support you, to ensure you can meet the client’s deadline. You’d split the work – perhaps your colleague does all the client interviews and has them transcribed and you tackle the writing. Or vice versa. Increasing your capacity by tapping into the availability of a trusted colleague allows you to say “yes” and boost your income by at least a portion of the fee.
  • Refer. If you do get to the point where you’re crying “uncle” and want some breathing room, you can always refer work to other ghostwriters you trust. You’ll earn their gratitude and you’ll move to the top of their list of potential referral options when they discover they need to refer extra work elsewhere.

The truth is, you will worry about pending projects coming through simultaneously but it rarely ever happens that several projects appear at once. Things happen. Existing clients go on vacation, giving you free time to devote to other projects. Pending projects get pushed into next quarter for budget reasons. The client takes weeks to make a go-no go decision. Or they opt to work with a different ghostwriter.

Nothing to Worry About

Last month I worried about a potential project for which I looked like I was a shoe-in. I got nervous about my bandwidth, as they say in corporate speak, and began strategizing how I would get everyone’s work done on time.

Turns out, that was time wasted. I needn’t have worried. The client decided to put the project off until early 2018.

Earlier this year I was in a similar predicament – a full workload and a potential project that I was really excited about. So, of course, I lay awake at night worrying about the late nights and weekends of work in my future. And then, suddenly, an existing client put their project on hold temporarily, creating the space I needed to fit a new project in without any trouble.

So don’t do what I did – worry unnecessarily about being overwhelmed. Say “yes” and then figure out how to get it done if, in the unlikely scenario, several projects come in at once.

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Marcia Layton Turner


  1. Karen Cioffi on September 30, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Marcia, this is so true. I find I stress during down times, but then again when I’m swamped.

    My method of handling overflow is having two subcontractors on hand (my team). It’s important though to keep in mind that using subcontractors takes time and in my experience some editing before handing over the finished project to your client.

    I also use my team to critique and/or proof my work when things are crazy. Stress can make you miss mistakes!

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