That’s it, that’s all I really want to say, but it requires at least a little explanation, I suppose. Perhaps it’s better put another way.
A ghostwriter should make you money.
That’s right. If I do my job for a client, it should add to their bottom line. Of course, not all of this is within my power. I can create the best content and position it correctly, optimized for traffic and delivering leads and the client may still fail to close the deal. That could happen.
But more often than not, the failure is on the part of the writer. A few years back there was a mantra of sorts, “Content is King” and although it’s passed out of usage for the most part, it’s no less true. Whatever style it takes, whatever messaging is required to get it shared, content is still ruling the interwebs. Don’t believe me? Look around. Wherever you find yourself online today, it’s a sure bet that a piece of content pulled you there. Like this article for example.
So, will this article pay off? Will it bring a good Return on Investment? For me, the article itself represents about $150 worth of my time. That’s pretty close to the best hourly rate I earn. I’d be happy working for that. But, can I get that much out of this little piece of writing? It remains to be seen.
What about your content? Is it making your money? Or is it just a huge time suck, spiraling bookable hours down the drain into oblivion? Maybe you’re not a writer. Not all of us are. There are skills I would like to develop, but probably never will. That’s why there’s more than one of us on this rock. If that’s you, a non writer, and your content is costing you (but it’s just time, you say) then why not consider bringing on a partner to help you increase your bottom line and make that content pay you? How does this work? Well, you’ll get out of a ghostwriting relationship what you put into it.
Build a strong foundation
I’m a writer, not a mind reader. I know words and communication. I can craft blog posts in my sleep. I can incorporate your keywords, tie into trending events and ideas, source royalty free images and sharable data, but I can’t read your mind. I don’t know your business. Not like you do. To make a ghostwriting partnership work, or even to build your own effective content, there are some things you need to put in place.
Establish the voice. The tone and feel of your content should match your brand. If you don’t know what that is yet, a good writer can help you establish it.
Introduce your audience. Ghostwriters are flexible artists, it’s what we do. But my best guess as to who your ideal customer is, won’t get the job done. You need to tell me.
Decide on a purpose. Some content is for building community, some is for training, some is for brand recognition. They are all very different.
Set expectations. Whatever type of project you need, there are things like word count, frequency, and deadlines that need to be set in advance.
Most content producers never take these steps. They never decide who they are talking to and why, and it shows. They end up talking to no one and when a piece makes a connection, it’s a mystery as to why. Reaching for a specific audience and having goals as to the outcome is essential to a plan and any plan, even a bad one, is better than no plan at all.
Remember, this is an investment
If you treat your ghostwriter like a ghost, it’s unlikely we’ll make beautiful music together. Even if you’re creating your own content, you’re going to need to trust in the system you establish. As you get better at constructing content that makes sense for your brand, you’ll find yourself spending less time preparing to create and more time executing. The goal should be to trust in that writer to the point that they hit your goals on a consistent basis, leaving you nothing to do but outline new content and respond to audience engagement.
Collaboration is the real power of a ghostwriting partnership. A good writer will help you uncover your brand message and expand on it.
Trust is essential. Whether you’re building your own or paying someone like me, build it, publish it, and adjust based on the results. Don’t micromanage.
Garbage in / garbage out, as the old coders adage goes. If you don’t give your attention to building great content, it’s unlikely to happen.
Over time you should find a rhythm. If it’s not working, don’t give up too soon. A dead blog or social presence takes time to revive.
You get out of any relationship what you put into it. It’s not all up to me. If you leave it up to me, results will be mixed at best. In fact, the biggest problem I’ve had, by far, is being unable to produce content, because clients want to approve what goes up, but don’t want to spend the time to help me understand what that should be.
You need to hire a generalist
One of the biggest mistakes I feel people make when posting listings for writing jobs is being too narrow in their scope. They think they need someone who has ten years of experience in exactly their field. Here’s the problem with that. It’s unlikely that anyone who has served as a writer in your field knows your business as you do. They may talk like it, but you’re going to get a very narrow vein of expertise.
Content needs to be varied and a writer with a wider background will present ideas you haven’t thought of. They will look at your business through fresh eyes.
Most specialist will go with the flow, which in this case means producing “best practice” content. It won’t challenge the reader and it won’t differentiate itself from the crowd.
You can also find yourself in the back seat with an expert writer. Don’t forget, this is your business, your failure or success is riding on this and you need to stay involved.
A generalist will bring varied approaches, and it’s a mistake to assume their knowledge is limited. For example, I’ve produced hundreds of in depth pieces across at least a dozen industries. The time I’ve spent researching them often means I know what the audience wants.
If your content is working, why hire a writer? So, you’re looking for new ideas. You might as well tap into the broadest set of ideas available, right? If you’re in a highly technical field, you can always hire a specialist to do your whitepapers, but much of your client facing content needs to be written in layman’s terms.
You get what you pay for
I know, I started off saying that your writer shouldn’t cost you a dime. And that’s true. But, the idea is that their work pays you back more than you pay them. There is a definite difference between a truly skilled writer with years of experience, and the cheapest college intern you can find, and the results vary accordingly.
Often more expensive writers will save you money because their expertise saves time and effort.
Getting immediate results from well crafted content is the goal here, and one thing is certain, even talented beginners have a big learning curve.
Think of it this way, with a ghostwriter, they’re playing you to your most important audience. How much is it worth to get that right?
In the end, you’ll judge the value of the investment on its return, right? I know I’ve wasted money and time on cheap help and poor tools many times, only to end up spending what I should have to begin with.
While there are definitely some writers who charge through the nose and don’t deliver, in general, a good writer will not be the cheapest. Cheap writers are tempted to cut corners, plagiarize and spend less time and energy on optimization and audience research. I’ve always said this about my own practice, I’m not the best writer in the world, I’m not the fastest and I’m not the cheapest. I write quality content, tailored to your needs, on schedule for a fair price. If my clients didn’t find me a good return on investment, I’d have washed out years ago.