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Apr 3 2013

How to Become a Freelancer and Ghostwriter

I’ve been writing for years. I landed my first daily newspaper out of college and eventually moved into business journalism, which quickly became my favorite kind of writing.

Several newsrooms later, I decided it was time for a change. That’s when I met freelancing.

Freelancing is not a career for the faint of heart. If you’re reading, you likely already know this.

On April 2, I was fortunate to participate in my first #connectchat on Twitter with PR Newswire’s @ProfNet.

Here are some of the highlights:

ProfNet: How did you get involved with freelancing?

CC: I began freelancing when I left full-time reporting. I loved working in a newsroom, but I wanted to open up my writing a bit. Because of my journalism experience, I was able to find media outlets that wanted me to start freelancing for them. Over the last couple of years, though, I’ve noticed my freelancing and blogging become more entertainment industry-facing and social media. I’ve really enjoyed covering how social media affects business, and I blog for Social Media Club.

ProfNet: What is the hardest thing about freelancing?

CC: Good question. The hardest thing about freelancing is staying on top of it. It requires maintaining relationships. Freelancing requires persistence and follow up, especially if you need that paycheck. That's probably the hardest/scariest thing to freelancing. It's as stable as you're willing to work it. Even then, freelancing also depends on what media outlets need writing. Remember, too, there's a ton of writing competition. A great many talented writers all vying for the same paycheck.

ProfNet: Where do you go if you are stuck writing about a topic you are not familiar with?

CC: Thankfully, this hasn’t happened a bunch in my writing career. However, in the instances this has occurred, it comes down to good ol’ fashioned research. I put on my reporter hat. I have a ton of sources, and I’m always looking for more. I’m fortunate to have worked with some incredible people. My sources give me the straight scoop on pretty much everything. Or, they point me in the right direction. Finally, I turn to social media. I can ask anything on Facebook, and the feedback always is good.

ProfNet: How do you deal with writer’s block?

CC: I think if you’ve written for a long time, you know how you write best. I'm not creative when I'm tired. A great editor once shared with me that if I at least got my lede going, the rest would come. It’s true. Also, about writer's block: If I come up with the lede or the ending, the middle starts to write itself.

ProfNet: Besides freelancing you are also a ghostwriter. For those not as familiar with ghostwriting, can you tell us about it?

CC: Ghost writing is a funny thing. I didn’t even mean to jump into it. It began a couple years ago because a couple of bloggers I know frankly didn’t feel like writing them anymore. They have busy lives, etc. So they approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind writing for them AS them. How it works: I interview them like I would any other source for a story. I note the way they speak, words they use, etc. Then I clean up their style and grammar. I submit the blog post to them for approval and they hit publish. I really try to maintain their voice and the way they structure things – sentences and thoughts.

Question from the audience: Do you get satisfaction from ghostwriting vs. having a byline?

CC: Great question. I actually love the challenge of writing in a voice that's not mine, if that makes any sense. I do love a byline. But allowing someone else to have the credit by giving them my words is pretty cool, too.

Question from the audience: Do you self promote (portfolio) ghost copy?

CC: I do no promotion. I'm 100 percent a ghost. If you find me, it's because one of my clients fessed up.

ProfNet: Are these terms defined with the writer prior to the agreement to work together?

CC: I treat ghost writing like any other writing terms. They're always worked out in advance. I like to know how much writing is required; the time commitment involved (weekly, monthly, etc.) and their goals. From there, we work out a plan. Remaining anonymous is important for each client, and I honor that.

ProfNet: Besides remaining anonymous, how else is ghostwriting different than freelancing?

CC: Freelancing forces you to stay on top of things. Relationships, editorial calendars, pitches, etc. It's easy to fall off an editor's radar if you don't maintain communication. You also really have to want it with freelancing. Freelancing doesn't just happen. It happens because you work hard at it. Ghostwriting is a different beast than freelancing. It comes with no byline and it really forces you to write outside the box. You typically don't get any credit with ghostwriting. Someone else gets it and you have to be OK with that.

ProfNet: Do you have any recommendations for someone who wants to get involved in ghostwriting?

CC: Tough question. My best recommendation is to write. A lot. For as much as will be allowed. Once you develop a voice and style, your writing will take on a strength of its own. That's what prospective clients will read. Also, join different organizations to stay in contact with other writers. That kind of networking will be invaluable.

Christine Cube is a media relations manager with PR Newswire and freelance writer. You can follow her @cpcube or see what's happening over @PRN4Bloggers.


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