Whenever I meet someone new, the inevitable question of what I do for a living comes up. It’s a question I’ve had a hard time answering succinctly. Am I a marketing consultant? A writer? A journalist? If you peruse my list of offerings to clients, you’ll see that the answer is “all of the above.”
Sometimes I mention in these conversations that I spend a lot of time ghostwriting articles for executives. For many, this is a completely alien concept. The average person might be vaguely aware that famous celebrities and businessmen don’t actually write their own books, but they generally assume that if a blog post or article has someone’s name on it, then it was actually written by that person.
But that’s often not the case. Ghostwriters are more common than you’d think, and they serve an important role in creating engaging thought leadership content that people will want to actually share and read. Articles I’ve ghostwritten for clients have ended up in company blogs and newsletters, as well as professional outlets like National Geographic, Forbes, Fast Company, and Huffington Post. These articles have been read by millions of people and helped elevate the brands of the companies and executives I write for.
So why do these clients hire me to write their content when, hypothetically, they could just write it themselves? Three reasons:
Executives are busy
Whenever I’m sitting down with a CEO for the first time to discuss a writing project, it’s not uncommon for them to confess to me that they were always planning on writing the pieces themselves, but they could just never get around to finishing them. Often, they have a Google Doc full of ideas and half-finished articles.
This is perfectly understandable. As a C-suite executive, they have a million different responsibilities, almost all of which take priority over writing content. In fact, I would go so far as to say that taking part of their day to craft an 800-word article is not a very efficient use of their time. It’s much easier for them to just spend a half hour on the phone with a ghostwriter and then allow that person to put in the hours expanding that conversation into a fleshed-out piece.
They don’t have experience writing for a mass audience
At this point in my career, I’ve written hundreds of articles that have been shared by thousands of people and read by millions more. In terms of knowing how to craft content so it’s optimized to be read and shared, most executives just can’t match up to my level of expertise.
A company executive might be good at crafting an email or memo, but generating a successful hook that pulls a reader in and keeps them engaged throughout an entire piece is an art form unto itself. It’s actually incredibly difficult to write an article that maintains a consistent thesis until the very end; often, when these executives try to write their own articles, they’re full of tangents, non-sequiturs, and superfluous material.
They need an editor
Speaking of which, sometimes these executives do approach me with a first draft already written. In these scenarios, they’re looking for editing guidance, someone to work their way through the document, identify weaknesses, and massage it into something that’s more readable.
Sometimes these drafts need a few tweaks — a change in wording here, a fixed typo there. But it’s often the case that I have to roll up my sleeves and really rework the copy until it reads smoothly. And that’s OK! Because as I mentioned, these executives aren’t professional writers, and while they have plenty of good ideas and expertise to share with the world, they also need someone to help translate these ideas into copy that people will actually want to read.
It typically takes me about six hours to brainstorm, research, write, and edit a 1,000-word article. If an executive wants to publish four articles per month, then that’s at least 24 hours of their time that I’m helping to free up. That’s valuable time they can spend attending to issues that actually leverage their core expertise. Why waste time performing a task when you can outsource it to someone who can do a much better job?
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