By Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk
Published in AccountingToday, August 16, 2012
by Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk, president
A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled An Argument for Original Content that explained why I think investing in original content can be very valuable for your firm. Some of the biggest arguments against this tactic are skill and time. Professional services providers are not usually writers, and even those with great writing skills often don’t have the time to dedicate to creating original articles or blog posts. When time is literally money, you have to pay careful attention to how you spend that time. And since most ghostwriters bill at a lower hourly rate than your average attorney, CPA or engineer, it makes sense to have someone else help with the task.
Here’s where ghostwriters come in. Yes, you can pay people to write on your behalf. You can then put your name on their creations and claim them as your own. There’s nothing unethical about the practice, either. While in high school and college this was called cheating, in business it’s as common as mosquitos on a summer evening. It’s not an admission that you’re a lousy writer – it’s just a sign that you can do the time/money math. And guess what? Lots of people are doing it. It’s happening all around you! Most won’t let on that the incredibly insightful article that got picked up by an industry publication was not their own, and that’s their right. They paid for it. Those wonderful blog posts, articles and even Facebook posts and tweets you see on your colleagues’ and competitors’ sites are being created by people paid to do so.
So, you are reluctantly thinking about giving it a shot, right? You see the value in content marketing and would like to take advantage of it for your firm. You are slowly becoming comfortable with the idea of having someone write for you, but have no idea how to go about finding a writer who is a fit. Never fear, I am here with some ideas and suggestions on how to find a great ghostwriter, one that will be able to meet your needs and more. A good ghostwriter:
Writes well. Really, this is the most important thing in your search. Make sure your writer can indeed write. There are a lot of people out there claiming to be writers, but many do not write at the level and complexity you may need. Ask for samples of their writing and read them carefully. Ask for references too. The challenge with this is that much of what a ghostwriter does can’t be shared publicly. (At one point a few years ago, I was writing 10 blog posts a week, none of which I could share with anyone!) Most people who hire ghostwriters don’t want others to know that fact, and therefore the writer may not have many samples that she can share. But she must have something. And she must have a few clients that wouldn’t mind giving a reference on a selected basis. If she can’t show you anything at all, move on.
Understands your industry. This is often overlooked in the interview process, and I think it is vitally important. Look for someone who has at least a passing knowledge of what you do. If you are a CPA, your writer doesn’t need to be a CPA too. But she does need to know that CPAs do a lot more than prepare tax returns and understand what certain industry terms mean. See if she can intelligently converse about some easier tax and audit issues. And if something isn’t clear, she should not be shy about asking you to clarify what you mean. She may not be writing in-depth research papers, but she should have a working knowledge of your industry (or at least have the ability to fake it immediately and pick it up quickly).
Can find, understand and write for your voice. If all the samples your ghostwriter provided sound the same, you may have a problem. The real talent of a good ghostwriter is to be able to write like you. Readers who have read your original content shouldn’t notice much difference in ghostwritten content if it’s done correctly. It will take time and practice to get exactly where you want, but your writer should take the time to get to know you to learn your personality, your voice. So expect to answer a lot of questions, show samples of your writing and go through a few rounds of edits on the first several articles. But a good writer will get there fairly quickly and soon you’ll have very few changes per draft.
Clearly explains process, schedule and fees. Ghostwriting is like any other service and your writer should share what you can expect. How long does a typical article take to turn around? Does she charge by the hour or by the piece? What does she expect from you as far as input? Can you expect her to send you ideas too? Discuss everything thoroughly until you are comfortable, and then put it in writing. This is a business relationship like any other, so if there’s any vagueness in the answers you get, I’d be nervous.
Is someone you like and trust. At the end of the day, most of us choose service providers that we like and this case is no different. You will probably be spending a good deal of time with this person, and sharing a secret with her as well. Do your best to find someone you wouldn’t mind having a beer with on a weekend, someone personable and likable. If you want to keep your secret, you should also look for someone you can trust to hide your identity. In some cases, writing for others is a thankless job. Good writers will create amazing prose and compelling articles and they can’t share them with anyone. That’s not your problem. Your challenge is finding someone who is comfortable with the arrangement and won’t “out” you down the road.
It can be challenging to find a good ghostwriter who meets all of these qualifications, but I encourage you to perform your due diligence. Finding someone you’re comfortable with will pay off in saved time, money and worry in the future. We offer this service at bbr marketing, and if you’re interested in learning more, we’d be happy to discuss your options and see if we are a good fit for your needs.
I’d love to hear your good and bad stories about hiring and working with ghostwriters. Of course that involves an admission of using them….