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How to Handle a One-off Ghostwriting Request

Updated on March 21st, 2023

Whether you seek out these opportunities or not, they will likely come to you. As a freelance writer, having people ask you to do this is exciting. They are basically saying, “You write as well as I do.  Perhaps better.  I trust you to write this as well as I could.” Being asked to ghostwrite is a compliment.

Ghostwriting is a sensitive subject. If you won’t be receiving a byline or really any recognition, you’re pretty much doing it just for the money. Or to help someone out. I’ve had people approach me wanting something written because they were just too swamped that week. When a writing friend is in a sticky situation, I’m always willing to help ease the burden. Relationships are important. And it’s important to look at your fellow writers as colleagues instead of competition. Have a mentality of abundance rather than of scarcity. Don’t hope the person will fail to meet a deadline and maybe the client will hire you instead.

Sometimes you will be approached to write a one-off piece for an executive that’ll be published on a major news website. It’s not that the CEO of ‘xyz’ company isn’t capable. They may just be too busy that week. Accepting a gig like this is wise because it could lead to future opportunities. If the CEO likes the way you write, they may keep coming back to you. You never know. Pretty soon you could be helping to write their autobiography. Imagine… being able to help write the autobiography of a powerful CEO. What would be exciting is being able to hear their stories firsthand. Having 1:1 time with a person of power is always inspiring.

These are the two most common types of one-off freelance writing requests you’ll receive: from friends and Fortune companies. The method for handling them is similar. There’s nothing too complicated to remember. Just know it’s all about privacy.

When in doubt, don’t say anything. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. But always direct questions to the person who has been talking to you about the project. You may want to ask whether or not you can tell future clients that you ghostwrote for a certain person or that you were essentially featured in a certain publication.

If getting more than money is important to you (probably) let them know. Let them know that more that money motivates you. Basically tell them that they can save money by letting you talk a little about the job. If it’s a large job, get everything in writing about what you can and cannot say.

Keep invoicing discreet. Invoices can quickly get passed around an organization. Don’t include anything about it being a ghostwriting project. Keep project titles quiet. Just make all information look like a normal outsourced article. For invoicing resources for ghostwriters, read this article on the subject.

One thing I like to do is submit assignments via Google Docs. When doing this, you need to be careful about the document’s revision history. It’s easy to roll back the document and see who’s been editing. Copy/paste into a new article if privacy is a concern.

[Related: Proper Ghostwriting Etiquette]

Final Thoughts

Do not cheat. Make sure all parties involved are okay that you are writing on behalf of someone else. For most assignments, this won’t be a big deal. But if you ever feel weird about a project, you can always decline. Saying ‘no’ is always okay. But overall, enjoy ghostwriting! Yes, it comes with more considerations than writing with a byline. And being an unsung hero can sometimes feel hollow. But the pay is usually really good and you’ll always know you contributed. Enjoy your one-off ghostwriting requests!

For information about ghostwriting in the big leagues, read this piece.

William Lipovsky

William Lipovsky

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. He began investing when he was 10 years old. His financial works have been published on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and many others.

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