Throw Off the Sheet: Why ghostwriters need a personal platform


Throw Off the Sheet_ Ghostwriter Platform Building

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash


If you’re a ghostwriter in any niche, the two hardest aspects of maintaining your business are building a portfolio and establishing credibility. The two go hand-in-hand somewhat, and I have already covered How to Craft a Ghostwriter Portfolio, but there is another way you can stand out to potential clients. You may not be able to reveal your involvement in all the projects you work on, but you can still establish yourself as an expert by remembering to focus on your own work, not just client work.

Why Publishing In Your Own Name Matters

After the birth of my daughter in April, I took a maternity leave from client work. At the end of June, I started putting myself back out there, but after stopping cold turkey, it took a while to get clients coming back to me. In the interim, I got to thinking. I hadn’t worked on my own fiction in ages. My beta reader had finished with my manuscript months before. I had also stopped working on the novel I started during NaNoWriMo. I hadn’t submitted short stories to journals in even longer.

The problem with that? If you’re not producing relevant work under your own name, you are holding your career back. Filling your agenda with lots of client work is great, and if you take some extra steps to ensure you can use those jobs to some degree in your portfolio, that’s even better, but there are still limitations to what ghostwriting gigs can do for your credibility in your niche.

For example, if I want to take my career to the next level and land larger projects from clients with better budgets, I need to say, “Yes,” when clients ask me if I’ve published a book. It would be best if I could say yes to both traditional and self-publishing. That shows my clients that I both understand the publishing process and that my writing is publishing-worthy. I’ve worked on over a dozen manuscripts (fiction and nonfiction) as a ghostwriter, and many have received great ratings on Amazon and Goodreads. But my name is nowhere on them. I’ve read numerous books on publishing, but that’s not as strong a proof as actually being published. I have three books with my name on them, but one is only digital and the other two were technically ghostwritten. I don’t own the copyrights to those last two books. I just wrote them, delivered the raw manuscript, and the company took the reins from there.

That’s all great, but I can do better. And if you’ve been putting off getting work published under your own name, so can you.

Treat Your Work Like Client Work

It’s easy to fall into the mentality that client work is paid work, and thus it is more important. Yes, you should prioritize your client work because there are other people relying on you and paying for your services, but that doesn’t mean your own writing isn’t equally important. Making your personal writing a part of your daily routine will lead to better client work down the road.

So how do you do that? Here are some things I’ve done for the last month. Thanks to these small steps, I’ve written two new short stories, started an author site, completed a chapter in my new novel, and I’ve got less than 100 pages left to revise in my completed 400-page novel.

Tip #1: Create a Schedule

You probably already maintain some form of weekly list or schedule for your client work. Either add your personal work to that list, or create a whole new schedule for it. Decide when you will work on it. Weekends? Evenings? After you’ve completed your client work for the day? Will you wake up an hour earlier to get it done?

I personally suggest inserting it into your weekday routine. I tried the weekend-only routine for a while, but for me, two days a week doesn’t allow me to create a habit, and I would get caught up in fun weekend activities and put off my writing.

(You can read more tips on scheduling and time management in A Freelance Time Management Guide That Doesn’t Suck)

Tip #2: Enhance Your Platform

Every week, make sure you take one step toward enhancing your own presence in the writing community. Start a website. Create a post on your author blog. Enhance your Twitter presence as an author. These are probably things you do each week to keep your ghostwriting business running, but you’re doing them from the angle of a freelancer. Start an author page and author social media profiles to draw new readers to your own fiction. Platform is vital in the publishing world today.

(You can read more about the importance of an author platform in Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing)

(If you’re interested in my author site, where I post short stories, literary analyses on books and movies, and reflections on the craft of fiction writing, click here.)

Tip #3: Constant Creation

I challenge you to create a brand new writing project for yourself every week. I suggest something short form. This will vary based on your chosen niche. For me, I’ve challenged myself to write a new short story every week. Are they all going to be gems? No. But it helps me stretch my writing muscles and keeps my creativity high. My main goals are still to publish novels in hard copy form under my own name, and I have two in the works. But adding this short story challenge has already forced me out of my comfort zone and has given me one story I’m very proud of, which I’ll be posting on my author site.

To help me maintain this challenge, I’m subscribed to a newsletter with writing prompts and I’m taking a free MOOC course from the University of Iowa. I’m also posting my own writing prompts on my author site.

Keep Up With Your Industry

The biggest challenge ghostwriters face is standing out when they work behind the curtains. Taking the time to absorb industry knowledge is one of the best ways to make yourself more valuable to your clients. Your knowledge will show through in your proposals and pitches, and it will make you more attractive than your competition.

I have always done this to a degree. I read books on freelancing and specialized writing techniques on a semi-regular basis. I participate in groups where both my fellow freelancers and potential clients interact. However, books are a long-form medium that can easily get out of date in a fast-moving industry. Don’t get me wrong, books are wonderful teachers (some of the best), but if you want to stay on top of industry trends, short-form media is a great asset.

I am subscribed to various newsletters and blogs that cover traditional publishing, self-publishing, literary agents, etc., but I rarely take the time to do more than skim them. I’m vowing to change that. Starting this week, I’m dedicating weekends to reading all of the great newsletters I receive in full. Now, that may mean letting go of one or two in favor of the most helpful, but I am going to fully absorb those I keep.

I challenge you to do the same. Find at least one book, one blog, and one newsletter to subscribe to in your industry, and make it a point to learn from them each week.

Expand your horizons, never stop reading, and make your author voice known. Your ghostwriting career will be better for it.

4 thoughts on “Throw Off the Sheet: Why ghostwriters need a personal platform

  1. ed smith says:

    Hannah, thank you for all the tips and resources you make available. I don’t know how you have the time. One place for ghostwriters to publish their short pieces is on Medium. You can post on your own account or, better, in one of their publications, some of which have thousands of followers. Ideal for pieces in the 500 to 2000 word range. Potential clients can then visit your Medium page and see samples. You can publish fiction as well.

    • IJustWanttoWrite says:

      Ed, I’m so glad you enjoy my posts. I have only very recently begun to get into Medium. I have heard about it for a long time, but only very recently made a profile in order to enter a short story contest held by Reedsy on the site. I would love to get more involved, but with a three-month-old, two blogs, and a business, I haven’t had time to dedicate to it. Thank you for bringing it up here in the comments so that others can hear about it. I may add it to my resources page when I get the chance. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

  2. Mel says:

    Hi Hannah, are you able to share what are some of the newsletters and blogs you mentioned that cover traditional publishing, self-publishing, literary agents, etc? Thanks!

    • IJustWanttoWrite says:

      Sure, Mel! To name a few, the blog and newsletter (writing, editing, publishing), Publisher’s Marketplace’s Publisher’s Lunch Deluxe newsletter (traditional publishing), and Mark Malatesta’s mailing list (literary agents).

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