A Funny Story about Ghostwriting Versus Freelance Writing

I just finished an exciting writing project for a new client who found me on LinkedIn.

The type of work was right up my alley, because it was fully collaborative, and I got to interview some extremely interesting c-suite execs in preparation for the article.

Although the article itself was not difficult to write, the prep work was monstrous. It took two weeks of back and forth to get me in touch with interviewees, then do the interviews, collate all the data, and finally write the article.

The client (whom I cannot name) was also a pleasure to work with — easygoing and on the ball, assisting me in every way possible to make this article really shine.

“Hey, Paulo, we actually hired another writer as well — but we’re sticking with you now.”

We had embarked on this project as a test-run. We were going to do a feature article, and some content around the article (ads, newsletter, some other elements I can’t talk about) and see how we worked together.

Well, when he said “test-run”, it seems he really meant it! I finished the project today, and while going over some last-minute points about it on the phone, he said to me, “Paulo, uh, listen, so we actually hired another writer to do a different article because that’s how I operate — I test things. Well … we’re going to stick with you.”

According to one of my client’s colleagues, the work I did, compared to this other writer’s work, was “night and day”.

“The article the other guy wrote wasn’t bad,” my client said. “It just wasn’t…”

He didn’t need to finish. My approach to writing is one of a ghostwriter, not that of a “freelance writer”, in today’s understanding of the word.

Ghostwriting and freelance writing just aren’t the same thing.

I’ve covered the difference between ghostwriters and freelance writers extensively before.

And this does not mean the other writer’s work was bad!

No, in fact, I’m quite confident the other writer did a stellar job. But it all comes down to a difference in style.

Ghostwriting and freelance writing just aren’t the same thing.

My goal is business relationships — that takes work

It’s impossible for me to offer a “price list” to potential clients because my business model is built entirely on:

  • Understanding my client’s needs completely
  • Working out the best possible way to deliver content that will match those needs
  • Doing everything possible to ensure my content will give my client a return on investment

If my work results in higher profits for my client, I’ll get repeat business.

The gig economy has poisoned quality of service. It’s all about how fast someone can churn out bland copy because they simply can’t afford to offer anything better.

Don’t get me wrong, freelance sites have some excellent writers on them, but the very structure of the gig system makes it impossible for anybody on there to really churn out spectacular content on a regular basis.

If my work results in higher profits for my client, I’ll get repeat business.

You won’t find the real pros on freelance sites — people who earn a decent living as a writer because they’ve taken the plunge into running a business and doing all the necessary work to keep that business alive.

A difference in goals

My goal on every project is my client’s goal. Too many writers think their goal is “a written article”.

Well, sure, the article has to be written in a way that it’s easy to understand, and it has to be interesting.

But those are writing goals; that’s not the client’s goal.

The goal for this particular project was not search engine traffic, nor was it mere brand awareness — those are relatively easy articles to write.

The goal of this project related to having businesses invest in a major change to their operating structure (I know that’s vague but ghostwriting means you can’t talk about too many things out in the open). It was something that would take months of preparation to do — and the article was supposed to be the seed for that decision.

In other words, this article had to sing.

Well, from the get-go I went into the project with that in mind. I did the best possible job I could, and I guess the job was at least good enough for it to land me a second project with the same client.

The best ghostwriting projects result in something not too far distanced from art itself.

Having that mentality results in an entirely different approach to writing an article. It’s also more costly because the prep work is phenomenally difficult to pull off. I told the client this from the outset.

This is one of the reasons my ghostwriting pricing varies so much from project to project.

I prefer having a few, regular clients to the rut of endless gigs that do nothing for the future of my business. Not only is gig-work exhausting, but it also isn’t very rewarding.

The best ghostwriting projects result in something not too far distanced from art itself.