I have been ghost writing for a long time. I enjoy it to some degree, telling other people’s stories but I have to admit, there have been times when it’s bitten me on the keyster. Early on, before I knew better, I didn’t work with contracts and I would find myself in for more work for less pay. (or no pay at all) Or I would find myself 6 months in and the client suddenly deciding they have changed their mind and walking way. (or deciding after watching me for 6 months that they can just do it themselves…I love that one) Needless to say I have learned a lot of lessons the hard way. If you aren’t careful and you do it incorrectly, you could find yourself a moneyless zombie – tripping through the motions, broken because your self-worth is gone with the phrase, “I’m not paying you” – instead of the lucrative ghost writer you should be.
Whether you ghost novels or articles, there are some things to keep in mind if you are to make a living at it. I find it interesting that currently there are a lot of internet companies cropping up that claim they can keep you knee deep in ghosting jobs and for actual pay. Be careful of these folks…a lot of the time they end up with part of the money that you worked for and that’s not always okay. I mean if you are doing the work, why should others get the cash?
I’ve decided to share some of what I have learned over the years when it comes to ghost writing because I see so many of these services. Maybe, I can save you some grief…or at least save the lives of those scam artists out there that you will trip across. (And trust me; there will be times when you will want to kill some of them)
Use a Contract – This is rule number one. How do I know that? Because I have been burned like an effigy of Roman Polanski at a Back to School night. (I’m wondering how many of you got that now) Even well-meaning clients often get screwy when money is involved. Working without a contract is literally standing on the highway in your underwear, you are asking to get hit and it won’t be pretty when it happens. Set up a basic contract and then ask other writers about their experience. It is a learn-as-you-go process but learn you must.
Allow yourself time – We writers have a sense of urgency about darn near everything. Because of this sense of urgency we tend to promise things before its possible…I know…I do it all the time. (1200 word article that I have to research by noon? Sure……) When you are ghosting you have to allow time for research, interviews and then the actual writing followed by edits….you are going to spend some time so give it to yourself in the contract.
Outline the WHOLE process – One mistake I made early on was not outlining the process from start to finish. I worked with a client once who was so able to take advantage of me, I lost my shorts. There is an interview process, the outline, the first draft, the second draft and the final edits and the final draft. These are all very time consuming, make sure you lay it all out or your client will think you are conning them when you say, “no this is only the draft copy”. I know, I’ve been there and it was a $2000 mistake thank you very much.
Define the terms – I can’t stress this one enough. Most of your clients will be non-writers so they will not understand the basic of terms. Define for them (IN THE CONTRACT) what a first draft is and includes, what the edits are, what the final draft is…if you don’t they will look at you half way through and question what you are doing. Remember money is involved and money makes people stupid. (Seriously)
Put any addendums to the contract in writing – AND you both sign them. No matter how much we love this thing we do, it is a business at the point where we are doing it for other people. You have to treat it like a business because, (have I mentioned) money is involved. The only way to legally hold the client to the terms is to have them spelled out. If half way through the project you redefine what the project is, put it in writing. If the client offers you more money, put it in writing. If a box of Twinkies a week becomes part of the deal, put it in writing. PROTECT yourself….
Ghost writing can be a lot of fun and it can be lucrative, but it can also be a mine field. You have to protect your own interest no matter how creepy it feels. (and I do think that the business part can feel creepy at times) If you don’t think that you can take care of the business side, get someone else, who you trust, to do it for you. There is money to be made ghosting but unless you want that money to be of the ghostly nature too, dot all your i’s and cross all your t’s. In the spirit (ha ha) of the month of October (my fav by the way) there is nothing scarier than working your behind off and not having a ghost of a chance of getting paid….(hee hee) Get out those contracts and protect yourself, your money and ultimately your sense of self.
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