Congratulations! You have chosen ghostwriting as your freelance writing niche.
You recognize the many perks to this area of specialization, including the opportunity to learn about topics you never would have thought about, the ability to author books and other pieces while remaining in peaceful obscurity (not everyone wants to be famous), and the sizable income that’s possible to achieve as your career progresses.
How are you supposed to demonstrate your writing experience if you are a ghostwriter?
There’s only one problem.
As a ghostwriter, you have taken an oath (implicit or otherwise) to renounce all credit to your literary masterpieces. It’s incumbent upon you to respect that oath, regardless of how hard it is to get your name out there.
So how are you supposed to demonstrate your writing experience if you can’t even directly use it in your portfolio?
The challenge to build credibility is a reality for many freelance writers, but it can be even more prominent for ghostwriters.
Fortunately, there are several ways to prove your experience and capabilities that don’t involve breaking the law to help you create a ghostwriting portfolio. We’ll take a look at 4 of those ways in this article.
4 Ways to Create a Ghostwriting Portfolio
1. Feature Testimonials on Your Website
I don’t know about you, but when I shop on Amazon, I’m more likely to choose the product with 200 positive reviews than the one with 3 reviews, even if they both have the same overall rating.
There’s something about seeing a slew of optimistic opinions that coerces me into pulling out my credit card, even if those opinions are from complete strangers.
Call me gullible, but I’m not alone in this. In fact, 50% of Americans claim that if they could only choose one source of advertising information, it would be word of mouth.
This is just one of many statistics that prove how powerful word of mouth advertising is.
This phenomenon is called social proof, a term first introduced by author Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence. It expresses the idea that groups and individuals will conform their behavior to match popular opinion in a given situation.
With this in mind, ghostwriters will do well to grow and maintain a catalog of testimonials, which are an invaluable form of social proof.
Testimonials validate your legitimacy as a writer and inspire confidence in prospective clients by demonstrating that others before them have trusted you and come out okay.
Don’t leave collecting these testimonials to chance though, because even satisfied clients will not necessarily volunteer them. Once you have completed a project, send an email asking for a review to feature on your writer’s website.
You can even put a (polite) clause in your contracts stating that, provided the completed work is satisfactory, a testimonial is part of your required compensation. That may seem aggressive, but it’s not an uncommon strategy.
An excerpt is a small piece of text extracted from a body of written work. For example, you might take a few tiny, obscure paragraphs from a book or scientific paper you have written for someone and display them in your portfolio.
There are a couple of important things to note about this.
First, it is crucial to do this ethically; be upfront about it and do not go behind your client’s back.
The permission to use excerpts is another one of those areas that you want to need to state very explicitly in your contracts. At the very least, have that discussion and get it in writing, even if it’s just an email.
Make sure to assuage any fears they may have by explaining what information you will use and how you will use it.
Second, take only enough text that will give potential clients a taste of what you can do, without depriving your current clients of their profits. It should be possible to accomplish this with only be a few paragraphs at the most, though it depends on the size and complexity of the completed work, as well as your client’s comfort level.
2. Use Test Articles as Samples
We all know the drill as freelance writers: in many cases, a prospective client will ask you to produce something short and free of charge so they can gauge whether you have what it takes to write for them.
While this can be a pain, it’s understandable on their part; they want to assess your abilities while managing their risk. But you can use this to your advantage as well.
As long as it is merely for test purposes (and not to be published on the potential client’s website for example), you can accumulate these pieces to show future prospects.
However, even though there shouldn’t be any problem with this, you should still be upfront about it with anyone that asks you for a free test article. Freelancing can be shaky ground, so the more forthcoming you are about your business practices, the more you will keep out of any potential trouble.
3. Blog About Ghostwriting
Start a blog to showcase your aptitude as a ghostwriter.
You can provide advice for people who are in the same boat as you while weaving in your personal experience (without revealing confidential information of course). Here are some topic ideas to include in your blog:
- Why Ghostwriting Is an Awesome Career
- How to Set Your Rates as a Ghostwriter
- How to Protect Yourself Legally
- 8 Things to Do in Your First Month as a Ghostwriter
- How to Adapt Your Writing Voice to Suit Your Client
- 5 Books to Read to Boost Your Ghostwriting Skills
Remember how we talked about social proof?
Encouraging healthy discussions in the comment section is a great way to build credibility as well. Answering people’s questions will further demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.
Furthermore, an active comment section shows that you know how to engage an audience, a paramount skill for any writer.
Running a blog is a lot of work, so be prepared for the commitment required. If you don’t want to do that, guest post on someone else’s writing blog.
For example, Make A Living Writing accepts guest posts to aid professional writers in their journeys.
To find similar sites, Google variations of the term “Ghostwriting+Write for Us.”
4. Beef Up Your LinkedIn Description
If you’re not on LinkedIn, create a profile as soon as you’re done reading this article. It’s one of the most important platforms to leverage as a professional ghostwriter.
The first thing you want to do is title yourself as a ghostwriter. Avoid simply calling yourself a generic freelance writer so that you can make what you do blatantly obvious. Then, as you complete projects, update your experience description.
For example, talk about the skills and knowledge areas you are cultivating. This is also the perfect place to share articles you have written or post regularly about other relevant information for ghostwriters.
Just make sure that you use generic terms when you describe your experience; avoid using client names or conspicuous details about work you’ve done.
So there you have it. Four simple ways that you can show off your skills without violating the confidentiality requirements that come with the profession.
Go ahead and pick one to implement today.
Over to you – are you a ghostwriter? How do you show your credibility as a ghostwriter?