Being a ghostwriter comes with a lot of perks. You get to take on fun projects you’d never land on your own. You get to laugh to yourself when you see someone compliment your client’s writing online. And if the content you wrote brings out the internet trolls, it’s your client that takes the heat – not you.
There are downsides, though. The biggest is how difficult it can be to build a proper portfolio. Applying to jobs by saying, “But, trust me, I’ve written really great stuff – I just can’t show you!” isn’t going to get you anywhere. Here’s what you can do instead:
Tip #1 – Publish your content on your own websites
Clients want to see live links, because that shows them that you don’t just know how to write – you get what works online as well.
So if you can’t show off the work you’ve written for your clients, find a place to publish your own content samples. Typically, this is done through a writer website, but you can also use any of the portfolio websites out there (Contently and Squarespace are two great options).
Another perk to publishing your own content is that you can use this as an opportunity to show off work in a specialization you’d like to be involved in. For instance, if you want to get into health and fitness writing, but can’t seem to get clients in this field on your own, use your writer website or portfolio to publish the best damn health and fitness content you can come up with.
Clients will take notice.
Tip #2 – Publish guest articles on other websites under your name
Another great way to get your name out there is to publish guest articles on other peoples’ websites under your byline.
I do this with sites like Entrepreneur.com, Content Marketing Institute and Hubspot, but you’ll want to choose sites where your target clients hang out. This is important – don’t just publish anywhere, and don’t publish on sites about freelance writing. You aren’t trying to get freelance writing experts to hire you – you’re trying to get the attention of experts in the industry you want to write on.
Oh, and it should go without saying, but the higher tier site, the better, both in terms of visibility and the SEO benefit to your website. One contribution to Entrepreneur is worth a dozen to a site nobody’s ever heard of.
Tip #3 – Include a provision in your contracts for samples or recommendations
Do not ever, ever, ever, compromise the confidentiality of the clients you ghostwrite for. Word gets around. Nobody wants to work with the writer that’s going to claim credit for their content.
But, one thing you can do is to negotiate with them to either include a small sample of your writing in your portfolio or to give you a personal recommendation when asked (typically, with a provision that you’ll only share these assets with potential clients who are looking to hire you).
I did this on the first traditionally published book I ever ghostwrote. Not only did I get a mention in the book’s Acknowledgements section, I reserved the write to use a 5-page sample of the content in my portfolio (with the client’s permission, of course).
Ultimately, if you’re good enough at what you do, the question of how you’ll build a portfolio is largely irrelevant: you’ll grow your business primarily through word-of-mouth referrals. However, until you’ve reached the point where you’re working steadily with good clients, the tips above will help you create a compelling enough body of work that you can apply successfully to new jobs – without compromising your clients’ confidentiality.
Got another tip to add to this list? Leave me a note in the comments below with your thoughts: