I’m Never Going to Ghostwrite Again

For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to break into freelance writing, in whatever pauses I can find between newborn wailing and toddler shenanigans.

Thing is, I’ve actually gotten some traction. Looking across the web, I can find many of my published articles. They cover everything from comedy to the Aurora Borealis and real estate.

And none of them have my name on them.

They’re all supposedly written by men like Tony or Alan. Despite being word-for-word culminations of my hours of research and painstaking creativity, I have no right to claim them as my own.

No way to use them on a resume.

Sure, I was paid, but I made no connections and received neither credit nor referrals, even when the same folks used me time and time again. These guys didn’t even have rough ideas for me to shape–they just handed me a topic and left me to cobble out something entertaining.

These articles were publishable, yet I can’t use them as examples of my skill or style. It’s like having a successful job that brings in income but can never be reported in your work history.

Ghostwriting is legal and common but somehow feels like it shouldn’t be. What other jobs can’t you report on your resume?

People claim creative skills they’ve never had. What if they get hired someday for work I actually did?

I knew these terms when I agreed to them, so I only have myself to blame. Yet I can’t help feeling somewhat robbed.

And I won’t be doing it ever again.

30 Comments

  1. You can use them as examples for future clients can’t you? Maybe not. But I feel you. I’ve considered getting into freelancing, but I’m much more comfortable with trying to build an author platform for this very reason. Even if it doesn’t earn me a cent for awhile, it’s something that can never be taken away from me.

    I wish you all the best in your writing endeavors!

    -JM

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well I could try, but they have other authors’ names on them. Seems like it’s my word against theirs’ and while I could pull up evidence of our transactions, it seems too convoluted. Most people seem to think it isn’t a good idea to report ghostwriting, though I have trouble understanding why I shouldn’t use excerpts for examples.

      Yes, with blogging you get name recognition and ownership without the cash (at least at first). Seems better in the long run.

      Hitting that angle as well, though I’m going to look in earnest for credited work on the side.

      Thank you and good luck to you as well

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You think? I’ve heard that you shouldn’t, but I can’t see why not. As long as I’m not “reselling” the work.

      It would be helpful, at any rate.

      Like

  2. I personally have no experience with ghostwriting, and based on your summary, I’d never like to. I can certainly see how unsavory this is, especially for the party left short-handed (that would be you, my dear).
    I wish you every bit of good luck with freelance. Naturally, traction is to be encountered, but you are in the best hands possible … your own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really does seem unsavory, doesn’t it? Even though it’s legal, I feel a little dirty about having done it.

      At least when an author ghostwrites someone’s biography, you get a byline that says something like, “as told to Person X.” Then at least everyone knows what’s going on.

      Here, I just see my articles with another person’s name on them. It feels like cheating… what’s to stop people from paying for a bunch of creative work they then slap onto resumes?

      Ugh. No more.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Very true. There’s no way to know what’s happening behind closed doors, so we’re left to refuse participation ourselves.

          Makes me wonder how presidential speechwriters feel about seeing their words all over statues and textbooks…

          Speechwriter: Yeah, that “Nothing to fear but fear itself” thing? I wrote that.

          HR Guy: Well, I think the beauty was really in its delivery.

          Speechwriter: Grrr…

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Ben! I’m really touched 🙂

      I hope so. I just have to figure out how to crack this thing. Think positive, right? (I say to the man dedicating a blog to bitterness, haha). I love reading your stuff too.

      Like

    1. Argh, I feel for you… You put all this time, effort and creativity into those articles. They were accepted and published, yet no one knows it’s you. There must be a mixture of pride and great frustration

      Like

        1. Good to know! It’s rough because it’s tough work to break into and when you don’t have much on a resume yet… Well, getting paid to write all all seems attractive.

          But then you have all this work under your belt you can’t use. You say it set you back, so this reinforces that it isn’t a good idea.

          Like

  3. This is actually something I’ve struggled with myself. I’ve been freelancing fir going on 4 years now & have hundreds of articles & posts out there with someone else’s name getting credit. It only started to bother me when I became confident enough to claim “responsibilty” for the work. Now I ask for bylines & often get them. I still do some ghostwriting but have a good blend to give me a nice portfolio & income too. Just ask. You may be surprised at the answer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hundreds, wow!

      That’s good advice. I will try to negotiate a byline from now on. It’s such a Catch-22, trying to find work with little on your resume, then completing work without being able to put in on your resume.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I must clarify. ..I started out my freelance writing career working for a content mill. I honestly wasn’t sure how to break into the business & it gave me the confidence to seek out my own clients & bylines. Good luck to you! Look forward to seeing your name on many great posts.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I think many of us have and are trying to figure out the next step, haha.

          Thank you! I’m inspired by your move into actual bylines and am gathering my strength to trudge on. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Erin,

    It sounds like you need to both build up your own blog (which will help with future work) and keep up anonymous ghoswriting (to pay the bills).

    I’ve only ghostwritten a couple of books and they bear no mention of my name, but I do use them when I want to showcase my skills. Specifically, I send an excerpt and a brief book blurb, with no actual mention of the book’s title or Amazon link. That way I respect my client’s wish that the books are seen as her own work, while retaining the ability to drum up some extra work.

    BTW, this is why I urge guest bloggers hosted on my blog to sign their work and even send me a photo and contact links (you can check out what I mean on http://nicholasrossis.me/category/my-friends-guest-posts/ ).

    If you’d ever like me to host a guest post on your experience ghostwriting, I’d be happy to do so. As this post was published last March, I hope that things have improved in the meantime 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Nicholas! Thank you for all the feedback and for your suggestions on how to use ghostwriting experience on your resume. It definitely helps. 🙂

      I appreciate that your give your guest writers credit, as well. I’ve obviously been frustrated by the need to build a resume to snag better work while simultaneously doing a great deal of uncredited work…

      I’d love for you to host a guest post on the topic! I did write about it quite a while back, but it generated some interest. I imagine many bloggers and blog readers struggle to break into writing.

      Liked by 1 person

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