Ghostwriters from the Inside Out by Michael Rasmussen and Jason Tarasi - HTML preview
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Finding a Ghostwriter
Ghostwriter is not normally a title you will see advertised, nor can you generally look up “ghostwriter” in your local yellow pages. Chances are also that if you have friends or colleagues who use ghostwriters, first, they may be reluctant to admit it, and second, they generally won’t pass the person along to you, because he or she is their secret weapon.
Certainly if you have friends or associates who rave about a reliable ghostwriter, you can start there, but we’re assuming for most of you that isn’t the case so we need to think about where to go to get started.
Fundamentally ghostwriting is just a form of freelance writing. It may be a more advanced and valuable form, but most ghosting is done by professional or parttime freelancers, so you can start looking for ghosts the same way you would look for any freelance writing work.Five Ways of Finding Freelancers
Finding freelancers was never difficult – most are hungry and fairly eager! With the advent of the internet this has gotten much easier, as various online marketplaces and classifieds-style websites have popped up.You can find freelancers at least five ways online.
1. Online open access freelance project auctions
2. Online restricted-access project auctions
3. Online open classifieds
4. Job boards
5. Freelancers’ own listings
These work very much like eBay, except they are a services and therefore inherently “reverse” auction. You as the owner of a project and person seeking the service post an ad for your project. In this ad you can describe in detail what you want to achieve, how long you expect it to take, what kind of expertise you require of any potential partner, what your budget is, how you prefer to pay, whatever you like.Then freelance resources will submit bids to you, stating their plan, their qualifications, their price, and so on.
In many cases you don’t need to specify your budget. You can say you’re unsure, or even if you are sure, you can say you don’t want to say. Like any buyer, you are in control.You’re free to craft the ad any way you like, bearing in mind that different kinds of writing resources will respond to different kinds of descriptions and budgets. Typically auction durations are about as long as eBay, ranging from 3 days to 10 days, in some cases longer. When we say “open access” project auctions we mean those where
• There is no professional qualification or certification required to bid
• There is no special fee or membership required, other than perhaps a basic auction system membership, to bid
• There is no restriction on location or other factors
Essentially we mean “anyone can bid” on your project, and given the nature of the Internet, “anyone” probably will. We’ve seen writing project postings get proposals from 10,000 person shops in Bangalore India as well as proposals from one-man writing firms in Bangor Maine! And everything in between.There are dozens of project/freelance auction sites and they come and go all the time.
To see the latest at any time we’d recommend running some Google searches on words like “freelance” and “freelance auctions” and “freelance marketplace” but there are two main project auction sites that remain among the highest-traffic, have reliable payment and feedback systems, five year histories and are likely to be around for a while.
These and most other similar sites are organized categorically by work type – generally you’ll find ghostwriters lurking in whatever section is called “writing” or “copywriting,” which, for arcane reasons, is often joined with “translation” services though these are hardly related at all other than in, obviously, dealing with words.
Elance and Guru.com offer multiple levels of service to both project owners and prospective vendors of the services they need. In theory, the more you pay in fees, the better projects you have access to as a vendor – and the better providers you will get responses from as a buyer of services.There may be some truth to this; there may not.
In most cases including Elance and Guru.com, the buyer (you) has to do very little to open an account, has almost no requirements other than to verify the ability to pay, which is usually no more complex than registering a credit card, and you are under no obligations until you affirmatively award business to someone.
“Ghostwriting” is not a regulated trade, as, of course, writing is not generally. This means there are thousands of people who make writing services available who may or may not have the qualifications you want, or any qualifications at all. They may have been successfully writing for decades, or may have decided last Tuesday to try their hand at freelancing.
The “restricted access” levels on Elance and Guru.com and the more exclusive online project auctions – some of which charge annual fees in excess of $5000 – are intended to weed out truly unqualified vendors on the premise that hack vendors will not spend money to win business, and serious business professionals more likely will.
There are also some online auctions that have higher requirements of both buyers and sellers – verified references, a verified street address, business registration proof and so forth.
In short hand, expect somewhat higher quality but also higher prices from the more exclusive levels of the auction sites; from a buyer standpoint there are also budget minimums in some cases. Some sites only take projects over $1,000, for example.
But in many cases the “step up” level costs almost nothing. For instance, to list on Elance “Select” as opposed to the regular level of Elance, will only cost you a $25 deposit per project. Almost any improvement in the quality of submissions is worth that.
Most of the project auction sites (open and restricted) have feedback systems similar to eBay’s, so you can do a little reading about anyone you might want to work with before committing, and you will have feedback to use as some degree of safety that your work will be done well.
The good news about writing is that res ipsa loquitor as the lawyers say: The thing speaks for itself. Think about it. If a writer’s response to your online auction is literate, grammatical and brilliant chances are you may have a good resource, at least on the subject of general writing skills. If your submissions are wordchallenged or have glaring grammatical mistakes, move on…
The project auction sites also offer services in addition to connecting buyers and sellers, such as “online project management” tools, bulletin board systems, and other things and often require buyers and sellers to use their own payment systems. Generally speaking the burden for paying for all this falls on the seller of the services, not you, but if you want a simpler way of dealing with people, classifieds might work for you just as well.Online Open Classifieds
Unlike an auction, which on the eBay model will have all sorts of built-in management mechanisms for both buyers and sellers, along with fees, interfaces to learn and so forth, classifieds online are not much different than classifieds have been in the local paper for generations – you can post an ad for something you want done, and you can peruse ads for “situations wanted” where many professionals will advertise their services for you to find.
There are hundreds if not thousands of online classifieds sites in the US alone, but one of the better ones – because of its interface, popularity and fee structure – is Craig’s List.
Staring in the San Francisco area, Craig’s now carries listings for dozens of US cities. And as of late 2005 the fee structure is compelling – ads from a few major metropolitan areas carry fees, but in 75% of the country, they’re completely free.
Craig’s carries personals and a lot of other material, but can be very useful when looking for freelance support such as writing and ghostwriting. Craig’s does offer some basic protections along the lines of traditional classifieds (where you would respond to a box, not a person) in the form of anonymous re-mailing and so on.
If you prefer to work with someone locally, though in most cases there is little or no advantage to that when using a project ghostwriter, you may want to look into the classified sections online of your own local newspapers and magazines.Online Job Boards
While you are not precisely offering a “job,” you are looking to employ a writer for a period of time, and we know for a fact that freelancers – particularly higherend freelancers looking for multi-month contracts – check the major job boards routinely.Today the three major boards include:
And there are dozens of smaller ones, including some that are geared specifically towards “contract” employment, which is the fancier way of saying freelance or project work.
As long as you are clear that what you are offering is a contract position with specific deliveries and limited duration, you may find that the big job boards get you a much wider audience than even the biggest of the online auction sites.
Of course, the “bidding” aspect and other facets of the online auction are gone. You need to have an idea what you want to spend, or be open to discussing potential budgets with prospective writers directly.
Also with job boards, the burden for covering the costs (though generally minimal) shift to you as the “employer” versus the auction model, where the vendor (i.e. employee) covers the major fees. This minor investment may well be worth it, however.Freelancers’ Own Listings
Freelance writers are generally always looking for work. In addition to the various auction sites, classifieds you can post, and job listings you can post, you may be able to find freelancers themselves through their own ad campaigns, web sites, “situation wanted” classifieds, or similar means.The fact that a freelance resource is advertising says nothing about the nature or quality of his or her work.
Use your judgment – if a freelance listing looks professional and appealing to you, get in touch and discuss your project. This is as close as it gets to the yellow pages in this business!Now that you have a pretty good idea of where to find a lot of eager ghostwriting resources, how do you qualify and select one?