A ghostwriter is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as:
'a person whose job it is to write material for someone else who is the named author.'
In other words, one person does the work, another takes the credit.
But to dismiss ghostwriting would be to do a great disservice to what is a thriving industry. Many writers don't mind their name not appearing on the front of the book, white paper or other document. In some cases, depending on the type of writing, it isn't appropriate to have anyone's name listed anyway.
And before anyone starts to feel sorry for the humble ghostwriter, remember they still get paid. Indeed, they are often able to charge higher rates and some writers make a career of remaining in the background.
From an organisation's perspective, there are also a number of reasons why employing the services of a ghostwriter is a smart move.
Somebody Else Does the Work
An obvious but important place to start. Whether it's a series of blog posts, a report or a book, putting pen to paper or fingers to keys is a time consuming task.
Hiring a ghostwriter means that business owners or managers can focus on the day-to-day tasks associated with their roles. And they still end up with the written content they need.
Bringing in a More Capable Writer
Having ideas or opinions for a written piece of work is one thing – being able to translate that into constructive prose is another.
Not everyone is a natural when it comes to writing. So, hiring someone who is makes life much easier. A good ghostwriter will be able to interpret someone's thoughts and the end result will be something that appears in the named author's own words.
Two Heads are Better than One
When working on any project, bouncing ideas off someone else if usually beneficial. It's no different when hiring a ghostwriter.
The writer will be able to approach the piece of work from a different perspective. He or she will be more detached and less emotionally involved. And, if they're a specialist in the field concerned, they'll be far more capable of providing their input and will have a greater understanding of what's required.
Greater Chance of Being Published
While some ghostwritten work is destined for a blog or a website, the creators of other pieces of writing have loftier aims.
Whether it's to publish a book or for inclusion in an industry journal, the actual writer's reputation and industry contacts could be the difference between the text being printed or not.
Writing is always so much easier when the topic is something that the writer loves.
One of my favourite subjects is health and fitness. I regularly run (half marathon and 10k) and I enjoy swimming, circuits and a number of other ways of staying active.
I've always taken part in sport in one form or another. But it's an area of my life that's become even more important to me in recent years. As a parent I want to set a good example to my kids and I want to ensure that, as I get older, I'm able to keep up with them.
This love of exercise has led to my latest writing project – Ordinary Parent Fitness.
My new blog will hopefully differ from traditional health and fitness websites. As the name suggests, it's primarily aimed at parents. I know the difficulties in trying to fit in a workout when work, kids and everyday life are all potential barriers. I will try to offer creative solutions to anyone who struggles to find the time (or energy) to exercise.
I also hope to offer to encouragement to anyone who is keen to take up regular exercise for the first time, or wants to return to a particular sport or activity. In particular, I hope Ordinary Parent Fitness reaches people who aren't overly confident about getting fit.
I believe that too many blogs and websites assume too much prior knowledge of its readers. Not everyone knows what type of running shoes are suitable for them or the best way to work their triceps.
In the three months since I launched the blog, I've already encountered a number of challenges.
First, is finding the time to come up with fresh content. Towards the end of last year, when I first had the idea of Ordinary Parent Fitness, I drafted several posts in advance so that I had a 'bank' of work which I could publish at regular intervals. Now that I've run down my account, I need to include some fitness posts in my routine.
Naturally, social media is important too. I have a Twitter account that I need to find time for. I may also look to take OPF to Instagram.
Ideally the blog will show my talents when it comes to writing about health and fitness. It's a subject that genuinely interest me and I'd love to write more in this area for other blogs and websites.
At the very least, I now have some decent additional content to include in my copywriting portfolio.
Sales letters can be written on paper or typed on screen and sent via email. They can be B2B or B2C. Their targets can be on a mailing list or contacted 'cold'.
Whatever form the letter takes, it's an ideal way of showing potential customers what you have to offer.
There are a number of different approaches when it comes to sales letters. Which one is right will depend on the target and what you are trying to sell. Here are three common types of sales letter.
The classic letter. You grab the reader's attention quickly by telling them what you want before giving more details further on.
You can paint a picture, identify a problem (before solving it) or making the reader want something that they don't actually need.
Benefits take priority before finishing with a strong call to action.
The subtle approach. Here, rather than going all in, you show that you're here for the long term and are prepared to play a waiting game.
Like the traditional letter, you have to catch and hold the interest of the reader. But, instead of 'act now', it's more about 'keep us in mind' and 'consider us for future work'.
This is ideal for a B2B letter. One firm contacts another after they have identified a possible link or a common area of business. They suggest some kind of agreement or relationship that would be mutually beneficial.
We are the number one dog walking service in our town but have no experience of dog grooming. I am proposing that we come to an agreement whereby we recommend each other's services.
There are other sales letters. Thank you letters are a nice touch, while product updates allow you to target clients who you think are most likely to be interested.
Whatever letter you send, remember to monitor it's success rate. If you aren't generating responses, why not? Is it the product itself, is it the content of the letter or are you sending it to the wrong targets?
It's a new year and business owners everywhere are trying to decide on how to attract more customers over the next 12 months.
Hiring a copywriter is a step in the right direction. High quality written materials can make a massive difference when it comes to you creating the right first impression with potential clients.
There are loads of ways in which a copywriter can help your business. Here are some examples:
Rewrite website pages
While some websites are regularly updated with fresh, original content, others aren't. Instead, a few pages are thrown together when the business launches and the copy remains untouched. Even worse is when a firm shows itself to the world with old or inaccurate information. Sound familiar? It's time to act.
Restart a blog
'That post was really interesting and useful. But it was written four years ago? I wonder why they haven't written any more?'
Many businesses start a blog on their website but maintaining it can be challenging. Finding the time (or the subject matter) isn't always easy and seeing a blog that hasn't been updated in years smacks of a lack of interest.
Business Proposal Letter
If there's a company you'd like to do business with, let them know. Yeah, you can make a phone call, but a letter allows you to tell your target all about your company, before detailing your proposal and its benefits.
Job Ads for New Staff
So many job ads sound the same. There's three paragraphs of company history before the usual cliches about being 'self motivated' and being 'able to work alone or as part of a team'. Yeah I've used that too.
Hire someone who can make your business, and the job, stand out. A well written description will show prospective candidates that they'd be mad not to apply.
Ghostwrite an ebook
Blogging is one way to show off your knowledge and expertise. But, if you want to go the extra mile then why not write a whole book?
It doesn't have to be 50,000 words, but hiring a copywriter to draft a book based on your industry can raise your profile while showing that you know what you're on about.
Script a Presentation
Standing in front of an audience and delivering a presentation is, for many people, a frightening prospect. It can be even more challenging if you don't have full confidence in what you're delivering.
A properly scripted presentation should have a clear aim, it should flow smoothly and it must link seamlessly from one slide to the next.
Start an Internal Newsletter
A newsletter is a great way to keep employees informed. Whether it's sent via email or takes the more traditional (paper) route, an in-house newsletter can deliver important business related information, while also covering the social side of company life.
Real Product Descriptions
We've all seen them. Those ecommerce sites where little or no effort is made to describe the products they're hoping you'll buy. A boys red BMX bike is described as…
'boys red BMX bike'
Anyone who is serious about selling their wares online needs an alluring product description to draw customers in – and shows the benefits of making the purchase to seal the deal.
When it comes to setting up a new business, hiring a copywriter is unlikely to be at the top of many 'to do' lists. There are a number of other expenses that will take priority.
Depending on the type of firm, these can include paying for premises, equipment, stock and staff. It's little wonder then that many people embarking on such ventures decide to do their own marketing. After all, if you can tell the world about your products or services, why shell out even more money to employ a copywriter?
Of course, given my line of work, I disagree with this point of view. Sure, it's natural that any new business owner will want to keep costs to a minimum, but there are a number of reasons why a copywriter is worth the outlay.
Many people set out with good intentions. They resolve to write a monthly newsletter, every page of their new company website and every product description on it.
The reality can be very different. By the time you've dealt with the day to day running of your business, do you really have time to sit down and start writing?
Everyone has their own talents. For some, those don't extend to their writing skills. Spelling or punctuation errors look awful and then there are the finer points – do you know where to place keywords in a blog post or how to finish a sales letter with a clear call to action?
Poorly written marketing materials will reflect on your business and its ability to attract potential clients. If you're in any doubts about drafting clear and professional copy, then leave it to someone else.
Just because a copywriter doesn't spend every day in your industry, doesn't mean they haven't been there before.
Many experienced copywriters will have worked with firms who operate in the same area of business or are of a similar size. They'll have an understanding of what works and what doesn't. They can also be a great source of ideas.
Not as Expensive as you Think
Yes, hiring a copywriter will lead to you handing over some of your company's hard earned cash. But you don't have to spend a fortune to find someone who can produce good quality written work.
Contact a local freelancer and you may find yourself being pleasantly surprised. He or she will understand they have to be competitive and that should be reflected in the quotes they provide for business clients in their area.
As I've mentioned before, I enjoy working on 'spec' pieces of work to sharpen my copywriting skills and to boost my portfolio.
When it comes to ad copy, I regularly practice via the fantastic One Minute Briefs. This week, however, I've tried something a little different.
Most of my OMB entries have involved a slogan for a product – something short and snappy, of no more than a few words.
It was for this reason that I decided to try a piece of long copy for a change.
The subject was Anti-Bullying Week, which has been running from 13th-17th November. The event is organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, whose website states that:
'Anti-Bullying Week shines a spotlight on bullying and encourages all children, teachers and parents to take action against bullying throughout the year.'
With this in mind, I got to work. When drafting my copy, I also considered this year's theme, 'All Different All Equal', and enclosed some of the key words from the aims of Anti-Bullying Week, namely empower, enable and encourage.
I'm happy with the finished piece. What do you think?
Newsletters. The very name can conjure up images of drab and tired A4 sheets of nothing worthwhile. In some organisations they're created not because they're useful, but because there's always been one.
For many copywriters and marketers, newsletters are yesterday's news. I disagree.
It can still get the job done. Nowadays, it's more likely to be sent by email but, for some firms, even the traditional paper version has it's merits. Here are some possible uses:
Promote blog posts
As I've written previously, blogging is a fantastic way to let the world know more about you and your organisation.
But before anyone reads your posts, they have to know they exist. A link from newsletter to post is a great way of achieving this.
Build a relationship
Customers calling on the services of a builder, copywriter or osteopath for the second time may struggle to remember who they used before. After all, the two instances may be years apart.
Regular contact with that customer would help them to remember you exist. A company name and some familiarity is always better than 'the woman who fitted my kitchen' or 'the guy who fixed my back'.
When a business, or an individual employee, achieves something special, it should be celebrated.
Whether it's an award, a new contract or the hiring of someone new, celebrating it on a newsletter is a great way to earn some credibility...and show off.
Introduce special events or offers
When you advertise a new product, an open day or a sale, you want to target interested parties.
Anyone who has signed up to an email newsletter must have at least some knowledge or experience of your firm, so they're not a bad place to start.
Raise your industry profile
Becoming a recognised name in your industry is an excellent way of boosting your reputation amongst your peers and potential clients.
Voicing opinions or offering advice are both ideal ways of showing that, when it comes your business, you know your stuff.
Ensure employees are included
Newsletters aren't just for external customers. They are also ideal for communicating with employees.
Whether it's to update staff on work related issues or to include them in the social side of your organisation, you can share information with everyone at the same time.
As a copywriter, it's reasonable for people to assume that I have a fairly solid grasp of the English language. And, when it comes to spelling, grammar and my overall understanding, I think that I do reasonably well.
But I'm not perfect.
This post looks at some words that don't come naturally to me, or more specifically, pairs of similar words. Each of the list below has caught me out at some stage.
Some I know, but take me a moment to confirm in my own mind that I'm right. There are also a couple that are complete mental blocks and cause me to doubt myself again and again.
As there are only eight pairs here, clearly this list isn't exclusive. It's more a sample of my confusion.
This is possibly the pairing here that I am most comfortable with. Altogether being the adverb meaning 'completely' or 'entirely', with 'all together' referring to items or people being together.
The second-half was altogether different from the first 45 minutes.
The family were all together for Christmas.
Here, I'm not so sure of myself. Usually, affect is a verb, meaning 'to influence or make a difference to.' Effect can be a noun or verb, but is more commonly used as the former, as in 'a result or an influence.'
The heavy rain will affect my holiday.
He was still feeling the effects of his night out.
Can't is a contraction of cannot. Can't is most commonly used for informal writing. Can not is is written less often. It appears mostly when can precedes a phrase that starts with not.
I can't believe it's not butter.
He stated that he cannot accept the proposal.
Running can not only improve physical health, but also mental health.
Compliment is 'to show admiration or praise for someone or something.' Complement is when 'two separate items look or work better because they are together.'
I must compliment you for all your hard work.
The wine complements the meal perfectly.
Then there's complimentary, as in 'free of charge.'
The young fan was delighted with his complementary ticket for the match.
'It's' is always short for 'it is' or, in informal speech, for 'it has.' 'Its', means 'belonging to.'
It's going to start raining any minute now.
It's got leather seats.
The mother looked after its young.
Is one a shortened version of the other? Is one more formal? This is a pairing that trips me up.
The answer to both of the questions above is 'no.' Both are equally acceptable, they are just different ways to spell the same word. Ok?
Let's is another example of a contraction, this time of 'let us.' Lets is the third person singular present tense form of let – no, that doesn't mean much to me either. I prefer the examples.
Let's just stay in.
She lets her children play outside for longer in summer.
Who's is a contraction of 'who is' or 'who has.' Whose is a possessive, meaning 'of whom' or 'belonging to who.'
Who's up for a few beers and a curry?
I'm not sure whose parents arrived first.
I'm sure everyone has words or phrases that test them. These are some of mine.
As a copywriter, my portfolio of work is vital in my search for new clients. That's why I decided to write an ebook. My book is a nice alternative to the blog posts, product descriptions and sales letters I usually work on.
However, you don't have to be a full-time writer to become an author. With Amazon Kindle and other self publishing sites, bringing out your own book has never been easier. For business owners, there a couple of major benefits from writing an ebook.
Raising Your Profile
If you're setting out on a new business venture, what a great way of introducing yourself. Even if your firm has been around for a while, it's still a great way of making people (potential customers or partners) aware of who you are. With Kindle being available worldwide, it's also an opportunity for you to attract interest from beyond your own town, city or country.
Show Your Expertise
It's a given that your subject matter will be something with which you are entirely comfortable, an area of business that shows you at your best. If you are able to come up with ideas or opinions that are fresh and original, even better. This will help give you credibility with readers who may become clients.
There is, of course, a third potential benefit from writing an ebook – money. If your text strikes a chord with enough people and they leave positive reviews, you could eventually make a tidy profit from your efforts. Though you would have to shift A LOT of books.
The key to a successful ebook is to choose the right topic. It should be something that means you can provide advice, ideas or instructions. It should also be relevant and useful to others. Focusing on a niche area is a smart move, but don't go too narrow or few people will show any interest.
For instance, my book focused on the call centre industry, where I worked for much of my career. I wrote a guide for anyone becoming a supervisor or team leader for the first time.
Regardless of what you decide to write about, don't worry about the length. Ebooks come in all sorts of sizes, so there's no need to pad it out to match the word count of an encyclopedia.
That said, if you do end up with something shorter then that should be reflected in the price. Few people will pay £14.99 for a couple of thousand words...unless you are showing readers a foolproof way of choosing the winning lottery numbers.
One final note of advice – writing an ebook is hard work. Once you've decided what you are going to write about, there's research, the actual writing and the editing of your work. It can (should) be a lengthy process which can take up a lot of your time. Anyone unable to commit to such a project then you should consider hiring a ghostwriter.
Whatever route you decide to take, the benefits of publishing an ebook should not be underestimated.
Since becoming a copywriter, one of my favourite discoveries has been One Minute Briefs. I first learned about OMB when it was mentioned in an interview with another copywriter. I followed the Twitter account first before visiting the website and I've been hooked ever since.
For those who aren't aware, every day OMB come up with a...one minute brief. The subjects include food and drink, household objects, holiday destinations and good causes. Sometimes there's a cash prize on offer, other times the chance to have your work used elsewhere. Mostly, it's for the glory of being chosen as one of the winners and seeing your finished copy on the OMB Facebook page.
Last week, I was one of the successful entrants. On the day in question, the topic was 'pencils'. My immediate thought was to go with a slogan of '2B or not 2B' (geddit?). Despite being impressed with my own quick thinking, I still wasn't fast enough as someone else had the same idea. It was retweeted on Twitter and with a better graphic.
So, it was back to the drawing board, or to be accurate, the laptop. As you can see, I was able to come up with an alternative.
Ok, so I haven't won any awards but a bit of recognition still means a lot. I still consider myself a copywriting novice so, for other, more experienced people in the business to notice what I'm doing is nice. I've also updated my Twitter bio to reflect my small victory.
I'd like to think I've come a bit since my first go at an OMB. The subject was 'bananas'. Struggling for inspiration, I came up with 'If you like peeling a banana...or getting caught in the rain.' I can laugh about it now.
Indeed, such is my confidence that I've made another entry in the last couple of days. This time I managed a couple of RT's and ten 'likes', some of which were from fellow copywriters. This time the brief was 'lettuce' and, thankfully, I'd learned from my previous food related effort. I went with…
ICEBERG AHEAD (Just past the carrots)
As always, I wasn't sure how this would be received but the social media feedback seems positive.
Of course, while the win was nice, the daily OMB's are much more than that – for me anyway. They're an opportunity, a chance for me to come up with something creative in a short space of time. For someone who isn't yet overloaded with work, that's really important.
The next step for me is to try some of those briefs that, initially, don't really appeal to me. Stepping out of my comfort zone can only benefit my writing.
Onwards and upwards.