One of my recent ghostwriting clients didn’t actually become a ghostwriting client. Let me explain.
He wanted to write a book about his incredible invention—something that revolutionized his industry. He was passionate about his field, had firsthand experience with the transformation possible, and was well-connected to others who could add stories and expertise to his book.
But he wasn’t a writer. He was an expert in his own work but not in the work of writing.
He reached out to me on a referral from another client, for whom I’d ghostwritten blogs and articles and white papers. He hoped I’d be willing and available to ghostwrite his entire book.
We talked. I listened to his findings, his personal transformation, and his description of the life he was now leading thanks to this work. He told me he had already been writing down ideas and pages of content.
And it got me thinking: When should someone who’s not a writer hire a pro and when should they actually write their own work with some help?
By the end of our time together, my new client and I realized two important things:
1. He might not be a writer, but he really liked to write.
2. With some help, he could write (at least part of) the book himself.
So we spent the next few months going back and forth. We outlined and strategized and came up with a title. We worked together to think through what needed to be in each chapter. Then he wrote. I read his pages and sent back requests for more or less or different. And he wrote some more. After he had sent me content for all the chapters, I edited, added some ghostwriting, and voila! His book was finished!
Now, he gives me a heck of a lot of credit for that book because he’s just that kind of guy. But the truth is, he wrote it. I coached and edited, but he wrote a good deal of that content.
And for him, it was an incredibly rewarding experience—he tells me. Because he was able to put his heart and soul on that page, validating his life’s work and his passion.
The Pros and Cons
So when is the right time for you to write and when should you hire someone else to do the work for you?
This is a big question because there are pros and cons to each arrangement. Here are just a few:
Hiring a Writer
Pros: You save time and get professional-quality results.
Cons: You don’t get to put your passion into it unless you hire a really great ghostwriter who can capture that for you—and we’re expensive ;)
Writing It Yourself
Pros: Your passion and style are in the work, and you will discover more about yourself in the process of writing than I can describe here.
Cons: The writing process is taxing at times and you might require edits from a writing coach, editor, or proofreader.
What's Right for You
The factors that go into this decision are varied for each person, but I’ve found there are at least five questions you should ask yourself to help zero in on whether you should write something yourself or hire someone else to do it for you.
1. How much time do you have? Seriously, this is the first question you should ask. Not whether you like to write or not. Because no matter how much you like to write, you will hate writing if you’re having to do it at 3am every day after a full day on your other work. Trust me on this. The good news is that 15 minutes a day is enough if you have someone to help you stay consistent.
2. Do you like to write? Maybe you hate your spelling errors or are frustrated with how slowly you write. But that’s not what I’m asking here. Do you like to write? When things are flowing and you really get your ideas out there, do you enjoy it? If so, a qualified writing coach or editor can help you build your skills and smooth out the process so you’ll enjoy it even more.
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3. What are your long-term vs. short-term writing goals? If you’re posting a few articles as part of a short-term PR plan, hiring a writer might be the best option. Your goal is to make a strong first impression and then move on. But if you’re rolling out a long-term branding endeavor with your blog or column, or you’re considering writing a book, a writing coach can not only help you accomplish these goals but help you strengthen your writing skills and confidence along the way.
4. How do you want to spend your money? Think about your financial priorities. Is pushing your next project forward by the deadline at the top of your list? Hiring a writer to work on your book in the meantime might be right for you. But maybe you’re at the point in your career when you know you need to work on yourself if you’re going to create the kind of life and business you desire. Learning to write with confidence and skill translates into improvements in your speaking, client communications, and personal growth, too.
5. Are you teachable? I could phrase this another way and ask “Can you handle criticism?” Hopefully, any professional editor or writing coach you hire will be kind as they correct you, but learning any new skill requires critiques and guidance. If you’re super sensitive in this area, it’s best to just hire a writer and let them take the knocks from you. But if you feel you’re ready to handle some constructive feedback and listen to guidance from someone experienced, your willingness to learn just might transform your business while it delivers a great book.
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