Have you ever wondered how to master the voice of a ghostwriting client?
When you’re starting out, ghostwriting can be a little tricky. You have to learn how to think and write like your client, and separate that from your own thoughts and writing style.
It’s a lot like a ventriloquist trying to master the skills to bring a doll to life.
When I picked up my vent-figure doll “Dexter Darling,” I had a lot to learn to develop his voice and personality. In the beginning, I wasn’t very good at it. But it’s a skill you can learn, and so is ghostwriting.
After plenty of practice, Dexter Darling and I hit the road to perform at local library shows.
When the audience enjoyed his one-liners and funny antics more than anything I had to say, I realized the process was a lot like ghostwriting.
Here are a few tricks I’ve learned as a ventriloquist to be a better ghostwriter:
Pay attention to personality
When I would sit down to write a dialogue for Dexter, I had to think about what was going on in his “mind.” He was a typical wise-cracking, smart-aleck vent figure who could get away with saying things that I never could.
I knew the way his personality would react, and I always kept that in mind when talking for him. And you can use a similar process to get to know your ghostwriting clients:
- Read your client’s content. It’s one of the best ways to get to know your ghostwriting client. Read their blog, website content, marketing materials, and social media posts. Even study your email exchanges to get to know your client’s voice and style.
- Talk to your client in person, by phone, or video chat. Take notes or record the conversation. Do they crack jokes? Do they tell long stories? Are they bubbly and excited or serious and subdued? Note any phrases they repeat. Do they talk like a college professor giving a lecture, a pastor giving a sermon, or a grandmother telling a child a story? More face-time with your ghostwriting client will help you think and write like them.
At one time, I had a ghostwriting client who ran a weight-loss blog. Once a week, we talked on the phone, and she’d share a personal story and her thoughts for upcoming posts.
The first thing I noticed was her vivacious personality, which was the total opposite of my introverted cynicism. I had to keep that in mind as I wrote about diet, exercise, nutrition, and other healthy weight-loss habits.
Have you read your client’s content recently or connected on a call?
Know your client’s audience
Knowing who the target audience is when you’re ghostwriting is essential to getting your client’s voice right. Here’s another lesson I learned about ghostwriting as a ventriloquist:
Dexter Darling and I mostly performed at local libraries where the the target audience is children. That’s an important distinction that helped me write a rated-G routine. It wouldn’t work to use the kind of language and humor ventriloquist Jeff Dunham uses for his grouchy, old-man vent-doll figure named Walter for an adult audience.
Here are some ways to get to know your ghostwriting client’s target audience:
- Ask. Don’t assume you know. Your ghostwriting client should have information about their target audience that can help shape the content you write. For example, age, gender, income, interests, family/relationship status, education, geographic location, etc.
- Find out where the target audience hangs out. In most cases, your ghostwriting client’s target audience hangs out in other places, too. Maybe that audience is interested in a competing website or magazine, or similar niche products and services. Getting to know this about the audience will help you be a better ghostwriter.
- Follow forums and social media. It’s another great way to find out what your ghostwriting client’s target audience is talking about, what their pain points are, and what they need help with.
I recently worked with a client from Singapore on a ghostwriting project. He talked about a luxury-destination resort his readers loved. But I didn’t know anything about it. I asked him to tell me more about it and did my own research so I could include it in the next writing assignment.
Get clear on client goals
If you want the content you create for a ghostwriting client to be effective, you need to know the end-goal before you start.
In Dexter’s case, we had two goals. Make the audience laugh and get them to check out library books.
We had a skit where I put a bag over his head and held up several library books. Through his “psychic powers,” he would always know which book I was holding up.
What I “didn’t know,” was that he was turning his head, and there were holes in the bag so he could peek at the books. Kids and parents, would yell, “He’s looking!” And it always helped prompt people to check out books.
What are your client’s goals? Have a conversation about this with your ghostwriting client before beginning a project (Need help talking to clients? It’s something we cover in the Freelance Writer’s Den). Examples may include:
- Sell more books, products, services, courses, or coaching
- Get more subscribers, likes, or followers
- Increase engagement on a blog or social media channel
- Build brand authority
- Promote another product or service as an affiliate
You need to know what response your client is hoping to get from their project. For example, an introduction email might be friendly and chatty to encourage readers to attend a webinar. Or a marketing piece about a health condition might encourage readers to purchase a product or service. Knowing the end-goal before you get started will help you write better content for your ghostwriting client.
Develop your ghostwriting skills
Want to develop your ghostwriting skills? You can learn a lot from a doll. If Dexter can teach me to do it, anyone can do it. Start. Practice. Keep going.
Rose Anderson is a ghostwriter and ventriloquist. She lives on an island off the coast of Florida and visits Texas often to spend time with her grandchildren.