Writing samples. The bane of my professional writing existence.
Don’t get me wrong. I have great confidence in my writing ability. I have written for dozens of clients who were much older, much younger, different religions and races, and male…in fact, primarily male, and I’m a woman.
In other words, my clients’ personal stories and life experiences were very different from my own. Yet, I was able to successfully capture their voices, use their personal stories and help them deliver the messages that only they could deliver.
The key to a truly wonderful ghostwriter – as opposed to a good writer – is that we can, and must, morph into the persona of our client. It isn’t just about good grammar or pithy quotes. It is more about telling the story in the way that the speaker would tell the story, but better.
We don’t create the recipe for success, we are the sous chefs who make the chef look even better. We give our principals that extra edge.
For example, one of my clients – a cabinet secretary – started his speeches with the same jokes, jokes he had used for years. The jokes were becoming dated, unwieldy and verbose. I tried to remove them to no avail. Ultimately, I stopped fighting his natural tendency to start with a joke, and updated the jokes, making them shorter and honed them for the audience. Success. The jokes took up less time in the speech and became more relevant for the audience.
In another instance, I had a client who loved to use numbers. Dozens of numbers. Mind numbing numbers. I tried to explain that too many numbers turned the data into white noise for the audience and had the opposite effect she wanted – the audience had to work too hard to figure out which number to remember, which one was important, and how the numbers were applicable to them.
After several attempts to just use one or two figures in a speech, to which my client simply added new ones, I began to put the numbers in context for the audience. This slowed the pace in which the speaker delivered the numbers and gave mnemonic devices for the audience to use to remember the key numbers.
With this in mind, next time you – as a ghostwriting candidate – submit writing samples, use samples with different voices, to show how you can change your voice to match the speaker. In your cover letter, point this out and explain the significance. This ability to change voice makes you more valuable to the company because you can write for more than one person, when the need arises.
As a client looking to hire a ghostwriter, I urge you to focus on how different the writing samples are instead of looking for a writer that sounds like you. Even if you are so lucky as to find someone with multiple samples that sound like something you would say/write, you may find that he/she has little range.
Range is especially important if you want to hone your speaking and messaging skills. The writer with range also will be the best candidate to assist others in the company, when the need arises. You never know when your second in command may need to take over a speaking engagement for you, or when someone else’s speechwriter may be out ill, and ask to borrow yours. It is important to have someone who has the flexibility to work with more than one person.
Nearly 5 years into my business and I was slapped with the shocking realization that I had created a great job for myself.
Unfortunately, my goal was to create a great company.
Therefore, I took time off from some regular tasks, such as blogging for myself (still blog for clients, because that’s my business!), to focus on business strategy and process. Not too sexy.
Part of my process was to invite three women who were strong where I felt I was weakest. I invited them to participate in a “Career Intervention.” I was comfortable with my hours and the fairly decent income my job produced. Yet, I knew I should be making at least twice what I was making, and I needed to be more efficient with my time. But I had gone as far as I could go alone.
The women – a banker who had funded hundreds of businesses, a ghostwriter who commanded six figures to ghostwrite books for CEOs, and a woman who had grown her own PR firm from nothing to more than a dozen employees – gave me lots of great advice. One of them even guided our little group through the DISC analysis, adding an unexpected dimension.
Later, I also met one-on-one with about a half dozen other successful women – some who knew me well, some not very well, some personally knew me, others only knew me professionally – to ask them for advice.
As a result, my business doubled over the next few months. Business then plateaued, forcing me to revisit the advice that I had let slide. I’m working on making it all a natural part of my business, but for now it’s still a “practice.”
Among the most impactful advice:
Lot’s more where that came from, but I also learned to set aside the appropriate time for each task, and wrap it up…even though I can do more, doesn’t mean I should…HARD STOP.
Last week, I asked where the inspirational speakers were…going through my notes, I found the 5 Cs of Success by Vince Poscente…he was one amazing speaker…he wanted to be an Olympic athlete, so he randomly chose speed skiing where their motto is “Safety Last” and he broke international records in the trials.
*Spoiler alert: He came in last in the actual games, but he was a part of them!*
“Our life is full of defining moments, pivotal choices,” according to Poscente.
The author of the easy read “The Ant & The Elephant,” Poscente, jumped on chairs, yelled, encouraged audience participation and gave the following advice at a talk earlier this year (April 16, 2011 – another archive goodie)…it may not be as exciting in writing as it was in person…but it bears repeating:
C#1 – Clarity of Vision: Pay attention to your subconscious (elephant) not just conscious (ant) mind. “Don’t just see it, but feel your vision and what it means…If a thought gives you a physical reaction – pay attention.”
C#2 – Commitment: Have the courage to decide. “Doubt is loudest at 99-percent commitment, and it goes away at 100 percent.”
C#3 – Consistency: Focus on your goal – use reminders around the house to refocus you and create a consistent strategy to reach your goal. What change do you want to affect?
“The second you own the solution, you innovate.”
Most people look to their competitors and do what they are not doing…they fill a void…not a bad path, but not a bold one either. Poscente says, “You should do what the competition is not willing to do…That way, you can even tell the competition what you are doing and they won’t do it, because it is what they are not willing to do.”
C#4 – Confidence: Results plummet through the gap between “fear” and “confidence,” so don’t go there…be confident…reinforce to your subconscious that your goal is real and true.
C#5 – Control: This is basically creating a routine. You can reinforce your confidence with a controlled routine of consistent steps toward the clear goal to which you are committed. (See, I got all the Cs in there!)
Poscente wraps up by saying that you will have skeptics as you move toward your goals…just make sure your subconscious isn’t one of them…work to marry your ant and your elephant…the rest of the world will follow.
“When skeptics see results, they will become your biggest supporters.”
As someone who was exclusively an elephant hunter, I am proud to announce that I’ve learned to hunt rabbits…in fact, I’ve even landed a few – so today, I eat!
I DEVOUR business books…good, bad and ugly…I review them here (click on “book analysis” button to the right). However, I haven’t had too many comments on the blog, so I was psyched to find a business book club (2nd Thursday lunch @ A Real Bookstore in Fairview, TX).
Big ideas can be hard to implement…hard to figure out how it applies to you and your everyday life…we may have the desire to implement, but not the time or energy to figure out what to do with this new found intelligence.
Do you ever feel like ENOUGH ALREADY on the advice? I mean if it’s good advice, I’m all for it – as in the very-specific-fix-my-current-problem-right-now advice. I feel like every time I turn around, someone is giving me advice, but it’s the platitudinous-go-get-’em advice that is supposed to inspire me…you know the kind that re-words what I ALREADY KNOW!
Good thing I’m not bitter, huh?