Working From Home as Ghostwriter – Interview with Anne Violette

Working From Home as Ghostwriter - Interview with Anne VioletteTell us a little bit about your ghostwriting journey.

I took the road less traveled …

Unlike many ghostwriters, I did not obtain a degree in journalism or English. My journey began as a child, when I first won an award for writing. It was just a natural, God-given talent. I excelled in high school and college in writing and English courses, but I pursued art and marketing, as well as travel and tourism. I landed a job at an ad agency and had a lot of miscellaneous writing assignments to do while there, from scripts and booklets; to other things. I was also asked to moonlight for a business publication in New England, where I quickly excelled and became a “cover story” writer. I stayed up all hours of the night, writing and drinking wine. I started working on a book, but it never amounted to anything. It was just a hobby, really.

After six years, I started my own professional photography business. I did not have time to write much anymore, so I took a hiatus and focused on new endeavors. For me, it was just a passion and hobby more than anything “serious”. Until 2007, when after moving to Florida, I started feeling a strong urge in my gut, like I was being led to write professionally. I was not happy at my jewelry store job (it was not challenging enough) and I got myself into a financial pickle with my house, so I started looking for opportunities online.

Since so many years had passed without writing, I no longer had anything to showcase in a portfolio, but I happened upon a couple of freelance sites called ifreelance.com and elance.com. I made myself a “fake” portfolio (fake it ‘till you make it) by giving myself writing assignments, such as press releases, articles, web content, etc. and tried for three weeks to get chosen for a project. Nothing … tumbleweeds rolled by. I wondered if my intro sucked or if perhaps the buyers were on to me?

Then finally, one day, I landed an online catalog. After that, the jobs started pouring in! I got busier and busier, so much so that I cut back to part time at the jewelry store and then eventually to just an “on call” sales associate. I was swamped with writing work. I purchased a domain (lucky for me it was available) “Awesome Writer” and so it sort of developed into a nickname. Clients and friends started calling me the Awesome Writer.

The first ghostwriting job was for an entrepreneur from Canada, and he was so pleased with my work that he started recommending me to other business people. I wrote a second, third, fourth and it just started flowing to the point where I could pick and choose the topics I like and say no to those I didn’t like. I learned a few things along the way… like how to write books quickly, and what to put in a contract, etc.

As they say, the rest is history. I have helped a lot of authors become very successful as a ghostwriter! Some give credit, while others maintain anonymity. Only a couple have been celebrities, but most of them have been business people or rich people who wanted an autobiography.

Do you have any special training?

My training came from hands-on and just being blessed with this gift. I did have a 4.0 in English classes, but my degree was completely unrelated to becoming a ghostwriter. It doesn’t seem to matter to my clients. They are more interested in the quality of my work than what type of degree I may have earned. I still do a lot of studying on my own, as I believe any profession requires a lifelong learning process to remain current.

Working From Home as Ghostwriter - Interview with Anne VioletteIs it difficult for you to market your business, since your works are not published under your name?

Not really … this is the type of business that word-of-mouth referrals truly matter. Also, keeping up the ratings (5 star ratings really help) attracts a lot of invitations or inquiries. It is important to network as much as possible, especially with publishers, business people, etc. Always ask former clients if they would be willing to give you a recommendation. Some get touchy about it, while others do this willingly. It is important not to cross the line of confidentiality unless the client agrees to it with the intention of helping you.

How did you get your first client?

Elance.com, several have come from that source, while the rest are mostly referrals.

How are you currently growing your ghostwriting business? 

I have been too busy to grow as much as I could, but I would like to find more time to do personal projects and books. I do have one self-published title called “Men Are Like Wine”. It has some great reviews, but I have simply not had the time to focus on marketing.

How much does your business earn annually? 

Gross, it varies. Some years it might be $50k, while others $65k or so. I was the sole provider for my family of five for four years, which was rather stressful. My significant other is now working, so that lightens the burden a little more. For a single person or someone whose partner is working, it is a great way to earn a living. I love the fact that you can be anywhere and always have a job, which also allows greater flexibility when you have a family. We’ve had to move from Florida to Maine and now Texas, and the entire time; I have been able to keep my job and bring it with me everywhere we go.

What advice do you have for other women who want to start their own ghostwriting business?

Always get a retainer! You can’t work for weeks on a project with nothing to live on. Never sign a deal that someone promises “royalties” because if the book never sells many copies, then you are up the creek. Always agree to terms in “milestones”. I usually collect a retainer and then after every 100 pages or so. I do the formatting and sometimes the cover design, as well.

Also, before turning in the last, polished draft, protect your file. Always maintain the copyright until the final payment, which you can do by having a contract in place. No matter how well you know the person, always get a contract to protect both you and the other individual. It also gives them peace of mind that you will not be able to resell the information.

Finally, when you are writing books, if you want to write a lot of them in one year, then you must have a system. It can take some people over a year just to write one, but this is a slow way to making money. Start with an outline and then spend a day or two with your client, filling in the outline together. Then, write, write, write and never look back. People waste the most time by reviewing their work from yesterday. The fastest way is to “brain dump” your first draft, so even if it sucks, at least it is all down on paper. Then you can go through it a second and third time with fresh eyes and refine it. You can move things around, if needed … just don’t waste time critiquing your own self, because writers tend to be their own worst critics!

Finally, you have to treat it like a real job and set hours that you can work every day. If you think you can just write whenever you feel like it, then you will be very poor! I work 9:30 – 5:00 most days, and then again at night (after the kids go to bed), usually for another hour or two. I do my emails and business junk in the morning and then after the coffee kicks in, that is when I start my writing time. Don’t keep looking at social media, etc. throughout the day or you will lose a lot of ground.

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