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How To Claim Credit For Ghosted Articles

Ask Anne The Pro WriterHi Anne,

I’m a huge fan of your About Freelance Writing site and I read your RSS feed dailyThanks for all your useful insights! I have a question that I was hoping you might answer, and yes, I did check your archives before emailing. 🙂

When ghostwriting articles, what are you thoughts on listing link to a ghostwritten article on your freelance writing website for other potential clients to see as an example of your work? Because it’s ghostwritten, I sort of assume that this isn’t an okay practice, but I wanted to hear what a pro has to say. Thanks very much for your time!


Hi BR,

First, thanks for the complements. I’m leaving them here so others can see them – a not-subtle way of tooting my own horn.

When you’re ghostwriting you are, in theory, totally invisible. Jenn Mattern of Allfreelancewriting.com made this statement in comments on How Important Are Copyrights Anyway? Linking doesn’t equal publication, but does equal a claim of authorship. She was talking about just this issue – can you claim authorship of a ghostwritten article. She’s right, at least technically.

So how can you do this legitimately? There are several options:

  • Contact the person you ghosted for and ask if you can use the article as a sample to show other prospective employers. Most people will agree I’ve found. Now you’ve got permission, and it might be nice to say so.
  • Make a statement saying something like ghosted 10 500 word articles for the XYZ corporation. You don’t need permission to make a statement like that because you’re not claiming authorship of a specific article. This won’t work if you’ve ghosted one or two articles for a famous person because you’d be naming them and claiming authorship when it really belongs to them since you’re the ghost.
  • If you’ve ghosted for a famous person, just say so on your website, but without naming anyone. Something like regularly ghost 1500 word articles for a variety of celebrities and politicians will work. Those seeking ghostwriters will appreciate the discretion.
  • If you’ve written a bunch of articles for the content mills and been paid a pittance, it seems to me that you could link to one or two as samples even if they own the copyright. It’s a risk, but it’s one I’ve taken. In other words, consider the context. Know too, that it’s been reported here that  some editors who will refuse to hire anyone who claims content mills in their list of credits. Most editors are more concerned with the quality of the writing.

I hope this helps more than confuses – it’s as totally obvious as you might think on first glance.

What have I left out or missed?


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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • What I do is to state, on my portfolio, that I ghost wrote/translated text for XYZ.com, and that I will provide a sample only in private, through email. Unless it’s okay with the person who hired me, I will not publicly disclose ghost-written content, and if I do privately, it’s only one or two samples (to show what I can do), not everything I did for my client.
    Luana Spinetti recently posted..‘Love Can Be Heavy’ at TheSexCipher.comMy Profile

    • Anne

      Sounds like an excellent way to handle it Luana.

  • yes brother you are in position with your discussion and helpful for us
    Freelancers Newbie recently posted..make money with google adsense operation-1 GooglecomMy Profile

  • Asking for permission is generally the best bet in these cases. You have to be careful about even naming a client without mentioning the articles. If they’ve ordered ghostwritten work, there’s a chance the contract included an NDA in there saying you can’t disclose the relationship. Some companies include these clauses because they don’t want their own audience knowing that any work released by them wasn’t actually created by them. Others won’t care though, so it never hurts to ask.

  • In my case, I always ask the client if I can link back to the article in my site, to include in my portfolio. And it provides a backlink to him too. So, good for both of us!
    Ron – SEO Sales Copywriting | Web Content Writing | Blogging recently posted..Are You Alone In Your Freelancing WorldMy Profile

  • Lauri

    In ghostwriting contracts, I insert the following clause, which reserves me the right to use clips, samples, or otherwise reference the work when trying to get myself other work:

    The Writer agrees not to disclose involvement in the writing of the Work to any
    persons or organizations except for self-promotion unless required by law.

    It has worked out for me thus far. Might be something to consider for the next go-around.

    • Excellent… going to start using that myself… don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

  • I’m glad BR brought this up because I was next on emailing you about this very subject, Anne! My situation is a little different. I’ve ghosted some articles for a friend of mine when she has overflow work that she can’t handle. The pieces are short, take only an hour or so and I still get paid my rate for the hours put in. But on the website, even she is only listed as “staff writer.” So is it just simpler using one of your statements above? What about using the samples in a physical portfolio?

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
    Jim Lochner recently posted..CD Review- Citizen Kane – The Classic Film Scores of Bernard HerrmannMy Profile

    • I’d start by asking her what her deal is and if linking from your site to one or two as samples would be a problem. It never ever hurts to ask.

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