Using Transcription for Ghostwriting

Transcription as a useful tool for ghost writers

According to many recent macroeconomic studies, the so-called “gig economy” is currently thriving and becoming one of the crucial keywords when discussing the changing nature of contemporary employment models. In the gig economy flexible jobs on temporary basis are becoming more common. A growing number of companies is hiring freelance collaborators and independent contractors, since full-time employees are not so crucial anymore for stable and efficient workings of an increasing number of companies. A notion of having only one, full-time job until retirement is becoming more and more obsolete. In certain professions, many people are already juggling between several jobs that are based on freelance or temporary contracts. One crucial aspect of gig economy is increased online visibility and networking between potential clients and freelancers through the use of various online platforms. Think about Uber of Lyft apps, LinkedIn or Proz networks, a million of apps for food or drink delivery, various pages or forums with job listings for different professions, job specific Facebook groups and so on.

Overall, this kind of economy can bring many benefits to workers and businesses, and thereby also to end consumers. It can also help in better adapting some work roles to the specific needs of the marketplace, especially in the unpredictable situations like the current COVID-19 pandemic. Gig economy also enables a more flexible lifestyle, outside the traditional frame of 9-5 schedule, which is especially appealing to younger workers. In some cases, it can be done entirely digitally, independent of any physical location like office or company headquarters, reducing the need for commuting and thereby also benefiting the environment. However, this type of economy has its own particular disadvantages, because it erodes the traditional links between businesses and their workers, it is less regulated, and it can be considerably more financially hazardous and precarious for workers.

It is estimated that at the current moment over 55 million Americans are working independently. Some of them still working full time jobs, but they supplement their income by working various side jobs, which are often affectionately referred to as “side hustles” or “side gigs”. Some people, as we already stated, earn all their income through several side gigs at once, as much as their time constraints and energy allows. However, the crucial thing here is still the principle of supply and demand, how much are their services or products needed by employers, customers and clients.

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In this article, we will focus on one specific subset of gig economy – the sector of language services, and will be talking about one interesting “side gig” that can be done by these language specialists, especially those with creative, literary inclinations. To be specific, we will provide you with some valuable info on ghostwriting, an increasingly popular and profitable means of earning side-income.

Ghostwriting is almost as old as writing itself, and it consists of writing articles or books which will later on be accredited to others, mostly to famous people or celebrities. So, ghostwriters seem to be the hidden talents who stand behind interesting stuff you read without you even realizing. Have you ever asked someone to do your homework, or written someone’s else’s homework, maybe a short essay about how you spent your winter holidays, or about the coming of spring in your town? If you have in turn provided or been provided by some financial compensation or services like help on the upcoming math exam, you already have practical knowledge of how ghostwriting functions.  

How can transcriptions help?

The truth is that even though you don’t really get the credit for your work, being a ghostwriter pays pretty well, under the condition you have good clients. You also need to have good rates and find a way to write efficiently. If you need to write numerous pages, and you find yourself lost listing to a recording of your client explaining his ideas, you might feel that you are wasting time. The constant rewinding, listening and stopping of the tape can be frustrating. Here is where we could help. We will now give you some tricks on how you can be more efficient and fast in your ghostwriting project by using transcriptions.

Why is the quality of the transcription so important?

If you are an experienced ghostwriter, you probably already know how everything lies in the details. You are writing on behalf of another person, so you need to make sure that you understood clearly what message this person is trying to convey. There is no room for misinterpretation. Thus, it is of uttermost importance that a transcript captures everything that the recording was saying without changing anything. Grammar and punctuation are also very important in this case. This is why speech to text software aren’t the best transcription choice in a serious ghostwriting project. You should choose a human professional who will be able to better understand the context and thus can guaranty more accuracy in your transcription. 

Getting a feeling for the main idea

When you have a transcript, you need to go through it to get a feeling for the text you are going to write and find the angle from which you want to approach this project. What is the main message? The first time you go through the material we would suggest that you read the transcript while simultaneously listening to the recording. This will probably be more useful to you than you might think. Use a pen and highlight all the most important parts in the transcript. This is where you need to select the “backbone” of the content which you are going to use while writing your piece. Highlight phrases you want to take over and use repeatedly. This is a great way to find the speaker’s unique voice.

Start with a draft

A good way to start your writing process is to make a draft, so you stay focused on the key information. Based on that you can also create subheadings and a first version of your introduction and/or conclusion. In the beginning of the book or article, you want to catch the attention of the reader. This is why it might be a good idea to start with an interesting anecdote your client mentioned in the recording. It is good if the end caries some sort of conclusion, or connotes ideas that are meaningful for the rest of the story.

You will also have to be able to recognize some potential problematic areas, since live conversations are usually more spontaneous and tend to lack structure. Also, your client is probably an important person, with active approach to life, and these personality types tend to spill out their thoughts and stories for you in a dynamic, uninhibited manner. That might not bother an interested listener much but for a reader it might be a bit off-putting. This is why it is your job as a ghostwriter to make an order out of the thoughts of your client and make sure that your piece has a certain flow with smooth transitions which follow a certain narrative logic. On the other hand, if you are ghostwriting for a person that is more on the silent side of the personality spectrum, it would be very useful for you to make a good list of questions, topics and themes that you can always bring up when the conversation becomes too slow. Also, never forget to keep the conversation going by asking meaningful, thoughtful questions, and to do that, listen actively and attentively to the life story that is unfolding in each session, and you have the unique opportunity to craft it into a well-defined piece of literature.

The voice of the speaker needs to be present

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This we already mentioned briefly. As a ghostwriter you need to keep in mind that you are writing a piece on behalf of someone else, the person who hired you. This is why you don’t really get to speak for yourself, but you need to be able to recognize and use your client’s voice. You have to know what is important to them, and you don’t really get to leave something out that your client mentioned in the recording. If it is mentioned, it is probably important to your client. Transcriptions can help here a lot, since you can easily find facts which have to be mentioned. It is important that each of your sections is supported by information you gathered from your client. Also, try not to repeat yourself.

It is worth mentioning that there is always a gap between the story that the speaker told and the actual truth of the events that transpired. There is also a gap between the speaker’s story and the story that you are trying to write down and edit into a coherent biography. The depth and width of this chasm depends on the mindfulness of your approach to gathering info, and your skill as a writer when crafting this info into specific literary form. Your personal style as a writer will influence the story, and since you are working in the shadows, it would be wise to follow the example of established ghostwriters, and write in clear, readable and inobtrusive style that does not draw attention from the speaker. You can do express yourself in your novel, if you find enough time to write in between various gig jobs. “Hope is the thing with feathers”, one famous American poetess once wrote.

Checking and editing your content

When your draft version is done, we suggest that you go once more though the transcript. This way you will make sure that no important information is missing and that there aren’t any misinterpretations in your piece.
Now it is also time to edit your draft version. You can read and check your work for potential typos or grammar mistakes, work on transitions or even moving, cutting and pasting entire sections if you think that by doing that the text will be more effective. Still, make sure that your text is in fact an accurate representation of the recording and that you were able to catch the intended tone and meaning of the speaker.


Also, if the deadlines are not already catching up on you, and breathing ominously on your neck, making you sweat cold bullets of stress, you should congratulate yourself for being well organized, and leave the text to rest a bit after finishing the first version. Let it cool down for a day or two and then read it again before sending it back to your client. This will allow you to review your piece from a new, fresh perspective. You have to trust us on this one, it is a tried-and-true principle for upgrading factors like readability of the text from “quite good” to “really great”, or reducing the rate of errors, omissions and misspellings from “ok” to “flawless”.

Conclusion: We hope that in this article we were able to show you that transcripts of your client’s conversations can be really helpful in your ghostwriting projects. They help you to draft your work and enable you to go through the thoughts of your clients without having to listen to your client’s recordings multiple times and taking notes, since you can easily find everything you need in the transcript. This is an indispensable tool for any serious ghostwriters that like to do their job as fast as efficient as possible, and then disappear into the shadows, until the next gig.