It's Always Best to Meet Clients in Person
Ghostwriting projects do best when the ghost and the prospective client meet in person before coming to any agreements. Nothing guarantees the successful outcome of a project, but getting to trust each other face-to-face comes close.
In the digital age, it is so convenient and efficient to meet prospects virtually and conduct work sessions virtually. Still, my experience tells me that when ghosts extend themselves to meet clients in person, the resulting ghostwriting project stands a better chance of being completed with success.
It Starts with Trust
Mutual trust is the best foundation for a successful engagement. My experience is that the best conditions for establishing such trust is by meeting in person, ideally in the client’s office or home. There are a number of benefits. First, it can’t hurt for the client to know how engaged the ghost is. Showing up is evidence of commitment. Second, a personal visit gives the ghost critical information about the client and the project. Ghostwriting tip number 2 (If you don’t see books, watch out) can’t be exploited without a personal visit. So many misunderstandings can be avoided by meeting in person.
Here's how I manage it.
After a phone call to establish common interest in working together, I suggest that I visit the client over a two-day visit. I propose we meet in the afternoon of the first day to get to know each other and talk about the project. Then we may or may not have dinner together. Sharing a meal is a good way for people to get to know each other, which is really the first goal of the ghostwriting project. The agenda for the meeting on the morning of the next day is to present the rough outline I worked up in my hotel the night before. This is a tip of the hat to Ghostwriting Tip Number 3 (No sleepovers). If a fee has not been negotiated earlier, this is a good time to agree on terms, now that the parties have a better idea of the scope of the project.
I make the managing of the expenses for the trip as easy as possible for the prospective client. I tell the client I charge a flat rate for the visit including all expenses, travel, hotel, meals, my time Let’s say it’s $1,500. (I really want to avoid collecting receipts and sending an itemized invoice; it’s best for a ghost to offer predictability up front.) If the client decides he or she wants to proceed with me, I will deduct $1,500 from the project fee. If the client decides to go in a different direction, the $1,500 is their only obligation.
Most clients react positively to this arrangement. They have a lot at risk, too, so they want to know who they are dealing with.
If a client resists such a meeting, I’m immediately skeptical of the project. A client has yet to present a cogent argument for why we should proceed without meeting in person. On the few projects for which I failed to insist on this policy, I have lived to regret it.