Being a ghostwriter and the trouble of building a portfolio

How many ghostwriters do you know? Not many is my guess.

Deian Isac
May 25, 2016 · 6 min read

How could you know a ghostwriter when the purpose of their existence is that you will never find out about their identity. But how do you, as a ghostwriter, make a name for yourself, when nobody knows about you or your work?

This is a question I have faced recently and I should have worried about when I began writing in 2009. Back then, I started to write descriptions for a small software website for a German online marketing company. Later, I wrote news for one of their portals about electricity; after that, I wrote posts about bargains.

When I began working for said company, I didn’t fully commit to this job. I was still a student and only worked in the morning till noon. Later, I dropped out of colleague and wanted to work full-time. Sadly, that company didn’t have enough work for me, so I moved on.

Opportunities await every step you take — you might find some of them by sheer luck.

Luckily, I added somebody on the German business network Xing (check out my profile) who asked me — quite direct — why I’ve added him and how I could help his business. I have always been very fond of direct people, being one myself. It was to no surprise that, after a few messages, we started working together — and we still do to this day.

Our partnership has been marvelous from the start, getting better year by year. But there comes a time when you want to do something a bit different. Being a writer doesn’t always mean that you can write what you want because the piece you really want to write might not be profitable. Writing about things that do earn money are not necessarily the things that interest you the most.

This is a dilemma I’m currently facing and trying to get out of. I want to start projects that might make no or little money but give me much more than Euros could give me — freedom of speech; learning by writing; expression of the mind.

I mentioned in my first ever article published on Medium, The bureaucratic nightmare of starting a business in Romania, that I have worked as a one-man-company until recently. Now I’m running a small company with two employees, my partner in crime — I mean life[1] — and myself.

8 years of work experience and nothing to back it up is a weird, unsatisfying feeling.

Having worked for nearly eight years in the industry, you might think that you should have a nice portfolio to show to potential clients — not in this case. I have signed an NDA which prevents me from discussing my work with third parties. Moreover, as a Ghostwriter, I have sold every article I’ve written to my partner in Germany. He has used some of my works for his projects, others have been given to his customers. In any case, none of them have been published under my name.

Theoretically, I could still show a potential customer what article I’ve written because I’m obligated to keep a copy of every article I’ve written. It would be quite easy to find my articles online — sometimes I even stumble over one of them by sheer luck. But, as I said, I can’t do that because I signed an NDA. Even if I could, my name is never mentioned. Therefore, I have no proof that I’m the author.

You might have guessed, the reason — or one of them — why I started writing on Medium, is to build a portfolio. Until now, I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to write in English, which has always annoyed me because I love the language and want to improve it.

Writing in a foreign language is oddly satisfying and enriching.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to write an English piece for a travel website, sadly, I can’t post the link to it. Even though, Medium is a good opportunity for people like me — a ghostwriter — to build a portfolio. I could have launched a blog for us on but I decided to go for Medium because I want my articles to be written, styled and published as efficient and hassle-free as possible without having to worry about a CMS, updates und vulnerabilities.

I do have knowledge about CMS, HTML and CSS but choose not to dive too deeply into the topic because creating content is more important [for now] than building websites. For, I chose the wonderful Grav CMS because it uses one of the things I love most about writing: Markdown.

Markdown is a language that has been created for writers. It makes it easy to format headings, lists, tables and other styles. I really hope Medium will incorporate Markdown sooner rather than later. For now, the platform is exactly what I need at this exact moment.

There’s also the very cool feature to start your very own publication. I’m thinking of starting one myself but haven’t chosen a name or focus yet. Writers can even choose to integrate their own domain, which makes the publication look a bit more independent in my opinion.

Besides writing on, we are working on our own projects. One of them will launch in the near future — maybe this month or in June. Said project has been nearly finished for quite some time but had to be delayed because I had to launch my company.

Edit: Meanwhile, we have launched — so go check it out.

Back in December, I had planned to launch the site in a January or February, not May or June. Today, I realize how, even when you think you have everything planned, things might not turn out the way you had hoped.

A blog, twitter, Pinterest — whichever you choose, start building your portfolio from the beginning.

Our upcoming project will be our first true representation of what we, as a duo of content creators, can do. Launching your own websites, blogs or even signing up for twitter, Pinterest or other media sites is one of many ways you can show the world what drives your inner ghost. Being a Ghostwriter is interesting but writing from the shadows has its downsides. There comes a time when you want to make your voice heard, engage with people online or simply look for new business opportunities. None of those will be possible if you don’t have a portfolio which shows the skills and experience you’ve gathered over time.

I recommend building a portfolio from the very beginning. Waiting for seven years like me will only make things harder.


[1]: I’m referring to my girlfriend

Picture sources:

Jesse Bowser | Unsplash

Matthew Wiebe | Unsplash

Olu Eletu | Unsplash

Cathryn Lavery | Unsplash

Gilles Lambert | Unsplash

Deian Isac

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Founder of, creates German and English content. Blogs on about travel, digital nomad life & gaming.