Occasionally, people ask me about breaking into ghostwriting books, which is something that I actually do a lot of (and sorry, if I told you which books they would have to shoot me). But hidden in their questions – and my answers – is actually a very important success secret for your small business. Take a look and see if you can find it:

What kind of commitment do you require? I don’t. People can use me by the hour for as much or as little time as they want. I do have a contract covering things like liability, payment terms and such, but I leave the scope of the work entirely up to the client. 

What kind of credit do you insist on in the finished book? None whatsoever. It’s their ideas and their book as far as I am concerned.

How do you guarantee that they will use you exclusively? I really don’t care. They can write part of it themselves, bring in other writers, change their minds, or invite the entire Green Bay Packers football team to take part. It’s fine with me.

Doesn’t it bother you to be writing a book that will have someone else’s name on it? I think it is the coolest thing in the world to take someone else’s voice and ideas, turn it into their own book, and then see it in bookstores. It sure beats bricklaying.

Do you see a common denominator here? People are asking me, with the very best of intentions, how much of a Prima Donna they should be with clients and my answer is that not being a Prima Donna at all will make you much more successful. It is often why I win competitive projects over other writers, why people like working with me, and why people come back to me.

A lot of what passes for small business advice nowadays revolves around how to be a Prima Donna: how to create 48-page contracts that protect your interests, how to demand steep up-front deposits, how to force clients to keep working with you even if they change their minds, yada, yada, yada- instead of what I feel are the two real competitive factors that tower over everything: doing great work and being a pleasure to do business with.

Does Prima Donna advice work? Sure, if you are someone famous like Prince Charles or if you are so busy that you want to weed out as many clients as possible. But if you are building a business, competing with a foot-thick stack of terms against someone who offers their clients lots and lots of easy, it will doom you to failure… simple as that. Look critically at how you do business nowadays and see if showing Prima Donna the door will help you reach new levels of success.