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Exploring Life & Business with Emily Crookston of The Pocket PhD

Today we’d like to introduce you to Emily Crookston.

Hi Emily, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
The story about how I became a ghostwriter is probably similar to how most people become ghostwriters. I fell backward into it mostly by accident. I was a philosophy professor for seven years and when I was ready to leave academia, I gave myself a year to figure out my next move. I thought back to what I wanted to do before I discovered philosophy. And the answer was “when I was 13, I wanted to do marketing.” Of course, marketing changed a lot between 1993 and 2016, so I didn’t really know what marketing was. Fortunately, a very generous friend of a friend, who owned a boutique website development and marketing agency, was looking for marketing help and I became her intern. I wrote blog articles for her and for her clients. At some point, she suggested that I start a business and so that’s what I did. I built my website during spring break of my last semester teaching, started calling myself a content marketer, and The Pocket PhD was born. I enjoyed writing blog articles (and I still offer ghostblogging + content marketing services), but I also knew it would be tough to build a business around ONLY writing blog posts. I also didn’t want to write copy. So I started saying I could write longer stuff and found my way to my first book ghostwriting project, a memoir. Along the way, someone called me a ghostwriter and that name stuck.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
The road to becoming the expert I am has not been smooth. In fact, I wish entrepreneurs would talk much more about how messy the journey to becoming an expert really is. That said, I don’t think my road has been extraordinarily difficult. I can’t talk about my struggles without also acknowledging my privilege here. My dad was an entrepreneur, so I had some insider knowledge into what this life would be like. I had some savings when I started and my husband’s income covers our bills, which allowed me the space I needed to build my business intentionally. I’ve also been lucky to find my way to people who have shined a light on my path just when I was about to stumble. In the early days, I was paralyzed by the thought of failure. I just wanted someone to give the syllabus for starting a successful business. It was a struggle to see my business as the experiment it is and be comfortable trading in security for freedom. Every time I come to the end of a book project and I don’t yet have another client lined up, I struggle against my own self-doubt. The ebb and flow of the entrepreneurial cash flow is a struggle, even when you’re “used to it.”

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
I’m the ghostwriter for rebels, renegades, and mavericks. I help experts—who are long on ideas but short on time—write books and articles. As the Owner and Decider of All Things at the Pocket PhD, I partner with individuals and brands to translate complex ideas for lay audiences. I love to draw out my clients’ most audacious ideas and make them spread like wildfire. My work has appeared in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Ellevate, SmartBrief, The Rolling Stone, Inman, and ThriveGlobal.

With my one-on-one book ghostwriting service, I work collaboratively with experts in a variety of industries to turn their book ideas into publishable manuscripts in 16 weeks. I specialize in writing business development and personal development books. I’ve written books with physicians, psychologists, physical therapists, financial advisors, coaches, and consultants.

With my ongoing monthly ghostblogging + content marketing service, my team and I work with busy professionals who don’t have the time or inclination to create their own content. Together, we come up with a solid content marketing strategy and implement the strategy by writing blogs, social media, and email content. Essentially, we take all of their content marketing off of their plates.

I also do developmental editing where clients come to me with a complete first draft of their book and in four weeks, I “get into the sausage” with them to get to the heart of their message. I look at the structure of the book, analyze the idea, offer recommendations for revisions, and implement the approved changes. Having a fresh set of eyes on your book can be just what an author needs to refocus and get that book over the finish line.

Here’s what I know: if you’re going to write a business book or create content for your business, you need a business case for your book or content marketing. So no matter how many people have told you to write a book and no matter how many other business owners you know have a content marketing strategy, if you can’t see your way to making a profit from your content, then you shouldn’t be spending money on it. It’s that simple.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
I just had my 5-year business anniversary and I wrote a blog article entitled, “5 Lessons Learned from 5 Years of Being the Pocket PhD.” The most important lesson I’ve learned is this: actions teach better than thought. In business, there is a lot of leaping without feeling ready. It always pays to ask yourself, “what is the smallest action I can take to move me toward my goal?” And then, it pays to take that action as quickly as possible. I can report that every time I’ve hesitated to make a move or to take an action, I’ve later thought, “I should have moved sooner.” Whatever it was that I thought I needed to figure out before taking action always turned out to be insignificant in the end. And I’ve learned so much more from the actions I’ve taken than from the thinking I’ve done from my armchair that no hesitation seems worth the extra time. Another good point to remember is that: no action is permanent. You can always rework the offer. You can always part ways with the client. You can always adjust the terms so that they make better sense for you.


  • Book ghostwriting = $32,000 (or 4 payments of $8,000)
  • Ghostblogging + content marketing = $2,500 per month
  • Book developmental editing = $6,000
  • LinkedIn Roadmap = $500 and LinkedIn Roadmap + 3 months of LinkedIn content = $5,000

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Christina Marie Noel

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