Curious about what ghostwriting is and how it differs from other content writing? Wondering if it might be the career for you?
In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know before searching for ghostwriting jobs.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a professional writer whose name doesn’t appear on the finished piece of work. You can’t claim that you authored the piece. You’ll have read plenty of ghostwritten work, without ever knowing it.
The market for ghostwriting includes the following opportunities:
Business Blog posts, website articles, and press releases
Writing memoirs, lifestyle books, and business books
Speeches for CEOs to politicians, and everyone in between
Because you can’t claim it as your work, you can charge a premium, making it a lucrative career option. Ghostwriters usually work freelance on a project basis. You’ll need to handle your own outreach, contracts, negotiating your price, and manage deadlines.
Ghostwriters work in a variety of different ways. Some will write an entire project while others may work more closely with the named author, or expand sections of the author’s writing. It’s important you know the full scope of the project before quoting a price and signing a contract.
Do You Need Experience?
This is not an option for beginning your writing career. You’ll need some experience to get started as it’s much more challenging to capture the voice and style of a particular person or brand. No one will hire you if you can’t provide a portfolio proving you’ve been successfully published before.
If you want to ghostwrite novels, you’ll be expected to show you’ve already successfully written and published similar work in the past. That means you must have published work under your own name. Most successful fiction ghostwriters have a writing career before becoming a ghostwriter.
If you’re looking to ghostwrite content for a company, you can get away with having less experience, but they’ll still expect to see previously published work to show you have the skills to move content through the editorial pipeline; research, write, edit, and publish. The more published content you can show them, the higher the price you can negotiate.
Getting Started in Ghostwriting
So, how do you market yourself as a ghostwriter?
As with standard content writing careers, you need a portfolio of published work to showcase your talents. Having a portfolio takes away the guesswork for the hiring manager. They can see what you have to offer without taking too high of a risk.
Building Your Profile and Branding Yourself
Before going all-in as a ghostwriter, get published as widely as possible in the field you’d like to specialize in. Submit guest blog posts on sites with good authority, pitch to print magazines and industry publications within your field.
Build your authority within your niche. The more specialized you are, the higher price you can charge. I heard a saying once from another digital content professional that has stuck with me; “niche down to blow up.” Find your niche, dominate that space, and watch your career take off.
Be present on social media and interest forums. Post consistently about industry news and fresh developments to show your passion and how knowledgeable you are on the topic.
A professional website clearly showing what you offer
Professional email address (avoid popular free ones to show you are a proper business)
Increase your chances of being found online by learning more about search engine optimization (SEO) to get onto the first page of Google and other search engines.
Showcasing Your Credentials
Building an online profile is pointless if no one ever sees it. Display any published writing on your website and share it across your social media channels. Check periodically to make sure all the links are still working.
Keep a list of your published work with the hyperlinks so you can find them quickly. Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel are the easiest way to track your published content.
When you pitch to a business, online publication, or receive an inquiry, you can easily share a few highly relevant samples to show them you’re exactly what they’re looking for.
Developing Your Writing Skills
Every writer knows the more you write, the better you become. To be a ghostwriter, you’ll need to get used to writing in the tone, voice, and style of someone else. Keeping the perspective of your written content consistent throughout is a must.
Never stop educating yourself in the industry you’re writing for. Try emulating the style of different authors to get used to writing in different ways. Read content from other brands and sites to get ideas for how to frame your work. There is nothing wrong with pulling ideas and inspiration from other sources, just NEVER copy the work.
Find other writers to help you keep improving. Look on social media for writing groups and follow leading ghostwriters online. Having another peer review your work is a great way to get reliable feedback. When I used to write narratives for financial crime investigations, we were required to do a peer review before submitting the narrative to the client.
Run your writing through tools such as Grammarly and Headlines Studio to make sure your spelling and grammar, prose, dialogue, and readability are all dialed in.
Working With Clients
Instead of working at your own pace and your own schedule, you’ll have clients comment on your work, requesting edits, and expect you to be meeting or even exceeding their deadlines. Knowing how to communicate with different clients is essential.
Listening To Clients
Remember this is about the client, not you. That doesn’t mean you can’t raise concerns or share ideas, but it does mean you have to listen to what they want.
Tips for improving client communication:
Take notes during conversations and meetings with them
Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to get a better understanding
Use a written contract to show the scope and deadline of the work
Every client will have their own expectations about ongoing communication. Some will want to work very closely with you, others will prefer monthly meetings, and some may just want an email update once a month. Make sure you’re clear about their level of involvement and factor in meeting time and other overhead into your costs.
Many clients expect you to nail the project the first time, but this often isn’t the case. You’ll come close, but there will inevitably be some back and forth to tweak the content to their satisfaction. It’s important you check your ego at the door and listen carefully to any concerns or criticisms. This will help you shift your writing into the style and voice they want.
Clients can sometimes struggle to explain what feels wrong about a piece of content. Talking and asking questions will help them clarify a particular issue. You’ll often find that rather than the entire piece being wrong, it’s just your vocabulary choice or turn of phrase that needs adjusting to suit. Being open like this also builds rapport with the client and could lead to additional work down the road.
So how much does ghostwriting pay? Did you really think you’d find a simple answer? Like most writing, there’s no set rate for ghostwriting. You must negotiate the price yourself.
Factors that come into play:
Level of experience: How can I show my competence in this field?
Length of the project: The more work it takes, the higher your price
How much involvement you’ll have: Collaborative sessions, meetings, and interviews all need to be budgeted for
Remember, you can always negotiate down, but never up.
Don’t sell yourself short. If you’re cheaper than everyone else, what does that say about the quality of work you do? What kind of customer will you attract? I’d rather have 5 good-paying clients than 15 lower-paying clients that are a pain in my ass all the time.
How to Get Found
There are plenty of ways to become known as a ghostwriter:
Brand yourself on social media
Use SEO to make your portfolio website rank on Google
Write blog posts that answer the questions your potential clients ask
You can also find clients by searching for them and making a pitch. Avoid any sneaky sales tactics. Instead, show them the benefits you can offer them if they work with you. Networking is an essential way to find good-paying clients. LinkedIn is a great social media tool for networking with other professionals and conducting outreach.
Being a ghostwriter is a fantastic career option, but it’s not for everyone. Writing in a different voice and style from your own is hard and takes time to perfect. Because of that, communication with your clients is key.
And while you can charge a premium for your work, remember you won’t be able to use it to promote yourself. It’s important you continue to publish under your own name to be seen on social media and found on search engines. Set aside time dedicated to networking and finding new clients to ensure you have a steady stream of work.