Making It as a Ghostwriter

by Beth Rifkin

3 min read

Benefits of a Ghostwriting Career

Ghostwriters help clients turn ideas into cohesive stories. Ghostwriting is an ideal career if you enjoy learning, because you gain fascinating insight into another person’s knowledge and life experience as you do your work. Writing for someone else allows you to view the content more objectively. The more you learn to spot the strengths and weaknesses in a client’s story, the better you get at applying a critical eye to your own creative work.

Clients typically pay upfront in stages, so ghostwriting lets you do what you love without struggling to make ends meet. A single book project can range from $10,000 to more than $50,000. You can also ghostwrite blogs, white papers, reports, and essays if you prefer short-form work.

Essential Skills of a Ghostwriter

Listening, organizing information, and managing time are the most important elements of a ghostwriter’s job. Imagine a client who comes to you with loose ideas, videos, recordings, or pages filled with notes. Some clients have a clear vision, but others might not even have a definite goal in mind. You have to ask the right questions to draw out useful information. At the same time, you must be able to absorb a lot of details, pick out the relevant parts, and tie everything together with a theme.

Clients trust you to adopt their voice and values to tell the right story. That’s why a ghostwriter must have strong people skills while being confident and authoritative enough to offer honest feedback and guidance. To show credibility, it’s helpful to have industry-specific knowledge.

Finding Ghostwriting Clients

Getting steady work requires a mix of marketing, writing experience, and luck, says Blake Atwood, author of “Don’t Fear the Reaper: Why Every Author Needs an Editor.” Ghostwriting assignments often come from people already in your network, such as former colleagues, clients, social media followers, and friends of friends. Many successful professionals and business owners have a wealth of knowledge to share, and they’re more likely to trust writers they know personally. It’s your job to optimize your luck by getting the word out about your services.

Growing Your Audience

Busy ghostwriters don’t wait for jobs to appear. If you want people to value your expertise, be proactive about building relationships and promoting your skills. Follow these four tips for marketing your business.

  1. Write consistently. People trust what they see. If you regularly write a blog, sell e-books, or contribute to a reputable publication, clients can see your skills and writing style firsthand.
  2. Create a ghostwriter website. Share your work history, education, and testimonials from clients. To hook readers, describe the process you use to help clients achieve their goals.
  3. Brand yourself as a specialist. As a freelancer, you’re more credible when you demonstrate extensive knowledge about a specific topic. Instead of trying to be a generalist, create a body of work that shows how well you understand your clients.
  4. Make friends. You never know who might be interested in writing a book, so start with people you know. Take advantage of writer associations and networking events to meet editors, publishers, and fellow writers who can offer referrals.

Be Patient

Don’t expect a thriving ghostwriting career to happen overnight. Be patient, and commit to a writing schedule while you work to build up your audience. In the meantime, talk to other people about their professional goals and aspirations. People hire people, not resumes. Finding out what’s important to potential clients is the best way to sell your ghostwriting skills as a solution to their needs.

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