How to Become a Ghostwriter [Make Up to $40K/Y]
Ghostwriting is becoming a growing viable career direction for writers.
According to Salary.com, the average ghostwriter salary in the United States is $40,863 (2023).
Many ghostwriters have a specific niche or platform they specialize in, like this writer who focuses on Linkedin content:
Ghostwriting can be a great career, letting you turn your hand to different styles, genres, and formats of text. It’s also a great way to supplement your own writing, without needing to have your name associated with all of the work you do. In this way, ghostwriting can be a useful exercise for aspiring writers looking to develop their skills.
I’ve worked with a range of clients over the years, writing blog content for businesses, developing treatments (script summaries) for screenwriting, and helping clients to develop their homepage copy to reach their ideal audience. Having this experience across a breadth of industries means I understand how to manage clients, find work, and deliver high-quality ghostwriting. Plus, I’ve also worked with great freelance writers in a management capacity and know what sets good writing apart from the competition.
In this article, I’ll guide you through the different types of assignments ghostwriters might take on, and provide you with some tips on how to become a successful ghostwriter.
What is Ghostwriting?
As mentioned above, ghostwriting is the practice of writing a text for someone else. You’ll write pieces of content, novels, business books, and more that will be officially credited to your client, rather than yourself. People hire ghostwriters for many reasons. For example, to help them build out their brand, translate their knowledge and expertise into e-books, or take their idea for a novel and make it a reality.
While some may argue that it’s a shame to not have your name attached to your writing, there are specific benefits of ghostwriting that make it so attractive. One of the main benefits is that you, as the writer, take on less risk. If you’re working on a novel under your own name, for example, you’ll have all the risks associated with trying to get your book published. This could include finding a publisher, investing lots of (unpaid) time writing, and, after all that, it might not even sell! As a ghostwriter, you’re hired to work on a project and know that you will receive a set fee from your client. Because of this, many aspiring novelists will work as a ghostwriter, both to hone their skills and to gain greater financial stability. Ghostwriting can be a great career on its own, or as a supplement while you’re building your writing career under your own name.
Another benefit of ghostwriting is getting to work on a range of projects. This is great if you enjoy researching and writing while also learning about new topics and styles. It’s also ideal if you love writing, but struggle to come up with creative ideas.
Writing Process and Styles
The writing process for ghostwriting will vary from person to person and job to job, and so will the style. Usually, depending on your client, you will adapt to a style that the client prefers. In some instances, you might decide the style together.
The writing process will invariably include your client. You may have regular meetings with them, go through several drafts of the assignment to get it just right, and make suggestions and changes (with agreement from the client, of course) to improve the quality of the writing.
The most important thing to remember as a ghostwriter is that you are writing for someone else. So, make sure to adapt your writing voice and style to the requirements of the brief or assignment. Especially in the case of writing blog or social media posts, a client will tend to have a tone of voice document. This is a handy guide that gives you guidelines, rules, and references to help you adapt your writing to their target audience.
Types of Writing Assignments for a Ghostwriter
As a successful ghostwriter, you’ll have the opportunity to work on lots of different projects for a variety of clients. It’s a good idea to try out as many of these as possible to see what suits you and what doesn’t.
Over time, you will likely find your niche. This can help you establish yourself within a specific genre or type of writing, for example blog posts, white papers, or e-books.
Let’s take a look at some of the top types of ghostwriting.
Blog Posts and Social Media Posts
Digital content marketing is a big industry. Since the pandemic, content marketing has rapidly increased and the industry is set to reach 107 billion US dollars by 2026. This means that there is a lot of work out there for all types of writing, including ghostwriting. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll be able to place bids on ghostwriting for blog and social media posts through job sites geared towards you. There are lots of options out there, but some of my favorites include Upwork, ProBlogger, and Scripted.
This type of writing involves generating articles and social media posts for a client. It could mean writing captions for Instagram images for a brand page, or writing articles for a specific blog about a company’s client services.
Due to the volume of this industry, it can feel overwhelming and oversaturated when you start out. The key is to start by taking small jobs, and performing well. By building up your reputation as an ace ghostwriter, you’ll get repeat clients and interesting work.
White Papers and Business Books
Do you have a background in academia or a specific industry and are looking to transition into ghostwriting? Experts are highly sought after for ghostwriting work. If you have niche knowledge or an extensive background in a particular field, writing for white papers and business books could be the perfect job for you.
Ghostwriting white papers could see you working for the government or a research organization, working with original research, and creating a report or guide explaining a complex topic. Business books, on the other hand, usually take a certain approach, financial method, or the expertise of a business-person and help readers understand how they can apply this knowledge in their own business lives.
Both white papers and business books require a degree of expertise in a given field. This is necessary in order to translate complex information into concise, digestible text. This is why ghostwriters with niche backgrounds are highly sought after and can request the best fees for their work. If you’ve worked at a high level in a tech firm, as a researcher, business-person, or in a similar industry, you can capitalize on this as a ghostwriter.
Nonfiction Books, Novels, and Other Literary Works
Longer form jobs can include ghostwriting nonfiction books, novels, short stories, and more. Arguably one of the most creatively satisfying opportunities, these also require an in-depth commitment to the job. These jobs usually involve working closely with the client over a long period of time to release a big piece of work. There can be great stability working on these projects, and they often lead to repeat, long-term collaborations.
Similar to other ghostwriting jobs, you can find work through freelance websites but it is more challenging! This is why it’s important to build up a strong portfolio of work, maintain good client relationships, and network with other professionals. If you build up a reputation for high-quality ghostwriting, you’re more likely to be offered harder-to-find long-form writing projects like these.
Some famous authors have enjoyed working as ghostwriters, too. Why? Ghostwriting gives them balance to their own work and takes the pressure off producing under their own name. It also gives them an opportunity to work in a different genre or industry altogether.
Becoming a Successful Ghostwriter
Now that you’ve got a good picture of the opportunities out there for ghostwriters, the next step is to become a successful one. There are a handful of things you can do to set yourself apart from the competition. Take into account the tips below and you’ll be well on your way to being a successful ghostwriter.
Understand the Voice
Arguably one of the most important aspects of ghostwriting is being able to adapt your writing voice. Many writers have a distinctive voice that sets their writing apart from others. As a ghostwriter, you need to be able to adapt to your client’s needs instead.
One of the best ways to do this is to spend time interviewing your clients. Get to know what they are looking for, if they have references to styles they like, or if there are specific themes that lend themselves to a particular voice. Getting this right early on is important, as it’ll mean fewer revisions and will give you clarity as a writer.
Researching the Theme or Topic
Do your research! Spend time understanding the theme, topic, or genre that you’re writing for. If your client already has a body of work that they’re looking to continue, you’ll have amazing material to learn from already. If not, consider reading work in a similar genre, explore key themes, and understand the topic by doing a deep research dive.
Check out books written on the same theme, or read articles written about a similar topic. Are there patterns in the writing or information discussed? This can help you understand what is important to include, and what’s best left out. Maybe you’ve identified a gap when researching your topic — this is a great opportunity to showcase your knowledge and even discuss ideas with your client! It’ll show them that you’re proactive, switched on, and aware of opportunities that can be beneficial for your client (and you!).
Be Reliable: Meet Deadlines
There’s nothing worse than missing a deadline and making a client unhappy. This can literally be the thing that sets you apart from other writers out there. If you’re able to be reliable, respond within a reasonable timeframe to your clients, and set realistic deadlines, this will win you repeat clients.
Sometimes a missed deadline is inevitable (things happen), but make sure to communicate this as soon as possible with the client. Showing that you’re proactive in managing your time or an impending deadline will always be better than not communicating at all. You’ll be surprised how understanding clients can be as long as you keep them in the loop and attempt to mitigate the situation by coming up with a solution.
Wherever possible, manage your time well so that you don’t miss those all-important deadlines. Keep in mind that there are likely other people involved — such as editors, proofreaders, and more — and their time is valuable, too. Learning how to manage deadlines and organize your time is key to a successful ghostwriting career.
Be Flexible: Adapt to Different Topics and Genres
A ghostwriter should be able to seamlessly adapt to different topics and genres. If you can prove your ability to turn your hand to any style, topic, genre, or niche of writing, you’ll appeal to a broader clientele.
A good way to become familiar with different genres is to spend time reading.
- Pick up different books outside of what you’d normally read.
- Make notes on what makes this style of writing particular to the genre: certain words, phrasing, pace of the writing, etc.
- Take these commonalities and apply them to your own writing.
If you’re looking to develop your topic expertise, you should:
- Subscribe to websites in that particular topic. For example, subscribe to the Financial Times if you want to build your understanding of finance.
- Take short online courses to increase your understanding of a topic.
- Read other articles on the topic: note down references and explore these.
- Make sure to take notes and see if there are any commonalities in writing style that you can apply to your own.
Use Your Creative Thinking & Problem-Solving Skills
As a ghostwriter, you’ll work with lots of different clients, requirements, briefs, and personalities. These all bring with them their own set of challenges. It’s important to remember that this is part of the job and to find creative solutions to overcome any hurdles along the way.
Don’t be afraid to make suggestions, think outside the box, and use your creativity. After all, that’s likely why you’ve been hired to do the job! Solving a complex problem can take a few tries, but make sure to involve your client in the process, too. If you can come to a solution you are both happy with, then you will be developing strong relationships and showcasing your adaptability.
Ghostwriting can be a lucrative, rewarding, and interesting career. You could be working on a script for an exciting film, or learning all about plants while writing blog posts for a company that sells greenhouses. Or, you might turn your hand to writing what could be the next best-selling novel. The adaptability and relative stability of ghostwriting is what makes this such a fascinating industry to work in. By following the advice above, you too can be on your way to a successful career as a ghostwriter.
This article was co-written with Wordtune. Wordtune didn’t write the whole piece. Instead, it contributed ideas, suggested rephrasing alternatives, maintained consistency in tone, and of course - made the process much more fun for the writer.