Just like every patient needs healing, every story needs a writer. But just because you need medical treatment, doesn’t mean you can be a good doctor. The same is true for the written word. There will always be people with a story to tell, wisdom to impart, a special skill to share, or product to sell but that doesn’t mean they have the skills to put that story into writing. Not all good writers can tell their stories as well as they can tell someone else’s. And it is at this crossroads that a ghostwriter comes into the picture. So, just what is a ghostwriter?
What is a Ghostwriter?
There are a variety of reasons that someone would want to ghostwrite. In fact, when you discover more about what a ghostwriter is, you may consider it for yourself. I fell into ghostwriting as one way to earn money from home.
Ghostwriting is also great for:
- Opportunities to practice writing and to vastly improve your writing early in your career
- Writing without the fear of having early work with mistakes come back to haunt your career later.
- Teaching the value of taking the time to get it right the first time as you strive to meet high expectations from clients who provide constructive feedback on what they like and what doesn’t fly.
- Getting paid once work was completed without having to wait months to sell your own writing or years to get paid.
- Learning about different topics that you may not have otherwise gotten to learn about.
The work is varied, and you get to ask questions only insiders know the answers to. As your confidence grows, take on more challenging projects including whitepapers, guides, reports, product reviews, marketing copy, website content, articles, e-books, short stories, and books. I ghostwrote an e-book for a client in Australia, and I cared more that I was being paid to write a book than the fact I wasn’t getting credit.
Within one year of steady income from ghostwriting, it was time to bid goodbye to brick and mortar jobs forever.
Ghostwriters with experience and those with published books can, of course, demand much higher wages. I earned a reputation as a ghostwriter through patience, a little luck, and very hard work. It’s hard to promote yourself when clients want to claim your work as their own, but previous clients make referrals to business colleagues and friends. Many of my new clients were small businesses and admitted to not being clear themselves about what a ghostwriter is.
What is a Ghostwriter’s Skill Set?
- Desire and commitment to reading the topics and genres you’re writing in
- Ability to creatively come up with ideas if requested
- Top-notch research skills will save you tremendous time
- Listening to tapes, reading notes or outlines
- Writing of course!
- Ability to transform client ideas or outlines into coherent and organized content ready for the public eye
- Outlining and writing articles based on keywords (especially nonfiction web content)
- Editing and polishing finished drafts (grammar, spelling, etc.)
- Patience to work four to eight hours work per article, often much more
What do Ghostwriters Write About?
What is a ghostwriter’s topic list like? As you learn more about ghostwriting, it’s easier to see how endless the topics are. I started out writing keyword articles. If you aren’t familiar with this form of writing, articles are focused around a keyword or phrase, such as “led lighting.” They know that this keyword is one that should pull traffic to their website.
As a new ghostwriter, I would write between five and ten articles using that same keyword. I wrote about everything from termites to car insurance, from wheat grass to nursing school, and from marriage to the seven ancient wonders of the world. The work was varied, but it was also the same, it was a weird balancing act.
As you gain experience in what is a ghostwriter does you’ll see there are several different areas or ways of ghostwriting:
- Write the story of other people’s lives who are celebrities or otherwise have an interesting story without the skills, desire, or time to write it.
- Research the ideas of other people who are non-writers or too busy to write themselves. Draft written content that is approved or sometimes substantially altered by the other person whether you agree or not.
- Write e-books, articles, or other marketing literature such as anonymous emails, letters, and website text to help individuals or companies sell products and services, educate, inform, or inspire.
- Write about your own ideas in your words but approved by someone else and published under their name.
What is a Ghostwriter’s Schedule Like?
Probably the greatest thing for me about ghostwriting is the ability to set your schedule and work when you want to work. Yes, your client will have a timeline, but within that timeframe, you work when you want to work and just get the work done. Keep in mind that challenging projects can take from two-six hours, several weeks, or longer depending on the amount of research and content involved.
Drawbacks to Being a Ghostwriter
- Often no credit or recognition for what you’ve written.
- Your job is to make someone else look good, and there’s no room for your ego.
- Learn to write with someone else’s voice and style
- Writing under someone else’s name doesn’t build your authority or expertise
- Difficult to build a following or platform under your name
- Success can be dependent on referrals from clients
- Providing samples of your work to potential clients may require an NDA.
- It feels a little bit like cheating to pass your writing off as someone else’s
- Other people make money from your work. Unless you negotiate something into your contract regarding royalties for best-sellers or viral posts, you’re at the mercy of your client
- Eventually, as a writer, you may reach a point where the desire for credit or the need for a platform of your own is overwhelming.
How Much Does a Ghostwriter Earn?
The secrecy and hidden nature of ghostwriting means that clients can essentially pay whatever a ghostwriter will accept. I was paid very little to ghostwrite keyword article for marketers because I didn’t know any better. But working cheap enabled me to build a reputation and experience, so it paid off in other ways. Now I turn down client work regularly because there just isn’t enough time for it all. For more information on how to calculate rates for ghostwriting see the Editorial Freelance Association Rates.
What is a Ghostwriter? Finding Work
A lot of people who are ghostwriters will say that getting clients is a matter of patience or luck or even a combination of both. But I firmly believe that getting ghostwriting jobs has some hard work and skill involved. Use the term “ghost writer” in the search engine on traditional online job boards such as Indeed.com and on third party freelance sites like www.upwork.com.