You saw that online and are interested in wanting to be a ghostwriter, but not sure what it is, how to ghostwrite, how much money you can make ghostwriting and if it’s a real way to make a living writing.
As a professional writer for a few years now, I’ve had some ghostwriting clients. All of them were influencers in their industry or small business owners wanting to start a blog on their business site.
Let me tell you right now that the ghostwriting rates you see online are highly varied. Being a ghostwriter typically means you can rate that type of writing much more than your bylined content.
But, freelance platforms take advantage of the varied rates and rate a ghostwriter as a low-paying writer.
This is not true on my end.
So, if you want to be a ghostwriter that actually makes decent money, there are a series of qualities you absolutely need to be an effective ghostwriter and a profitable ghostwriter.
Let’s first look at what a ghostwriter is and does and then go into how to become one!
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A ghostwriter is someone that writes copy like articles, speeches, books, blog posts, email newsletters, web copy, etc. and isn’t credited for that work.
The credit goes to your client or someone in that company or business that hired you.
The ghostwriter definition states that none of your work is credited to you. This means you cannot publicly share your client writing anywhere (unless your ghostwriting client gives permission).
You might be thinking – But Elna, how can they build their business without proof?
I’ll share that with you in a bit!!
First though, understand that the writing you do for a ghostwriting client will never have your name on it. Because of this, it’s known that you can rate your ghostwriting services much higher – some writer’s rate is 100% more – than your standard bylined (credited to you) rate.
I personally don’t increase my rates too much for my ghostwriting clients since most are already my clients!
Anyone can hire a ghostwriter. I have! If you have the budget and need a ghostwriter, then you can hire one. Anyone from authors to business owners to teachers and solopreneurs, the need is there.
Why Become a Ghostwriter?
If you aren’t allowed to showcase your ghostwriting work on your writer website or portfolio site, why become a ghostwriter then?
The biggest reason is that it’s more lucrative than other services like the service I provide – blog writing. You can grow your freelance writing business or take the next level by going this route.
Another reason why you might want to be a ghostwriter is that once you’re done with the work (and the client likes it), that’s it. There is no need to promote your client piece on social media.
And another big reason to start ghostwriting is that there will be less research overall. Your client has to supply you with the research material. So, you save the time from doing all that research yourself!
Finally, being a ghostwriter can help you and your freelance writing business in many ways. You get to learn how to communicate with clients better and help them open up you. Your writing also becomes better over time since you have to learn how to write in other people’s voice effectively.
Okay, so now the question is, how do you become a profitable ghostwriter?
How to Become a Ghostwriter
Let me say that since I’m not a ghostwriter, the steps I lay out are what I feel would help you become a ghostwriter that can make money. The steps are more challenging than becoming a freelance writer as you will see shortly.
1. Be a Freelance Writer First
Yes, to be a profitable ghostwriter, it’s a good idea to be a freelance writer first. This is how I broke into ghostwriting for influencers.
My high-paying clients also hired me to ghostwrite or had colleagues that needed a ghostwriter.
Being a freelance writer builds your credibility easily. You don’t have to market much on offering ghostwriting services. Prospects can see the value of your writing easily.
Being established also helps with networking.
Make sure you have a writer website set up so that you can start showing your value as a high-paying writer. This is ultimately the first step (once you decide you want to be a freelance writer or ghostwriter and know the niche topics you want to get paid for).
If you need help in the tech part of setting up a website, I have Writer Website in a Weekend for you!
2. Be a Freelance Editor First
Okay. If you feel you don’t want to market yourself as a freelance writer, why not become a freelance editor instead? Many freelance editors edit books, and it’s a great lead-in to your ghostwriting services.
Sometimes the client may add your name as one of the authors as a “with” notation or as the editor.
In any case, since you are editing your clients’ projects, it’s not a huge leap to let them know that you are more than happy to help them ghostwrite a book for them if they want to produce more books in the year or don’t have the time!
3. Get Comfortable Writing Big Projects
The most lucrative ghostwriter is one that ghostwrites books. Doctors, financial advisors or attorneys hire ghostwriters to write their books or memoirs. Kelly James-Enger is a profitable ghostwriter, and she says,
In the last couple of years, my ghosting projects have paid:
$20,000 for a 60,000-word health book
$15,000 for a 40,000-word business book
$12,000 for a 55,000-word memoir (The book had been written but needed reworking.)
$25,000 for an 80,000-word nutrition/fitness book of which my client wrote about one-third of the manuscript and I wrote the rest
These numbers may not be huge, but remember that I’m being paid to write the book, not promote it as well. Once it’s completed, which typically takes four to six months, I’m done. I can ghostwrite two or three books a year in addition to writing my own books and articles, which makes for a comfortable income.
This is around $3k a month just for ghostwriting. If you mix this with your regular freelance writing clients, you can make a killing!
Writing books is a separate skill than writing blog posts or articles. Personally, I’ve only taken one book project, but it was only 10k words. I have a harder time writing more than that.
That is probably why my freelance writing course is a course and not an eBook. I enjoy writing shorter content vs. full books.
4. Write a Book or Two
Many ghostwriters are also authors. Many of them find that being a ghostwriter fits perfectly with their business. So, if you’re a freelance writer that also wrote a book, you can be a ghostwriter too!
Again, this gives you more practice on how to write a book and the steps involved in book writing.
And while there are ghostwriter clients that seek out blog writing or other types of shorter content, it may not be as profitable than ghostwriting books.
5. Learn How to Write For Someone Else
This skill is one of the hardest skill for many writers. Crafting your own voice as a freelance writer or as a blogger is important for the success of your business. But, if a big chunk of your service is going to be ghostwriting, then you need to be a chameleon and fluid with your writing.
Being able to adapt to other writing styles is imperative to be a ghostwriter.
My writing voice is very conversational for my blogs and a little less for my client pieces. If I decide to hire a ghostwriter for one of my blogs, I usually give them links to the type of writing I want.
Some people or businesses will give you a writer guideline that gives you more information about the client’s voice.
As the ghostwriter, it’s up to you to familiarize yourself to the project and person. Read their content, follow them on social media, read their books, join their email list and get to know that person as much as possible.
From there, you might want to give that client a small sample of your ghostwriting to see if that client approves.
You don’t want to accept the gig and write out the first chapter in their voice, only to have them say that is not their voice.
It’s a big undertaking to adopt another person’s voice. If you don’t get it right, you run the risk of presenting your client (if it’s an autobiography for example) as more or less than what he/she is.
Take Donald Trump for example. He hired Tony Schwartz to ghostwrite ‘The Art of the Deal.’ Schrawtz did a phenomenal job writing that book for Trump and it made Trump look like an expert negotiator. But, by the look at of what is happening with how President Trump is handling negotiations, you can see that what Schwartz wrote in that book isn’t reflective of the true qualities of his client.
I have not read the book and I don’t know the history of Donald Trump. But from the Tweets and newspaper articles of Schwartz ousting Trump, I can see how this ghostwriting project wasn’t authentic to the client’s true voice.
Just something to think about!
How Do You Market Yourself as a Ghostwriter?
How can you market your services without showing your work on your writer website? There are some ways to get around this.
Guest Post Ghostwriting Content
One easy way to market yourself as a ghostwriter is to guest post about ghostwriting. For example, ghostwriter Karen Cole wrote this guest post for Freelance Writing on What is Ghostwriting.
Her author bio lets us know what her service is and provides a link to her writer website.
Just like I let new freelance writers know that guest posting is the best way to build your portfolio, it’s the same for ghostwriters! Just make sure only to write content about ghostwriting.
Some blog post ideas might be:
- How to Hire a Ghostwriter
- How a Ghostwriter Can Create Their Writing Voice
- How Do You Ghostwrite a Book?
- 5 Mistakes New Ghostwriters Make
The list can go on and on.
The point is, if you want to start out as a ghostwriter, you can’t rely on your client pieces to market your ability to ghostwrite. But, you can market your education and knowledge about ghostwriting via guest posts.
Provide Help on Facebook As a Ghostwriter
Facebook is a great social media platform to connect with others. You can join Facebook groups for writers or solopreneurs/entrepreneurs and search ghostwriting threads or pay attention to threads about ghostwriting.
Here is one ghostwriter’s break into ghostwriting:
From there I would add my expertise as a ghostwriter if there are questions about hiring a ghostwriter, what a ghostwriter does, or if it’s beneficial to have a ghostwriter.
Say You’re a Ghostwriter for Hire
A great way to let everyone know is to market yourself as a ghostwriter for hire on social media.
From your Pinterest bio to your Facebook Page About section to your Twitter bio and more make sure to put ghostwriter in your bio. Tell others what you do on social media. This will help attract the right type of clients or just get the buzz out there that you are offering ghostwriting.
A plus is if you identify the exact service you provide like ghostwriting books for authors or ghostwriting content for small businesses.
Here is an example of using Twitter to market your ghostwriting services:
How to Land Gigs as a Ghostwriter
Okay. Now, you might be wondering, how do I find work as a ghostwriter?
Leverage Your Existing Clients
If you are already a freelance writer, a freelance editor or an author, I suggest you look at your inner circle of contacts and network.
This is how many ghostwriters get their big break.
Don’t be hesitant to pitch to:
- Existing clients
- Other writers
Cold Pitch to Small Business Owners
Remember what I said about the types of clients that hire ghostwriters are? Many are doctors, attorneys, dentists, and other small business owners.
Maybe there are some new start-up app companies in varying niches like health apps, productivity apps, organizational apps, IoT apps, etc.
See if they have a website and if they need a ghostwriter not just for blog writing, but for their email marketing or landing pages.
You can also pitch to solopreneurs like someone who has an essential oil business, or a coaching business and see if they need help with ghostwriting a book or blog content.
The point is to reach out to these businesses and offer your services. It’s probably a good idea to follow them on social media first and sign up to their newsletters. This tactic is leaning more on warm pitching than a cold pitch, but since I prefer warm pitching, I feel it’s a better way to go.
Be Picky About Job Boards
I’ll be the first to say that while I feel job boards are a good entryway for a new freelance writer, it may not be for a ghostwriter. Jobs on many job boards may want a cheap ghostwriter.
You want to be selective in the type of job boards you go to.
Contena is a paid job board, but the gigs on this platform are usually higher-paying and are properly vetted. I have a post that talks more about using Contena, but I wanted to share with you how you can find ghostwriting gigs using Contena.
Now, Contena doesn’t have a ghostwriting section on their platform, but a great way to connect with brands is to use their leads section.
Contena tracks companies that hire writers. You can feasibly find some companies to collaborate with and pitch your ghostwriting services to them (since you know they hire writers anyways).
This is also a very fast way to find companies for cold pitching as a freelance writer!
All Freelance Writing Job Board
I like this free job board because it’s been vetted and it’s selective. You know you’re only getting the best gigs on this job board. The only thing is, it’s not frequently updated and there aren’t a lot of gigs available.
There might not be any ghostwriting gigs as well, but that shouldn’t stop you from pitching. As I mentioned, if you are already an established freelance writer, then you can pitch to these gigs and let them know the types of services you offer and mention ghostwriting as one!
Can You Make a Living as a Ghostwriter?
Yes, you can, but it may be harder to get to that point – depending on your clients.
In the beginning you may pick up ghostwriting gigs on writing blog posts or articles. While this may be lower-paying, it does give you experience writing in someone else’s voice.
If you can get in the author circle, then you can ghostwrite for authors. This is very lucrative. But, if you just look at job boards and find any ghostwriting gig, you won’t grow your business or make this a go for very long.
What I’m trying to tell you is to really hone down on the type of client that seeks out ghostwriters. While I do mention that anyone hires ghostwriters, only pair yourself with the ones that are high-paying!
I feel the most successful way to break into ghostwriting is to already be an established writer, editor or author.
This at least shows credibility in your craft and you may have a small network of clients you can lean on for more work or referral business.
Ready to Ghostwrite?
The path to being a successful ghostwriter is similar to the path to being a freelance writer. The main difference is how to prove yourself as a great ghostwriter. In the post, I do mention some marketing tactics like calling yourself a ghostwriter for hire.
In any case, don’t shy away from taking freelance writing jobs with a byline! This is great for marketing your business that can even grow your ghostwriting business!
Over to you – are you a ghostwriter? Do you offer ghostwriting services?