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Want to Become a Ghostwriter? Read This Ultimate Guide

Picture of Mo Shehu

Mo Shehu

Our guide covers everything on how to become a ghostwriter, from building a portfolio and setting rates to handling clients effectively.

Table of contents

TL;DR: To become a ghostwriter, focus on writing, research, adaptability, communication, and time management. Build a portfolio to help you find clients, set your rates according to each writing project, draft legally sound contracts, and use tools to help you writer better and manage projects more effectively.


Beth had always loved writing.

As a child, she filled countless notebooks with stories, poems, and sketches of imaginary worlds. 

Her passion for words followed her into adulthood, but despite her talent, she struggled to find a stable career as a freelance writer. 

Freelance writing provided some income, but it was inconsistent. She often found herself taking on projects that didn’t excite her.

One day, while scrolling through a writing forum, Beth came across a discussion about ghostwriting. 

She had heard the term before but never really understood what it entailed. 

Intrigued, she started reading about the experiences of ghostwriters and how they helped clients bring their ideas to life. 

The concept fascinated her.

Here was a way to write full-time, work on diverse projects, and get paid well — all without the pressure of having her name attached to every piece.

Beth decided to dive in and learn how to become a ghostwriter.

She spent weeks researching, honing her skills, and preparing a portfolio. 

Her first ghostwriting gig was a memoir for a local businessman. 

When the first check cleared for $9,675, she couldn’t believe her eyes.

A few more payments like this and she would finally be able to take a long-deserved holiday.

It was a challenging project. Capturing someone else’s voice and life story was no small feat — but Beth loved it. 

There were many content interviews with the ghostwriting client each month.

Six months and several editing rounds later, the manuscript was done.

The client was thrilled with the final product, and transferred the final payment.

Beth was thrilled.

Word of her talent as a professional writer began to spread.

And as her client base grew, so did her confidence. 

She learned how to balance multiple writing projects, manage client expectations, and navigate the legal and ethical aspects of ghostwriting. 

She found joy in the variety of topics she wrote about and the satisfaction of helping others tell their stories. 

Ghostwriting became not just a job, but a fulfilling career that allowed her to do what she loved every day.

And of course, she made good money, too.

Author writing on a piece of paper

This guide is for every aspiring ghostwriter like Beth, who has a passion for writing and wants to explore ghostwriting. 

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to take your ghostwriting career to the next level, this guide will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to succeed.

Goals of this ghostwriting career guide

The demand for ghostwriting services is growing about 6.5% each year across various sectors, including enterprises, government agencies, and private individuals​.

We work with many such individuals at Column, especially for LinkedIn ghostwriting.

In North America, the market is projected to expand steadily, with significant contributions from the U.S. and Canada.

This guide aims to help you become a successful ghostwriter to tap into that growth.

It will provide you with the essential knowledge and tools you need, whether you are just starting or looking to advance your career. 

You’ll learn about the skills required, how to land your first writing project, and how to handle various aspects of a ghostwriting job.

It’s divided into three parts in order of increasing complexity around how to become a good ghostwriter.

Feel free to bookmark this page and return to it later.

Let’s dive in.

Ghostwriter speaking to client

Part 1: The world of ghostwriting

What is ghostwriting and how does it differ from other types of writing?

Ghostwriting is writing content that is credited to another person, usually for a fee. 

This content can include books, articles, speeches, or other written materials.

Unlike other types of writing, where the author is publicly acknowledged, a professional ghostwriter remains anonymous. 

Examples:

  • A famous person hires a ghostwriter to write their autobiography.
  • A non-fiction author hires a ghostwriter to write a fiction series under her pseudonym.
  • A business leader in augmented reality hires a ghost writer to pen their blog posts or speeches.

Ghostwriting ensures that busy professionals can share their thoughts and expertise with a wider audience without having to do all the writing themselves.

What are the pros and cons of ghostwriting as a career?

Understanding the pros and cons can help you decide if ghostwriting is the right path for you:

Pros:

  1. Diverse projects: You get to work on a variety of topics and formats, keeping the work interesting.
  2. Steady income: Experienced ghostwriters can earn a stable income, especially with repeat clients.
  3. Flexible schedule: Ghostwriting often allows for a flexible work schedule, which is great for work-life balance.
  4. Creative freedom: While you write in the client’s voice, you still have creative input in structuring and crafting the content.

Cons:

  1. Lack of recognition: You won’t receive public credit for your work, which can be a downside if you value recognition.
  2. Demanding clients: Some clients may have high expectations or unclear requirements, which can be challenging to manage.
  3. Inconsistent workload: Especially in the beginning, finding a steady stream of work can be difficult.
  4. Complex projects: Some projects may require extensive research or revision, which can be time-consuming.

What skills are necessary to become a successful ghostwriter?

To be a successful freelance ghostwriter, you need a combination of writing, research, and interpersonal skills. 

Here are some key skills:

  • Content writing skills: You must write clearly and compellingly in various styles to match different clients’ voices.
  • Research skills: Ghostwriters often write about unfamiliar topics, so strong research skills are essential.
  • Adaptability: You need to adapt your writing style to fit each client’s unique voice and vision.
  • Communication skills: Effective communication helps you understand clients’ needs and expectations.
  • Time management: Meeting deadlines is crucial, so good time management is necessary to handle multiple projects efficiently.

professional ghostwriter working at laptop

What types of projects can ghostwriters work on?

Ghostwriters can work on a wide range of projects across different industries. Here are some common types:

  • Books: Write memoirs, autobiographies, novels, or non-fiction books for clients.
  • Articles: Create magazine, newspaper, or online articles.
  • Speeches: Craft speeches for public figures, business leaders, or event speakers.
  • Blog posts: Write blog content for businesses, influencers, or individuals.
  • Technical writing: Develop manuals, guides, or reports for technical subjects.
  • Marketing materials: Create brochures, newsletters, or promotional content for businesses.

How do I get started as a ghostwriter with no experience?

Starting as a ghostwriter with no experience can be challenging, but it’s possible with the right approach. 

Here are some steps to get you started:

  1. Build a portfolio: Write sample pieces in different styles and genres to showcase your versatility.
  2. Gain experience: Offer to write for friends, family, or local businesses for free or at a low cost to build your portfolio.
  3. Create a website: Having a professional website can help you showcase your work and attract clients.

freelance writer on laptop

What should I include in my ghostwriting portfolio?

A strong portfolio is essential for attracting clients. Here’s what you should include:

  • Writing samples: Showcase a variety of writing styles and genres to demonstrate your versatility. Include excerpts from books, articles, blog posts, or speeches you’ve written.
  • Client testimonials: Include positive feedback from clients you’ve worked with. This adds credibility and shows potential clients that you deliver quality work.
  • Case studies: Provide detailed descriptions of successful projects you’ve completed. Explain the client’s needs, your approach, and the results.
  • Your process: Outline your ghostwriting process, from initial consultation to final draft. This helps clients understand what to expect when working with you.
  • Contact information: Make it easy for potential clients to reach you. Include your email address, phone number, and links to your social media profiles.

How do I find ghostwriting jobs? 9 ways to land your first gig

To find ghostwriting jobs, self-promotion and networking are key.

Here are some effective methods to find clients who need ghostwriting services:

  1. Work for a ghostwriting agency: This is probably the easiest option. A ghostwriting agency handles the lead generation, proofreading, account admin, and payments — you just have to write and do content interviews. We’re always hiring for new writers — check out our Careers page.
  2. Freelance platforms: Use websites like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer to find ghostwriting gigs. Create a compelling profile and apply for ghostwriting jobs regularly.
  3. Content marketing: Write blog posts, articles, or guest posts about ghostwriting on your website or other platforms. This can showcase your expertise and attract potential clients.
  4. Cold pitching: Reach out directly to authors, businesses, or public figures who might need a ghostwriter. Send a personalized email to each potential client explaining how you can help them with their writing needs.
  5. Join professional organizations: Groups like the Association of Ghostwriters can provide networking opportunities and resources.
  6. Attend industry events: Conferences, book fairs, and writing workshops are great places to meet other writers and potential clients.
  7. Use social media: Engage with writing communities on platforms like Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. Share your insights and connect with industry professionals, and spruce up your LinkedIn profile.
  8. Collaborate with other writers: Partner with other writers on projects or refer clients to each other. This can lead to more opportunities and stronger relationships.
  9. Referrals: Ask satisfied clients to refer you to others who might need ghostwriting services. Offer a referral discount as an incentive.

Ghostwriter chatting to client

How do I set my rates as a beginner ghostwriter?

Most freelance ghostwriters set their rates anywhere from $0.20/word to $1/word.

Your rate will depend on the genre, length, research required, copyright agreement, and your level of experience.

Setting your rates as a beginner ghostwriter can be tricky, but here are some tips to help you determine fair pricing:

  1. Research industry standards: Look at what other ghostwriters charge for similar services. Freelance platforms, writing forums, and industry reports can provide useful insights.
  2. Consider your experience: As a beginner, you might need to start with lower rates to attract clients and build your portfolio. As you gain experience, you can gradually increase your rates.
  3. Calculate your expenses: Factor in your time, effort, and any costs associated with completing the project (e.g., research materials, software subscriptions).
  4. Offer different pricing models: Consider charging per word, per hour, or per project. Each model has its pros and cons, so choose the one that works best for you and your clients.
  5. Be transparent: Clearly communicate your rates and what they include to potential clients. This helps avoid misunderstandings and ensures you get fairly compensated for your work.

What tools and resources are helpful for ghostwriters?

Using the right tools and resources can improve your efficiency and the quality of your work. 

Here are some essentials:

  • Writing software: Tools like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and Scrivener help you draft and organize your writing.
  • Editing tools: Grammarly, Hemingway, and ProWritingAid assist in refining your writing and ensuring it’s error-free.
  • Research tools: Use Google, Google Scholar, JSTOR, and other online databases to find reliable sources for your projects.
  • Time management tools: Apps like Trello, Asana, and Todoist help you stay organized and manage your workload effectively.
  • Communication tools: Platforms like Zoom, Slack, and Skype facilitate communication with clients.

The next section looks at the factors and processes you’ll need to consider to run a successful ghostwriting business.

Writer scribbling in notebook

Part 2: The process and business of ghostwriting

How do I write in someone else’s voice effectively?

Writing in someone else’s voice is a key skill for ghostwriters. 

Here are some tips to help you master this:

  1. Conduct thorough interviews: Spend time talking with your client to understand their tone, style, and preferences. Ask about their favorite books, articles, and other written materials.
  2. Analyze their existing content: Review any previous writings or speeches by the client. Pay attention to their vocabulary, sentence structure, and overall tone.
  3. Take detailed notes: During interviews and while analyzing their content, jot down specific phrases, words, and stylistic elements that stand out.
  4. Practice mimicking their voice: Write sample paragraphs or pages in their style and ask for feedback to ensure you’re capturing their voice accurately.
  5. Be adaptable: Different clients have different voices. Be prepared to adjust your writing style as needed to suit each client’s voice.

How can I improve my writing to become a better ghostwriter?

Continuous improvement is vital in ghostwriting. 

Here are some ways to enhance your writing skills:

  1. Read widely: A good writer is a prolific reader. Read books, articles, and other materials in various genres (including ghostwriting books) to expand your understanding of different writing styles.
  2. Seek feedback: Regularly ask clients and peers for feedback on your work. Use their input to identify areas for improvement.
  3. Take writing courses: Enroll in writing workshops, online courses, or join writing groups to learn new techniques and refine your skills.
  4. Practice regularly: Write daily, even if it’s just a short piece. The more you write, the better you’ll get.
  5. Edit ruthlessly: Learn to self-edit effectively. Cut unnecessary words, refine your sentences, and focus on clarity and coherence. Consider working with a freelance editor on each ghostwriting project.
Ghostwriter writing a speech or letter

What is the typical workflow for a ghostwriting project?

Understanding the ghostwriting workflow helps manage projects efficiently. 

Here’s a typical workflow for professional ghostwriters:

  1. Meet with the client to discuss their project, goals, and expectations. Agree on terms, deadlines, and payment.
  2. Research and outline the topic. Get client approval before proceeding.
  3. Write the first draft based on the outline and client input. Focus on capturing the client’s voice and ideas.
  4. Review and revise the draft with the client. This may involve multiple rounds of edits.
  5. Finalize the document, ensuring it meets all agreed-upon requirements.
  6. Deliver the final product and get paid. Ask for feedback and testimonials.

How do I handle revisions and feedback from clients?

Handling revisions and feedback professionally is crucial.

Here’s how to manage this process:

  1. Stay open-minded: Be receptive to feedback and willing to make changes. Remember, the goal is to meet the client’s needs.
  2. Clarify expectations: Before starting the project, agree on the number of revision rounds and the scope of changes.
  3. Communicate effectively: Keep the client informed throughout the revision process. Ask clarifying questions if feedback is unclear.
  4. Be patient: Understand that revisions are part of the process. Take your time to implement changes accurately.
  5. Maintain professionalism: Even if you disagree with feedback, respond professionally. Offer constructive suggestions if you think an idea can be improved.

How do I maintain a steady stream of ghostwriting work?

Consistent work is essential for a sustainable ghostwriting career. 

Here are some strategies to ensure a steady stream of projects:

  1. Build long-term relationships with clients to encourage repeat business and referrals.
  2. Offer a range of services, such as blog posts, articles, books, and technical writing, to attract different types of clients.
  3. Keep marketing your services through your website, social media, and networking events.
  4. Follow up with past clients periodically to see if they need additional services.
  5. Provide excellent service consistently, as satisfied clients are more likely to return and refer you to others.

The next section looks at the legalities of ghostwriting and how to handle confidentiality.

Female writer writing in notebook

Ghostwriting involves several legal and ethical considerations that you should be aware of:

  1. Respect client confidentiality by not disclosing any information about the project or the client without permission. Use confidentiality agreements to formalize this commitment.
  2. You won’t typically receive public credit for your work. Ensure both parties agree on this upfront.
  3. Avoid plagiarism always produce original content. Plagiarism can damage your reputation and have legal consequences.
  4. Use clear contracts to outline the scope of work, payment terms, deadlines, and any other important details. This protects both you and the client.

Understanding copyright and ownership is essential in ghostwriting:

  1. Client ownership: Typically, the client owns the rights to the work you produce. Make sure this is clearly stated in your contract.
  2. Ghostwriter rights: While clients usually own the work, you can negotiate terms regarding the use of your work in your portfolio, if the client agrees.
  3. Copyright transfer: Include a clause in your contract that outlines the transfer of copyright from you to the client upon payment completion.
  4. Attribution: Discuss whether you will receive any form of credit, though most ghostwriting arrangements do not include public attribution.

How do I manage confidentiality agreements with clients?

Confidentiality is crucial in ghostwriting. Here’s how to manage it effectively:

  1. Sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) with clients to ensure all shared information remains confidential.
  2. Be discreet. Avoid discussing client details or project specifics with others, both online and offline.
  3. Secure your work when storing and sharing documents. Encrypt files and use password-protected folders.
Pen writing on parchment

What are some common challenges ghostwriters face and how can I overcome them?

Ghostwriting comes with its own set of challenges. Here’s how to address some common issues:

  1. Capturing the client’s voice: Practice and patience are key. Spend ample time understanding the client’s style and preferences.
  2. Dealing with difficult clients: Communicate clearly and set expectations from the beginning. Use contracts to outline responsibilities and deadlines.
  3. Maintaining creativity: Take breaks, read widely, and work on personal projects to keep your creativity flowing.
  4. Managing time and workload: Use project management tools to organize tasks and set realistic deadlines. Prioritize projects and avoid overcommitting.

Recap of key points on how to become a ghostwriter

Ghostwriting can be a fulfilling and lucrative career path. 

If you are passionate about writing and enjoy working behind the scenes, ghostwriting might be the perfect fit for you. 

Becoming an experienced ghostwriter requires a combination of writing skill, adaptability, and effective communication. 

A good ghost writer understands the nuances of capturing someone else’s voice, managing client relationships, and handling the business aspects of a ghostwriting service. 

And although it comes with its challenges, the sheer diversity of ghostwriting opportunities makes it a unique profession. 

By building a strong portfolio, continuously improving your skills, and networking effectively, you can establish yourself in this rewarding field.

Stay patient, keep honing your craft, and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

Hand holding pen and writing in a notebook

FAQs

What is the difference between ghostwriting and co-authoring? Ghost writing involves content creation credited to another person, while co-authoring means you share credit with another writer. When ghostwriting content, your name is usually not associated with the work.

How do I handle a ghostwriting client who is not satisfied with my work? Communication is key. Discuss their concerns and be open to revisions. Refer to your contract for agreed-upon revision terms and aim to reach a mutually satisfactory resolution.

Can I use ghostwritten work in my portfolio? Generally, you need the client’s permission to include ghostwritten work in your portfolio as a credited author. If confidentiality agreements are in place, respect those terms. You can also create anonymized samples or get testimonials from clients instead.

How long does a typical ghostwriting project take? The duration of a ghostwriting project depends on its complexity and scope. A book might take several months, while a blog post could be completed in a week or less. Establish clear timelines with your client from the outset.

Is it possible to ghostwrite in multiple genres? Yes, many ghostwriters work across different genres. Being versatile can increase your marketability and attract more writing work. However, it’s important to have a good understanding of each genre you write in to meet client expectations effectively.

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