If you’ve seen a celebrity tell-all on the shelves at your local bookstore, you’ve probably seen a ghostwriter at work. In fact, according to Joe Queenan in an essay published by The New York Times, public figures such as Nancy Reagan, Charles Barkley, Lee Iacocca and the Mayflower Madam have all hired professional ghostwriters to pen their memoirs and autobiographies. Some of their books even became bestsellers.
If this sounds like the career for you, keep reading for answers to basic questions about ghostwriting jobs and how to land one.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
While it may be true that everyone has a story to tell, it’s equally true that not everyone has the tools to tell their story effectively. Even those who do may have neither the time nor the inclination to put words to paper. That’s where a ghostwriter comes in.
Ghostwriters are professional writers who craft material for others, taking a client’s vision, story or idea and creating a polished, publication-quality product that the client can attach his name to and call his own. Essentially writers for hire, these scribes are generally invisible to readers — thus, the moniker: ghostwriter — and write for financial gain rather than a byline.
Our post, What is a Ghostwriter Best Able to Help With, takes a deeper dive into the world of ghostwriting and how it can benefit your clients.
Is Ghostwriting Just for Books?
While many writers picture juicy celebrity confessions when they think about ghostwritten material, not all ghostwriting jobs are created equal, and celebrities are not the only ones who hire ghostwriters. Ghostwriting can take on many forms, ranging from full-length fiction to social media snippets. In addition to traditional “as-told-to” memoirs and autobiographies, some examples of ghostwriting projects include:
- Subject-matter-expertise books, including how-to, lifestyle and business books
- Novels (particularly those that are part of a series or that continue the work of prominent authors who have passed away)
- Short stories and essays
- Blog posts
- Website content pages
- Professional business and marketing copy
- Facebook, Twitter and other social media posts
What Does a Ghostwriting Job Involve?
What a ghostwriting job involves depends partially on the project and partially on the client. Here are a few possibilities for what you can expect.
- Rewriting. Sometimes ghostwriting involves little more than rewriting and restructuring preexisting content to help an author improve the quality of text he’s already written. This is often true with web pages or marketing copy.
- Expansion. In this case, which often occurs when ghostwriting for subject matter experts, the basic information about the topic is available either through the client’s rough draft or extensive notes. The client will expect you to take the material and expand on it, generating a well-written piece that takes care to maintain the integrity of the provided information.
- Writing from a general topic, idea, or title. This is often the case with blog posts. You may be given a general subject or title with an overview of the appropriate style, word count, target audience, or points to touch on. You’ll then have the freedom to approach the content from any angle he chooses.
What Qualifications Does a Ghostwriter Need?
According to Study.com, freelance writers who want to pursue a career in ghostwriting should have at least a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, journalism, or a related field. However, with the right skillset, talented wordsmiths should easily be able to bypass the educational requirement entirely.
What Skills Make a Good Ghostwriter?
While the skills required to ghostwrite a novel may differ significantly from those required to write clever advertising copy, there are some basic skills that define good ghostwriters.
- Ghostwriters should be excellent writers. First and foremost, ghostwriting is about the words, and ghostwriters should be able to deliver polished prose. Ideally, the content should be clean and require minimal editing.
- Ghostwriters should be flexible and adaptable. While many writers have their own recognizable style, ghostwriters need to be able to effectively capture the voice of their clients so the writing feels on target to the individual person or brand that will be listed as the author.
- Ghostwriters should be able to follow directions. Clients may have specific dos and don’ts for projects, and a good ghostwriter should be capable of adhering any guidelines presented.
- Ghostwriters should be competent researchers. While many clients will provide information and resources, there are times when a ghostwriter will need to embark on research of his own. A good ghostwriter understands how to find and source appropriate material and fit it seamlessly into the content they’re writing.
- Ghostwriters should be able to focus in on what’s relevant. Clients may consider it their job to provide all available information, but as Inc. columnist Natasa Lekic notes, a good ghostwriter should be able to help a client refine their idea into something truly compelling.
How Can You Build Your Reputation as a Ghostwriter?
Building your reputation as a ghostwriter doesn’t necessarily mean putting multiple jobs under your belt. There are actually several easy ways you can build your reputation as a writer and demonstrate to potential clients that you’re the right person for the job.
- Create your own blog or offer your services as a guest blogger in your area(s) of expertise. Whether it’s fiction or nuclear physics, blogging is a great way to make a name for yourself in your niche and show the world your writing chops.
- Set up a digital portfolio. Several sites such as Clippings.Me and Journo Portfolio offer free or low-cost online portfolios for writers. These sites let you easily share your clippings with potential clients in a polished, professional manner.
- Reach out to local small businesses, particularly nonprofits or those you have personal connections to, and offer your services at discounted rates. It’s a great way to build your portfolio with small, manageable jobs.
- Join an association. Joining a professional association such as the Association of Ghostwriters can provide you with vital resources, opportunities for networking and learning, and even job leads. Many professional organizations offer lower-cost associate memberships that include a selection of benefits appropriate for newer writers.
Where Can You Find Ghostwriting Jobs?
The internet is filled with writing opportunities for ghostwriters. The trick is finding them. If you think ghostwriting is for you, there are a few basic ways to secure a ghostwriting job.
- Freelance job boards. Whether you’re ready to dive into your first assignment or just want to check out what’s available, you can find listings for ghostwriting jobs on some of the internet’s many freelance job boards, such as Freelancer.com. These sites generally offer search functionality and filters, making it easy to find the kind of positions you’re looking for.
- Offer your services. Sites such as Fiverr let freelance writers post small advertisements with services offered. While these small-scale jobs may not be enough to sustain a career, they’re a great way to test the waters and make vital connections.
- Classified sites. Sites like Craigslist, especially in bigger cities, often have many postings in the Writing Gigs section from companies looking to hire ghostwriters in you area.
- Cold outreach. Most companies with robust digital marketing programs need a lot of content, so it follows they need a good team of writers. Reaching out to offer your services can often be well received and can get you ongoing gigs. This is especially effective if you’ve positioned yourself as an expert in a given niche and approach companies in the space.
- Crowd Content. Crowd Content’s unique platform offers writers a place to access numerous freelance and ghostwriting assignments based on a quality star rating. One distinguishing feature of Crowd Content is that it provides ample opportunity for talented, reliable writers to demonstrate their ability and move up in the ranks, accessing higher-paying jobs.
How Can You Thrive in This Competitive Field?
Congratulations! You got the job. The hard part is over. Now it’s time to show the client what you can do.
Like most freelance writing careers, ghostwriting is highly competitive and there are many talented writers vying for a limited number of open positions. Here are a few tips to ensure a thriving career and foster long-term relationships with your clients.
- Deliver your best work every time. Time is money when it comes to freelancing, and it can be tempting to cut corners. Don’t. Remember: someone will be publishing this project with their name attached. Treat it as you would something that has your own name on it.
- Meet deadlines. Remember: deadlines are not suggestions. They’re commitments you make as a professional writer. While there are undoubtedly valid reasons to miss a deadline (medical emergencies or a vital information source that’s taking longer than expected to respond), it’s important to stick as close to the designated schedule as possible.
- Communicate. Whether it’s a problem with meeting a deadline or something just isn’t going as planned, make sure to let the client know as soon as possible. Remember: this is ultimately their project and keeping a client in the loop can keep the process running smoothly for both of you.
- Ask questions. If something about the job isn’t clear or doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification. Most clients are more than happy to provide additional guidance to assure they receive the quality writing they’re paying for.
- Be professional. Remember: this is a business relationship, and it’s important to treat it as such. Be polite and always treat clients with respect.
Is a Ghostwriting Job for You?
While writing without a byline may be a turnoff for many writers, it can be a lucrative career choice for others. It can also be immensely rewarding to be the driving force in helping people get their stories out into the world. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in ghostwriting, visit Crowd Content’s freelance writing job page to start this exciting journey.