If you’ve seen celebrity tell-alls on the shelves at your local bookstore, you’ve probably seen the results of ghostwriting jobs firsthand. In fact, according to Joe Queenan’s essay, which was 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.
But the purview of a skilled ghostwriter isn’t limited to life as an A-lister’s assistant. Freelance writers also lend their talents to all kinds of web content, novels, marketing copy, and even social media posts — they’re tasked with creating content someone else will officially take credit for.
If life as the wizard behind the words sounds enticing, this could be the career for you. Here’s everything you need to know about finding ghostwriting jobs and turning your creative writing abilities into professional opportunities that could change your life for good.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone has the tools to tell their story effectively. Even those who are equipped may not have the time or 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 their name to and call their own. These writers for hire are generally invisible to readers — hence the spook-inspired moniker — 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. But before you take that leap, here’s a look at the essentials.
Is Ghostwriting Just for Books?
While many writers picture juicy celebrity confessions when thinking about ghostwritten material, Britney Spears and Prince Harry aren’t the only people who hire ghostwriters. Ghostwriting jobs come in many forms, ranging from tasks requiring full-length fiction to orders for social media snippets. In addition to traditional “as-told-to” memoirs and autobiographies, some examples of ghostwriting services include:
- Nonfiction books: Ghostwriters often assist experts who are knowledgeable and respected in their field but might not be skilled writers.
- Novels: Ghostwriters might oversee books that are part of a series or continue the work of prominent authors who have passed away — Carolyn Keene, “author” of the Nancy Drew mysteries, wasn’t an actual person but a whole team of ghostwriters!
- Articles: It’s not uncommon for a prominent business person, such as the CEO of a company, to hire a ghostwriter to pen an article that will eventually be published in a newspaper or magazine.
- Blog posts: Brands rely on ghostwriters to keep up with the high volume of content needed to populate a company blog.
- Website content: About Us pages, landing pages, and general copy might sound like they come from the company, but they’re usually written by a ghostwriter.
- Newsletters and emails: Letter from the owner? Maybe, but it’s more likely a letter created by a ghostwriter and approved by the owner.
- Social media posts: Ghostwriters are often the voices behind those pithy posts you see on platforms such as Facebook, X, and LinkedIn.
- Speeches and video scripts: Sometimes, ghostwriters put words into people’s mouths by generating scripts for speeches, promo videos, webinars, and other presentations.
- Song lyrics, short stories, and other types of creative writing: If you have a flare for the fantastic, you may find work as a ghostwriter who specializes in creative content that’s less about marketing and more about storytelling.
What Does a Ghostwriting Job Involve?
The nuts and bolts of each ghostwriting job can differ depending on the project and the client. Your instructions could include:
- Rewriting: Sometimes, ghostwriters rework preexisting content rather than writing content from scratch. The goal could be to improve the quality of an earlier draft or alter the perspective of the piece to better speak to a new audience. There might also be a need for updated search engine optimization — this is especially true with web pages or marketing copy designed to help a site rank.
- Expanding: Sometimes, a client needs help turning a rough draft or even a pile of scribbled notes into publish-ready content. This happens most often with specialty content in a fact-driven niche, such as fintech or health care. Your job is to transform disjointed ideas and statistics into a well-written piece that maintains the integrity and accuracy of the original information.
- Writing from a general topic, idea, or title: The most common type of ghostwriting job involves the client giving you a general subject or title and asking you to create new content from the ground up. You’ll probably be given a content brief that includes an overview of the appropriate style, word count, target audience, and crucial points to touch on. The rest is up to you.
What Qualifications Does a Ghostwriter Need?
Part of learning how to get ghostwriting jobs is ensuring you have everything you need to catch a potential client’s eye. Freelance writers who want to pursue a career in ghostwriting can benefit from meeting basic educational requirements, such as a bachelor’s degree in English, communications, journalism, or a related field.
That said, many clients consider hands-on experience in lieu of a degree, meaning talented ghostwriters can still enjoy a fruitful career, even if they don’t have a college diploma hanging on the wall of their home office.
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 are almost universal.
- Expert-level writing skills: First and foremost, ghostwriting is about words, and ghostwriters should be able to deliver polished prose. All content submitted should be clean and require minimal editing.
- Flexibility and adaptability: While many writers have their own recognizable style, ghostwriters need to effectively capture the voice of their clients so the writing feels on target to the listed author or brand.
- Ability to follow directions: Clients may have specific dos and don’ts for projects, and a good ghostwriter should be capable of adhering to any guidelines presented.
- Research competence: While many clients will provide information and resources, ghostwriter will sometimes need to embark on research of their own. A good ghostwriter understands how to source and cite appropriate material and fit it seamlessly into the content they’re writing.
- Focus and discernment: While clients are responsible for coming up with the basic skeleton of an idea, a good ghostwriter should be able to finesse, refine, and nurture that idea into something truly compelling.
How Can You Build Your Reputation as a Ghostwriter?
There are several smart ways you can build your reputation as a writer and demonstrate to potential clients 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 an excellent way to make a name for yourself in your niche and show the world your writing chops. This approach also showcases your authority in a given niche and can attract clients looking for writers who can double as subject matter experts.
- 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 businesses: Network with other SMBs, particularly nonprofits or those you have personal connections to, and offer your services at discounted rates in exchange for the right to use the finished content in your portfolio. Bonus points if they agree to a written testimonial you can use on your website.
- 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 benefits geared toward newer writers.
How to Find Ghostwriting Jobs
Are you revved up about a future in ghostwriting yet? If you’re itching to make a career switch or change up the types of writing projects you’re tackling, a lot hinges on finding ghostwriting jobs.
- Freelance job boards: If 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. Sites such as Freelancer generally offer search functionality and filters, making it easier to find the positions you’re looking for.
- Advertise your services: Sites such as Fiverr let freelance writers post small advertisements with services offered. While these small-scale ghostwriting jobs may not be enough to pay your bills, they give you opportunities to test the waters and make vital connections.
- Classified sites: Sites such as Craigslist, especially in bigger cities, often have postings in the Writing Gigs section from companies looking to hire ghostwriters. Be careful — no one verifies clients on these sites, and scammers are plentiful.
- Cold outreach: Most companies with robust digital marketing programs need a lot of content, so it follows suit that they need a good team of writers. Cold emailing the director of marketing or someone in a senior content position could net you an ongoing gig. This approach is especially effective if you’ve positioned yourself as an expert in a given niche and approach companies in that space.
- Crowd Content: Crowd Content’s unique platform offers writers a place to find work 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. The platform vets both writers and clients before jobs are posted — there’s no chance you’ll be stiffed on pay or have to chase down a client to get work approved.
Applying to Be a Ghostwriter
If you plan to work as a ghostwriter through a freelancing platform, you’ll have to go through an application and approval process before you can access actual ghostwriting jobs. At Crowd Content, the sign-up process for freelancers starts when you create a dedicated account. Then, you’ll be asked to share some basic information, including your name, geographic location, and general work experience.
The most important part of the application is the writing test. Follow the directions given to create a high-quality, task-specific sample that showcases your ability to:
- Write well
- Follow directions
- Review content and refine as needed
If you’re approved, you’ll have access to work either through the Marketplace (jobs created and reviewed directly by clients) or Managed Services (high-volume projects run by Crowd Content’s experienced content managers). From there on out, every job counts! Only take on tasks you feel confident writing, and reach out to the client or the content manager if you have any questions.
How to Thrive as a Ghostwriter
You’ve applied for a ghostwriting job, and you’re hired! Now what? Sometimes, the hardest part of being a ghostwriter isn’t finding a gig but keeping it. These tips can help you find long-term success in a highly competitive field.
- Deliver your best work every time: Time is money when it comes to freelancing, and it can be tempting to cut corners. But always remember someone will be publishing this project with their name attached. If you’re not 100% proud of what you’re submitting, the content isn’t ready to be submitted.
- Meet every deadline: Deadlines aren’t suggestions. They’re commitments you make as a professional writer, and your ability to keep those commitments could make or break your reputation and your relationship with your clients. While there are valid reasons to miss a deadline such as medical emergencies, delays should be the exception, not the rule.
- Communicate with the client: If you have a problem with meeting a deadline or something isn’t going as planned, make sure to let the client know as soon as possible. This is ultimately their project, and keeping a client in the loop can keep the process running smoothly for all involved.
- 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 ensure they receive the quality writing and focused content they’re paying for.
- Be professional: This is a business relationship, and it’s important to treat it as such. Be polite, and always treat clients with respect.
Are Ghostwriting Jobs Right 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, and take the first step toward success.