The word “ghostwriter” may have some mysterious connotations, but there’s absolutely nothing spooky about it. In fact, working as a ghostwriter is a great way to make a living using your writing skills while learning and telling a wide range of fascinating stories. Don’t be scared! The world of ghostwriting is full of opportunities.
It’s time to bust the myths and pull back the curtain on the ghostwriting industry. This guide breaks down all the basics of how to be a ghostwriter, what a ghostwriter actually does, and how to find work as a ghostwriter. Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to jump into the field. It’s a wonderful career path for creatives!
What Is a Ghostwriter?
First thing’s first: what is a ghostwriter? It’s a good question!
Ghostwriters are essentially writers for hire who commit to a project knowing that they won’t be given public credit for their work. They’ll be paid for their time and writing talent, but their name won’t be included in a byline, on a book cover, or wherever else the work’s author is listed. The author or client who hires a ghostwriter will be the one to take the credit.
You might think of a ghostwriter as an impersonator of sorts. While the most important requirement for working as a ghostwriter is impeccable writing skills, a talented writer will also be able to step into the voice and expertise of various clients so their words will be a natural fit for the project at hand. But don’t worry—ghostwriting is a common, accepted practice, so there’s nothing shady or dishonest about it.
Ghostwriters are typically hired by individuals or companies who don’t have the time or writing talent to produce the high-quality written material they want to share with the world. As a result, they can play a major role in helping to develop a personal or corporate brand. It’s a pretty powerful position!
What Does a Ghostwriter Do?
Ghostwriters are hired to produce all kinds of projects. Some ghostwriters will come on board to write marketing copy for a website or to act as the voice of a brand through the company’s blog. They might also write speeches or book proposals. The biggest task for any ghostwriter is to take on the process of writing another person’s fiction or nonfiction book! Really, a ghostwriter can do anything in between as well.
Here are a few specific duties that might be part of a ghostwriter job description:
- Meet with the client. No matter the scope of the project, a ghostwriter must get acquainted with their client in order to effectively inhabit their voice via their writing. This begins with a face-to-face (or perhaps remote) meeting. A ghostwriter should get a feel for the way their client (or prospective client) speaks and gauge how effectively they can communicate that on the page. During this meeting, a ghostwriter should also get a clear sense of the work the client needs to hire out. If the ghostwriter has sufficient bandwidth, they might consider having a few more meetings in order to really get to know the client. Ghostwriters who are working on book projects, especially, will want to plan for plenty of these get-togethers.
- Gather necessary information. Whether it happens in-person or via email, a ghostwriter will need to ensure they have all of the content necessary to complete the project in question. Lines of communication with the client should remain open so that the ghostwriter can ask questions as they come up.
- Provide drafts to the client. Next step: writing! It’s time to gather all of the information and provide a written draft of the client. For longer-term projects, it’s best to develop a timeline so that the client will know when to expect various pieces of the finished document.
- Integrate client feedback. A ghostwriter is stepping into the shoes of their client—professionally, personally, or both—so it should hardly come as a surprise that a client will have feedback to integrate along the way! Once that feedback about a draft comes through, it’s up to the ghostwriter to take those notes and make the appropriate changes. There may be several rounds of feedback before a ghostwriter and their client reach a final version.
This process will certainly differ from one project and client to the next, but anyone who is wondering “What does a ghostwriter do?” should be prepared to go through some version of this process.
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How to Become a Ghostwriter
There’s more than one way to become a ghostwriter. Here are a few paths you might want to consider:
There’s no official “ghostwriting” track at colleges or universities, but securing an English degree or studying communications or journalism can help you begin on the right foot. With this kind of background, you’ll be well equipped to step into almost any basic writing job. While it might take you some time to learn the specific nuances and preferences of every client, you’ll at least have a command of the written word that will ensure clear communication in any project.
Other Writing Experience
They say experience is the best teacher, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to writing. Any job that requires you to communicate through the written word will help you develop the muscles necessary to work in the field.
If you’re interested in pursuing ghostwriting, pick up experience working in journalism, marketing, editing, or education. As long as you can demonstrate that your work experience has demanded substantial writing, prospective ghostwriting clients should be able to trust your abilities.
How Much Does a Ghostwriter Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, the average ghostwriter’s annual salary in 2021 is $63,915, or approximately $31 per hour. That said, a ghostwriter salary can vary based on the kinds of projects that the person is working on and the size of the clients hiring them. Of course, it’s also dependent on the ghostwriter’s rates, which (good news) you can set on your own.
Does working as a ghostwriter sound appealing? You can get into the biz in all kinds of ways.
These days, it feels like anybody who is anybody is expected to have a biography or memoir. But those anybodies tend to be pretty busy—and they might not have the writing chops necessary to complete a book-length project! That’s where you coms in.
A ghostwriter who is working on a book on behalf of a client will need to spend a lot of time interviewing them so they can really understand their story before they put it on the page.
Every brand or company has an online presence. Someone has to be responsible for the written content that shows up in those spaces!
Businesses will hire ghostwriters to put together blogs, marketing copy, and other web content for their sites. Social media posts are also common projects.
Big-time executives must communicate with stakeholders in a variety of ways. If they are short on time, they may be interested in outsourcing the composition of memos, reports, speeches, and other professional comms to a ghostwriter.
No matter what type of work they choose to do, most ghostwriters will work on a freelance basis, meaning they’ll work as independent contractors to arrange the terms of their services with clients. A freelancer has the power to set their own rates, coordinate their own deadlines, and collaborate with clients in whatever way they see fit.
There are so many ways to work as a ghostwriter. If you are a talented writer who enjoys the writing process and has a natural curiosity, it just might be the right field for you.
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