I’m a ghostwriter. I’ve written hundreds of articles and gotten zero credit (but enough money to make it worth it). So you won’t see all of my work publicly listed (although you’ve probably read my work and not known it).
It’s not for every writer. Some writers would prefer a byline with every piece. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
But the ability to hire a writer without anybody knowing you’re doing so is a valuable thing. It frees marketers and fulltime writers and celebrities from the time-consuming task of laying down words. And ghostwriters charge their worth to boot.
Now, there are various kinds of ghostwriters and various methods to becoming one. I’m going to touch on two very specific kinds of ghostwriting today. And by the end, you’ll know whether it’s for you or not.
You’re A Ghostwriter…What Kind?
I don’t particularly advertise that I’m a ghostwriter (although I probably should). I usually say I’m merely a freelance writer, which is true. And then I invariably receive the question, “You’re a freelance writer? What kind of freelance writer?”
I struggle to find a simple answer to explain what I see as complex. But when I think of ghostwriters two kinds come to my mind. The SEO/content marketing writer and book ghostwriters.
I fall in the first category. My main gigs are affiliate marketers and businesses. I charge much less than a book ghostwriter but I would say my job is a tad easier.
A book ghostwriter has earned their higher pay by networking, honing their craft to perfection, and relentlessly following up on leads. And much of their work arrives through carefully maintained relationships in the publishing industry.
I’m going to mainly touch on what I know from experience and a little bit about what I’ve researched about book ghostwriting as well. So, enough about me. Let’s talk about what you can do now.
1. Find Someone Who Already Has Connections
You are going to have a tough time finding clients right out of the gate. If you’re fresh out of college with a degree in English or Communications, you only have your school assignments and maybe a few internships under your belt.
Your portfolio is sparse and unless you’re already awesome at web development, your website might not even be all that professional. What then does a newbie do in this suddenly overwhelming market?
Find someone with a host of clients at their fingertips. I’m mainly talking to aspiring online content writers here, but the same principle applies to aspiring book ghostwriters.
Lately, SEO agencies began to branch out and incorporate content writing into their in-house services. Last year, The HOTH created a whole new department devoted to content creation. They call it Blogger.
Since then other agencies have followed suit.
The benefit of finding an agency like this: they have access to hundreds of clients. And while landing a gig with an SEO agency may not allow you to set your own prices, it gives writers experience and forces them to write quickly while maintaining quality.
Other SEO services that hire writers include an SEO reseller program. These companies are slightly different than other white hat SEO services. Their clients are usually other online marketing services that need to shift their focus away from SEO to better focus on their own niche.
2. Set Clear Expectations With Every Client
If you land a gig with a large SEO firm, you won’t have to worry about this aspect of ghostwriting as much. You should still set clear expectations when working with a middleman like an SEO firm. Don’t let them steamroll you or take advantage of you.
But clients might not fully understand how the process works. And if you know your timelines and can give an accurate picture of how many revisions and what kind of feedback you expect, each encounter will be easier.
3. Become an Impersonator
Any writer should already have an active imagination, especially fiction writers. And ghostwriting, even online content writing, is akin to writing fiction in one way. You must develop a narrator’s voice for each client.
I personally hear a voice in my head when I write. This may not be you, but it gives you a picture of how I ghostwrite and successfully mimic a client’s style.
I read former content by a client and develop a voice for that client in my head. Once I’ve set the tone, I can adapt it to any subject.
If you can successfully impersonate your client in your writing, then nobody will know your client hired a ghostwriter. And your client will come back for more.
4. Record All the Things!
Now you need to make this plain to each client and ask their permission first. The laws for recording conversations is different for every state so be sure all parties are aware they’re being recorded.
But once you figure out a system for communicating the fact you’re recording the conversation, you need to record every communication. Why? Because your mind will play tricks on you.
You might think you have a spotless memory. And you might…until you try to write six thousand words for a client and can’t remember that one specific thing (you know it had something to do with a particular keyword they didn’t want or something?). It’s 3 AM where they live and you’re running up against your deadline.
There are plenty of call recording apps out there. Utilize one or several. And if you’re meeting a client in person, you can always use your smartphone as a recording device.
5. Remember, This is a Business Venture
As with freelance writing, you become a small business with only one employee, yourself. And you have to treat this like a business venture.
Create a professional website. Market your services. Do your own accounting or hire an accountant. Withhold taxes from your earnings. Count your earnings. Set your prices and have sales.
I could make a list as long as the transatlantic telegraph cable but I won’t. Just research how to run a small business and emulate one in your ghostwriting career.
Bring It All Together:
Ghostwriting is an exciting and lucrative career. You will make connections you never dreamed and be able to make money doing what you love.
Are you considering a career in ghostwriting? Are you a ghostwriter? I would love to hear your stories in the comments below.