Do you have a passion for storytelling, writing, and helping others? If so, there’s a way you can pursue those passions and get paid! With the art of ghostwriting, you can transform your skills into a performance as you use your vision to sculpt, interpret, and represent another’s voice and story. At the end of the day, some people just do not have the time, energy, or interest in learning the art of writing and bringing a book to life, but as a ghostwriter you can work with them and their story to do just that. In some instances, you may even be presented as a co-author for your work, which can be used to build your own writing portfolio.
`I know what you’re thinking, “Okay, this all sounds great, but how do I become a ghostwriter?” Well, that’s what we’re here for! Keep reading to find out some of our tips and tricks on how to start the best ghostwriting career for you and your clients.
Before you start ghostwriting, you need to develop a vision for yourself and your future as a ghostwriter. To do this, you first need to ask yourself the following questions:
- What are three goals you want to achieve?
- Who is your ideal client?
- Are you able to take on longer projects (such as full-length novels or books) or do you prefer shorter items like articles, blog posts, novelettes or novellas?
- How much time do you have to take on ghostwriting projects?
- Is this a side hobby or something you’d like to switch to full-time, part-time, or seasonal?
Once your ghostwriter vision is set, it’s almost time to set off on this not so spooky journey, but first, here are ten things you should be aware of before starting your ghostwriting career:
#1: Have a clear client type in mind and only work with the clients with clear minds.
You must know who you are targeting to work with so you can state exactly the type of client you’re looking for (trust me, they exist). You also need to work with clients who have a clear vision of the book they want to write, expecting most to already have somewhat of a structure or topics outlined. Don’t waste your time on clients that are exploring ghostwriting services because they’re thinking about writing a book someday. If they aren’t able to articulately outline the scope and ideas of the book, you’re going to have a rough time and be set up for failure from the beginning (not to mention a very long project timeline).
#2: Be choosy about the projects you take on.
Have a clear understanding of the type of projects you want to focus on, rating genres or topics you’re most excited to take on in Category A, those you’d be open to exploring in Category B, and say no to anything outside of that. This is YOUR business, meaning you don’t have to take on any project that doesn’t feel like a good fit. Interview the client as much as they interview you. If you see any red flags about the project, turn it down. If you have other creative pursuits, be especially choosy about the projects you take on. The wrong ones will drain your energy and leave your other pursuits on the back burner.
#3: Have clear expectations in place.
Set clear guidelines and boundaries on the type of work that will be performed, estimated word counts, a timeline with measurable milestones with deadlines, and details about what is expected from the client during each phase, including payment information and contact expectations (such as expecting a response to a question that may stall the project within 72 hours). Include revision guidelines because some clients may try to “start from scratch” and claim that they’re unhappy, even if they’ve happily approved the work leading up until that point. Clear expectations will allow you to work within integrity.
#4: Contracts, contracts, contracts.
The smart clients will ask for a contract to protect their butt; but you need contracts in place to save your butt as well. Non-disclosures/confidentiality, rights, pricing, length, timeline, client and contact expectations are all good places to start. If the client is providing some of their own material to infuse into the ghostwriting material, make sure that you also include language that removes you from plagiarism as well as things like defamation. Never ever enter a ghostwriting project without a solid contract in place that is signed and dated from both parties.
#5: Know the editing differences and whether or not that’s built into your price (solo, team work, etc).
If you’re promising polished work as the final deliverable, polished work could mean a variety of different things to different clients. Some will expect 3 levels of editing (developmental, line/copy, proofreading) to be included, and if so, you need to build that into your pricing and timeline as well—you will also need to have an editor on standby to take that portion of it. Some ghostwriters will say the final deliverable is the approved first rough draft for the client to then put through editing on their own. You have to choose what you want and stick with it because clients will demand different things.
#6: Know what your time is worth.
I see a lot of ghostwriters grossly undercharge. By the time they break down how much time they’ve spent on the project, they’re getting paid a couple of dollars per hour. Some ghostwriters will charge per word, others will charge by the scope of the project. Different genres have different expectations; the experience of the client can also make a difference (a new fiction author is going to pay less than someone like James Patterson).
#7: Ghostwriting doesn’t just mean books.
If it’s easier to start out with shorter projects like blog posts or articles, start there. If you like doing those and also writing books, offer a multitude of specific services. You’ll just grow your client base, and more than likely, open up the opportunity for repeat customers (for example, most new authors are also wanting to have a blog but may not have the time, so you would be the best bet on ghostwriting their blog if you already ghost wrote their book).
#8: Be okay with letting go.
Working hard on a manuscript that is FOR someone and a representation of who they are is nerve-wracking. It’s hard enough to trust that your own manuscript is good enough, but it can be even more challenging to write on behalf of someone else and share it with them. The secondary benefit of the timeline and milestones is how it pushes you to let go of what you’ve worked hard on. Sometimes it’s easy to develop a very personable relationship with someone too when you work so intimately on a project (like a memoir) for so many months. Although they may feel like a friend afterward (and sometimes will turn into one), it’s important to still maintain that client/ghostwriter relationship distance, otherwise you may find yourself loosening in expectations and guidelines and getting in a bind as a result.
#9: Know that you have to coach/lead/guide.
Ghostwriting can be a tricky relationship because although you are providing them with a service and it is their book that you’re writing, you still have to set the tone and guide them through it. You have to take the leadership position, otherwise it can be easy to be rolled over. Many clients are used to taking the lead in their life/work, but yet they don’t know anything about the writing process or author world, so you must lead them and coach them through it.
#10: The more you know, the more you’ll land clients.
You should already know the types of ghostwriting you want to do (memoirs, inspirational books, romance, fiction, sci-fi, etc). What will make you stand out above other ghostwriters the client may be interviewing is a very thorough understanding of the market. Stay on top of trends and the top 100 books, or the ones that garner the most attention. Be able to speak knowledgeably about them and how the client’s idea may compare. Have a deep understanding of the publishing industry and how they can go about sharing their book or the most important pieces to have in place to successfully market their book. When a client sees you as an authority in the field and not just a ghostwriter, it shifts their perspective and makes you a standout candidate for them to hire. Don’t stop learning.
Believe in yourself, your skills, and what you can bring to the table. Have samples of your writing ready to showcase. No one will invest in you if you aren’t sold on your own ability.