How to become a ghostwriter
Thinking about becoming a ghostwriter? Writing for someone else can help you earn extra money or even be the start of a new career. Read our guide to discover how you can find ghostwriting success…
As long as there are people with stories who can’t write them, there will be a market for ghostwriters. But ghostwriting requires skills that not every writer has. When you start writing professionally for somebody else, you will need to take a different approach to writing than you have used before.
You need experience
While ghostwriting can be an excellent source of income and a great career choice for an accomplished writer, it is certainly not an entry-level position. If you haven’t been published yourself, it’s unlikely you’re ready to write to a publishable standard for someone else.
This makes sense on two levels: firstly, you need to be able to market yourself as a successful and experienced writer to potential clients who will be paying you to write for them. Secondly, you’ll need the experience you’ve acquired so far to navigate through a ghostwriting project. There are many potential problem areas, and you don’t want to spend precious time worrying about the basics of structure, plot and character development when you have contract, creative brief taking and client liaising issues to deal with.
Think of yourself as a business
If you want to make money from being a ghostwriter, it’s time to stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a business. This means investing time in networking and marketing your ghostwriting business.
If you already have some experience of selling your work as a writer, it’s likely you will have an awareness of the marketing tools available to you such as setting up a website or building a social media presence.
Put your ego aside
Ghostwriting is not about you. It’s about your client. It’s obvious that you need to be a great writer but you also need to be comfortable switching your writing style to encapsulate your client’s voice, even if you think yours is better.
As a ghostwriter, your name won’t appear on the cover and the most you can hope for is a thank you in the acknowledgements section, so there’s no room to indulge in dreams of seeing your name in print. You might want to shout about your achievements but remember that you’re being paid to keep quiet.
If you can persuade your ego to step aside to put in the hard work for someone else, you can gain publishing success and build a solid, professional reputation through your ghostwritten work.
Develop your interviewing skills
The ability to interview is an extra skill that ghostwriters need. When you take on a new project, understanding how to drill down to exactly the right questions to ask your subject is vital to the success of your writing.
You’ll need to know how to guide and control meetings with clients, not just for your professional relationship with them but to ensure that what you write meets your client’s expectations. It is, after all, their project.
Self-discipline is crucial
Another key difference between writing for your own enjoyment and writing for someone else is the ability to work to deadlines, organise your notes and research and potentially manage multiple projects at once.
If you’re an experienced writer, you’ll already know how to establish a regular, hardworking rhythm that works for you. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a ghostwriting project is not something that can be completed in your own time. Do you have enough self-discipline to see a project through over a long period of time? Some ghostwritten projects take a few years to write, and procrastination is all too easy when you think you have all that time to achieve it.
Find your natural curiosity
Ghostwriters need to be inquisitive, sociable creatures to succeed. Although this is more of a characteristic than a skill, you can grow your curiosity by finding a subject area that interests you.
It’s your job as a ghostwriter to go far beyond the “Who did what?” question; the far more interesting story lies in the “Why did they do it?” question.
Are you naturally curious, sociable, hard-working and with some previous publishing experience? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you can ghostwrite!