How to Become a Ghostwriter
The writing economy is bigger than ever. According to recent statistics, the writing industry is projected to grow nearly 10% over the next decade, opening 15,400 jobs per year. Freelancers, in particular, are taking over the industry, with more than 57 million gig writers in the United States alone. If you’ve considered joining the ranks, now is the best time to take a leap of faith.
There are many different writing paths to take in the gig economy. From generalized freelancers to technical writers, storytellers from all backgrounds are needed – and paid handsomely. But not every business is willing to sacrifice their image on a byline. Enter ghostwriting, one of the most profitable career choices in the writing industry.
Becoming a ‘ghost’ is a lot less difficult than you might think. If you’re willing to put in the hours and find great long-term clients, your earning potential could go through the roof.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What is a ghostwriter?
- Why people choose to ghostwrite
- How to become a ghostwriter
- Ways to grow your ghostwriting business
- Apply to become a technical ghostwriter
What Is A Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter refers to people who create written work with no official byline. By writing blog posts, tutorials, articles, or technical articles in the style of their employer,ghostwriters produce written work that officially belongs to another person. Ghostwriting work can be full time, part-time, or contractual, depending on your income and time goals. Writers create copy, submit by the deadline, and receive payment once edits are complete. There are two parties involved:
- Authors: Those who take credit for the work produced.
- Ghosts: Those who write the piece but receive no credit.
Companies prefer to hire ghostwriters for a number of reasons, but primarily because of their industry expertise. Highly skilled experts are hard to find, and experts who can write meaningful, actionable copy is even rarer. Brands looking to scale their content protection often choose ghostwriters to enhance their copy with professional, high-caliber storytelling.
Ghostwriters create many different types of copy, including:
- Thought leadership pieces
- Blog posts
- Tutorials or how-tos
- Books or eBooks
- Company webpages
The actual work depends heavily on the employer or contract in question. It’s a good idea to get all questions answered before signing long-term agreements.
Why People Choose To Ghostwrite
One of the biggest reasons people choose to become ghostwriters has to do with the paycheck. Top earners gross over $99,000 per year, while writers on the lower end of the spectrum make out with a tidy $42,000. Other estimates suggest up to $20,000 per project, with much higher cuts available depending on the nature of the work.
Ghostwriting provides benefits that in-house work rarely offers. For one thing, it’s extremely flexible. Where you work, when you work, and how long you work are all factors controlled on a daily basis. Unlimited sick and vacation time is a definite extra plus. What’s more, ghostwriting gives you the ability to enhance your talents. As you become more comfortable in the writing space, it will be easier to secure full bylines, pitches, and credited publications.
Finally (and maybe most importantly), ghostwriting is fun. It provides a great opportunity to learn new things, take on new clients, and grow your skills to new heights.
How To Become A Ghostwriter
The first step in becoming a ghostwriter is finding a paying client. There are a couple of ways to do this, particularly using gig platforms.
- Upwork is a generalized freelancer platform that has the potential to net short-term projects.
- WriterAccess is great for getting your feet wet without submitting project proposals.
- Fiverr may be a good place to throw a wider net.
If you’re looking for long-term or more sustainable work, consider using a platform that’s closer to home: your personal network. Talk to friends, family members, or coworkers about potential writing jobs in the area. You might be surprised by how many gigs can be found this way.
Should you come up empty-handed on platforms and your personal network, there’s still one more place to look: job listings. Google Jobs, Craigslist, LinkedIn, and Writejobs.info. are all great resources to leverage in the beginning. If you’re really dedicated to finding potential gigs, consider signing up for Writejobs PLUS or Sonia Weiser’s Opportunities of the Week. Bear in mind that both of these options are paid.
How To Do Ghostwriting Well
So you’ve landed your first gig. Congratulations! Now comes the hard part: finishing the job well.
Ghostwriting isn’t like traditional blog writing. Depending on the client in question, you may need to adapt to their brand voice, follow set tone guidelines, or use certain words or phrases associated with the business. Finding and keeping your long-term clients depends on a couple of factors, including:
- Hitting Deadlines: Although the occasional exception could be made, your clients expect you to submit work on or before the due date. Dates can be shuffled or reset ahead of time, but once they’re on the calendar, they must be met – for the sake of your writing career and your client’s goals.
- Process and Research: Few clients expect you to know everything about a certain subject. For this reason, research is a fundamental aspect of the ghostwriting process. It’s a good idea to start your exploration long before the due date, and take your time putting together more complicated aspects.
- Use Writing Tools: It might feel silly downloading yet another grammar system or productivity app, but tools like Trello, Grammarly, and other plugins could make a major difference in your writing flow. Language Tool is a great resource for changing American English to British or Australian English, accommodating clients from all over the world.
After your first few gigs, you’ll start to get a handle on the ghostwriting business, and fall into line with its general cadence or rhythm. As you find yourself scaling upwards and taking on new clientele, you may need to start looking for tools to help you grow.
Ways To Grow Your Ghostwriting Business
As your skills grow, so will your client base. If you start running on empty, or if you can’t find any more weekends to sacrifice, chances are you need to start scaling – and fast. There are a couple of ways you can approach this, depending on your industry goals and needs.
- Consider hiring other writers. Subcontractors are a great way to meet deadlines while simultaneously increasing your bandwidth. Just be sure to carefully vet and evaluate your writers before they start submitting work.
- Create some processes for streamlining your work. You may want to funnel new clients through a definitive system, or create spreadsheets that track all elements of a project in the pipeline. If you have subcontractors working with you, this is even more important.
- Begin the process of weeding through your clients. Just like real gardens, getting rid of little plants will make room for much larger, bigger plants. Start looking for bigger clients, and focus on getting rid of those that no longer meet your goals or price requirements.
It’s important to note that growing your ghostwriting business also requires a slew of legal tape. If you want to protect your assets from litigation, you may want to consider incorporating your business as an LLC. It might also be a good idea to open a separate bank account, among other things.
As your business grows, so will demands on other aspects of your life. Outsourcing writing work, developing project systems, and weeding smaller clients are all strategies that get you where you want to go.
Apply To Be A Technical Ghostwriter At Draft.dev
Ghostwriting is a fast-paced, in-demand career with plenty of room for growth. If you like the idea of being your own boss, or if you want a little more flexibility in your lifestyle, ghostwriting might be the perfect fit.
Your best bet for finding work as a ghostwriter is to leverage all your business skills, experiences, and expertise. If you’re a technical whiz with an excellent command of the English language, why not apply to freelance for Draft.dev? We’re always looking for writers with experience in:
- Distributed Tracing
- Conversation Intelligence
If you want some tips and examples to get started with your application, check out our recent blog on technical cover letters. It’s jam-packed with all the specifics you need to move forward in confidence.
Think you’ve got the chops to start a technical ghostwriting career? We’d love to hear from you. Head over to our application page and shoot us your contact info – we’ll be in touch!