What Is Ghostwriting? Here are 5 Tips to Get You Started

We hear the words freelance writer, copywriter, ghostwriter thrown around a lot. But who’s a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter writes copy—can be anything from books, blog posts, articles, speeches, newsletters, web copy, etc. but is not credited for the work. When you work as a ghostwriter, someone else puts their name on your work. The client who outsources the work to you owns the copyright for the work you did for them and has the right to edit it. 

Now, the question is, why would one hire a professional ghostwriter? Here are some of the most common reasons for hiring a ghostwriter:

  • The client’s business is expanding so fast that there is no time to write their own content.
  • The client has a wealth of ideas and stories, but does not write well.

Ghostwriting is not a new concept—it has been around for time immemorial.

I have worked as a ghostwriter for years on various client projects and my assignments involved the following:

  • Editing a rough manuscript, adding content where required and “fleshing” it up, finetuning it to create the final product.
  • Transcribing from rough notes to a final document or presentation. I once transcribed three notebooks from French to English and then had to create a report out of it.
  • Writing a series of blog posts for a single client for their business.
  • Maintaining a business blog by writing posts in the client’s voice and style.
  • Working on a nonfiction/fiction ebook based on an outline and table of contents provided by the client.
  • Researching and writing white papers based on a brief provided.

And much more. Ghostwriting can be anything from polishing a document, editing, to writing from scratch. Since there’s no byline for the author, freelance ghostwriting can be quite a lucrative business idea if you want to work from home. I can certainly endorse that the work is very interesting.

Many publishing houses hire ghostwriters for some of their book series as well as for their authors. These come with their own set of rules and specifications.

What skills do you need to get started as a ghostwriter?

Depending on the kind of writing you intend to do, you need to develop the specific skills needed. If you want ghostwrite fiction, you need the skills based on the brief and outline provided to you. If you would rather blog for a client, then you need to have the expertise to research and write in such a way that the client meets their goal. Take a look at the types of writing out there—and decide what you would like to focus on. Then practice.

What basic equipment do you need?

Here’s what you need to start working from home:

  • A computer or a laptop with a stable internet connection
  • Editing software like MS Office
  • Typing skills
  • Space to work peacefully and without distractions – can be your home or even a coffee shop
  • A smartphone
  • Discipline

I’ve just listed what I started with. You’ll figure out the extras you need depending on the kind of work you do. Fortunately, most software programs you need or their alternatives are available for download online.

Build your profiles on social media. I recommend LinkedIn where you can post a strong resume listing your skills.

What you need to be wary of

Starting your freelance work as a ghostwriter can be so exciting that it can be easy to lose track of time. There are days when you end up working way past your working hours. Once in a while this is okay when there is an emergency deadline. But if you make it a habit you face the risk of burnout. All that screen time, brain strain and sitting can become stressful. Make sure you have a comfortable desk and take breaks. Eat on time, get exercise. Make time to do what you enjoy.

Which niches to consider?

The most popular writing niches today are blogging for businesses and bloggers. Yes, many bloggers make a full-time income through their blogs and as they focus on growing their blogs, they need ghostwriters. Look around at the topics that interest you the most and look for work in that area. Browse blogs and business websites to pitch your writing. Now is a good time to do the research and create a portfolio and services package with details of what you can offer along with pricing. 

How Do You Get Paid?

Gone are the days when the check is in the mail! The easiest way to get paid is online, the most popular being via PayPal. Some clients use Stripe and wire transfer. If you don’t have a PayPal account, create one right away. Ensure that the payment terms are clear before you accept work.

I know we’ve just touched the tip of the ghostwriting iceberg, but I can tell you that ghostwriting can be a steady freelance business since businesses are always looking at quality content writers. Also, self-publishing is something many authors are opting for today. When you connect with prospective clients, even if they only have ideas or outlines, you can use your skills to make their dream—and yours—a reality. Don’t forget to let your friends and contacts know you are in business! 

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