A ghostwriter is a person who writes things for other people, and then those people put their names on it. You are paid to write things, and nobody will ever know you wrote it because other people will take the credit for it.
It sounds grim having other people put their names to your work, but ghostwriting is one of the few areas in the writing industry where you may make a living wage without qualifications and without being famous beforehand.
Also on Mediabistro
I started my career at the EduGeeksClub writing service, where I have had a very varied and successful life as a ghostwriter. Here I’m sharing the tips I wish somebody had shared with me when I started.
Some of them may seem a little bleak, but the theme is that if you can get through the bad stuff and keep improving yourself, you can actually make money and be successful as a ghostwriter.
Follow Opportunity, Not Your Dreams
This is probably the most important point. If you are trying to follow your dreams, then get a full-time job and follow your dream as a sideline. If you want to make money as a ghostwriter, then follow the opportunity.
You may not enter the ghostwriting field to become the most popular unnamed expert on insulation plumbing articles, but those articles may end up paying your bills for years to come.
When 50 Shades of Grey was published, and again when the movie came out, there was a massive demand for erotic fiction featuring rich men. Demand was so massive that I could name my own price and clients would fall over themselves to accept it, especially after reading the samples I created for them. I never dreamed I would spend my evenings writing erotic fiction, but that’s just what I did.
Be Prepared To Accept A Low Wage
Not to squash the optimistic and bright-eyed reader, but writing is quite a low paid job because there are epic amounts of competition out there.
The only upsides are the fact that your product is around 80% profit, and if you write to order (rather than pre-writing), then all of your stock sells.
Your overheads are also relatively small, and you can put in as many hours as you wish.
For the first few years, I had to accept a lower wage because I was pretty bad at my writing (almost all writers start out that way). Then I was accepting pay rates based on how much time I spent on each project.
The more time and attention I pay, the more I demand. I can write 800 words in an hour, off the top of my head and charge a lower rate if I so decide.
Learn How To Talk Your Way Up Because You Cannot Add Things To Your CV
Were you the person that wrote the Felix kitty chow website and part of its major online campaign? Did you start a craze for first-person funny stories? Were you the person that transcribed 23 TED talks that were then placed verbatim into a certain director’s book that he claims to have written?
Part of you may be proud of what you did, but you cannot write it on your CV because you are a ghostwriter, which means you give up your rights to the work.
If you want to sell your services, you need to know how to talk a good game because you cannot show off your CV.
Either post numerous CVs under different names on the Internet, or post none at all. When a client asked for articles on seducing beautiful women, I said I have been writing about it for years. If another client asked for articles on childcare, I said I have been writing about it for years.
I could post lots of different CVs online and point clients at the most appropriate one, but it is easier to post no CV and talk my way into jobs.
Communicating online gives you time to do a little research and planning before the next message arrives, so use it to make yourself a temporary expert in whatever is being asked of you so that you may reply to each message with an air of competence.
Become a Subject-matter Expert
By all means, you should dabble in as many areas as you see fit. After all, anybody can conduct research on the Internet to write an article just about anything, but to remain profitable, you need to know as much as you can off the top of your head, otherwise you will burn through time doing research.
Take different types of jobs until you settle on an area, and then hit that area hard with hours upon hours of work so that you can make a living wage. Do a little research into the pros and cons of specialization.
Ghostwriting is a business, and your time is your most valuable asset. I once read that it takes about an average of 25 minutes per distraction to return to the original task.
I didn’t believe it until I started timing myself for each project. I now understand that the time I spend on a project is very important. Learn about a subject, so that you waste less time doing research when you write about it.
Every project that requires deep research will require more time, which lowers your profit margin. Taking a diverse range of projects is fine, but try to stick to what you know if you want to make more dough.
You Need To Learn Some Major-league People Skills
As a writer, you probably know how important the hustle is. You need to be just as good at selling yourself and connecting with clients as you are at writing.
With ghostwriting, there’s a lot of interaction with the client. So once you successfully schmooze yourself into the gig, you need to be great with all your other communication skills.
Every point of contact with the client is an effort to maintain your expertise and intellectual credibility. (Read: No typos, ever!)
Cultivate a Massive Amount of Personal Patience
Finally, before concluding, let’s mention patience. Your clients are going to bother you with everything from not understanding their own instructions, to misinterpreting what you wrote.
The virtue of patience is not a requirement for being a ghostwriter, it will just save you a lot of time and aggravation. On the other hand, sometimes you just need to cut some clients loose.
Building relationships with clients is probably the only way to remain consistently profitable as a ghostwriter.
If this is impossible because you only work on single-use projects such as essays or autobiographies, then find an agent or a seller and allow them to do the selling while you do the writing.
Foster those relationships with your clients and help them trust you because trust is your most profitable selling point.
About the Author: Karen Dikson is a creative writer and blogger from New Jersey. She is an intuitive and creative thinker who is able to connect various thoughts into a single theme. In her free time, Karen enjoys reading classical literature and traveling. Connect with her via Twitter.