You may have come across the term “ghostwriter” in job ads posted by employers who need copy written. Ghostwriting does not mean writing about ghosts. In fact, it has nothing to do with writing about paranormal activity or horror. Ghostwriting simply refers to writing any type of copy for which you don’t receive credit or a byline. Celebrities and sports figures, for example, rarely draft their personal autobiographies. Rather, they hire a skilled ghostwriter to do the hard (but fun) work.
Sacrificing a Byline
Why would a writer want to forgo recognition for his or her work? Easy: money. Clients typically compensate ghostwriters a higher rate between $15-$25 an hour. Writing an autobiography or a small business book (less than 160 pages) usually costs a client $10,000 or more. Many factors determine pay rates, based on research, writing, the type of book or article, and the type of client (an individual or business). Rates for this type of writing are higher in this niche because you waive all rights to royalties or income that your work may yield. In some cases the client may want to give you a byline, or name you as a co-author, or offer a percent of royalties in lieu of a flat-rate payment.
Ghostwriting Books for Clients
Many businesses and trade professionals hire freelance ghostwriters because they want to sound intelligent but lack the writing skills. Non-writers and aspiring authors who believe they have an amazing story to tell but don’t know how to write it will hire ghostwriters. This is common with science fiction stories and children’s stories.
Ghostwriters write a lot of non-fiction books, namely memoirs and educational, business trade, and self-help books. Generally these ghostwriters are authorities in the subject. Regardless of skill level, most ghostwriting projects still involve a lot of research. You can also apply for smaller writing projects, like writing articles, SEO content, and blog posts. These type of projects pay less, but they will help you build a portfolio and land more work.
Finding Ghostwriting Gigs
Establish your own website to market your writing services and link it to social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Because many individuals are open to paying premium rates for quality service, it’s pertinent that you emphasize the fact that you are a skilled ghostwriter and not just a writer with many specialties. Prospective clients want to feel certain they are hiring the best of the best. Showcasing yourself testimonials, samples and a finished website will add credibility and expertise.
You can find plenty of ghostwriting gigs on online outsourcing marketplaces like Upwork.com and Freelancer.com. You can register for a free account and start bidding on ghostwriting projects. Not all ghostwriting gigs pays premium rates. On job sites with a lot of competing writers, you will notice that rates are cheap because many beginning writers underbid for jobs.
Inexperienced clients, not knowing what the going-rate is for experience ghostwriters, will accept these ghostwriters who underbid for projects. It is common to see ads to ghostwrite articles for $5 an article, a 150-page book for $250, and ghostwriting blog posts for $3 a post. Experienced ghostwriters ignore these ridiculously low-paying jobs and search for jobs that pay higher rates for topnotch work.
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Basic Skills of a Ghostwriter
If you have experience in any style of writing, such as copywriting, magazine writing or online content writing, then you can use your existing skills to start offering ghostwriting services. If you think you need more experience, go through your own past work and judge if you can use any of these as writing samples to include in a portfolio; otherwise come up with several timely, in-demand topics and write a 500-word article for each topic to showcase your writing talent. If you want to attract a certain type of client, then use a writing style that is most appropriate.
Remember that you cannot use past work that you’ve ghostwritten for clients as samples to send to other prospective clients. Unless previously agreed upon with your other clients, you are forbidden to divulge that you’re the true author behind the ghostwritten work. In such circumstances, you have the freedom to describe the book or articles that you ghostwrote and how you met your clients’ goals and expectations on each project.
Replying to a Job Ad
If you spot a legitimate job ad (or if a prospective client contacts you directly), reply appropriately using a professional, formal writing style with perfect grammar and courteous language. How would you respond to this job ad:
I need someone to write a how-to book about picking the best family pet. I can provide an outline of topics and sample chapters, plus some research that I need included in the book. The book should run between 100 and 150 pages. I will own all rights. Please send a resume, list of qualifications and samples.
What do you think this job poster wants to hear from you? First, express great interest in the job as well as in the subject. Try to understand why this person wants to write such a book. In most cases the reason is because the topic is very personal to him and he wishes to share such information to help other people. If you can begin your reply with a statement that you are passionate about pets, you’ll grab his attention immediately.
Next, confirm that you can take on the job. If you don’t have enough experience to convince him, propose having him provide one section outline and write a complimentary sample. Although you are offering your time for free to create one chapter, you increase the likelihood that you will impress him and he will hire you.
Lastly, estimate a fee. Many factors go into estimating a fair price. Consider the size of the book, how much research is required, your level of experience, and the reputation of the client.