How to Become a Ghostwriter
Over the years, I have been approached by many people trying to learn how to become freelance ghostwriters. I have tried to offer advice whenever I had the opportunity, but the reality is that being a ghostwriter takes substantial time and effort. Unless you’re willing to put in the hard work yourself, you aren’t going to get very far.
With that said, I think it’s safe to assume anyone reading this post is willing to put in the effort–so how do you start? That’s the question I’ll be answering today.
How To Be A Ghostwriter
One thing I love about writing is that anyone can do it, but it does take practice in order to do it well. Being a “good” ghostwriter means being creative, efficient, reliable, adaptable, and–above all–well-written. It’s all about what you say and how you say it, but you don’t need a degree or any special certifications to put your skills to work.
1. Test your typing speed.
You won’t make a profit if it takes you all day to type up a 500-word article. While typing speed is only a small part of the equation, I think you should aim for at least 70 words per minute (WPM).
My top speed is over 100 WPM, but I rarely achieve that rate while I’m working. That’s because, unless you’re writing on a topic you know everything about, you’re going to have to slow down and research.
Still, once you know what you want to type, you need to be able to type it up quickly and accurately or it will simply take too long for you to complete projects. You can test your typing speed at a site like thetypingcat.com and read my advice on How to Improve Your Writing Speed.
2. Improve your style and accuracy.
Speed means nothing if you can’t write accurately and deliver your ideas in a thoughtful manner. Accuracy is a technical skill that’s easy to improve with practice. Your writing style, on the other hand, takes more devotion to change and improve.
You’ll find that different businesses have different requirements for how you write. Some want a conversational tone while others want something more professional, serious, or formal. Likewise, some projects will call for a complex vocabulary while other clients will request that you use the simplest terms possible.
I suggest getting into the habit of writing a few paragraphs each day using writing prompts. With each prompt, get a specific style and tone in mind before you start. Being a ghostwriter is all about knowing your audience and adapting your style to fit their tastes, so prompts make for good practice.
3. Decide what you’ll write.
There is plenty of content waiting to be created. So, what type of content will you write? This is the most important question you can answer as you look to become a ghostwriter. Most ghostwriters specialize in certain types of content. For instance, you could specialize in one of the following:
- Blog posts
- Email newsletters
- Social media posts
- Website content
- White papers
In addition to the above, there are plenty of other types of content you could produce as well, and they begin to get more specialized. For instance, you could write resumes or cover letters for job applicants. You could also write property descriptions for real estate agents.
Even if you choose a more general type of content, like blog posts, specializing in a certain niche can help you get more clients and yield a higher profit for your services. This is especially true if you have a special certification or professional experience related to the field you’re writing about.
As an example, a real estate agent could make a lot of money writing effective property descriptions for other agents. Likewise, a veterinarian or animal trainer could make a lot of money writing pet wellness or behavior articles.
4. Choose a specialty.
If you have a professional background in an industry that you could write about, you should definitely consider specializing in that area. However, you don’t necessarily need certifications to be a specialist in a particular niche.
So, you might not have any experience in recruiting, but you could learn the keys to creating an interview-winning resume and then specialize as a resume writer. Based on salary data, resume writers earn an average of $10,000 more per year than general freelance writers.
Now, if you happen to be really good at selling, you should look into copywriting. A copywriter is a special type of ghostwriter who focuses on advertisements and content that aims to sell a service or product.
Most copywriters charge per word, just like ghostwriters, but their work can warrant up to $1 per word (compared to an article writer’s standard cap of $0.10/word). Clayton Makepeace (who is touted as the highest paid copywriter ever) even earns royalties on the promotional pieces he writes.
5. Find a platform.
Once you know what you want to write, the final step is deciding how you’re going to find projects. I have covered my favorite writing websites in a separate article, but you aren’t limited to third-party platforms.
Many writers start a website and begin taking clients directly. By doing so, you can minimize fees and work without a middleman. However, you’ll need to work on both organic and paid marketing in order to drive clients to your site.
Personally, I started offering my services on Fiverr, but I have since expanded to higher paying platforms (including my own website) that tend to have more professional clientele.
My Tips for Being a Freelance Ghostwriter
Regardless of where you offer your services, the following tips will help get you started.
Charge a Fair Rate
Many new freelancers severely undercut their competitors to try and get a foot in the door. I did it, too. I originally offered my writing services for just $0.01/word to build a reputation and it didn’t take long for me to double my price (and raise it again soon thereafter). If you want advice on how much to charge, read “How Much Do Ghostwriters Make?“
When you offer your services at such a low rate, you can build up reviews and experience, but you are going to have to deal with some demanding and rude clients. Charge a fair rate that won’t burn you out.
Create a Portfolio
A writing portfolio is an essential part of scoring projects, especially when you’re first starting out and you have no reviews. Your job as a ghostwriter is basically to write content that someone else can put their name on, so don’t plan on being able to link to many examples of your published works. Some clients will publish your work alongside your name, but you’ll otherwise need to get explicit permission to use real work samples for any paid projects you do.
I have been writing for over six years and I do not include any real client projects in my portfolio. Instead, I wrote a handful of samples on a variety of different topics some time ago and I still use those samples today to showcase my writing abilities.
Since I write eBooks as well, I even produced an entire sample eBook (layout and all) so that clients know what to expect when they hire me. I have over 5,000 reviews on my original seller profile and I still send my portfolio when I speak to clients for the first time. It’s an excellent sales tool.
Build a Client List
“Job security” is always a topic of discussion amongst freelancers, and for good reason. When you work on a third-party platform, like Fiverr, so many variables come into play that could cut off your income stream in an instant.
Short of your account being suspended or deleted (sometimes for reasons outside of your control), third-party search algorithms and project assignment systems can change overnight. I’ve ran into this myself, but I have fortunately diversified across multiple platforms from the very beginning. I implore you to do the same.
When you work directly with clients, you suddenly have a lot more control over who you work with and your success on each project. For instance, you get to set your own deadlines and you always communicate directly with the client, which gives you more flexibility.
However, building up a large client list is still important as clients’ needs will change with time. Ideally, one repeat client choosing to dial back their orders or stop ordering from you entirely shouldn’t have a major impact on your income. If it would, you aren’t diversified enough.
Third-party platforms generally don’t allow users to bring their clients off of the platform, which is where your own website will come into play. Marketing your website will allow you to find leads and get clients directly, without any middleman standing in the way of your success.
With time, I’d suggest finding and learning to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to better manage your direct clients. The majority of writers aim to eventually work directly with most or all of their clients.
Set your own goals, make a plan, and get to writing!
Being a professional writer and editor means I can work from anywhere there’s WiFi, and that freedom has enabled me to go to some incredible places. When I’m not writing for clients, I’m generally writing posts for my blog–like the one you just read. You can learn more about my work and adventures here.