I know a woman who writes other people’s articles, reports, and books for a living. Okay… so it’s me. I’ve written a ton of other people’s books and stuff. So, in this short post, I want to talk to you a bit about becoming a ghostwriter.
People want to tell their stories. But just because you have a story to tell, doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a great writer.
Let’s define ghostwriter, first. I don’t want you to think ghostwriters only write books. I’ve written hundreds of articles on behalf of individuals and companies. A few times I’ve come across articles that read in my quirky style of writing and I had to wonder/remember if I wrote the darned thing.
Being a ghostwriter just means you don’t get a byline – you don’t get credit for the work, but you do get paid for it. So, being a ghostwriter can include articles as well as books. If you have a talent for relaying ideas, ghostwriting may work for you.
Let’s Talk About the Logistics of Becoming a Ghostwriter
Okay. Here’s how it works. Clients typically hire ghostwriters to provide a service with no strings attached. They may have you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, which states the ghostwriter will not reveal that she wrote the work.
Many NDAs prohibit you from even including ghostwritten works in your professional portfolio. Clients may also have you sign a Work for Hire Agreement, which indicates once you are paid for your work you no longer have any legal claim to it. Basically, you give up any right you may have to the intellectual property you created.
When you’re just starting out, you will have to prove yourself. Make a good first impression by putting together an engaging sample of your writing in the niche in which you’re looking to get work.
For me, I prefer to write about business and strategy. That’s not to say I don’t take writing jobs about other topics, but I like the clean, straightforwardness of trade books over, say, a memoir.
If you use a gig bidding platform like Upwork.com, Freelance.com, or PeoplePerHour.com to get work, you will be competing for jobs with writers from all over the globe. As a writer, you’re not just competing with the women from your college creative writing class. You’re competing with a Kenyan dude, a Filipino guy, a British girl and the girls from your college Creative Writing class. So, you need a way to stand out and to get repeat clients (and word-of-mouth recommendations).
The foundation of the internet is content, so there’s no shortage of writing jobs. And there are a million different nuances that distinguish one writing job from the next.
But in general, there are some pretty standard categories for the writing jobs you’ll bid. Each of the categories below requires a slightly different skill set. But I want to give you an idea of just a few of the most commonly sought types of writers and ghostwriters.
|Academic writers |
|Blog writers |
A dynamic wordsmith with a voice; perfect, or near-perfect, grammar
Physical /Virtual Inventory
If you already have a computer and have an in-home internet connection or access to your local library, Panera Bread, McDonald’s or Starbucks… you’re in business.
You’re in luck. This is legitimately one of those no-cost home business ideas. If you have a computer and an internet connection. You can sign up on most gig platforms for free, build our profile, create a portfolio, and start bidding jobs.
You can get a great jumpstart on your writing business by making good use of gig platforms like Upwork and People Per Hour. Just remember that you’re selling yourself and sales is a numbers game.
You have to put in the work. If you’re serious about writing as a side gig or even a main career, you’re going to spend hours and hours of your day reading Requests of Proposals on different platforms and responding to each one individually.
It will literally take hours every day. And that’s okay. The main thing is to make sure each time you submit your bid that you’re reading the job description carefully and answering responsively.
As you start to get jobs, focus on getting good feedback and building your portfolio. Also, if you’re in it to win it, go ahead and claim your home-based business on Google Places. OR you can pay a small monthly fee to have your business listed at a coworking space where you can receive your mail.
There are two very important things you should consider as a ghostwriter – actively building your writing portfolio and eventually building your wealth portfolio.
You acquire knowledge as a ghostwriter. Each time a client pays you to learn a subject and write about it, you gain a body of knowledge that is yours to do with what you want. Unless you are contractually prohibited from doing so (and as a ghostwriter, I would never sign a contract that prohibits me from writing about a topic again) there is nothing stopping you from taking the knowledge you’ve gained and creating your own content.
You don’t have to give up any of your client’s trade secrets to write on the same or a similar topic. In fact, it would be best if you didn’t regurgitate what’s already out there. Find a way to make your content unique and original.
It’s Okay to Use What You Learn as a Ghostwriter
A client hires you to ghostwrite a book called “A Proven System for Designing and Marketing Mobile Apps.” You conduct the research on mobile markets, new media, smartphones and notice that most app marketers outsource the development of their apps. After you write a great book for your client, you could write a separate book that breaks down how to go about hiring the right app developer to get an app to market in record time.
At some point, you may consider negotiating author credits + a percentage of royalties in exchange for a reduced fee. You’ll have to make the decision on when that option would be beneficial for both you and your client. The advantage of owning intellectual property is that it remains part of your legacy. Intellectual property continues to generate income– however small that income may be – once the work’s been completed.
If you make the shift from earning wages to generating profits, IP may become a key piece of your wealth portfolio.