Originally published on August 3, 2015 @ 5:13 pm
There are plenty of reasons to get into freelance ghostwriting. Some of the more obvious reasons are to help improve your own writing (practice makes perfect) and to gain experience writing different types of content and, depending on the nature of the ghostwriter, different genres.
What most people don't realize is that ghostwriting has been around for centuries. I always thought of it as something only celebrities or politicians would hire for. But it turns out, the industry itself is exploding as more and more people of all industries are looking into hiring ghostwriters for their books, guides, and blog content.
But, as with any creative career, there are pros and cons to being freelance ghostwriter. Things that I didn't realize when I first started, learned the hard way, or didn't quite understand the full scope of what it meant.
The Pros and Cons of Freelance Ghostwriting
If you've ever thought about venturing into this profession, here are a few tidbits you should consider first.
Credit. At first, I didn't think this was going to be a big deal. I figured at least I would be writing, even if I would be placing someone else's name on. And for the most part, that's true. Writing is writing. And thus far I have been proud of every piece. And what's more, my clients have been pleased. But this has also been a huge disadvantage. I can never claim any credit for the writing. Which means I can't even place the work into a portfolio.
Writer's Support. When I'm working on my own writing, I have resources I can go to for support and feedback. I have a writer's group and can submit my work to betareaders for feedback. We can bounce ideas off each other, offer insights, and even the occasional “I would say it this way.” Ghostwriting takes this all away. I can't submit my writing to a betreader because it doesn't belong to me. I can't ask other writers about fleshing out particular scenes because, again, as far as the world is concerned I didn't write it. This can make ghostwriting very lonely.
Never Perfect. As a recovering perfectionist, I know the trap of trying to get something done to perfection. However, as a ghostwriter, my view of what is good enough for someone else's project rarely matches their own view. This is especially true for more personal projects like memoirs, when the client has a very specific idea about how they want it to look. And this means endless rewrites, revisions, and edits.
Finding the Voice. This isn't quite a disadvantage, per se, but it can be difficult. As a ghostwriter, I have to be careful to filter out my own voice and get the clients' voice down into the story using my words and talent. Thankfully, my training and schooling as a therapist works to my advantage for this part (as much of learning to be a therapist is learning to keep your voice and your needs out of a client's treatment plan).
Scheduling and Deadlines. Authors already have crazy schedules. Tack on ghostwriting and your schedule goes nuclear insane. Trying to balance out your life and family, work on your own art, and write someone else's art is exhausting (and rewarding! But we'll get to the advantages in a bit).
The world of freelance ghostwriting seems to be exploding.
Available Work. Unlike some other areas, the amount of work to be gotten for ghostwriting seems to be going up. In an age where everyone has an interesting life story, or a tell all book behind the scenes of their profession, or seventeen epic novels sitting on their chest but only time to write one…the world of ghostwriting seems to be exploding. I have been busy, nonstop, for weeks between responding to queries, writing, research for the writing, and revisions based on feedback from the clients. In two weeks I have ghostwritten seven books of various lengths in different genres.
Networking. Since ghostwriting, I have met many, many authors at various points in their careers. Most have been professionals people who have a great story, or a great idea for a story, but don't have the writing skills to pump out the book they want to see. But a few have been authors who simply don't have the time to get it all out on paper. And to work with the latter, as you can imagine, opens up opportunities for questions (which I love).
Writer's Block No More. I have not had to battle the dreaded writer's block since I started ghostwriting. It used to be, when the characters of one story refused to talk to me, I had to practically fight (sometimes for days) to get them cooperating again. Now, since I am writing all the time, my idea-maker is working overtime and getting stronger. Instead of staring at a blank screen for days trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B, I might lose an hour. It's a great feeling, and I hope it lasts.
The pay. Freelance writing, in general, seems to be all over the place when it comes to pay. You'll find writers who will sell their services at less than a penny per word, and others who will collect upwards of $50 per page.
On average, however, ghostwriting seems to draw more than other writing projects. I think it's because clients hiring ghostwriters aren't typically looking for articles or advertising copy (although I have seen some who call this type of work “ghostwriting” I disagree with that classification). Most clients hiring ghostwriters are looking to eventually having the work published under their name, and that means it has to meet certain standards. So many times they are willing to pay more just to make sure those standards are being met.
More than Working as a Writer. Working as a ghostwriter, it dawned on me that I am gaining so much more experience than being just a writer. I have had to learn about publishing, self publishing, cover art, marketing, and many other facets surrounding this profession so I can help my clients through some of these other steps. Now, it is true I probably would have learned about a lot of these things anyway. But there's a real difference in learning something for me and learning something so I can help someone else. And that is really pride-inducing.
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Freelance Ghostwriting FAQ
How do I become a freelance ghostwriter?
Start by choosing your niche, genre, or industry. Then begin building a portfolio with writing samples you can use that fall within this niche. You can also build a blog instead of a portfolio to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise. Begin networking with people in your chose niche or industry and building relationships.
What is a freelance ghostwriter?
A freelance ghostwriter is a writer who is hired to write a specific piece of content, such as a blog post, article, or book, based on the author's ideas and expertise and sells complete ownership rights along with the writing. Other freelance writers, such as content writers, are often confused with ghostwriters because they don't receive a byline or credit for the work they've written, but the two differentiating factors are the author's (client's) voice and the transfer of complete ownership writes over the content.
How much do ghostwriters get paid?
Depending on their experience, market, and the project at hand, a ghostwriter can expect to be paid anywhere from $150 – $850 for a blog post to $38,000 – $65,000 for a book.
How is ghostwriting legal?
When an author hires a ghostwriter, they do so with the understanding that a ghostwriter is not doing the work for them. The idea, voice, answer, and entire concept comes from the author — the ghostwriter is merely putting it into words. Politicians, authors, and clergymen have been using ghostwriters to put their expertise into words for centuries. The ethical gray area comes into play when an author tries to hire a ghostwriter to develop the idea as well as the writing.