Getting Started in Ghostwriting

Believe it or not, getting started in ghostwriting is almost exactly the same as getting started in non-spooky freelancing. It’s about coming up with a plan, announcing your service, and preparing for follow-through.

Coming Up with a Plan

You need to consider how ghostwriting fits into your business. Will it be your primary focus, or something you do on the side? How will you fit the extra time for longer assignments and client phone calls into your schedule? What will your payment policies be? What should you include in your contract? Should you specialize? (I’ll talk about this more next week.)

I know it sounds like an easy service to add to your list, and in a way it is, but if you’re not prepared for longer projects, content-heavy deadlines, and several rounds of edits, then you’re going to run into problems.

Announcing Your Service

If a ghostwriter whispers into Bruce Willis’s ear, will anyone know about their service? Well, anyone besides Bruce Willis? You need to list ghostwriting as a service on your portfolio. Then think of ways to advertise and market to find clients. Often, this is handled the same exact way you’d find any freelance client.

For example, let’s say you want to focus on writing memoirs. If I were you, I’d hang out on forums that discuss genealogy, recovery and other topics that are popular among people who are passionate about personal and family history. Create a simple post signature with a link to your profile and then become a trusted, helpful person in the forum.

Preparing for Follow-Through

If you’ve ever written a book, you know that it can be a very long, involved process. But when you're writing for clients you don't generally have the luxury of spending years on a single tome. Ghostwriting is not about filling pages with darlings and endlessly tweaking that one sentence on page 57. You have to find a way to write an awesome book that suits your client's voice and you have to find a way to do that multiple times a year.

It really helps if you've already developed the skill to write a great book quickly. After you have that down, it’s all about consistency and reliability. It’s about putting your butt in the chair X days a week and consistently writing X words a day. It’s math. You have a 70,000-word first draft due in 90 days. If you write five days per week, then you need to lay down a solid 1200 words on each and every one of them. You’ll also need to make time for interviews, questions, marketing, revisions, paperwork, tax filing, and so on. Get an idea of how many words you can comfortably write in an hour when following an outline, and learn to compartmentalize your duties so you can spend writing time actually writing---not researching, editing, or planning. And remember, discipline isn’t just your friend when you’re a ghostwriter, it’s your secret to staying in business.

What tips would you give to a new ghostwriter?

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Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express,, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

3 thoughts on “Getting Started in Ghostwriting”

  1. I think the “announcing your services” part is probably the hardest. It’s difficult to know where to announce and how to effectively attract people to your services.

  2. The most important place to announce is on your portfolio site. That’s your power center, so make sure it’s there. After that, it’s just like announcing your regular freelancing services. You can create a listing for yourself on sites like this one or Media Bistro, you can network, include it in all of your social networking profiles, forum signatures, etc. Once you’ve done that, the challenge becomes getting eyes on your profile. Interacting, blogging, SEO being helpful, and just plain making friends will help you do that.


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