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Ghostwriting 101: What You Need to Know

Jackie Pearce

Have you ever wished there was a Ghostwriting 101 course where you could learn what ghost writing articles is all about and learn how to be a successful ghostwriter?

Well, this isn’t a course but it’s the next best thing! We’ve taken common questions about this mysterious term and answered them all in one place!

This article covers the basics of ghostwriting (Ghostwriting 101), the specific skills you’ll need to succeed in this niche, and general tips to make sure your projects are successful.

Funny meme from the Sixth Sense with the little boy instead saying "I see ghostwriters"

What is Ghostwriting?

Since this is Ghostwriting 101, we’re going to keep it simple. Ghostwriting is when you’re writing as someone else. You write the words and someone else gets the author credit.

Types of Ghostwriting Projects

At some point, you’ll come across ghostwriting gigs. You might be wondering what they entail, how they work, and if they’re worth pursuing while you’re building your writing career.

The most well-known ghostwriting projects are CEO business books or celebrity memoirs, but there are many more applications for ghostwriters, such as articles, social media posts, ebooks, etc.

While there are many more types of ghostwriting projects, here is a starter list of things you may be asked to write as a ghostwriter:

Why Do People Hire Ghostwriters?

There are two many reasons people hire ghostwriters: skill and time.

For example, if you know you want to write a book but you also know you don’t have the skills, then a ghostwriter may be a good investment! The professional can tell your stories and experiences without you having to perfect your writing skills.

Another reason people hire ghostwriters is because they don’t have the time to write. Putting words on a page seems simple, but it can be a time-consuming task. Hiring a ghostwriter can save time while also benefitting the individual or company by producing on-brand content.

Skills Ghostwriters Need

While writers have general skills that can be applied in many ways to a variety of different projects, there are some ghostwriter-specific skills that you’ll need to know.

1. Ghostwriters need to be able to write in someone else’s voice

On the surface, it might sound easy to write as someone else and imitate their voice, but it’s a difficult skill to master. Most writers spend years developing their unique voice and style, so when it’s time to write as someone else it might take some re-learning.

If you write fiction, you might be used to changing voice because of the different characters you create, but other writers might need to sit and practice this before they take on a ghostwriting project.

2. Ghostwriters must leave their ego at the door

This might not sound like a skill but the simple fact is, you need to accept that you won’t get credit for your writing when you’re a ghostwriter. Sure, you can possibly add it to your portfolio, but the finished piece will not have your name anywhere on it.

For example, if a book becomes wildly successful, the credited author will almost always become more famous than you will. You need to be OK with someone else getting the credit for your writing in order to succeed as a ghostwriter.

Some writers aren’t comfortable with this arrangement. If not, then ghostwriting isn’t an optimal career path for them.

3 Steps for a Successful Ghostwriting Project when Working with Clients

While we have an in-depth post on how to get started as a ghostwriter, this post is keeping things higher level (which is why it’s Ghostwriting 101 and not Ghostwriting the Complete Guide).

First, you’ll want to have a thorough interviewing process for learning your clients’ voice.

In the best-case scenario, the person you are writing for has lots of content online for you to read or watch so you can learn their voice. You’ll want to make a note of certain words and phrases they use and how they view the world.

Second, you’ll want to then focus on making the project outline clear.

You don’t want to end up writing a mini novel when the client simply wanted a whitepaper to use for their business. The client might not know what they want, so you’ll have to guide them to keep both of you on the same page.

Third, you’ll want to know the goal of the project you’re working on.

Is it to establish them as a thought-leader? Do they want to use your work to get clients? Are they going to use their book to get speaking opportunities? When you know what the goal is, it’s easier to help formulate and shape your project.

Before you begin any ghostwriting project, take time to study other work in your clients’ industry to learn what is already out there. This will help you develop a unique piece that stands out and doesn’t just repeat what everyone else is doing.

Tips for Being a Successful Ghostwriter

Create a voice guide and formatting guide for each project.

A voice guide is similar to a brand guide in the fact that you have a go-to list to pull from when you’re trying to guide your voice and your sentence structure.

A formatting guide will prevent any sentences from having a weird flow or structure.

Read your writing aloud.

When you hear it your writing read out loud, it helps you identify repetitive words, change in tone or voice, and many other common issues. There are also programs, which will read aloud to you such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

Get feedback.

If you’ve been writing for the same client for a while, it will be easier to write in their voice. But until then, make sure you ask for feedback often to make sure you’re on the right track.

Receiving as much guidance as possible early on will save you both time and energy overall and lead to a better project.

Ghostwriting 101: How to Become a Ghostwriter

There are a few basic steps freelance writers follow before they decide to try ghostwriting.

In the beginning of their freelance careers, writers often apply everywhere and to every job posting available. It can be hard to figure out where to go to find good clients or sites to write for, so there’s a lot of trial and error in this stage.

If this describes you, the Freelance Writers Den can help. We have an entire bootcamp/mini-course on this topic and it’s yours as long as you’re a member of the Den. We also have this page with market lists to help you get started.

Your Shortcut to Success. Freelancewritersden.com

From there, writers hopefully, eventually find a handful of quality clients they like to work for and either have some kind of ongoing or retainer agreement to create consistent, ongoing work.

During this time, it’s common for writers to start niching down and find topics or industries they prefer to write about. This also helps with finding clients as you know exactly what type of clients you like to work with.

If this sounds like you—or you’re on this path—the Den2x Coaching program can help.

FWD.Den2x

Once a freelance writer has a niche or writing style mastered, they often find ghostwriting jobs coming to them, since they are actively networking with people and known for writing in a specific industry.

Potential clients and companies might also stumble across a freelance writer’s writing and reach out to see if they can write for them too.

From there, most freelance writers either decide to go all-in on ghostwriting, or take a job as an in-house writer somewhere.

Have you been a book ghostwriter and are looking for more opportunities? Email us at help@freelancewritersden.com.

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