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Ghostwriting: The Good, the Bad, and the *Lucrative*


In today’s world, SEO is key, and in order to increase virtual visibility and boost audience engagement, you need high caliber content. For companies that don’t have the necessary writing chops in-house, hiring a ghostwriter is a great way to create relatable content that portrays the company’s ethos. For professional writers, ghostwriting can be a great way to earn a living or supplement your existing gig work.

According to the Association of Ghostwriters, there are around 15 types of ghostwriting projects, ranging from bios to newsletters and blog posts to white papers. In spite of that scope, many writers will steer clear of ghostwriting gigs because (in most cases) it won’t afford them a byline or any credit for the work. This can be a definite pitfall of the craft. But if you just want to write, and you’re prepared to do it on behalf of someone or something else, the benefits posed for your writing and relationship-building skills could be well worth the tradeoff.

Ghostwriting is not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, here are five things to keep in mind before you get started.

Ghostwriting is not entry-level

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“Ghostwriters are not intended to be one-off contractors…” Illustration by Josh Quick

Much like securing a job writing for a magazine or blog, a precursor for ghostwriting is familiarity with specific niches and a strong body of work to prove it. You should be prepared to provide a prospective client with samples of your previous work, ghosted or otherwise. It goes without saying that previous experience ghostwriting is an asset, but without a byline to tie your name to the work, you may find yourself reliant on referrals from former clients. As such, strong relationship management skills are a must, in addition to strong writing and interviewing skills.

You will have to (temporarily) amend your writer’s voice

If you have experience writing editorial content, you’ll know a distinctive writerly voice is key. This is not the case for ghostwriting. While voice is an important aspect of any piece of writing, ghostwriting requires a malleable voice—one that can be adapted to suit your client and the project at hand. The same goes for vocabulary, pace, nuance, and style. In short, you have to be able to deliver content in a tone that’s relatable for your client’s intended audience, but at a higher standard of quality than your client could produce themselves.

You may have to write outside your discipline

If you tend to gravitate towards certain niches, lead with those when you are applying for ghostwriting gigs. Writing in areas you have experience in will help you deliver authoritative and informative content. That said, ghostwriting in a niche you’re not as familiar with can be valuable practice and a chance to expand your offerings as a professional writer. In addition to being a test of your versatility as a writer, ghostwriting is a practice in collaborative writing, empathetic listening, and utilizing feedback.

You will build your portfolio and create invaluable contacts

As is the case with any writing work that you do consistently, you will inevitably accrue contacts and clippings for your resume and portfolio. If you are planning to add ghostwriting to your resume, don’t forget to include a line offering your clients’ contact information for reference if needed. Don’t be wary about using former or current clients for reference—ghostwriters are not intended to be one-off contractors, so it’s in the best interest of both parties to build and maintain a mutually beneficial working relationship.

For more tips on crafting a ghostwriting portfolio, check out this post.

You can charge a pretty penny for your work

This is perhaps the most enticing aspect of ghostwriting: you can charge a premium for ghostwritten work, since it’s at the expense of your byline and any exposure a byline might ensure. Since contracts and rates are negotiated on an individual basis, it’s up to you to negotiate what you think is a fair rate. You can determine this by doing market research and comparing your rates to the rates of those with similar expertise.

To find out how much the Association of Ghostwriters thinks you’ll make as a ghostwriter, take this quick quiz.

Looking to further expand your portfolio? This guest author also has great advice for writing obituaries

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Zakiya Kassam (Guest Blogger)

Zakiya is a writer. Her articles have been published in The Globe and Mail, This Magazine, Toronto Star, NOW Magazine, and J-Source, amongst others. Find her on Twitter: @zakkassam