Being a ghostwriter can be a fascinating and very profitable career. It is really just a case of matching up your skills, expertise, and interest with those of paying clients willing to pay good money for well-written content.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know this. But for those of you who are new to this, a ghostwriter writes a piece of work, such as non-fiction or fiction, but does not put their name on it. Rather, they allow another person to put their name on it and give them the copyright to it (that is, full permission to use the work as if it were their own creation).
Ghostwriters commonly produce what is termed work for hire. They work on a project with the person who hires them with the understanding that the written outcome of the two working together will be a product the client will get full rights to.
Assigning copyright is important, but there are a few other legal issues when it comes to ghostwriters working with clients. Sometimes a ghostwriter might be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect client confidentiality. In other cases, they might also sign a non-compete agreement stating that they will not create a similar book for any other client.
Payment terms should also be agreed upon and set out in writing. These agreements should be in place before the ghostwriter does any substantial work. The payment terms will vary depending on the length of the assignment. For longer assignments such as a book, a retainer fee that represents a partial payment of the agreed-upon sum is reasonable and helps retain the services of the ghostwriter.
Who Hires Ghostwriters?
A wide variety of people hire ghostwriters. They are often busy people with websites who need content and are looking for articles and other informative pieces they might not have the time or ability to write themselves.
Many people also want to “be a writer” in the sense of publishing a book with their name on it and hoping it will bring money and prestige. They might not have the skills to write an entire book or the patience. Some business owners want “instant books” published digitally and as a paperback so they can use them as promotional tools for their business. A ghostwriter is one of the best shortcuts for these types of products.
Celebrities also often aspire to write a book but don’t have the skills or time. They will usually give the ghostwriter materials to be included in the book and perhaps be interviewed. Final approval of the book will usually rest with the client.
Some clients take a hands-off approach. They write the specifications for the job, choose from the ghostwriters who apply, and let the one they have selected get on with things. Others might look over the ghostwriter’s shoulder a bit more or micro-manage every step.
Getting a Good Fit
Since so many people are hiring ghostwriters these days to outsource their content to a professional, ghostwriters can afford to be a bit choosy and only opt for projects that are a good fit. They can search through all the listings on the popular freelance marketplace sites and apply only for the ones that:
- Don’t sound too complicated
- Seem to be from clients who sound like reasonable people, not micro-managers
- Have a reasonable due date
- Match their topics of expertise and interest
Ghostwriting is a high-demand skill, and that demand is growing. If you can write well, it could be a perfect career or second job.