5 tips to become a great ghostwriter
Being a ghostwriter can be a lucrative career if you can show clients you've got the chops
Let's get this out of the way right at the start: ghostwriting can be a thankless task. You put in hard work and research, and somebody else takes the credit. It's not the most glamorous of writing jobs, but it can be very lucrative.
Getting started as a ghostwriter can be tough, but if you follow these tips you can set yourself apart from your competition.
1. Get to know your client
The primary job of a ghostwriter is to be the voice of their client. This means you'll have to get to know your client extremely well.
You need to understand your client's goals with each project. What are they looking to achieve? Are they trying to position themselves as an authority on a particular topic or industry, or are they just looking to tell their story?
Understanding your client also means you'll get a feel for their personality, and you'll be able to bring that through in your writing. Good ghostwriting should reflect the client and echo their natural voice. You're not trying to commandeer their thoughts and opinions. You're merely helping them to put their thoughts and opinions in order, and give a coherent voice to them.
Spend some time interviewing your client. Note how they express themselves verbally. What subjects do they feel passionate about? What are their areas of knowledge and expertise? Your writing should reflect their personality, not overshadow it.
2. Get organized
As a ghostwriter you'll have to keep track of multiple projects and clients, as well as multiple deadlines. This means you'll need to be organized. Keep a calendar of deadlines, and consider setting smaller milestone deadlines to deliver work throughout the process.
Even if you're only working on one project at a time, you'll have to organize your client's notes and research and put them in logical order. Keep meticulous notes from interviews with your client, and collate all your research in the order it will appear in the piece. You'll also have to organize logistics like non-disclosure agreements and invoices. Keep track of any expenses, and document how you spend your time on the project. Not only will this help make your workflow smoother, it will also build trust with your client.
3. Let go of your ego
This is perhaps the most important tip for ghostwriters, and it's also the hardest to achieve. Remember at all times that you're writing for someone else. Their name will go on the finished piece, and it needs to reflect their thoughts, feelings and opinions. Most of all, it needs to achieve their goals.
Letting go of your ego also means developing patience. Some clients can be difficult to work with. It may be hard to get information from them or to get them to clearly elucidate what they want from the project. They may misunderstand your work, and may give unclear instructions.
It's in situations like these that you really need to put your ego aside to succeed. Remember that the client is your customer, and your goal as a ghostwriter is to create satisfied customers. After all, that's how you get more work. Be patient with clients who don't understand the process, and make sure the work you produce satisfies their needs and goals. In ghostwriting, your words are not your children. Ultimately, it's the client whose name will go on the piece, and it's important that they're happy with the work.
4. Learn how to develop different voices
As we've said above, a good ghostwriter reflects the voice and personality of their client. That means you need to learn to write in different voices. You need to craft your tone to reflect the personality of your client. Imagine your client's friends and family reading the work. If it wouldn't sound natural to them, as though it was something the client might say in conversation, you've missed the mark.
Writing in different voices is challenging. This is where great interviewing skills are an asset. Get to know your client and the way they speak. If your client speaks in colloquialisms, adopting an overly formal tone is going to come across as inauthentic. Likewise, if your client is very serious and stoic, injecting levity will ring untrue.
5. Consider specializing
If you want to set yourself apart as a ghostwriter, think about specializing in a particular field. Not only does this give you credibility and authority, it means you'll cut down on your research time.
Pick a niche industry or subject area and learn everything you can about it. While you don't want to go too niche and risk limiting your job opportunities, having an area of expertise gives you an edge with potential clients.