What It Takes to Be a Ghostwriter

Do you have what it takes? Take this simple test, and find out.

  1. Do you have a special knack for crawling inside people’s heads?
  2. Can you understand what they really want to say?
  3. Are you able to speak in their voices?
  4. Can you distill a great deal of information into tight prose?
  5. Is one of your strengths translating feelings into words?
  6. Can you organize a complex message into a coherent manuscript?
  7. Can you “go with the flow” when absolutely nothing goes as planned?

If you answered “YES” to all of the above, ghostwriting may be the right career for you.

What is a ghostwriter?

Ghostwriting is a form of freelance writing. In other words, it is a business transaction, and you are a supplier of services. The client has full control over the copy and pays you for your services. In most cases, your name will not appear on the finished product. Terms and details are agreed upon before you start the project. You and the client are expected to live by the terms of the agreement. The client has a right to expect you to perform, behave, and dress like a professional. Everything is confidential—what goes on, what is said, what you learn, what you observe.

Why would you want to be a ghostwriter? 

The rewards are many. If you want to …
•  be constantly challenged
•  be your own boss
•  build your writing skills and credits
•  choose your assignments
•  educate others
•  get paid for doing what you love
•  grow creatively and professionally
•  keep learning
•  make a living, possibly an excellent one
•  promote ideas, causes, products you believe in
•  increase your marketability
•  keep the adrenaline rush that comes with writing books
… you are in the right place.

What does it take to be a ghostwriter? 

You need technical ability and the right temperament. 

Technically, you must be able to …

  • take in, synthesize, and integrate voluminous amounts of information
  • write in the client’s voice
  • view ghostwriting as a business
  • juggle—a number of different projects, clients, details—and do all of them fast, well, and accurately
  • switch gears quickly and easily, in case you have to change the focus of the project in the middle of the assignment

Temperamentally, you need …

  • an invisible ego
  • people skills
  • personal charisma
  • tireless self-marketing

How do you get assignments? 

Ghostwriting is a form of freelancing, which means you must sell yourself and your abilities. To do so, you need an elevator speech (no more than 15-30 seconds); a network; a convincing professional image; a resume or bio that sings; writing samples that speak for you; a Website that informs and is easy to navigate; marketing materials; references; presentation and speaking skills; research skills; and lots and lots of patience (so you don’t make snap decisions or get uptight when the client leaves you hanging).

Life is an audition … actually, one audition after another. You have to prove yourself and your qualifications for every single project. Ghostwriting is not a career for the faint of heart. Just as in every kind of freelancing, if something can go wrong, it probably will. Again, just as in every kind of freelancing, income is unpredictable until, or unless, you are established and in demand.  On the other hand, it is a career that can support you well, bring you satisfaction and credibility, and put you in contact with some extremely interesting people.