How to Become a Ghostwriter

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Bookstores and library shelves are teeming with autobiographies by world-class athletes, corporate moguls, A-list celebrities, and media personalities from across the globe. However, it’s a safe bet that many of those books were written by a ghostwriter — someone other than the person whose name is on the cover.

Skilled ghostwriters are in high demand across many industries and professions. These behind-the-scenes authors not only create works of nonfiction but also write speeches; craft book proposals; and publish internet content, including blogs and tweets. Given these diverse opportunities — and the fact that ghostwriters can work as freelancers or employees — it’s no wonder that people want to know how to become a ghostwriter.

With all of these opportunities, ghostwriting has the potential to be a dynamic and fulfilling career pursuit, especially if the aspiring ghostwriter has the essential knowledge and skills learned in a degree program such as Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in English.

A ghostwriter wearing headphones has an online conversation with a client.

What does a ghostwriter do?

A ghostwriter is a writer, usually a freelancer or an independent contractor, who creates written content credited to someone else. The range of projects a ghostwriter may take on include articles, books, webpages, blogs, social media posts, and even songs.

The goal of writing on behalf of someone else is to capture the person’s story in a way that’s engaging and accessible to the intended audience. It entails combining one’s writing skills — outlining, creative language, brand voice — with someone else’s knowledge and experience to create a compelling final product.

Subjects can include famous athletes, actors, political figures, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, or anyone with widespread public recognition or a story to tell. They typically call on the services of a ghostwriter because they lack the confidence, time, or patience required to complete the work. Ghostwriters who work for corporations help shape a company’s message to align with target audiences, corporate values, and brand voice.

An important part of becoming a ghostwriter is knowing how to grow your network and finding new clients to write for. This can be accomplished by reaching out to clients directly; working with an agency that can funnel work your way; or getting referrals from individuals in your network, typically people you worked with in the past.

Steps to become a ghostwriter

The first step toward a career as a ghostwriter is to earn an undergraduate degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in English. Though a bachelor’s degree isn’t required to find work in the field, the knowledge and skills developed through postsecondary education can help prepare an aspiring ghostwriter to thrive.

The second step in how to become a ghostwriter is to gain work experience. However, before aspiring ghostwriters can find work, they need to prove they have the talent to produce good material. Aspiring ghostwriters can demonstrate this by compiling a portfolio of work samples. The items featured in their portfolios don’t need to be published; the material just needs to be of high enough quality that it could be published. To gain experience, one can take on small projects from freelance websites, such as Fiverr, Upwork, and WriterBay.com, or reach out to clients and agencies directly.

The third step is to expand your network. While networking can begin in school, most successful networking comes once writers start working and are completing professional assignments. To thrive as a ghostwriter, it’s important to make new professional connections, trade contact information, and attend industry-related conferences and conventions.

As aspiring ghostwriters meet the steps outlined above, they’ll also be cultivating skills such as critical thinking, determination, and social awareness that can ultimately lead to professional success.

Ghostwriter salary and job outlook

While it’s difficult to arrive at a standard salary or going rate for ghostwriters, here are some factors that typically influence how much they get paid for their work.

A ghostwriter’s income may depend on the length of the project. Writing a memoir, for example, takes much more time and energy than composing a couple of pages of social media content. Ghostwriters with impressive portfolios or many years of experience tend to command higher salaries. Education can also make a difference, along with the employer type.

Keeping all this in mind, the median annual salary for writers and authors (the category most relevant to ghostwriting) was $67,120 as of May 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, salaries can range widely: The lowest 10% of earners made less than $35,880, while the highest 10% made upward of $133,460 during the same period. While the decrease in print media has reduced job availability in certain writing fields, writers who’ve learned to find work online have an advantage in the market over peers who’ve been slower to adapt.

Write your own future

Used effectively, words possess incredible power. They can transform ways of thinking, expand horizons, and illuminate different perspectives. With the confidence gained by completing a well-crafted program, such as Maryville’s online Bachelor of Arts in English, you can pursue a career as a ghostwriter, working with fascinating people and writing about exciting things.

With a curriculum that features courses such as Advanced Creative Writing and Writing About Literature, Maryville’s program will immerse you in coursework designed to teach you how to become a ghostwriter, leverage your writing abilities, and cultivate the confidence to succeed. Take the first step today.

Recommended Reading

The Art of Writing: Editor vs. Author

The Writer’s Online Toolkit

Writing for the Screen: How to Write a Movie Screenplay

Sources

Forbes, “Seven Secrets to Hiring a Great Business Ghostwriter”

MasterClass, “Complete Guide to Ghostwriting: 4 Types of Ghostwriting”

MasterClass, “How to Become a Ghostwriter: 5 Steps for Finding Ghostwriting Work”

The Balance Careers, “The Profession of Ghostwriting”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Writers and Authors”