What is Ghostwriting?

You may have heard of ghostwriting without knowing what it means.

#ghostwriting #amwriting #freelance


What better place to start a discussion on ghostwriting than to define what it is, and what it means? The short answer is this:

A ghostwriter is a person who is hired to author books, manuscripts, screenplays, speeches, articles, blog posts, stories, reports, whitepapers, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. (“Ghostwriter,” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my career, I’ve “ghosted” non-fiction books, speeches, articles, blog posts, reports, whitepapers, case studies, and contributed articles (articles written for a magazine by a company executive on a topic in which they are experts). Only recently have I begun to ghostwrite fiction–but I enjoy it a lot, and I’m moving toward making it my primary income source.

When you ghostwrite something for a client, you receive an agreed-upon amount as payment. There are lots of ways to structure payment, which I’ll discuss in a future Ghostwriting 101 post.

Once the project is drafted and I’ve received my final payment, I let clients know I’m happy to do one revision, where I incorporate their suggestions and comments. I don’t charge for that, but any additional revisions go to my regular Editor Rates. I’ll discuss this and other value-adds in a future post. Remember, a professional competes on quality and value, not price. You have a skill others lack, and deserve to get paid appropriately for your time!

Finding clients is a topic large enough to warrant its own post, or maybe several. For now, I’ll only say that the online content mills are usually a race to the bottom, where those without the skill to deserve a fair rate try to underbid one another. I’ve seen bids as low as one-tenth of a penny per word, and you will never make enough to survive by giving your work away like that.

Receiving payment will require you to have a PayPal account. Sorry if you hate PayPal, but that is the business reality of Ghostwriting. PayPal also does a fine job creating and tracking invoices so you don’t have to, which is a very nice feature when you have twenty invoices outstanding. Even the content mills, who process all the payments, will need a place to send your money, and transferring to PayPal is far faster than using a bank account. And it has the accounting bonus of keeping your professional income separate from your personal bank account. When tax time rolls around, you’ll be glad you went through PayPal for invoicing and receiving payments. You can also get a PayPal Debit Card, so you never have to transfer your business money to your personal account. If you make enough money freelancing, this means you won’t get double-taxed (more on that in another post.)

The last point I’d like to make in this general overview of ghostwriting is that client satisfaction is the job. Writing is how you perform the job; satisfying the client is the job itself. Keep this in mind and you’ll find a lot of your business comes from clients who use you again (and again… ), or from people they refer to you. Well over half of my gigs are repeat customers, and that’s income I’d have lost if I ever let my temper get the best of me when dealing with a client. Plus, happy clients leave outstanding testimonials, such as the ones you can see on my blog or my Facebook Page.

Ghostwriting and freelance writing, in general, is a business and should be treated as one. Even if ghosting doesn’t pay your bills and you have a day job, your clients are paying you. That makes them customers, and that makes your service a business. Treat it as such, and you might just find that you enjoy freelancing enough to make it your only job!

(Image: By hobvias sudoneighm [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

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