Have you ever noticed that some authors seem to be incredibly prolific? They appear to be able to write book after book in rapid succession. In many cases like these, the author is working with a ghostwriter who assists them in writing books under their guidance.

So what is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a writer who works on a manuscript for which the authorship will be publicly credited to someone else. This work could include an entire book or only parts of it. Or it might not be a book at all.

Typically, the ideas that form the starting point for the book come from the publicly named author. The ghostwriter works with the author by taking those ideas and using their writing skills to flesh out the details. In doing so, the ghostwriter partners very closely with the author to understand and properly incorporate the author’s thoughts, details, and writing style so all these elements can be incorporated into the book.

Many people think that ghostwriting is only for celebrity book authors, but ghostwriters are employed in many categories of writing beyond publishing big-name books.

Magazines, newspapers, and blogs use ghostwriters frequently. Ghostwriters write op-ed pieces, listicles, the “About” section of websites, and even short stories that are published in various media.  

How to become a ghostwriter

If you are a current or aspiring writer, you can become a ghostwriter. Ghostwriting can be a way for you to get more writing work, practice and improve your skills, and be a legitimate side hustle or even a full-time career.

Here are some steps you can take on how to become a ghostwriter.

Identify your niche

A good place to start is to find what type of writing you enjoy and focus on that.

This could include anything from adult fiction to travel to academic white papers! Ghostwriters are used in so many different types of writing that finding opportunities is just a matter of investigating what’s out there and deciding which freelance writing niche fits you best.

As you write more in your niche area, you will become known for your work. As your writing continues to improve and you become more widely known for it, this allows you to charge more for your writing services. It also lets you be more selective about what you work on, and who you work for. This can give you an opportunity for the improved work/life balance that many of us are seeking.

Build a portfolio

Once you’ve identified your niche, a good next step is to build your writing portfolio. To attract writing work, most writers make it publicly known that they write professionally, treating it like a business. Introduce yourself to others as a ghostwriter and offer your writing services. Ask around with family and friends if they are aware of writing opportunities, and have them spread the word for you.

Many writers today create a website to display their portfolio of work. They also create and post to professional social media accounts and update their LinkedIn profile to include the title of “Ghostwriter.” 

Another way to build your writing portfolio is by taking freelance writing jobs through sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Sites like these can help you gain more writing experience in a variety of styles and topics. 

Taking these steps and continuing to be active on your social media accounts and others related to writing can help you get some solid freelance work. This helps build your portfolio and gets your name out there.

Expand your knowledge with courses

One of the best ways to upgrade your writing skills is to take online writing courses

There are hundreds of courses available on a wide range of topics, from improving your grammar and punctuation to beating writer’s block or even improving your writing techniques in specific genres. 

As a writer, you may not think much about enhancing your communication skills, but this is a key area to work on for ghostwriters since you’ll need to closely collaborate with an author. Related to this are skills like active listening and interviewing that are useful for writers in general but indispensable for ghostwriters in particular.

Some courses can also help you expand your range of writing into new writing styles and voices. This will help you feel more comfortable about different types of writing, so you expand the range of projects you can take on and more easily flow between them.

Next steps

Taking the steps above will help get you started in the process of becoming a ghostwriter. After that, there are some additional steps you can work on. 

Keep building your network. Talk to other writers both online and in person. Share ideas and tips, learn from each other, and refer other writers to writing opportunities that might be a good fit for their style or preferences. 

Keep your eyes and ears open for potential writing clients as well. You never know when a writing opportunity might pop up. They may also be a good source of steadily larger projects that will continue to help build your skills, portfolio, and income.

Keep in close contact with your past clients, as they are a potential source of repeat business for you. If they have been happy with your previous work for them, they are more likely to hire you for future projects and to recommend you to others.

The wider you cast your network net, the more opportunities you can reel in, but you can also afford to be choosier about taking freelance writing jobs that most appeal to you. Most writers do their best work on topics and in styles they enjoy and connect with.

You can continue practicing and improving your writing knowledge and skills, expand the range of writing styles and topics in your portfolio, and build a steady income while doing so.

Being a ghostwriter can be a good side hustle, a way to earn some extra revenue, a method for improving and expanding your writing skills and experience, or even a full-time career!