The Complete Noob Guide to Ghostwriting

  • October 3 2014
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When you have a story to tell or ideas to express, getting them down on paper is key to spreading the word. This is true for those who have a message to share, story to tell or product to sell. Businesses and people alike have content that needs to be written from time-to-time, but when they’re unable to write it on their own, a ghostwriter can be hired to do the job for them.


What is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a professional writer who helps people get their ideas written down in a creative and clear manner. Ghostwriters are commonly used by businesses, Website/blog owners and people with stories to tell. When you don’t have the expertise or time to do the writing for your project, a ghostwriter can be used. The beauty of hiring a ghostwriter is that you get to keep the credit of the work, hence the “ghost” in ghostwriter. The ghostwriter is unseen and unknown to the public, so only the business, blog or author of the project is given a byline.


Business Owners Lack Time


In the business world, ghostwriters are frequently used because owners lack the time to do the work themselves. Ghostwriting can be performed for all sorts of projects, including brochures, newsletters, sales letters, emails, website content and eBooks or print books.


Individuals who want to write a novel can so use the services of a ghostwriter. Some people lack the confidence or skillset to create a publishable book or script. When a ghostwriter is hired, he or she will interview you to get all of the details in order.


Focus on the Day-to-day Things


When you hire the right ghostwriter, you can grant yourself time to focus on other projects without sacrificing the quality or deadline of your project. The key is to find a ghostwriter that can write in your voice or whatever tone you are looking for. There are many different types of ghostwriters out there who specialize in fiction, non-fiction, business and other specialty areas. The key is to find one that can excel in the niche your project is in.


How to Hire a Professional Ghostwriter

Once you have made the decision to hire a ghostwriter for your project, it is time to begin your search. You’ll find plenty of resources on the Internet (like Vorongo) that you can use to locate countless ghostwriters. The hard part isn’t finding them, but choosing the best one for the assignment. Here are some tips to help you get a professional writer to ghostwrite your content:


Look for Experience and Expertise


In order to ensure that you’re getting a ghostwriter who can write in an authoritative voice, you’ll need to find someone who has either experience or expertise in that niche. So if you’re looking to commence a horror story, you wouldn’t hire someone who only has experience writing comedies. Browse through portfolios to find what you’re looking for.


Check for Matching Style and Voice:


The idea of ghostwriting is to make it seem like it came from you or your business, so it’s important that the ghostwriter has the ability to mimic it perfectly. This isn’t an impossible task, especially since this is the basis for the art of ghostwriting. In order to find this out, you’ll need to have a sample chapter or page written. You can give the ghostwriter an example of what you’re looking for to see if he or she can emulate it.


Ensuring Originality of the Content


To avoid issues with copyright infringement, it’s important to clarify with the ghostwriter (who should already know) that all works produced should be 100% original and cited appropriately if outside research is needed. Any ghostwriter who plagiarizes should be fired immediately. You can check for copied work using online programs like Copyscape.


Personality is Important


This is especially true if you are planning to work with a ghostwriter on a long-term project or multiple projects. A good working relationship is needed in these cases, so meshing well together is ideal. Your personalities should vibe well, so that it can prolong your relationship. If possible, you can even set up face-to-face meetings before hiring them.


Look for Reasonable Quotes


No matter how great a ghostwriter is, if you can’t afford him, then you’re doing nothing but window shopping. Make sure that pricing is discussed in the early stages, so as to not waste anyone’s time.


Make Sure a Contract is in Place


Once you have found a ghostwriter you’re interested in, a contract should be written up that the two of you agree with. Ensure that the contract covers payments, ownership, exclusivity and deadlines.


Open communication is very important when you begin working with a ghostwriter. Make sure to exchange phone numbers, mailing addresses and email addresses. Skype and other virtual chatting programs can be used to make remote communications more personal.


How to Become a Professional Ghostwriter

If you’re looking to make ghostwriting a full-time or freelance career, then you’ll find this field to be quite lucrative. In order to become a successful ghostwriter, it’s important that you evaluate your skills and traits to determine if you would be a good fit. There are many different niches you could possibly venture into, such as business writing, technical writing, fiction writing and non-fiction writing. All of these niches have sub-niches as well. The more specific your skills and the wider your skillset, the more clients and projects you may be able to get.


The expertise and experience you have can derive from your business and personal experiences, plus your educational background. The higher your academic achievements (B.A., Masters or Doctorate degree), the better your resume will look to prospects. Of course, these aren’t always a requirement, especially if you have sufficient life experience.


Writing Courses


Unless you have been a professional write for some time or are fresh out of college, it may be a good idea to take up writing courses in the niche you wish to pursue, such as technical writing, business writing or creative writing. Having industry knowledge can also come in handy, such as from being an auto mechanic, health practitioner, business owner or entrepreneur.


Where to Look for Clients


When you’re ready to begin looking for work, you can use the Internet to find new clients, such as our site here, Media Bistro, and Craigslist. Once you have completed your first assignment, save the work as a sample (make any changes necessary to avoid breaking any confidentiality agreements) and try to get the client to write a review/testimonial or recommendation on your Web site (if you don’t already have one, you can build one for free; it looks professional and you can use it to showcase your portfolio).


You can also find work by posting your resume on writing-related sites and advertising your services on classifieds like Craigslist.


Do’s and Don’ts for Hiring a Ghostwriter

To help you with working with ghostwriters, here is a list of the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind throughout the process:


Don’t Be Too Overbearing


Sure, you want to get your points across, so that the writing is up to par with what you’re looking for, but you don’t want to micromanage the project. Allow the ghostwriter space to do what he does best – after all, you already screened and hired him to do the work. Stressing out your ghostwriter can hinder the quality of the content.


Do Make Yourself Available


On the other hand, you don’t want to leave your ghostwriter hanging to do guesswork throughout the project. By making yourself available, you can answer important questions and give constructive feedback at each phase of the assignment. Set up milestones where the two of you will touch base to discuss the direction everything is going.


Don’t Hire the First Ghostwriter You Find


You’re anxious to get your project started, which can make you rush into things too quickly. Even if you’ve found someone that agrees with all of your terms, make sure that he or she is indeed an exact fit. Don’t bypass any of the steps in the hiring process, such as reviewing their portfolio and requesting a sample.


Do Ask for references


If you’re looking for a ghostwriter who has experience and expertise, then you should ask for references to verify that they have done projects like yours in the past that were satisfactory. This is also a chance to get a third-party’s outlook on the ghostwriter’s strengths and weaknesses.


Don’t Do a Mediocre Interview


During the interview, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions. Find out what the ghostwriter believes their strengths and weaknesses are and why they feel they’d be a good candidate for your project.


Don’t Begin a Project Without a Signed Agreement


Make sure that the contract is signed before you begin working on any project. If you require the project to remain confidential, then don’t forget to have a confidentiality agreement signed.


Do’s and Don’ts for Becoming a Ghostwriter

To help you along your career path as a ghostwriter, follow the below tips to help you steer clear of common newbie mistakes:


Don’t Take on a Project You are Unfamiliar with


As a ghostwriter, you’re extending your knowledge and your ability to write for people who lack in one or both areas. By taking on a project that you aren’t familiar with, you’ll make your job harder. This is a bad decision for a first assignment because it could get you started on the wrong foot. If you feel comfortable with doing a lot of research to make yourself authoritative about the subject matter, then be prepared to do it.


Do Clarify the Details


Knowing what’s needed of you for a specific project is necessary for you to deliver a satisfying end product. If there’s anything you don’t quite understand, don’t be afraid to ask. It’s better to know up front, so that you don’t make mistakes that require extensive editing or rewriting. This will only prolong things and could cause you to miss your deadline.


Don’t Plagiarize… Ever


If you are doing a research project that requires you to quote things from materials, then make sure to cite them appropriately. Try to minimize how many quotes you use, so that it doesn’t end up being a large percentage of the content. Not only is plagiarizing unprofessional, it can also get you and your client into legal trouble.


Do Take Projects You Know You Can Do by Deadline


Knowing your workload and how quickly you can work can help you to select projects you know you can complete within a certain timeframe. Try to limit how much you have on your lap at any given time.


Don’t Make False Claims


When you’re writing for businesses or non-fiction clients, it’s easy to get carried away with the claims you make. This is especially so if you are writing sales content.


Do Keep Your Client Involved


It’s a good idea to keep your client involved throughout the different stages of the assignment. In most cases, projects have milestone set, so that the content is reviewed at each phase, rather than waiting until the end and then requiring an overhaul.


Do Be Upfront about Rates


Don’t wait until the last minute to let a client know what your rates are. As soon as you have enough information (length of project, expertise needed, research needed, deadline, etc.), give the client an estimate. If there are things that could change the quote, let them know what and why. Once you start the project, changing the rate is bad for business.


Do Set Your Prices Accordingly


The rates you have for your ghostwriting business should be in line with your expertise, experience and the industry rates. You can find out this information online or in the Writer’s Market book.


Having content written by a ghostwriter can benefit both parties – the ghostwriter gets to get paid to do what they love and the project owner gets their project completed. Hopefully, this guide will help you in whichever endeavor you will face in the future.

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Cameron Mackey

Cameron is the Content Manager for the Vorongo Blog. He has spent three years in various content marketing roles. When he is not working with Vorongo he enjoys photography and hiking.

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