Becoming a Ghostwriter: Make a Living Writing Fiction

  Tal Valante    Oct 11, 2018
Becoming a Ghostwriter: Make a Living Writing Fiction
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I recently had the pleasure of writing “The End” on another fiction story that will never see my byline. Why? Because becoming a ghostwriter can be a lucrative business and a decent way to write fiction for a living.

Here’s how you do it.

Step 1: Developing Your Skills

If you can’t write quality fiction, the first project you land might be your last. There’s nothing like an early bad review to kill your online profile, especially if it’s on a website like Guru, Fiverr, or Upwork (we’ll discuss these later).

Study writing. Read about writing. Go to writing workshops. Write. Get professional feedback. Edit your writing. Repeat. Churn out mighty thousands of words until you get the hang of it and produce good stories consistently.

Step 2: Writing a Short Story

Unless you have one already, take the time to craft the best short story you can. You’ll need it for your portfolio, so this story must impress potential customers and convince them that whatever their writing task is, you have what it takes to ace it.

Save your story as a PDF. Don’t forget to include your name or business name, your email, and a short snippet about the services you offer as a ghostwriter.

Step 3: Choosing Your Web Presence

Most of your clients will come from online connections. Here you have two options:

  • Building your own website
  • Using a freelancing platform (Guru, Fiverr, Upwork, etc.)

Let’s explore.

Building Your Own Website

If you’re technically savvy or can afford to invest in a simple website, consider this option favorably.

When people can contact you directly, outside of a freelancing portal, you won’t be losing money due to the portal’s commissions and fees. Even if you do choose to work through portals, having a serious website to show potential clients will mark you as a serious ghostwriter.

Using a Freelancing Platform

These platforms allow providers (like you) to engage potential clients. You can usually sign up to these platforms for free, but they will take a cut of your profits that can reach up to 20%.

Common platforms are Guru, Fiverr, and Upwork. Study them. Sign up as a client and look for other ghostwriters, especially well-reviewed ones. See how they build their profile and learn from it.

A word of caution on these websites: competition is stiff, and prices are driven down aggressively. You won’t find well-budgeted projects all the time. Be patient, and consider starting off by working on projects with lower budgets, in order to establish your reviews.

Step 4: Setting up Your Profile

Whether you’ve chosen a private website or freelancing platforms (or both), you’ll need to write your profile. Invest time and effort in your writing, because it will determine the first impression you make, and those are hard to change.

Include the extent of your studies, your experience if any, your passion for writing, your dedication to making your client happy, your pleasant communication skills, why you decided on becoming a ghostwriter, and so on. Your profile has to convince your potential clients that you’re a great person to work with and a great writer.

Make sure it’s well edited. Your profile is the first piece of your writing that your clients encounter, after all, and it reflects on your fiction writing skills. Make it your best: use tight, vivid language, surprise your clients, make them laugh and like you, and impress them.

(Also, don’t forget to link or upload your sample short story.)

Step 5: Engaging Clients

If you’re going the personal-website route, this is the time to reach out on LinkedIn and on Google Ads to potential clients. If you’re going the existing-platforms route, start bidding on projects.

As you engage potential clients, don’t forget to make it an easy, pleasant experience for them. Be kind, courteous, and attentive to details. Make sure you understand the client completely, and that you can deliver their requirements at top quality. Otherwise, you’re only setting yourself up for failure.

Make sure your communication is clear, error-free, and pleasant. Direct potential clients to read your sample story, or positive reviews if you have any. At the beginning of your way, don’t be afraid to work hard for a small pay — positive testimonials are worth their weight in gold.

This step ends with signing a deal with your client. If you’re using a platform, make sure the client funds an escrow account before you start writing. If you’re going solo, demand some percent of the agreed-upon fee up front. That will guarantee that your client won’t disappear on you without paying.

Agree with the client on clear terms, such as the story length and the number of revisions included in your price. These will save you lots of troubles later.

Step 6: Finally Becoming a Ghostwriter

Now write. Write the best story you can for your client, as if you were writing a masterpiece for yourself. Pour your heart and soul into it. After all, writing fiction is what you came to do.

Turn in your story and see if the client likes it. Revise as needed and agreed. Make your best effort to make your client thrilled with the result.

Step 7: Collecting Your Reward

Once you deliver the end result, collect your reward. Don’t forget to prompt your client to leave positive feedback, whether on some freelancing platform or for your own website. Display that feedback proudly and refer new clients to it.

Step 8: Repeating

Go back to stage 5 (engaging clients) and do it all over again.

Conclusion

Becoming a ghostwriter is long, hard work, but if you’re adamant about writing fiction for a living, it can certainly be fun. It has the advantage of external deadlines and immediate payment: both are great incentives to write fast and well. Best of luck!

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