Rich and Anonymous: 10 Steps to Being a Successful Ghostwriter

Today’s guest post is written by Toni Robino of Windward Literary Services

You can become a ghostwriterImagine yourself buzzing with creative energy as you write blogs, manuscripts and social-media content from the comfort of your home or anywhere else in the world. With more writing jobs available than ever before, this scenario is not only possible but probable if you take the right steps. If you want to turn your day job into a dream job, this is a great time to don your invisibility cloak and become a ghost.

If you enjoy writing and are good at it and you like the idea of being anonymous, you meet three of the top criteria.  If you can see the world through others’ eyes and capture their stories using their words, you have the next two criteria. With these qualifications in place, all you need is a proven strategy to start spinning words into gold. Here are 10 steps to establish yourself as a ghostwriter.

Step 1. Identify Your Niche

What do you love to read? What subjects light you up? What life experiences set you apart from other writers? Answering these questions will help you to differentiate yourself from those other writers and home in on the niche that’s perfect for you.

Step 2. Make Your Wish List

First, make a list of your top 10 ideal clients. Don’t hold back. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them. It doesn’t matter if they’re famous and you think you’ll never connect with them. The idea is to paint a gorgeous picture of the clients you’d love to work with.

Next, make a list of 24 people you know or have direct access to whom you’d like to work with. Chances are that some of these people will relish the idea of being authors if you’re willing to do most of the work. But don’t limit your list to potential “authors.” Also list people who need material for blogs, social media, websites and ezines. While it’s easier to find nonfiction projects, opportunities for fiction ghostwriters are on the rise. One of my associates is ghosting a sci-fi novel that was advertised on Craig’s List.

Step 3. Calculate Your Writing Speed and Set Fees

This can be tricky. Most of the writers I coach underestimate how much time a project will take. It took years for me to get good at estimating. Over and over again, I’d think, “This will only take a few hours,” and it actually ended up taking a day and a half. Finally, I was willing to take my business coach’s advice: “Stop kidding yourself. Double your time estimates. If you finish sooner, everybody’s happy.”

With any luck, you’ll be better at this than I was, but it’s still a good idea to keep track of your writing time so you can figure out how many words, on average, you write in an hour. This will probably vary from day to day and project to project, but by keeping time sheets for a few weeks, you’ll get a good idea of how much time you need to invest.

As for setting prices that are competitive, adequately cover your time and take your talent and experience into account, it can be a daunting process.

If you can afford to hire a coach to help with this, do it. If not, begin by learning how much writers with backgrounds and experience similar to yours are charging; that will give you a ballpark range. Then consider how much you believe your services are worth per hour and compare that with what your market will bear. All this information will assist you in deciding how much to charge. When you create estimates, remember that for most projects, you’ll be doing more than writing. Be sure you account for interviews, research, and everything else you’ll be expected to do.

And if you’re tempted to sell yourself short, remember what Picasso is rumored to have said when he charged an admirer thousands of dollars for a simple sketch he drew on a napkin.  When the admirer complained that it had only taken him a minute to draw, he responded, “Yes, but it took me 40 years to learn how.”

Step 4. Pitch!

Your pitch package should show who you are, not just tell what you do. Put real thought into this. You want to create a package that is you. Include a brief and compelling summary of what you can do for the client, a bio that highlights your top attributes, and the link to your website. This is 90 percent of the package. The other 10 percent is the personalized, customized pitch letter you write for each client. Your letter should make it obvious that you took the time to research your client and his or business. The letters need to be engaging and enticing. It’s not unusual to invest hours into writing the perfect one-page letter, but get good at this and doors will practically fly open.

Step 5. Know When to Run

I wish I were kidding, but when it comes to ghostwriter survival rates, this might be the most important step of all. When you meet with a prospective client, whether in person or by phone or Skype, make sure your emotional-intelligence radar is turned on. This will increase your chances of spotting red flags, which is crucial because when you’re excited about a great opportunity, it’s amazing how pink and innocent a red flag can look. I once took a job even though I saw the client do exactly what she told her TV audience not to do. Not just once but several times in the course of a day. If I’d known then what I know now, I would have quietly packed up my laptop and made a run for it.

In Part 2, I’ll cover Steps 6-10: Closing the Deal, Project Management, Capturing Voices, Setting Boundaries and Being Brilliant.

About the Author

Toni RobinoToni Robino is one of North America’s highest-paid “ghosts” and content creators for leading publishers, with titles on the New York Times best-seller list. Over the course of a 13-year career that has produced more than a dozen books for major publishers, Toni has mastered the art of nonfiction. Working with leading experts in myriad fields, she has shaped scientific information into delightful prose and led readers along the self-help path with an unwavering hand. President of Windword Literary Services, her collaborative projects include books on subjects as far-flung as relationships, weight loss and the workings of the male brain. Through Ghostwriters Intelligence Agency—GIA—she offers guidance in the survival skills, “secret services” and intel that ghosts need to survive and thrive. www.WindwordLiteraryServices.com

Photo courtesy of Victor Habbick | freedigitalphotos.com

About Nina Amir

Nina Amir, the Inspiration to Creation Coach, inspires writers to create published products and careers as authors as well as to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose and potential. She is the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, both published by Writer’s Digest Books. A developmental editor, proposal consultant, author and book and blog-to-book coach, some of her clients have sold 230,000+ copies of their books and been published by major publishing houses. A popular speaker and workshop leader, she writes four blogs, has self-published 12 books and is the founder of National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

Comments

  1. Robert Medak says:

    Finally, someone explains in plain English what’s meant by “Identify Your Niche”.

    This is difficult for an eclectic person.

    • Robert,
      Toni does a good job of that, no? It can be difficult for someone with many interests. However, you can identify several niche categories or markets in which you want to work.

    • Thanks Robert! It IS challenging for multi-dimensional people to find their niche, but it’s a wonderful challenge to have. Once you identify several niche categories or markets that you resonate with, consider what percentage of your time you want to devote to each one right now. That will help you to prioritize.

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