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Being a ghostwriter: is it worth the bother?

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Are you a ghost?

Don’t jump to rigorous “No!” right off the bat.

The first time I was asked this question, a negative answer was the only variant I had. But soon I changed my answer to a proud “Yes.”

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The thing is I am a ghostwriter.

Dictionary.com defines me as “a person who writes one or numerous speeches, books, articles, etc. for another person who is named or presumed to be the author.”

So, it appears that anyone can be a ghost:

  • a freelancer producing high-quality writing
  • a copywriter creating texts for websites
  • a guest blogger writing for publications that don’t give credits

Not to mention books!

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Most ghosts are hiding there, writing books for celebs and politicians: Hillary Clinton, Tom Clancy, Snooki, Barack Obama, James Patterson, Harry Houdini, and V.C. Andrews – it’s no secret they worked with ghostwriters.

But is this game worth it?

I have 5+ years of experience in ghostwriting.

I am a writer for online publications and a contributor to business blogs on behalf of their brand names.

I write plenty of guest posts, and sometimes webmasters “forget” to mention my authorship, making me a ghost against my will. But still, I don’t consider ghostwriting anything despicable for professionals to practice.

When my friends find out what I do, they ask:

“Don’t you feel they’ve used you when you see another name rather than yours bylined?”

My answer is no because these writings are still mine.

It’s like multiple personalities of Billy Milligan in your head: they all are of different names, age, and experience but you are the captain here.

What’s more, this work is financially rewarding.

Certainly, not everything in the garden is rosy. As well as any other profession, ghostwriting has its disadvantages.

But good news first:

What do I get thanks to ghostwriting?

Immediate income

Ghosts work for big money, especially when writing books for celebs or bestselling authors.

Yes, fees are lower if you share the credit with a client; but most professional ghostwriters charge an average $25,000 for such work.

Sure, no one will pay you $25,000 for a 1,500-word article at Forbes and Huffington Post. But up to $2,000 is a realistic amount you can get for an article.


Ghostwriters can find new clients if they don’t have bylines. Current clients recommend them to colleagues and friends, and that’s among some of the reasons why freelancers love their job.

It also gives an opportunity to work with top clients and get into the high society of this field.

What do I lose because of ghostwriting?


Ghostwriters don’t get credit for their work, and that makes it more challenging to find clients. Especially if you work with people unwilling to share contacts or recommend you.

Also, some consider it stressful and unfair to lose bylines.

They want the world to know: “It was me, John Doe, who wrote this piece of content! Don’t you see my name bylined here?”


As a rule, ghostwriters create content for different niches. They write essays, blog posts, business letters, speeches, reports, non-fiction books; and some are proud of such multifacetedness.

But here’s the kicker:

It might lead to losing your voice when people recognize you for a unique writing style. So, if you hunger for recognition – ghostwriting is not for you.

Maybe, that’s the reason some ghostwriters disclose themselves, revealing the secrets of their work?

How to become a ghost

Often it happens by chance, as was the case with me.

A linguist and bookworm, I could rarely skedaddle requests to proofread my peers’ writings. Then, I rewrote website content.

Finally, a friend recommended me to colleagues, and everything was off and running.

Ghostwriting is a referral business, but the question is how to hook a very first client.

Here’s some tips:

  • Start a blog. Let the world know about your writing skills.
  • Write in different genres. Ghostwriting is not for fiction books only, so practice multiple styles to show your writing voice to a wider audience.
  • Network. Build as many contacts as possible because they are your prospective clients: entrepreneurs, publishers, speakers – the more people know about your work, the bigger chances are they’ll ask you to write for them.
  • Find agents. Those in need of ghostwriters tend to have agents, so find and contact them to offer your services. In case they don’t need you right now, they might add you to contact lists and work with you later.
  • Never write for free. For your first ghostwriting project, charge whatever you think a client would accept. But never work for free, even if a newbie!

And now, for the most interesting part:

Ghostwriting is not about selling your ideas and skills with no credits. It’s about helping others share their ideas.

Four categories of ghosts exist:

  • Those generating content anonymously
  • Those writing with a client’s ideas and words
  • Those writing with a client’s ideas but own words
  • Those pitching ideas and writing under a borrowed byline


The point?

Ghostwriting isn’t for everyone.

It’s about sacrificing your name after writing tons of content. It’s about experience, versatility, and writing style.

It’s about understanding the human psychology. And about yielding a point.

Think of ghostwriting as a chance to help others share a message. It’s you who has the skills to do that, and it’s your mission to be their voice. Let them guide your writing hand.

After all, good writers have devoted readers regardless the name they use to sign works.

Do you have experience ghostwriting? Tell us in the comments!

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About Lesley Vos

A professional writer and blogger behind Bid4Papers, Lesley contributes to publications on freelancing, marketing, and self-development. Many know her as the author of 200+ blog posts, ghostwriting her first nonfiction book now. Feel free to email Lesley or say hi on Twitter.

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