Despite what the name might lead you to think, ghostwriting doesn’t involve writing about spooky tales. Ghostwriting is actually when you are paid to write a piece of text for publication without receiving official credit for it. In other words, you become an anonymous or “ghost” writer who works behind the scenes.
If you hate putting your name out there but enjoy all the aspects of a writing career, then ghostwriting will be right up your alley. There’s a whole range of different writing jobs too, including e-book ghostwriting, speech ghostwriting, and blog post ghostwriting, so you’ll be sure to find gigs that interest you.
And while you don’t receive credit, you do get something a lot better: more pay. Compared to traditional content writers who earn an average of $46,539 per year in the US, ghostwriters earn significantly more, at around $52,360 per year. This is especially the case if you’re already a freelance writer because you don’t need to learn any super complex skills to secure your first ghostwriting gig. You just have to agree to stay anonymous and know how to adapt your writing style.
Below, we’ll define ghostwriting, the common types of writing, and more importantly, where you can find ghostwriting gigs and start making money.
Ghostwriting: What Is It?
Ghostwriters produce, or assist with, a piece of work such as a blog post, novel, or speech, but without receiving writer credit — hence the “spooky” element. Ghostwriters typically sign a contract (or NDA) legally requiring them to keep their involvement in the work confidential and allowing another organization or individual to be named in the byline.
Ghostwriting is a surprisingly common practice for online marketing and blog content and in physical written works. Most ghostwriters work remotely as freelancers writing for various fields or specializing in a specific area, such as ghostwriting scripts—in fact, ghostwriters are in particularly high demand in the non-fiction industry. Some estimate that over 60% of non-fiction books featured on bestseller lists have been written by a ghostwriter, with almost all celebrity memoirs involving a ghostwriter to some degree.
Do some research, and you may discover some experienced ghostwriters who are the actual authors behind some of your favorite works. Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers was actually ghostwritten by Auguste Maquet, and Chris Gardner’s The Pursuit of Happiness was ghostwritten by Quincey Trope, for example.
A ghostwriter’s job is to capture the credited author’s voice, perspective, and personality accurately while keeping readers engaged — and if you’re a stellar role-player and writer, you could create a lucrative career as a ghostwriter.
The pay system for ghostwriting can vary depending on the type of work, though most ghostwriters operate by a per-word or per-project rate. Gigs that involve interviews, revisions, or intensive research often go by a per-hour rate or a combination of a word rate (for the actual writing) and an hourly rate (for the research process). Fiction ghostwriters are also sometimes given bonuses in the form of royalty payments, though this is fairly rare.
Feel you have a knack for becoming another author’s doppelganger? Then you’ll want to check out the kinds of ghostwriting gigs available.
Kinds of Ghostwriting Jobs
Most people hire ghostwriters because they simply don’t have the time or energy to complete the work themselves, or lack the writing skills needed to effectively communicate their thoughts to a readership. Ghostwriters are also sometimes hired to maximize content output. For example, an author of serial-style books may hire a ghostwriter to help produce high-quality content at a faster rate — looking at you, The Babysitter’s Club!
Ghostwriting gigs exist in virtually every field—you can ghostwrite an empowering speech or a moving social media post for a politician, pen a romantic novella for an author, or even ghostwrite an online muffin recipe for a bakery. And the good thing about ghostwriting as a career path is that you don’t have to settle on a particular field to get started. You can explore whatever takes your interest, as long as you can replicate the credited author’s voice and meet style expectations.
Some of the most popular types of gigs available to freelancers include blog post ghostwriting, e-book ghostwriting, and speech ghostwriting.
E-book ghostwriting entails crafting a digital book on behalf of another person or organization. Usually, e-book ghostwriters are hired by people with a story to tell but don’t have the literacy skills to convey their story engagingly. The most common e-book gigs available for ghostwriters are autobiographies and memoirs, both of which typically require you to conduct interviews with the credited author.
The industry offers an ideal career path for ghostwriters who love long-term projects, as most e-book ghostwriting roles last at least a few months. However, ghostwriting e-books is highly competitive, so it can be difficult to secure ghostwriting clients without any previous writing experience.
Avoid e-book ghostwriting if you prefer short gigs, don’t feel comfortable conducting intimate interviews, or don’t take criticisms well—online reader reviews can be harsh!
This ghostwriting gig involves writing speeches that reflect the credited speaker’s message, beliefs, and natural way of speaking while engaging prospective listeners. As a speech ghostwriter, it’s vital you convey your author’s beliefs without interjecting your own opinions.
Being active in the industry as a freelancer is a good way to connect with a wide range of authority figures, such as politicians, celebrities, and thought leaders, every project represents a cyclical networking opportunity to connect with other potential clients who need help crafting speeches for special occasions.
Speech ghostwriting is ideal for people with a knack for persuasive writing or a background in communications. While it’s generally a fulfilling, rewarding career that allows you to help individuals connect to their audience on a personal, deeper level, the niche isn’t for everyone.
The work is known to leave you questioning whether your actions are ethical, especially if you’re frequently writing on topics you don’t necessarily agree with. You can avoid this to some extent by weeding out gigs you don’t align with, though the privilege to be picky about what speech ghostwriting projects you accept depends on your financial freedom and the availability of gigs.
Blog writing is the most common online ghostwriting gig available. It involves writing online blog posts on behalf of the person or organization that hires you. You’ll either write in a voice that reflects an individual or company and use pronouns like “we” and “our.” Most businesses will also expect you to implement SEO practices.
Blog posts are typically only 1,000 to 2,000 words long, making this style of ghostwriting ideal for people who prefer short-term projects. Blog ghostwriting is also one of the easiest industries to break into as a beginner due to the high demand.
As a blog post ghostwriter, every day can feel new and exciting—you’ll never be stuck on the same written piece for more than a few days and can explore a range of different niches, from pets to the legal field. However, if you’re not interested in learning more about SEO, blog ghostwriting likely isn’t the right gig for you.
How to Become a Ghostwriter?
You can find plenty of ghostwriting gigs advertised online every day—you just need to know where to look.
Upwork and Fiverr are the best places for beginners to find ghostwriting jobs, and professional writers can find jobs through Reedsy to make extra money.
|Platform||Time to Register||Competition||Earning Potential||Ease of Use||Service Fee|
|Upwork||Up to 15 minutes to create an account and submit a profile||High||$20 to $45 per hour on average||Moderate||10%|
|Fiverr||Up to 5 minutes to create an account, up to 15 minutes to set up a ghostwriting gig||High to moderate||$5 to $50 per hour||Easy||20%|
|Reedsy||Up to 10 minutes to register, but have to undergo an in-depth screening process to get approved. Approval can take up to 10 days||Moderate to low||Up to 41 cents per word||Easy||10%|
Keep in mind that most ghostwriting positions available are gig-based (one-off projects), especially in the e-book field.
Whether you’re a veteran at freelancing or a total newbie, you’ve likely heard of Upwork—it’s the biggest online freelance platform in the world. In fact, more than 10,000 freelance gigs are posted on Upwork daily by prospective clients.
Creating an account on Upwork is relatively simple. You fill out your details in a signup form, complete a quick survey where you answer questions relating to what you hope to get out of Upwork, and then create your actual freelance profile for the site. The whole process takes around 5 to 15 minutes on average, depending on whether you complete the profile manually or upload a resume.
Once Upwork has approved your profile, you’ll be able to access a job board and search for ghostwriting gigs. According to Upwork’s data, ghostwriters can earn $20 to $45 per hour on average but you should expect to earn less than $15 per hour if you’re just starting out.
Upwork offers plenty of convenient benefits for new freelancers. The platform has a reliable payout system and manages the contracts, invoicing, and billing automatically. The service can also connect you with high-paying clients as you gain more experience.
However, competition is high on Upwork — while there are 12 million registered users, there are only 3 million registered clients. If you want to stand a reasonable chance of securing gigs, you’ll need to participate in the bidding system which can be… confusing (and expensive). Upwork also takes a service fee of 10%.
How does Upwork’s bidding system work? Essentially, when freelancers send proposals (applications) to potential clients, they bid to increase their chances of having their proposal seen first by the client. Bidding is optional, but it can be difficult secure a client without doing so, especially since you’ll be competing with dozens of other freelancers. You get a limited amount of bids for free and have to splurge cash to obtain more.
Fiverr is an online freelance marketplace where you can create a profile and list your services as individual gigs. Compared to Upwork, clients reach out to you and you don’t need to bid for jobs, which can be a lot more convenient for people that don’t have the time to sift through job listings regularly. However, there is a Buyer Requests section where clients can list jobs as well.
Creating a Fiverr profile only takes a few clicks, and setting up a gig is also a quick, easy process thanks to the simple interface. You can also conveniently add upgrade packages to your gigs. Fiverr has no joining requirements, but it does feature a leveling system whereby the more sales and good reviews you gain, the better benefits you’ll receive. For example, a new freelancer on the site can only withdraw their earnings after 14 days, compared to top-rated sellers who can withdraw money after 7 days.
Fiverr is ideal for freelancers that want a simple, easy-to-manage interface where they can conveniently advertise their services. However, the platform does take a 20% service fee (double Upwork’s service fee) and doesn’t feature as many high-paying clients.
While there isn’t any reliable data about earnings, most estimates put the average at $5 to $20 per hour. The top percentage of freelancers on the platform can hit the $50 per hour mark, or in some cases more, while beginners tend to only earn $5 to $10 for their first gig.
Reedsy connects self-published authors with publishing professionals, including editors, proofreaders, and of course, ghostwriters! Creating a profile on Reedsy is a simple process and its interface is clean and easy to use. However, only experienced freelancers are accepted on this platform.
To join as a ghostwriter, you need at least 3 years of experience under your belt and a large portfolio (minimum 5 published books) or have had your work published in a renowned media outlet.
While Reedsy isn’t suitable for beginner ghostwriters, it’s an ideal platform for professional writers looking to try out freelancing or expand their current clientele. It also comes with better-paying clients—ghostwriters, even those just starting out on the platform, earn between $0.13 and $0.41 per word. Technical jobs are often advertised here too.
Reedsy also has plenty of resources to aid the collaboration between authors and publishing professionals, including an automated contract system, writing advice, and a built-in writing tool. Keep in mind though that Reedsy does take a 10% cut of all earnings.
Ghostwriting comes with the flexibility to work on a wide range of projects and can be an incredibly lucrative career once you’re established. However, it’s extremely difficult to find full-time ghostwriting positions with organizations.
If you’re after a full-time role that’s more consistent and secure, you might want to consider one of the careers below instead. While you won’t be a ghostwriter, these positions still engage your writing chops and often utilize ghostwriting experience. Plus, they typically come with attractive benefits, such as higher pay, a pension scheme, steady income, and health insurance.
- Content writer: Produces informative and engaging content for an organization, such as articles, blog posts, newsletters, and white papers. The average salary is $39,000 to $63,000
- Copywriter: Creates persuasive content for an organization, such as website page content, slogans, and taglines. The average copywriter’s salary is $45,000 to $71,000. To explore copywriting as a freelancer, check out the Freelance Writers Guide and use code “PROOFREAD” for 20% off
- Editor: Refines and polishes a piece of text to help it reach its full potential. The average editor’s salary is $43,000 to $73,000.
- Marketing strategist: Researches, analyzes data, and develops effective marketing strategies for a business, including campaigns and marketing techniques. The average marketing strategist’s salary is $61,000 to $100,000
- Proofreader: Checks content for grammar errors, formatting problems, and spelling mistakes. On average, proofreaders make $37,000 to $56,000. Do you prefer proofreading over writing? Check out our free proofreading workshop to see if a proofreading career is right for you
You can also find plenty more examples of freelance working opportunities in our Work-at-home job ideas article.
We’ve done our best to demystify the ghostwriting realm in this article, but you no doubt have a few questions remaining before you start typing full-time. Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions people have about ghostwriting, from earning potential to the challenges involved in launching a freelance writing business.
How Much Money Can I Make as a Freelance Ghostwriter?
Freelance ghostwriters earn around $51 to $70 per hour, depending on experience, area, and skillset. Some ghostwriters are capable of earning over $70 per hour especially if they specialize in a lucrative niche. For example, non-fiction and memoir ghostwriting pays the most on Reedsy’s freelance platform, at around $0.41 per word, while romance fiction ghostwriting pays the least at $0.13 per word.
Ghostwriting generally pays better than other freelance writing roles. For example, freelance proofreaders earn between $31 to $45 per hour on average. Copywriters do earn slightly more, though often a background in marketing is required to reach these higher numbers. In comparison, you don’t need any qualifications to become a successful ghostwriter.
How Can I Boost My Skills to Get Better Ghostwriting Jobs?
While ghostwriting has lots of earning potential, it is a competitive career. The best way to boost your skills to get better ghostwriting jobs is by marketing yourself and following experts in the industry. You should also:
- Read books that expose you to a wide variety of voices
- Create an online presence
- Create a freelancing portfolio
- Become a proofreading pro
Tip #1: Create an Online Presence
Creating an online presence will allow you to reach a wider client base, increasing your chances of securing more gigs. Start out with social media accounts, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and create a professional website to advertise your ghostwriting services. A website will also help you establish yourself as an authoritative, trustworthy figure.
You can find more tips for building a successful online presence in our work-at-home survival guide.
Tip #2: Create a Freelancing Portfolio
Creating a portfolio of freelance work is vital if you want to secure high-paying clients as a ghostwriter—it shows off your skills and experience, demonstrates professionalism, and encourages them to put their trust in you. If you don’t have any writing samples yet, the easiest way to build a portfolio is to set up your own blog or do guest posts. You can also create “mock” pieces, where you produce work for a non-existent client or company.
Tip #3: Become a Proofreading Pro
No matter how beautifully written your content is, it won’t be taken seriously if there are typos, spelling mistakes, and grammar issues lurking everywhere! Brushing up on your proofreading skills will let your writing reach its full potential and help you stand out against competitors.
For a quick introduction to proofreading and how to develop the necessary skills, check out our guide for how to become a proofreader.
What Are Some Challenges that Ghostwriters Face?
While ghostwriting has plenty of advantages, it does come with its fair share of challenges, such as anonymity and the competitive nature of the career.
Ghostwriting Work Is Anonymous
Ghostwriting requires you to stay anonymous and let someone else take credit for your content. In other words, you will never be able to have a byline and build yourself as an authority figure in the area you write, nor will you ever be recognized for your work.
However, this in itself is a double-edged sword—while you don’t get author credit, you do get a higher pay rate in return. Anonymity can also be a positive if you don’t like putting your name out there for the world to see.
Ghostwriting Jobs Are Competetive
There’s no denying it: competition is fierce. There’s a growing amount of people ditching the 9–5 office lifestyle and seeking freelance, remote-based opportunities. In fact, full-time US freelancing has grown by 59%! While the competition can make it harder to secure ghostwriting gigs, this shouldn’t be too much of a setback as long as you hone your skills and maintain a strong online presence.
Ghostwriters Must Be Flexible
Ghostwriting requires you to adapt your writing style to match the client’s voice, which can be challenging if you’re accustomed to writing in a specific style. It can also feel draining at times, especially if you’re swapping between a happy-go-lucky voice and a serious tone every other day.
However, learning how to be more flexible with your writing style is definitely worth the time and effort. It won’t just help you become a successful ghostwriter; it’ll also broaden your writing expertise and let you really tap into your creative side!
Ghostwriting might be one of the lesser-known career paths, but that doesn’t mean this “secretive” career isn’t worth considering! Though working as a ghostwriter comes with its fair share of challenges, you don’t have to be part of an elusive organization or have VIP contacts on speed dial to find jobs in the field.
Ghostwriting can be an extremely rewarding and lucrative career or part-time gig for writers, editors, or other freelancers who want to increase their earning potential, expand their professional development opportunities, and let their creativity flourish.