If you're good at writing, ghostwriting can be an enjoyable way to earn money. However, there are some things you need to bear in mind first. Because you're not writing for yourself, you need to be versatile and ready to adapt, as well as be good at communicating with potential employers. The following advice comes from my experience -- but remember that you really do need to be flexible!
The first thing to be aware of is that you need to have a sample available when you bid on ghostwriting jobs. You should check any requirements they ask for. For instance, they may want you to write something based on a prompt, which could then be expanded into a full piece – but you should also have on hand a good, polished piece of your writing that just demonstrates your skills.
As a ghostwriter, you won’t own the work once complete. You may or may not be credited for the work, but you will probably agree upfront that the final piece belongs to your client, that they can use it as they wish, and that you won’t claim it as your own or, at a later date, expect royalties or another sum of money – no matter how popular the work turns out to be. You may be asked to sign something in advance about this, or the agreement may simply be implicitly understood as part of the nature of the job.
If you want control over the writing, any characters you create, where the work is published, and the like, ghostwriting isn’t for you.
Different clients will have different things in mind when they list a project. Some may ask you to plan the work from the beginning, with only a vague prompt or genre. Some may ask you to write a continuation from a sample of their own writing, in which case you need to be flexible and capable of adapting your style to fit seamlessly with the sample. They may choose to proofread and edit themselves, or expect you to do that as part of the service you’re performing.
You also need to be clear about what you’re signing up for, and that you’ve arranged in advance exactly what you’re being paid for. It’s not the client’s fault if you’ve failed to take into account the time that goes into planning or editing your work – you should include that in your original bid.
Unfortunately, when you’re a ghostwriter, you can’t make excuses. If you can’t do the work in time, it’s best to communicate straight away with your employer. You don’t have the luxury of having writer’s block, since just like a mechanic fixing a car, you’re providing a service after all. And like the mechanic, you can’t dodge deadlines by saying you weren’t inspired.
If you are having problems, it’s worth figuring out why. If the story isn’t working, then perhaps you need to plan an alternative and offer that to your employer. You could even write a précis or a sample to show them. Ultimately, it is still their decision and you have to work to create the result they want – not what you would prefer.
It’s all very good to know you have a typing speed of 80wpm and you can write 500 words of fiction in twenty minutes. That’s not the same thing as producing a polished piece of writing to a specification. Make sure that when you bid, you have factored in the time you need for planning, editing, and discussion with your employer about what exactly they need. Your employer may not even know how much work is involved. Figure out how long something will take you, including aspects other than just the writing, and make a bid based on that.
Advice from Experience
As a ghostwriter, I’ve found that even though the work doesn’t belong to me, you can still get a sense of satisfaction from doing it. Don’t bid on a job that sounds terrible – writing, for example, in a genre you despise. But you can pick jobs that will stretch you a little, such as those that provide you with a challenge. Try to enjoy what you’re doing – it makes the final product better.