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Like any job, ghostwriting comes with drawbacks. Knowing them in advance will help you manage them so they don’t become stumbling blocks.

Underestimating The Scope Of The Project. There’s a lot that goes into ghostwriting one page. It isn’t just about the writing. You have to do research. Conduct interviews. Review whatever material your client provides. Develop an outline. Look up meanings of words and idioms. Check facts. Look up the correct spelling of names of people, places, departments and agencies. Check timelines. Proofread. Do revisions based on your client’s feedback. Then do more revisions to repair the writing flow that inevitably breaks when you insert new information.

The final written page that your client sees is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t underestimate all the research, fact-checking, phone calls, emails, reading, structuring, editing and rewriting you’ll have to do to create one perfect page. If you’re writing a book, multiply this process by 200 or so. Only then will you start to grasp the real scope of your project – something you must know for scheduling purposes.

Ending Up With An Income That’s Too Low. In general, ghostwriters don’t charge enough for the projects they complete. Adding up all the hours that the writer spends on tasks beyond straight writing, like research and revisions, it can easily come to multiple hours to finalize a single page.

Let’s look at a simplified example. Say a ghostwriter is aiming for $25 per hour, working 40 hours a week and taking three weeks off per year. This would yield an annual income of $49,000.

She decides to charge $25 per double-spaced page. But if it takes her 30 minutes to study material pertinent to that page, 15 minutes to look up information about the places that will be mentioned on the page, 30 minutes to write the first draft, 15 minutes to edit and proofread it before sending it to her client, and 30 minutes to revise and finalize the page after getting feedback, then she’s earned $25 for two hours of work. Her actual hourly rate is $12.50, yielding an annual income of $24,500.

An actual income that’s significantly less than what you’re expecting is a recipe for financial failure. You might have to charge more per page, per hour or per project to avoid this pitfall.

Not Getting The Client’s “Voice” Right. The best ghostwriters are like chameleons, able to change their writing style and tone to sound like the client. The writing must be top-quality and eloquent, but it can’t sound generic. A reader has to hear and picture the author, not the writer in the background. A good ghostwriter, then, must be able to inject a dose of the client’s personality and flair into the writing.

Undoubtedly, capturing the author’s voice in writing can be tricky. It takes practice. Learn to really listen to your client in order to capture all the quirks and nuances that come through. Revise your writing until it sounds more like your client, less like you.

Trying To Hit A Moving Target. In the beginning, your client may not have a good grasp of the scope or direction of his book. He may ask for a memoir only to change his mind a couple of months later and want a fictionalized account of his life instead. Or he’s constantly tweaking the outline or asking for revisions.

It can get difficult and frustrating when the parameters are constantly changing. One way to protect yourself is to charge per page that you write, and also to charge for revisions (beyond one or two). This way, whenever your client changes his mind and wants something different, it’s on his dime, not yours. If you have to write one page five times simply because your client hasn’t figured out what he wants, then you’re really writing five pages, not one, and you should be paid accordingly.

Avoid Pitfalls With A Solid Contract. The best way to protect yourself from all ghostwriting pitfalls is to draft a thorough contract that clearly addresses these cases. Before starting a project, go over the contract with your client and make sure both of you sign it. A well-drafted contract will protect you and your client in the long run.

Happy writing,

Graciela Sholander

Discover where to find ghostwriting jobs.

Read what real ghostwriters say about the field.

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At some point in your ghostwriting career, you’ll need to make the leap to the next level.

But what is that elusive next level, and how do you get there?

First of all, the next level may not be so elusive. You already know where you’d like to go next, or at least, you have an idea.

The next level might be to ghostwrite a longer work, or a different kind of work. If you ghost nonfiction, maybe you’re ready to try fiction. Perhaps the next level is to specialize in one or two areas, such as ghost blogging or speech writing.

It might be to write well faster. To break into one of the traditionally higher-paying niches, such as health or finance. To secure contracts with clients with the means to pay higher rates and the motivation to get a project done quickly. Or to have a better working relationship with your client.

Perhaps you want your writing to more closely match your client’s voice, or you’d like to engage readers better.

The next level may be to find consistent ghostwriting work and make a comfortable living in this field.

Yes, you know what the next level is … for YOU. To help you get there, try the following:

  1. Write Down Your Goal. Seeing it in writing makes it real. Writing it defines it and gives your goal power.
  2. Spend An Hour Doing Research. Once you’ve defined your goal, research it online. Google it and see what comes up. Give yourself the luxury of browsing your goal for an hour or so to learn what others have done.
  3. Come Up With A Strategy. Keep it simple for now. Write down five or six steps to take that will bring you to the next ghostwriting level.
  4. Select One Of The Steps To Be Your Starting Point. Just choose one of the steps. It might make sense to start with the first step … but not necessarily. Go with what feels right, or what excites you most.
  5. Take Action. This is the most important part. Do something to get started on the step you just selected. Do this one important thing and you’ll be way ahead of everyone who dreams but forgets that action is required to bring those dreams to life.

Don’t let the myriad of possibilities overwhelm you. Options exist to open new paths before you. Your job is to choose the path you want to take next, to take that first step, and to bring along the right tools and skills for a rewarding journey.

To your writing!

Graciela Sholander

Where Are The Ghostwriting Jobs?

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