Ghostwriting is a very promising career these days; unfortunately, it is also not for everyone. There are some types of writing that you may not be suited for or some that present obstacles you must decide whether you can overcome. Consider, for example, the following problems before deciding if a ghostwriting service is the right move for you.
How will you establish a high-trust reputation?
Especially if the client wants you involved in the writing of a memoir (which often contain sensitive information, and even potentially-devastating secrets), you will be put in charge of information requiring the utmost discretion.
Do you have the patience for multiple revisions?
Clients may have an idea of what they want but poor skills in expressing their thoughts (which is why they needed your services); you may have to patiently deal with such situations.
Can you switch quickly from topic to topic?
Writing an article for an engineer on newly-designed cams, for example, may be followed by work on a fancy-cookies recipe book. You often have to accept what is available—just as every writer must accept set content writing rates.
Can you deal with the potential legal geysers of medical ghostwriting?
While it can be one of the most lucrative options for ghostwriters, medical ghostwriting is fraught with all kinds of dangerous legal mines. Then again, maybe you can avoid this niche area of the profession, if you can afford to pass up the moolah.
Do you have the time to spend long hours researching and getting to know clients?
One aspect that beginner ghostwriters often forget to include in expense estimation is all the time they may have to spend conducting research and developing an intimate knowledge of the client, their writing style, mannerisms, favorite phrases and words, etc. One of the goals of good ghostwriting is “sounding” like the client.
Can you help clients overcome “joint ownership” lawsuit fears?
Later on, especially if a vague agreement was signed (assuming one was signed at all), a ghostwriter may sue a client under the Copyright laws’ position that work performed collaboratively may belong to all parties involved in the writing process.
Are you prepared to deal with the ethical problems of academic ghostwriting?
As a ghostwriter, many people will approach you with assignments the ethics of which, at best, will be questionable. Beginner ghostwriters, eager to find work until they establish themselves, are especially vulnerable to these tempting assignments.
Can you live without the “glory?”
Ghostwriters do not get a byline. They also don’t go on autograph-signing tours, get invited to talk shows, or even have the option of putting their works in their portfolios. This is especially heart-breaking if a ghost-written book becomes a best-seller—but it’s also something to be proud of, and there are ways to make your success known to potential clients in a ghostwriting portfolio without compromising your contract.
While ghostwriting is challenging, exciting, instructive, and profitable, it is also fraught with potential legal/professional land mines. What you have to decide is this: Are the thrills and compensation worth the headaches?
Clearly, ghostwriting is not for the faint of heart; if you have the mettle for it, though, it can be a very rewarding career.
Fred F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.