Ghostwriting presents a unique opportunity for writers to capitalize on their talents while working behind the scenes. With a modest initial investment — often as little as $500 to $2,500 for essential tools like a dependable computer and specialized software — budding ghostwriters can kickstart their careers. Yet, beyond the tools of the trade, success hinges on impeccable writing skills, a chameleon-like ability to mimic varied voices and styles, and a knack for managing clients and deadlines.

The financial rewards can be substantial, with seasoned professionals commanding fees that can exceed a dollar per word. However, as with any entrepreneurial journey, it may take time to establish a steady client base and see consistent income. If you’re intrigued by the prospect of crafting masterpieces without the limelight, continue reading to discover the ins and outs of launching a thriving ghostwriting business.

Considerations Before Starting a Ghostwriting Business

Initial InvestmentLow startup costs range from $500 to $2,500, primarily for a reliable computer, writing software, and a website.
Skills RequiredStrong writing and editing skills, the ability to adapt to different voices and styles, research proficiency, time management, and good client communication.
DemandGrowing demand due to the rise of self-publishing, content marketing, and the need for written materials in various industries.
LocationHighly flexible — can be operated from home, co-working spaces, or virtually anywhere with a good internet connection.
HoursVaries based on client needs and personal work pace. Freelancers often have the flexibility to set their own hours but might need to accommodate client time zones.
Permits and LicensesGenerally none, but business licenses might be required depending on local regulations. Professional memberships can add credibility.
Profit MarginProfit margins can be significant, especially for specialized writers or those with a strong reputation. Fees can range from $0.10 per word to $1.00 or more, with some projects paying lump sums.
ChallengesBuilding a client base, managing revisions and feedback, staying updated with industry trends, and ensuring regular workflow. Not getting public credit for work can also be a challenge for some.

Benefits of Starting a Ghostwriter Business

As of 2015, the public internet was estimated to contain 47 billion webpages. That’s about 305.5 billion printed pages. By the end of October 2020, over 2.2 million books were published worldwide that year alone.

Ghostwriting is part of a large and lucrative global market. As long as people have more ideas than time, ghostwriters will stay in high demand.

As a trade, you can ghostwrite from anywhere in the world. From celebrities to businesspeople and anyone in between, you can build relationships and fulfill projects for a variety of clients, all while setting your own prices and profit margins.

Even better? Startup costs are low, and the opportunity is vast.

How to Become a Ghostwriter

As you plan and begin your business, think about where you want to specialize. From knowing how to start an LLC to figuring out income and expenses, use the writing business checklist below to see how to become a ghostwriter.

1: Create a Business Plan

Writing a business plan gives you focus and helps you think through your idea. And a business plan doesn’t have to be as long as your next book. Depending on your aspirations, a few pages may be all you need.

Create a ghostwriting business plan where you examine:

  • What business idea are you resolving?
  • What writing niche can you specialize in? Nonfiction? Fiction? Corporate work?
  • What business taxes and structuring should you expect?
  • What types of content can you produce in a professional (and profitable) way?
  • How can your network help you land ghostwriting projects and build relationships with clients?
  • Do you currently have clips or other freelance writing credits you can use to reinforce your reputation and professionalism?
  • What goals are you working toward? Make these goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Also, draw a bead on who you’ll be competing against as well as trends or industry changes that could threaten your income.

Above all, try to understand the type of client you’ll work with. Examine their profession, budget for your services, and how you’ll work with them. From there, you can develop your pricing and services and start earning your ghostwriting gigs.

2: LLC vs Sole Proprietorship: Choosing a Business Structure

An early decision to make is whether to structure your business as a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company (LLC).

It’s easy to start your business as a sole prop, and many small businesses begin this way. Sole proprietor ghostwriters can hire employees like virtual assistants or work with independent contractors/freelancers as necessary. However, without the limited liability an LLC offers, your personal assets may be at risk if the writing business ends up owing money. Another common downside of a sole prop? All business revenue is personal income, which can mean bigger tax bills.

Forming an LLC is slightly more involved, but it’s faster to set up an LLC than you may think. Ghostwriting income and assets have more separation from personal assets, which may be shielded from liability (check state laws though, as protections vary).

Starting your LLC will carry fees of up to $500 depending on the state. However, forming an LLC can enhance your professionalism, which may help you navigate business relationships or smooth the road if seeking investment or loans. Hire an LLC formation service to streamline this part of the process.

3: Create a Ghostwriting Business Name

You’ll want your ghostwriting business to have a unique name. Wondering how to name an LLC? Create an original handle that reflects the values and target market of your ghostwriting business:

  • Is the name currently being used by another business?
  • Are domains for your business available to register for your website and email?
  • Can you set up social media accounts using your business name?
  • Is it easy to pronounce and spell the name of your ghostwriting business?

4: Register the Ghostwriting Business and Open Financial Accounts

Keeping business accounts separate from personal accounts is crucial to tracking income and expenses, and for staying safe from creditors or from the IRS.

To go by the book, register your ghostwriting business name with state and federal agencies. If your business is a sole prop, you can use your Social Security number as your employer identification number (EIN). Any business entity can register for a separate tax identification number (TIN). You’ll need to create one for your LLC. Your tax number makes your business official and trackable with the IRS.

Before opening business financial accounts, check to see what state business licenses you’ll need. Once you have those, you can open a business checking account at your bank or credit union.

Insurance requirements can vary for a ghostwriting business. Lawsuits can pop up if a client introduces plagiarism or libellous material to your work. Have a standard contract with each client, but also consider general business insurance or dedicated writing insurance. Talk with a local insurance agent about the right coverage for your ghostwriting business.

5: Determine Your Business Costs

Here’s a great thing about starting your ghostwriting career: Your startup costs and ongoing overhead can be low. No massive staff or fancy headquarters required.

As little as a few hundred dollars may be enough to start, but be sure you think through unexpected writing business costs, such as:

  • Equipment: Computer, tablet, smartphone
  • Services: Cell phone with data plan, internet service
  • Productivity apps and subscriptions: Services such as Slack, Trello, G Suite, and Evernote can help you manage projects and project assets; some services have free tiers in addition to monthly or annual plans
  • Location: Ghostwriters can run their business from their kitchen table or lease work space as needed
  • Wages: Don’t forget to pay yourself
  • Taxes: Budget for quarterly and annual taxes, and track expenses for allowable deductions. For instance, you can deduct your home office space, laptop, and other costs like web hosting and internet use. Microsoft has a great list of writer tax breaks.

Think through professionals you’ll work with, too, such as an assistant, copy editor, graphic designer, or bookkeeper. Don’t neglect your marketing assets either. At a minimum, business cards and a basic website explain who you are, what ghostwriting services you provide, writing clips, testimonials, and how people can get in touch.

How will you fund your ghostwriting business’s startup costs?

Federal and private loans are available to fund your business, but they’re probably unnecessary for your ghostwriting startup.

A credit card may be enough. Some ghostwriters use business-focused reward credit cards with perks like airline miles, cash-back bonuses, or 0% interest periods. Don’t fall into a high-interest debt trap though, and pay off your balance monthly when you can.

Another option? Consider approaching friends and family for a loan or micro-loans. Misunderstandings or missed payments can cause bad blood, so sign a written contract to keep things friendly, maintain communication, and pay regularly.

6: Marketing Your Ghostwriting Business

Today’s online world expands a ghostwriter’s opportunity to build their business, connect with people, and take on projects and clients.

When you first start out, finding ghostwriting clients will be challenging. Newcomers to freelancing often set rates low for the first project, just to get a credit and a foot in the door. Professional associations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) can create an almost instant network and connections to clients. Get involved and volunteer to make your network sizzle.

Establish social media presences, too. At the minimum, set up a professional LinkedIn profile to showcase your expertise. From there, build profiles and post to social media groups where influencers and your target market meet.

Use content to help your brand rank in search engines. Blogging search-optimized articles, white papers, and other original content on your website can get attention. Above all, grow referrals. Many successful ghostwriters gain clients through word of mouth.

What kind of niche ghostwriter businesses could you start?

When building a business as a professional freelance writer, it can help to specialize. Ghostwriters work to capture their client’s voice and writing style in long-form content, short-form content, books, screenplays, subject matter specialties, and far, far more. Here are a few niches to consider for potential clients:

  • Memoir ghostwriting
  • Non-fiction books ghostwriting
  • Fiction ghostwriting
  • Blogger ghostwriting
  • Business book ghostwriting
  • Article writing
  • Celebrity writing
  • SEO writing

Start Your Ghostwriting Business

Learning how to become a ghostwriter isn’t rocket science, and it doesn’t have to come with a high startup price tag. Writing can be a low-risk, high-reward business opportunity with a vast market. You can scale your business from a side hustle to a successful enterprise at the workload you want for your life.

Create your business plan, set up your business, establish your marketing, and start making contacts. Before you know it, you could be on your way to running your own exciting ghostwriting business.

$0 + state fee

FAQ: How to Become a Ghostwriter

  • You may already have the tools you need, like a computer and a phone. As little as a few hundred dollars can be all you need to capitalize your business and start landing ghostwriting jobs.

  • Making contacts with decision makers can be hard work. Focus on building trust, expertise, and a reliable word-of-mouth network.

  • Have written and agreed scopes of work, interview releases, invoices, and documentation for all projects.

  • Consider what you want to write about. Then evaluate your expertise and examine the market’s unmet needs.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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Written by Team ZenBusiness

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