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How Does Ghostwriting Work? A Step-By-Step Guide

If you’re thinking of becoming a professional writer, you may wonder, “How does ghostwriting work?” or “What is the best way to become a ghostwriter?”

Let’s get you some answers so YOU can become a ghost writer FAST!

Ghostwriting is when a freelance writer (presumably you), known as the ghostwriter, creates content for another person or business.

A ghostwriter can create content for many different types of publications, such as 

  • Fictional books
  • Nonfiction books
  • Social media
  • News articles
  • Original blog posts
  • Speeches of all kinds
  • Magazine articles 
  • White papers
  • Song lyrics
  • And so much more. 

Those are just some of the ghostwriting services you can provide. You’re only limited by your imagination and what clients need. 

If you want to build a ghostwriting business, you’ll have to consider how it works, what to charge, and where to find clients.  Talented writers, with a little hard work, can turn their written word into a very lucrative business. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how your ghostwriting project typically works:

The person requesting the ghostwriting is usually called the author.  For the sake of this explanation, we’ll call them the author.


Lady sitting in park on grass writing in a journal.

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Step 1: The initial discovery and interview process

You, as the ghostwriter, will meet with the author to discuss the project’s goals, objectives, and the author’s vision for the final product. 

This is where you’ll discuss all the details and get a clear understanding of what the author wants.  The author may provide the ghostwriter with their ideas, notes, or existing written material.

Just like any other writing project, the author might ask you to take existing content and turn it into a new piece for them.  

OR they might require that you conduct your own research. You must get clear on expectations.

In this step, you’ll discuss the timeline, cost, deliverables, and what role you’ll each play in this arrangement. 

You’ll want to get crystal clear on whether the project will require extensive research or will be content repurposing.  

A finished book could include all your own research, or it might consist of lots of time with the author in a more collaborative process.  Make sure you know EXACTLY what you’re up against. 

Are you delivering a finished product? Or do they want a first draft for their internal team to finish off?

Want to become a freelance writer? Discover the inexpensive course I took that launched my writing career. Click here for details.

Step 2: Protect Yourself With a Contract and Invoice

A good ghostwriter will not do anything without an agreement in place. As a professional ghostwriter, it is your job to make sure you have your ducks in a row. 

Once you’ve decided to enter into a ghostwriting arrangement, you should put together an author-client agreement. 

This is a formal agreement outlining the scope of work, payment terms, deadlines, confidentiality, and other important details between the author and the ghostwriter (that’s you!).

As a ghostwriter, once paid for, your work is no longer your intellectual property. Be sure to make this clear in your agreement. 

Your ghostwriting client will likely want you to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  It’s a good practice to put this right in your agreement so they feel secure upfront. 

This agreement is critical to be sure you’re both on the same page with the arrangement details.  If there is ever a question from either party about what should have been done, it should be outlined in the agreement. 

Woman in a black dress with tiny white flowers sitting with a laptop on her lap writing on a notepad on the bench next to her.

Step 3: Research, Plan, and Outline

Depending on what you’ve already agreed to, you, as the ghostwriter, will now need to do your research and/or gather all the information you need to put together your information. 

You’ll want to create an outline and plan out your content structure. 

This is where you’ll discover your key points. 

If you’ve agreed to communicate throughout the process, you may want to send over the outline to your author at this point.  

The author may want to sign off on the outline before you proceed. 

Want to become a freelance writer? Discover the inexpensive course I took that launched my writing career. Click here for details.

Step 4: Writing!

Now is the fun part!  Writing. 

Take all of your research and outline and begin writing. 

I always recommend writing your first draft without editing.  This way, you can let the ideas flow.  

If you get stuck, lean into your research for inspiration. 

Don’t stop and edit in any way.  You’ll have to go over it later anyway, so just let the ideas flow. 

Woman sitting at a table with a laptop on it typing with a journal next to her and a coffee cup on the table in front of her.  The table is dark blue and has pinkish white flowers in a clear glass vase in the center.

Step 5: Perfect Your Ghostwriting Project With Editing and Revisions

As a ghostwriter, you’ll want to develop your own set of edits. 

In my opinion, you should edit different things for each stage.  Don’t try to edit everything all at once.  

Your edits may look like this:

  1. Edit grammar and spelling
  2. Edit for formatting
  3. Edit for specificity and more creative language
  4. Edit for understanding
  5. Read out loud to make sure your writing flows

You could have ten or more layers of edits.  Editing for any writing project always takes me several days at least.

You may want to hire a proofreader to make sure your project doesn’t have any errors.  This is also great for getting a second set of eyes on your work. 

Want to become a freelance writer? Discover the inexpensive course I took that launched my writing career. Click here for details.

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Step 6: Send to the Author for Revisions

At this point, you’ll want to consider this a draft.  You’ll want to send the final edits over to the author.  

They’ll likely have some opinions on things they think should be changed.  Expect this so you’re not destroyed.  

How to Reduce Ghostwriting Revisions

The best ghostwriters have specific writing processes in place to keep their clients happy. 

If you want to reduce the number of revision requests you get, make sure you keep your client completely informed and tell them IN ADVANCE why you’re doing what you do.  

  • Why do you use specific language? 
  • Why do you format it a specific way? 

If you’re writing a book, you may want to go through the entire process with just the first chapter and outline.  Once you have the first chapter, you can send it to the author (your client) and get the sign-off before you write the entire book. 

Step 7: Finalizing the Content the Right Way and GET PAID!

Once the author is satisfied with your writing, you, the ghostwriter, make any necessary final edits.

You’ll then prepare the content for final delivery and publication.

This may involve formatting, proofreading, and any other finishing touches.

At this stage, if you haven’t already been paid for the project, now is the time they should pay you. 

Person behind hazy green glass with their hands on the glass.

Step 8: It’s Published!

The final content is published under the author’s name or whatever you agreed to in the contract agreement. 

In most cases, the ghostwriter is not publicly acknowledged, and the author takes full credit.

Want to become a freelance writer? Discover the inexpensive course I took that launched my writing career. Click here for details.

Where Can You Find Ghostwriting Jobs?

Ghostwriting is more common than you think. 

You see it a lot in literature, business, academia, and celebrity memoirs. 

Potential clients who hire ghostwriters are political leaders, business executives, social media influencers, public officials or public figures, financial advisors, literary agents, and more.

It allows individuals with expertise or ideas (your ghostwriting client) but limited writing skills to share their knowledge and stories with a broader audience through professionally written content.

To find these types of ghostwriting jobs, you can:

  • Check job boards
  • Create social media content online talking about what you do
  • Send pitches to businesses
  • Guest post on other publications

How to Charge Your Prospective Client as a Ghostwriter

One of the first questions your clients will have after “How much time does it take?” is “How much does it cost?”

There are several schools of thought on how to charge. Ghostwriting can be a lucrative career, but like any other writing profession, you need to be smart about how you charge. 

You don’t want to become known as a low-paid writer. 

Some will tell you to do a price range. 

Others will say to do an hourly rate. 

As a professional writer, I detest hourly rates. 

As a rule, I always recommend going with project rates.  Once you get a clear idea of the scope, lay out the details when you’re doing up your contract and invoice.   

A good client will understand that the right ghostwriter will come with a cost. 

You can find more about ghostwriting and freelance writing in general in this course by Elna Cain.

Want to become a freelance writer? Discover the inexpensive course I took that launched my writing career. Click here for details.