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Become a Ghostwriter: Education and Career Roadmap

Ghostwriters are professional writers who earn their living by writing documents, ad copy, literary materials, and other works that are then attributed to another person. Learn more about the education and experience necessary to pursue this career. View article »

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  • 0:03 Become a Ghostwriter
  • 0:22 Career Requirements
  • 1:05 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Become a Ghostwriter

Many ghostwriters work as freelance contractors. Because of this, work assignments are often varied. They can become more complex and financially rewarding as ghostwriters gain experience. However, work in the field can also be intermittent and is not always readily available.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Fields English, journalism, communications, or something similar
Experience Working for a college newspaper or interning with a publication can provide aspiring ghostwriters with on-the-job training
Key Skills Writing, reading comprehension, critical thinking, active listening, and time management skills; strong research abilities; knowledge of desktop publishing, multimedia, and word processing software; good at sales and marketing to attract clients
Salary (2015)* $60,250 per year (median salary for all writers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Multiple job postings (October 2012), O*Net Online

Now, let's check out the career steps for ghost writers!

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Career Steps

Step 1: Get a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for a career as a writer or author, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A concentration in English or a related field can help enhance writing skills. If a ghostwriter would like to focus on one field or topic, he or she might pursue a degree related to that field. For example, ghostwriters who wish to specialize in works about science might major in biology, chemistry, or physics.

It can be helpful to write for school and local publications. One way to gain experience as a writer while still in school is to write for school newsletters, literary magazines, or related publications. This allows an aspiring writer to increase his or her expertise, build a portfolio, and possibly establish professional contacts in the literary world. Some newspapers offer internships to aspiring student writers.

Step 2: Seek Work as a Writer

Beginning writers sometimes can obtain their first assignments by looking through websites or classifieds that advertise positions for freelance writers. For novice writers, potential employers may include advertising companies, non-profit organizations, and radio and television stations. Some aspiring writers who showcase their skills by writing blogs may find that online exposure can lead to profitable assignments.

Remember to create an online portfolio. Clients often ask to see samples of ghostwriters' past work, making it important for prospective ghostwriters to create a website that displays an online portfolio. An effective professional writer's portfolio should consist of a bibliography of past work, writing samples, author profile, and contact information.

Step 3: Solicit Potential Clients

Aspiring ghostwriters acquire much of their work by cultivating business relationships with specific clients. They may have more success if they specialize in a niche, such as professional, technical, or scientific writing. Talented ghostwriters understand the thoughts and personal styles of their clients and know how to convey those elements in the written piece. It's also important for ghostwriters to maintain positive relations with past clients, since client referrals help bring in more business.

Step 4: Join a Professional Organization

The Association of Ghostwriters offers online seminars, tutorials, a newsletter, and employment resources to its members. The organization also provides an online forum and member directory that could increase potential networking opportunities. The International Association of Professional Ghost Writers is another organization that gives its members educational and professional resources to make it easier to identify potential clients.

To recap, with a bachelor's degree and writing experience, a ghostwriter can earn about $60,000 a year to write documents, ad copy, literary materials, and other works that are then attributed to another person.

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