Fundamental Skills Required to Become an Excellent Ghostwriter

ghostwriting Jul 22, 2022
Skills that every good ghostwriter should possess. The word 'skills' written with chalk on a blackboard with someone holding a lit light bulb beside it.

by Cris Yeager

What do you think of when you hear the word ghostwriter? For many people, it conjures up images of movie stars who’ve hired professionals to write their biographies in their name. While that might be one way to use your ghostwriting skills, ghostwriting can also be used to help entrepreneurs. By assisting small business owners and executives to prepare important documents like business plans, marketing plans, and even books they’re writing themselves.

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative business if you get into it right, but if you’re not up to the task of producing quality material regularly, then you’ll end up losing clients and maybe even money. Before you jump into ghostwriting, make sure that you have the fundamental skills to get the job done. That way, no matter how much your ghostwriting business grows and changes, you’ll always be able to keep up with the demands of your clients and of the market as a whole.

Writing skills and beyond
Most people think that the only skill required to be a ghostwriter is the ability to write well. However, there’s more to it than that. Here are ten skills you need to have if you want to be a successful ghostwriter. We'll start with writing. Basic writing skills are fine, but to succeed you must possess knowledge of:

  • Proficiency in the language you are writing in
  • Spelling accuracy as to avoid too many errors
  • Grammar rules to clear any misunderstanding
  • Sentence structure and proper usage of vocabulary
  • How to avoid paste tense
  • When to avoid cliché phrases

Even IF you have extensive knowledge of all of the above, you need more! To execute ghostwriting for clients, small businesses, large high-end corporations, or even celebrities, you'll need much more skill than just writing. 

With the list compiled below, becoming a ghostwriter will be easier and some of these skills can be developed along the way!

  1. Communicating often: As a ghostwriter, you will be working with a lot of different people. You need to be able to communicate effectively with your clients to understand their needs. At times you may need to be able to communicate with other ghostwriters, editors and publishers. However, mostly, you'll be working one on one with the intended author. You must develop strong communication skills if you want to be successful in this field. From the first contact message, the initial interview, brainstorming sessions, progress reports, and final completion, communication with clients is necessary. Connect often using various avenues — phone, video chat, messaging, email, and in person if that's an option.
  2. Improving research methods: As a ghostwriter, research is a fundamental skill that you must develop. You need to be able to find and review reputable and reliable sources of information. This can be a challenge, as there is a lot of misinformation out there. However, if you take the time to learn how to research effectively, you will be able to find the information you need to produce great work for your clients. There's also the added benefit of researching topics you've never written about before!
  3. Organizing information is a must: If you want to be a professional ghostwriter, you must be able to organize information. This means being able to take complex topics and break them down into manageable chunks. One way to do this is by creating an outline. An outline will help you see the big picture and understand how all the pieces fit together. This is a crucial skill for any ghostwriter, as it will allow you to create cohesive, well-organized work. Without a clear understanding of the material, it will be difficult to produce quality work. Plus, when you get into the flow of creating outlines, by using complete sentences, you will be able to eventually transform all of that information into a cohesive piece and only add details before editing!
  4. Learn SEO tactics: If you want to be a successful ghostwriter, you need to understand SEO. That means learning how to choose the right keywords, how to place them strategically throughout your text and how to measure their effectiveness. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available that can teach you the ins and outs of SEO. Once you have a handle on it, you’ll be able to make your writing more visible and more likely to be read by the people who need it most.
  5. Marketing strategy: To be a successful ghostwriter, you need to be able to market your client’s work. This means having a strong understanding of the client’s target audience and what kind of messaging will resonate with them. It is also important to develop a marketing strategy that will get the client’s work in front of as many people as possible. A successful ghostwriter is someone who can wear many hats and handle all aspects of the writing process, from conception to execution. Believe it or not, most of the marketing is done right inside of the ghostwritten piece. In that respect, half of the marketing is already done!
  6. Links and backlinking: As a ghostwriter, one of the most important skills you can have is the ability to link. Linking is the act of connecting two pieces of information together, and it’s a fundamental skill for any writer. But linking isn’t just about connecting ideas, it’s also about connecting people. When you link, you create a connection between the person who reads your work and the person who wrote it -- that connection is what makes ghostwriting so powerful. Although this skill isn't necessary if you aren't writing for web use, it's still an excellent skill to know.
  7. Time management is essential: If you want to be a successful ghostwriter, time management is essential. You need to know how much work you can handle and make sure you meet all deadlines. This can be a challenge, especially if you're working with multiple clients. Time is a friend when you manage it properly or an enemy if not. But if you can master your time management skills, you'll be well on your way to success.
  8. Building relationships: Ghostwriters who succeed are aware of the need to maintain good relations with their clients. This means being able to communicate effectively, being responsive to their needs and always delivering high-quality work. Plus, it’s important to be professional and courteous at all times. If you can do all of this, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great ghostwriter that clients will love working with, which will lead to future or steady work with clients and recommendations!
  9. Confidence is needed: One of the most important things you need as a ghostwriter is confidence. You have to be confident that you can write well, meet deadlines, and deliver what the client wants. If you don’t have confidence in your skills, it will be difficult to succeed as a ghostwriter. The best way to develop confidence is through practice. There are plenty of opportunities for you to gain experience by taking on small assignments such as book reviews or blog posts. It's also possible for you to work with established writers, who will give constructive feedback on your work. Building a portfolio should help boost your confidence so that you feel comfortable when looking for higher-paying jobs or clients with challenging needs.
  10. Editing and proofreading: When you are writing for a client, it is important to remember that they are paying you for a service. This means that you need to be able to provide them with a well-written, error-free piece of work. This is where editing and proofreading come in. As a ghostwriter, it is your responsibility to make sure that your work is free of any errors before you send it off to the client. Writers may seem arrogant when it comes to their work, but it's not true. Everyone who writes needs proofreading. Editing skill goes beyond proofreading and locating simple spelling errors. Ghostwriters should know how to spot sentences that don't make sense, cut the fluff and add details that are missing.

BONUS TIP: Writing in voice: One of the top skills that a ghostwriter must have is the ability to capture their client's voice. This means being able to write in a style that sounds like the client. This can be tricky, but it's important to get right. After all, the whole point of ghostwriting is that the client is the one who takes credit for the work. As a ghostwriter, you need to take in every little detail to emulate your client or employer's personality and idiosyncrasies. 

Things to know before jumping in
Being a ghostwriter is not easy. It's a lot of work and can be very challenging. But the experience can also be very rewarding, financially as well as emotionally. As a ghostwriter, you will be paid for your work but you will not receive any credit for it. This is because the client is the one who will be using the finished product, not you. Therefore, it is important to develop a thick skin and not take things personally when working as a ghostwriter. It's all part of the job! Before you decide to transition from writer to ghostwriter, make sure you are established as a writer, even if you only have a blog. Because your work as a ghostwriter will be a secret, you can't just show them your work. Have writing already available for viewing to impress those future clients!