If a Ghostwriting Offer Sounds Too Good to Believe, It is

ghostwriting Mar 18, 2022
Grown cat with a surprised look.

 by Mary C Long


I see ads for copywriters all the time — do you? I know my algorithm is set to bubble these ads to the surface, so I expect it. And I’m used to seeing their amazing claims:

  • “Make 10k per month!”
  • “Have clients knocking down your door!”
  • “Work from a beach in Bali!”

And, the kicker: “You don’t even need to be a good writer! ”Now, is all of that possible? Sure. So is becoming a pilot, speaking three languages fluently and training a Great Pyrenees to come when you call it — the last one being the most difficult.

But you’ll do none of these things without a ton of consistent effort, and a focus on continuous improvement. And you’ll need to be good at whichever you pursue (preferably one at a time) or else you’ll crash majestically, be cringingly incoherent to your target audience and look like a nutcase shouting things repeatedly that are roundly ignored. The same things apply to ghostwriting. They apply to any writing, really. ​

Crazy copywriting claims to correct

Let’s explore each claim a tiny bit...

The $10k claim. Making great money ghostwriting is entirely possible, but it rarely happens overnight. Not saying it couldn’t happen — that you won’t stumble upon a dream client with a bottomless budget who just loves you so much, you fresh off the ghostwriting boat fool, that they throw money at you to sort it all out for them . . . buuuut, it’s not likely. Quite unlikely, really. 

How much is likely? Hate to say ‘it depends’ — but it does. The range of rates for ghostwriting services is boundless, like time and space. You can’t box it in, don’t even try! This makes writers angry when I say this, so I’ll have to come back to it in a later piece.

Clients for days? This one always makes me narrow my eyes at the screen, and not just because I wear glasses and feel blind some days. I squint because this is so unfair to imply to new writers, I think. Not because I want to kill hope and make everyone think it’s oh so hard to win work, but because I don’t want them to feel discouraged when it doesn’t happen right away. Because it won’t. If you’re a ghostwriter, in particular, it really can’t. Here’s why:​

  • Much like any form of writing, you need to demonstrate that you can actually write — right? Right! =) You need a portfolio. — This is another point other writers get mad at me about. Hoo boy, do I have stories with this one — be sure to come back to read them. haha
  • How on earth does one create a portfolio of ghostwriting work when the work, by design, is confidential? Ermahgerd. There are ways, Padawan. But these ways take time and focus. And did I say time? Add a month on to whatever pie in the sky thought you had there.
  • After that, your business is largely all referrals. Did you know that? The power of referrals? Yup. Relationship building is so important in ghostwriting. It needs to become your everything. And then, yeah — you’ll end up with a queue of clients often waiting a few months out to book your time. This is all assuming you’re a good writer though. 

Don’t write good? Don’t worry! This is just a total lie. Whenever someone insists you don’t even need to be good at a thing to do the thing, they’re trying to steal your money, Forest. Run away. (And yes, I know that should say “well” and not “good.”)

Can you improve your writing and eventually become a ghostwriter? Absolutely! I firmly believe writing ability is an underdeveloped muscle most have hiding beneath the flabby “but I don’t know what an adverb is!” exterior. And it can be exercised into chiseled abs with consistent dedication. — Yup, this one really gets some writers’ knickers knocking. It’s a god complex. I’ll write about this at some point too!

Bali or bust?
And finally — why is it always ‘Bali?” ::Note to self: visit Bali someday. Write something while sitting on the beach, to make this claim legit.:: 

Listen, you can work from wherever you want when you work for yourself — anyone can. But, you do need your laptop and getting sand in it doesn’t sound awesome to me. 

And have you tried writing on a laptop outside in the sun? Poolside, perhaps? I have and here’s what happens: You look like an asshole, because you’re forced to pretentiously guard your laptop from splashing kids (they run by wet every three seconds), while sitting there sweating instead of swimming when it's 90 degrees. 

And then your laptop overheats just as you’re about to hit send on a piece that’s already two hours late. 

Add airfare to Bali and finding a sitter for your huge dog on top of that aggravation, and Bali is overrated. Pools are too. You’re welcome.

So, to sum up: the dream is real, but so is the hustle. You can become a ghostwriter, but not without working for it. And yes, it is a pretty amazing job! ​

Be sure to follow me for more insight - and to watch for other writers yelling at me as I pull back this curtain. =)