Should You Do Ghostwriting?

If you’re a freelance writer, you may have thought about adding ghostwriting to your freelance writing services.

But, exactly what is ghostwriting? And, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing this type of writing? Is it ethical? Are such jobs available?

If you’re like many writers, you’ve heard of ghostwriting, but you don’t really know a whole lot about it.

In this post, I’ll answer some of your questions about ghostwriting and invite you to join a discussion on ghostwriting ethics.


What is Ghostwriting?

As you’ve probably already guessed, ghostwriting is NOT writing about ghosts–despite the name. (Okay, that was a bit of humor…)

Rather, ghostwriting is writing under another person’s name. Usually ghostwriting is needed because the other person is too busy to write for themselves or lacks professional writing skills. As a freelance ghostwriter, you may tackle projects ranging from blog posts, to books and e-books, to biographies, to speeches, and more.

Ghostwriting has a long literary history. Many literary and historical figures have used ghostwriters to help them produce written material and speeches.

The extent of a ghostwriter’s involvement in a project also varies. A freelance ghostwriter could be asked to do anything from write a complete book from start to finish to help the client polish off and organize a mostly written piece of work. If you decide to do ghostwriting, be sure to get a detailed scope of work before you quote a price and always use a contract. One ghostwriting job is not the same as another.

Here are some additional resources to help you learn more about ghostwriting:

As you can see, there’s quite a lot of information available, and these references are just to get you started.

Advantages of Ghostwriting

The advantages of becoming a ghostwriter are many, including:

  • Pay–Successful ghostwriters are well paid. Many of those who engage the services of ghostwriters are prominent individuals and are willing to pay enough to make sure the job is done well.
  • Work–There is plenty of work available for a talented ghostwriter. Not only that, but the projects tend to be larger than other writing projects (such as writing web content, for example).
  • Contacts–As a ghostwriter, you may have the opportunity to work closely with a prominent or even famous individual. Of course, not all of your clients will be celebrities.

Naturally, you also get the satisfaction of a job well done and the opportunity to continue to hone your writing skills.

Disadvantages of Ghostwriting

Along with the advantages of ghostwriting, come the disadvantages:

  • No credit for your work–No matter how good your writing is, you usually can’t ever take credit for your ghostwritten pieces. Someone else will get the credit for your work. These aren’t writing pieces you can put in your portfolio.
  • Scope changes–Depending on the project, ghostwriting tends to be very personal for a client. In fact, it may even be a memoir. For that reason, there may be multiple revisions and changes until the piece is “just right.”
  • Ethical considerations–Some areas of ghostwriting have fallen under scrutiny. For more details, see the section on ethical considerations below.

Ethical Considerations

Is ghostwriting ethical?

Well, of course every writer will have a slightly different opinion about this.

In a few fields, ghostwriting is frowned upon. This is particularly true in the academic world where individuals are typically expected to do their own writing. In fields like this, ghostwriting may be looked upon by some as a form of cheating.

However, most industries do accept ghostwriters and in some fields (such as politics and entertainment) it is pretty much expected that the major players will get at least some help from a professional writer to write their books and speeches.

Your Turn

Is ghostwriting your freelancing business? Share a few pointers on how you got started. Did I leave anything out?

What do you think about the ethical concerns about ghostwriting? Are they legitimate, or not? Can you think of other concerns?

Image by S. MASH