Start a ghostwriting business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your ghostwriting business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a ghostwriting business?
Starting a ghostwriting business is not expensive, but it does requires a bit of money to get going.
As most ghostwriters work from home, the biggest expense is most likely marketing. But the good news is these costs are minimal. At the very least, ghostwriters should have their own domain name and a good-looking website to advertise their services. A professionally designed website can cost several hundred dollars for a simple site or several thousand dollars for a more complex one. Ghostwriters who want to keep their startup costs as low as possible may want to consider a low or no cost do-it-yourself website design option. The cost to host a website is usually less than $100 dollars a year and buying a domain name is under $10 per year.
Most ghostwriter already own a computer, but some may wish to purchase a new one specifically for their business. Ghostwriting doesn't demand much from a computer and even the lowest-priced models are more than adequate. A reliable Internet connection is critical and can run from $30 to $100 a month depending on the speed of the connection.
Another expense worth considering is joining a professional association like The Association of Ghostwriters or National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. These types of organizations are especially helpful for new ghostwriters. Each organization's yearly dues are under $100.
What are the ongoing expenses for a ghostwriting business?
The ongoing costs for a ghostwriting business include marketing, utilities, and any membership fees.
Who is the target market?
Since the majority of the market for ghostwriting is nonfiction, the ideal nonfiction clients include anyone who wants to promote their image or ideas like celebrities, business owners, everyday people who have an extraordinary story to tell.
There is also work for ghostwriting fiction. Most jobs for ghostwriters who write fiction are for genre novels like thrillers, fantasy and romance.
How does a ghostwriting business make money?
A ghostwriting business earns money by writing under the name of their clients for a pre-determined payment.
How much can you charge customers?
Ghostwriters usually charge a fee which is based on the length and type of assignment the client wants them to write. Inexperienced ghostwriters without expertise in a subject may charge as low as $5,000 for a book-length manuscript. With a little experience, the average ghostwriter can charge between $15,000 and $50,000 per book. Well-known ghostwriters can command much more.
How much profit can a ghostwriting business make?
Due to the low fixed expenses, the majority of the money ghostwriters earn are pure profits.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Ghostwriters can increase their writing rates by becoming an expert in a niche subject. Taking courses or earning a degree can significantly add to a ghostwriter's bottom line. Many writers who start off ghostwriting eventual begin to publish under their own names.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Ghostwriting Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your ghostwriting business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a ghostwriting business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Ghostwriting businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your ghostwriting business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
How to promote & market a ghostwriting business
The best way to market a new ghostwriting business is by networking. The easiest way to network is online through sites like LinkedIn or Facebook by joining as many writing groups as possible and keeping your professional profile up-to-date. A private website is also an essential tool for driving new business. A ghostwriter can use a website to showcase her writing style and to attract clients through inbound marketing.
How to keep customers coming back
Clients love friendly and attentive service, but delivering a great finished product on time is the only way to keep a client truly happy. A happy client means more referrals and more work in the future. Above all else, a ghostwriter needs have the ability to keep all of the promises they make to clients. Projects should be completed on time, or even in advance of the promised deadline.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Ghostwriting Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Successful ghostwriters must like to work in the background and have no interest in gaining popularity through writing. They need to be adaptable and flexible, both in their writing style and their work schedule. At the same time, ghostwriters require the self-discipline to remain on task and see a project through by delivering exactly what they promise.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a ghostwriting business?
Most ghostwriters spend a large part of the working day marketing their services to potential clients. When ghostwriters are actually working on a project, their time is divided between researching, writing, communicating with clients, and revising their writing based on the client's feedback.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful ghostwriting business?
Ghosting is more than just knowing how to write well. The best writer won't be able to make it in the ghostwriting business if he doesn't master other skills as well. Success as a ghostwriter depends on knowing how to properly research a topic, having the ability to work well with clients, and the understanding how to market and run a professional business,
What is the growth potential for a ghostwriting business?
Hiring a ghostwriter to write a book has always been widespread practice. But these days more and more people are using ghostwriters to publish a book to help shape their public images or to cash in on their popularity. There is always work available for quality ghostwriters.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a ghostwriting business?
It takes a while to establish a new ghostwriting business, but there are a few ways to get the ball rolling. Many ghostwriters received their first projects from friends of friends, so successful ghostwriters need to network either online or offline. One of the best ways to network is to become actively involved in a particular subject matter, or niche. A ghostwriter who is able to develop a reputation as the "go-to writer" on a particular subject, never has to worry about looking for work in the future.
How and when to build a team
Most ghostwriters work alone, but some do have assistants to help them to communicate with clients, conduct research or edit their work. A ghostwriting business which needs occasional help can benefit from hiring freelancers to avoid increasing its fixed monthly costs.