If you want to be the one penning prose for a person who can't or won't write it on his own, you'll need to be a good writer yourself. You'll get there through a combination of experience and education -- but to be a successful ghostwriter, you'll also need organizational and self-promotion skills.
Whether you're writing under your own name or not, the first step is knowing how to write. Often, that starts with studying English, literature, communications, creative writing or journalism at the university level. A formal education allows you to get critiqued on your writing style as well as learning to organize information and do background research.
Beyond the educational background, extensive writing experience is a must. Some people gain writing experience by working their way up from writing for a high school or college newspaper and eventually getting hired by a local newspaper or magazine. Writing freelance pieces for news outlets or blogs is another way to get published and start getting your name out there.
Other people skip the formal education, but write on their own blog, thus creating a body of work that can demonstrate their writing abilities and lead to paying gigs. However you get your start, the idea is to assemble a body of work you can show to potential clients. Having your own blog or website is also helpful.
Finding Ghostwriting Gigs
With a body of work to show clients, go out and start seeking ghostwriting gigs. Have a line in your email signature that tells people you're a ghostwriter and you're seeking gigs, suggests writer Kelly James-Enger in Writer's Digest. Also send out word to your current writing and business clients, and troll the "gigs" section of Craigslist or JournalismJobs, recommends James-Enger. Additionally, joining writing groups or associations such as the Association of Ghostwriters can help you network, learn about going rates for certain projects, and get advice about how to best find gigs or handle clients. When you find a potential client, show them other articles or books you've written in their genre to give them an idea of your writing style.
Working with Clients
As a ghostwriter you won't have the luxury of writing whatever comes into your head or allowing the story to follow a path that you choose. That's the client's job -- and thus being a successful ghost writer means learning to work well with clients. Having interpersonal skills and good communication are essential to successful ghostwriting, says writer Moira Allen of the Writing World website.
With the help of the client, develop a contract that lays out what is expected of you in terms of deadlines and research, for example, and what's expected of the client in terms of editing materials, providing outlines and feedback, and of course, paying you in a timely manner. Keep the clients' needs in mind while you write, deliver your work on time and well-written, and you may have a successful career as a ghostwriter.