Nicolas Cole has ghostwritten for some of the biggest tech founders, Fortune 500 executives, New York Times best-selling authors, Grammy-winning musicians, and many other accomplished business owners and creators.
Along the way, he built a wildly successful seven figure ghostwriting business.
In this post, you’ll learn the step-by-step process he used to become a seven figure ghostwriter.
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Step 1: Select A Service Within Ghostwriting
There are many types of ghostwriting opportunities, and each has nuanced differences.
So, master one ghostwriting format and then expand your services.
Social Media Content
Business leaders realize that customers want to consume content from other people – not brands. So many founders, executives, coaches, and consultants hire ghostwriters to create social media posts for them.
Nicolas estimates that you can make anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 per month ghostwriting social media content for executives.
In fact, Chobani recently hired a social media ghostwriter for nearly $300,000 per year to write content for their executives’ social media profiles.
Landing Pages And Sales Scripts
YouTubers, coaches, startup founders, and other product and service owners need ghostwriters to create landing pages and sales scripts to sell their products and services.
As a landing page or sales script ghostwriter, your job is to educate prospects and answer their questions about the product or service so that they eventually convert into buyers.
For example, if you’re selling a copywriting course, prospects might want to know:
- How much time will I have to dedicate to this?
- Will there be any accountability?
- What type of copywriting will you teach me?
Nicolas believes ghostwriters can easily charge at least $2,000 for a landing page or sales page, and the best ghostwriters also negotiate a percentage on top of the base price.
Thought Leadership Articles
Nicolas’s first ghostwriting gig was writing thought leadership articles for an entrepreneur who sold a family-owned plumbing supplies company for over $1 billion.
This entrepreneur wanted someone to ghostwrite articles on Medium, Quora, and LinkedIn to establish himself as a thought leader online as he planned to publish a book.
That client eventually referred Nicolas to a friend, which led to more referrals and eventually turned into a seven figure agency.
You can charge anywhere from $250 to $2,000 per article, and at the height of his agency, Nicolas was charging $5,000 per 800 word article.
Most businesses invest thousands of dollars to generate website visitors, so they’re also willing to hire ghostwriters to create email courses to retain and remarket to those visitors.
As an email course ghostwriter, your job is to educate the reader on their problem and how your client’s product or service can solve it.
Nicolas believes that email course ghostwriting is one of the best freelance writing opportunities as it is highly valuable to businesses and, therefore, very lucrative.
In fact, Nicolas quadrupled the opt-in rate for his own email list after publishing an email course, and the business’s revenue doubled.
You can easily charge about $5,000 to $10,000 per email course if you’re a great freelance writer.
Video content is an effective strategy to build relationships with potential customers at scale, so many companies are investing in video script writers. So, if you’re a good writer who can distill complex ideas into simple, compelling scripts, you can easily make six figures as a ghostwriter.
In fact, these writers are earning $100 per minute for video scripts.
While it’s best to specialize in one service offering and become really great at it, you can then scale your income by offering multiple services for a single client.
Step 2: Ghostwrite For Free
Most aspiring ghostwriters try to get their first freelance client by by sending cold emails to their target audience or applying for ghostwriting jobs on writing boards like Upwork.
However, it’s difficult to get a ghostwriting project if you don’t have any writing experience.
In addition, most high-level founders and executives hire based on recommendations from friends, so you probably won’t even get in front of your dream clients.
Instead, Nicolas recommends offering your services for free to hone and improve your copywriting skills.
However, don’t just email people and generically offer to work for free. Instead, listen to various interviews they’ve done and create a sample piece of content based on that interview.
Then, send them the sample piece of content and offer to continue sending free content each week.
Here’s an example of a script you could use:
This strategy is highly effective because it doesn’t require any effort from the potential client.
However, writing an entire Twitter thread or article is time-consuming.
So reach out to only your dream clients. Ideally, your dream clients should also have large networks and some authority in their industry.
This is beneficial for a few reasons:
- These influencers will likely pay top dollar if your services are satisfactory.
- Influencers tend to have larger networks and can refer you to friends.
- Working for an influencer instantly gives you more credibility, which will help you attract other clients as well.
Another pro tip is to begin by pitching influencers with a lot of content (ideally long-form video or interview content).
This is ideal because you won’t even have to ask the influencer to get on a call with you as they already have plenty of content available online that you can pull from to ghostwrite your initial few pieces of content for them.
Once you’ve proven that you’re a capable ghostwriter, the influencer probably won’t mind getting on a call with you to do an interview for more content ideas. However, most potential clients won’t get on a call with you if they don’t have evidence that you’re a committed, good writer.
You can find your dream clients by selecting a niche and then identifying the leaders within that industry.
Step 3: Conduct The Interview
The key to creating great content is extracting the unique experiences of your client and then organizing them into actionable insights that can help their target audience.
Clients often just want to talk about their accomplishments, but their audience won’t read it if there isn’t an actionable takeaway.
To ensure Nicolas gets the best insights from the client, he has a few core frameworks to interview clients and then construct his content.
Template #1: The Mistakes And Lessons
For this framework, Nicolas recommends that you start by asking the client about a big mistake or major failure they experienced and then dig deeper to see all the little mistakes that caused that significant failure.
For example, let’s say you’re ghostwriting for a founder whose first company failed.
There are probably dozens of mistakes that caused that first company to fail.
So you can just ask, “What was a major mistake that caused that first company to fail?“
One of their responses may be that they needed help hiring talent. Therefore, you could create an entire piece of content around their hiring mistakes.
Template #2: The Framework
To get a framework out of the person you’re interviewing, all you have to do is ask them:
- What was the problem you were experiencing?
- What were some of the things you were doing that caused this problem, and how did you solve each one?
- What was the outcome?
Nicolas also mentioned that most people tend to jump immediately to the conclusion. However, it’s the mistakes that happened between when the problem initially arose and the resolution that creates the framework.
For example, let’s say that the problem the client was facing (and eventually solved) was around recruiting.
In that case, the client may say that these three issues in their system were causing the recruiting problem:
- They were only posting jobs on job boards.
- They didn’t have any guidelines on what candidates were required to submit.
- The CEO was sifting through the applications alone.
Then, you can ask the client how they solved each of those problems:
- They asked existing employees to share open positions on their social media profiles to attract inbound candidates.
- They require candidates to submit Loom videos with answers to a few specific questions.
- They have a dedicated committee for evaluating candidates.
As you can see, the framework is now just those solutions that you teased out during the interview.
Template #3: The Future
The third template, which Nicolas calls “The Future,” is great if you’re working with a client who doesn’t have much time because you can get a lot of the information yourself.
You just ask the client about a trend they’re excited about, and then you can go and find statistics about that trend yourself.
Template #4: Category POV
The category POV framework takes your client’s unique point of view on where the category or industry is headed and then uses their own experience to back up their idea.
This framework is highly effective because it establishes your client’s credibility while still providing value to the audience.
For example, Nicolas could share his point of view on where he thinks the journalism category is going and support it with his experience ghostwriting for high-profile clients.
This way, you’re still informing the reader about your client’s credibility, but you’re also providing value by giving them a unique perspective.
Template #5: Myths
Oen of Nicolas’s most successful pieces of content was a post using this framework titled “Five Myths I Learned Weren’t True After Writing 400 Columns For Inc Magazine.”
This performed well because very few people have had the unique experience of writing 400 columns for a major publication like Inc Magazine, and people love it when you pull the curtain back and provide exclusive insider information.
Step 4: Write The Content
The writing process is pretty easy after interviewing the client using the frameworks above.
The expert provides all of the content you need in the interview, so your job as a ghostwriter is to package it in a format that’s easy for readers to consume.
Nicolas’s approach to writing is to sit down with the interview transcript and then essentially cut the fat and organize it into the frameworks we mentioned above.
It’s more like assembling legos than writing a piece of content from scratch.
Using the transcript also ensures you write in the client’s voice because you’re using the exact language they used in the interview.
“I just go through the transcript and pull out individual sentences,” says Nicolas. “They’ve already said it, so my job is to then just figure out where that goes, and what goes ahead of it and what goes after it.”
In fact, Nicolas feels that 80% to 85% of voice is just ensuring the content reads well. The last 15% to 20% is learning the vernacular they use. This is where using the phrases they already said in the interview can help.
Additionally, if you specialize in one niche, you’ll probably notice that all of your clients have more or less the same style. For example, most tech startup founders have the same voice and style.
Pro Tip: How To Handle Rewrite Requests Due To Style
Nicolas also mentioned that some clients might request a full rewrite because the writing style doesn’t sound like them.
However, it’s usually just a matter of editing a few words and doesn’t require a full revision. So, if a client requests a full rewrite because they feel it doesn’t sound like them, the issue is probably just one or two words or phrases.
Step 5: Price Appropriately
As you become a better ghostwriter and earn more referrals, you’ll reach a limit where you can’t take on any more work.
First, you can raise your prices as you level up your skill set and become a better ghostwriter. To remind you, here are the average price ranges for each of the five most popular ghostwriting services:
- Social Media Content: $3,000 to $10,000 per month
- Landing Pages And Sales Scripts: $2,000 to $10,000 plus a percentage of sales
- Thought Leadership Articles: $250 to $2,000 per article, though his agency got up to $5,000 per article.
- Email Courses: $5,000 to $10,000 per email sequence.
- Video Scripts: $500 to $2,000 plus per video script (depends on how long it is and the expertise required)
However, you’ll eventually reach a point where you can’t raise your prices much more. The next step to scale is to productize your services.
Essentially, you write out your processes and then sell them to others to use and implement themselves.
He calls this the barbell pricing model.
This is how you can infinitely scale your ghostwriting services.
In fact, this is how Nicolas scaled his income.
He began ghostwriting for free, eventually started charging, and soon earned enough to quit his full-time job.
Then, he continued raising his prices and built the agency to $5,000 per article.
Now, Nicolas offers a ghostwriting course as a product. This business is much more scalable than simply ghostwriting for clients and has allowed him to earn seven figures.
Take The First Step To Become A Ghostwriter Today
Following Nicolas’s playbook, you should be able to land your first ghostwriting client and build a successful freelance writing business.
However, if you want more help from other successful ghostwriters to speed up the learning process, consider joining the Copyblogger Academy.
Inside, you can connect with other more experienced ghostwriters and content creators to get feedback on your writing, ask questions, and grow as an entrepreneur.
You’ll also have access to various content marketing and copywriting courses you can consume at your own pace.
So check out the Copyblogger Academy today to see if it’s a good fit for you.