I’m a single mom who quit social work to pursue copywriting. My business brought in 6 figures last year.

  • Catherine Nikkel was a social worker for 15 years before leaving to become a copywriter.
  • She began by writing Amazon descriptions for clients before transitioning to ghostwriting.
  • Nikkel described how she discovered clients and shifted her focus from business to personal stories.

This essay is based on an interview with Catherine Nikkel, a ghostwriter in Toronto, Canada. Insider has confirmed her employment and income. The following has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

I work as a ghostwriter. It’s an honor to delve so deeply into someone’s life story. That is something I never take for granted. It makes me feel like a confidante.

In addition to writing books, I’ve coached dozens of authors on how to tell their stories, including writing techniques and book outlines.

I worked as a social worker but I was overwhelmed

I worked with young people in social care for 15 years. For the first eight years, I worked shifts in a residential care facility for young people who couldn’t live at home.

Following that, I worked with children in school programs and then in community-based programs for a non-profit.

There was a lot of red tape, and there were times when it was completely overwhelming. But it was also satisfying — I enjoyed it.

I started writing Amazon descriptions as a side hustle

Nobody ever enters social care for the money. Working full-time for a non-profit, I never made more than $39,000 Canadian dollars per year.

I am a single mother. I needed to make more money.

People at work frequently asked me to assist them in editing reports to make them sound more professional. I enjoyed writing. I realized I had a talent and could use it to supplement my income.

I started copywriting on the side

In 2015, I found small writing jobs on Kijiji, an online classifieds platform. In the evenings and on weekends, I’d write blogs and Amazon descriptions for clients for $0.02 per word.

In May, I took some time off from work due to health issues. I continued to write during that time.

It demonstrated to me that there was something else I could do. I realized that if I could spend 10 hours a day writing Amazon descriptions, I could make more money than I could doing social work.

I quit my job

In September of 2015, I left social work. I met an insurance agent who became a mentor, and I began studying to work in insurance while continuing to write on the side. It was a spur of the moment decision, but I figured I could keep writing as a safety net.

I had emergency spinal surgery one week after I quit.

I spent a lot of time in the hospital listening to the nurses’ inspiring stories. It was a sign to me that I didn’t want to be an insurance agent. It convinced me to devote my full time to writing.

In January 2016, I began writing Amazon descriptions and began blogging about my experiences on Facebook.

I started ghostwriting blogs for entrepreneurs and business people

An entrepreneur approached me on Facebook and said he liked the way I wrote. I began writing on his blog. It was primarily for his business, but he also wanted to showcase his personality.

We had a lot of discussions. I became acquainted with him and his mannerisms. I referred to myself as a copywriter, but it felt more like ghostwriting to me.

For four blogs, I charged him $450. I wasn’t even making minimum wage for the amount of time I spent on them. He introduced me to other business owners for whom I began writing.

Because I was charging so little for ghostwriting, I also began writing social media posts for clients. I charged $200 per week for three or four posts. I was putting in 70 hours per week.

My thinking was that if I could make what I was making as a social worker after taxes, I’d be fine.

I landed ghostwriting clients at networking events

I knew I needed to meet people, so in 2017, I organized a networking event for local small businesses with a friend.

People from all walks of life attended, from children’s clothing stores to chefs.

I also went to talks given by successful business people. At one, I introduced myself as a ghostwriter to a couple of people, and they connected me with a friend who was looking to write a book.

We agreed to meet. He was a venture capitalist who spoke openly about his personal trauma. He explained that he’d interviewed other writers but didn’t feel comfortable sharing his story.

He felt at ease the moment he learned about my background in social work.

I agreed to write the book and charged $1,500 for approximately 40,000 words, which I later discovered was too low. But I had no idea about pricing at the time. To make a living, I had to do more social media copywriting as well. I worked up to 18 hours a day at times.

We’d meet up for interviews on a regular basis, and I wrote his book in four months. We were both overjoyed when it was published. It paved the way for me to write more books.

I wrote blogs and essays too

At a networking event, I met my next client. She wrote her book while I served as a consultant, giving her advice and feedback.

I was able to share on Facebook and LinkedIn that I’d assisted an author with the publication of her book, though I couldn’t reveal her name. Following that post, many people contacted me and asked for the same thing.

I advised clients on their books and ghostwrote personal essays, eBooks, and blogs.

I now work with a team of writers

In 2019, I incorporated my company. I work with an incredible team of writers and editors.

They handle the majority of our social media and blogging, while I concentrate on ghostwriting and book consulting.

I write two to three books per year. Each one takes me 90 days. I charge $20,000 for a book of 50,000 to 75,000 words. I charge up to $30,000 for longer books. If the author also wants editing and proofreading done by my company, I can charge up to $50,000.

My company earned $358,000 last year.

I continue to maintain my own blog, where I discuss ghostwriting and share writing techniques and book outlines.

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