Anyone who’s struggled to write — whether it’s something as short as a biography for a website or as long as an entire book — knows that ghostwriting is a valuable skill. But how much does a ghostwriter cost?
The answer, as with many things, is that it depends. When you hire a ghostwriter, you are engaging the services of a professional. As with all professionals, there are many different levels of experience and expertise that come from years in the industry which can create a large range from $40-$75/hr. Some very niche, technical ghostwriters may cost upwards of $100/hr. Ghostwriting isn’t just one skill, but a combination of skills that make it possible to craft engaging, well-written copy to meet a client's needs.
Given the wide range of experience that a given ghostwriter can possess, it can be a challenge to answer the question, “How much does it cost to hire a ghostwriter?” But by looking at the different ways experienced ghostwriters work and collaborate with clients, it’s easier to have a clear understanding of the process of getting your project written well — and within your budget.
What Is a Ghostwriter?
A ghostwriter is a professional writer hired by a client to produce text for a specific project without attribution. This means even seasoned writers do not receive written credit in the form of a byline or any other mention. What’s more, part of the cost of a ghostwriter is the understanding that another person will take credit for the work.
In journalism, blogging, and other forms of paid writing, freelance writers often work partly for the pleasure of seeing their names on the page or the screen. They can use the work as part of their professional portfolio, which in turn helps them to advance their careers. Bylined pieces serve as a track record for writers to highlight their experience.
Ghostwriting is different. Professional writers accept that others will never know that they’re the ones behind the article, book, social media post, screenplay, or whatever the ghostwriting project may be. This also means that one skill of successful ghostwriters is to write in a voice that mirrors the tone and style of the client.
So, what is ghostwriting? It is the process of completing a writing assignment in a way that keeps the writer in the background and the client forward.
Ways Ghostwriters Can Handle Payment
Before you hire a ghostwriter, it’s good to understand the structure of a ghostwriter contract or agreement. This can impact the cost of the project. The writer may charge:
- Per word: Some professional ghostwriters, especially when first starting in the industry, will simply charge per word for the assignment. For example, if a client has a project that is 500 words long and potential ghostwriters ask for 10 cents a word, the cost would be $50. The cost of a three-syllable word and a three-letter word is the same.
- Per hour: For slightly more complex projects, many freelance ghostwriters charge by the hour. It is expected that they’ll be completely focused on the assignments during the time they bill clients. Unlike the pay for part-time or full-time employees, ghostwriter hourly rates don’t include breaks.
- Per project: Many clients like professional ghostwriters to estimate the total cost for a particular project and pay a flat fee. This is a risky option for both parties, as the work time required for the project may turn out to be much greater or less than anticipated. Still, it can be easier to think holistically when answering, “How much does a ghostwriter cost?”
- Per contract: Finally, ghostwriting fees can be paid contractually. This may be a wise agreement if there are many deliverables within a project scope or if a client wishes to hire the writer on a retainer so they're available as work arises.
Average Cost for Ghostwriting Services by Type of Content
In general, ghostwriter fees vary both by project and by the level of expertise needed by the client. For example, complex technical topics require expert ghostwriters while simpler lifestyle topics may be covered by a beginner.
Shorter assignments, such as blog posts and articles, social media posts, and email marketing content, are often paid per word.
Longer assignments, including video scripts and screenplays, books and e-books, white papers, and website content, may be paid by the hour or project. The cost depends on the level of expertise needed, the complexity of the assignment, the turnaround time, the amount of research required, and other factors.
What a ghostwriter charges for these projects also depends on the economy where they are based, the length of your professional relationship, and their experience. Ghostwriting rates per word can range dramatically between 1 cent to $1 or more for articles written by professional ghostwriters.
There’s a saying behind the cost of a ghostwriter: Good, fast, or cheap — pick two.
How Much More Do Ghostwriters With SEO Knowledge Charge?
When clients first investigate how to find a ghostwriter, they often are looking for writers with experience in search engine optimization, or SEO. This skill is essential for blog posts, website copy, and other online projects to earn high placement from search engines like Google.
Professional writers tasked with SEO-focused projects must be able to weave keywords expertly and naturally into the copy. Sometimes, ghostwriter skills include doing keyword research, but that task is often completed by an SEO marketing professional. That said, if a ghostwriter also does SEO research, they can charge double or triple the regular writing costs.
Top ghostwriters have SEO knowledge, and their rates may be up to 100% higher than someone just starting out in the industry. If the ghostwriter rates are surprisingly low, clients can assume that they will not receive SEO-enhanced work.
Key Considerations for Contract Negotiations With Ghostwriters
Just as when you hire any professionals, you will need to have a clear and direct conversation with qualified ghostwriters before the work begins. Both the project deliverables and the expected cost should be agreed upon upfront to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.
Define the Scope and Expectations of the Project
First, clients should approach a nonfiction ghostwriter with a clear description of the project’s scope. Along with the length of the assignment, the scope should include a deadline and all other expectations. Put this in writing.
Will you provide the research, or do you expect the writer to search for the information necessary to complete the assignment? Do you expect the writer to write at a level of expertise in your industry, or is the work of a more general nature? Be clear at the beginning so there are fewer problems at the end.
Clearly State Who Owns the Copyright to the Finished Work
Particularly if you are hiring a ghostwriter to work on a book or other project that could be sold to another publication, you’ll want to agree in advance as to who owns the copyright for the work. A copyright is the legal right to reproduce or profit from a written work.
Usually, the client owns the copyright for the ghostwriter's work. But again, clarify this in advance so there is no confusion.
Include Clauses About Plagiarism and Subcontracting
Ghostwriters should neither copy the work of other writers nor rely on artificial intelligence to do the writing for them. Your contracts should contain clauses requiring the writer to agree to these important stipulations.
Some writers may want to subcontract the work to cheaper, less qualified ghostwriters. This is also frowned upon in the industry. Communicate that you are hiring the individual based on their expertise and experience — and no one else.
Account for Revisions
Writers rarely get everything perfect in the first attempt, although that’s the goal. Edits are a natural part of the writing process. However, clients should not demand excessive edits without clear agreements within contracts.
Usually, writers will include one or two rounds of edits when paid by the project. Remember, hourly work will still be paid hourly, even if the writer needs to redo the assignment completely.
Specify Payment Terms and Milestones
For larger projects, a client may want to create payment plans with a ghostwriter. This will require setting milestones throughout the scope of the work, with payments sent when specific deliverables have been completed. Agree to these before the work begins.
And finally, specify how the payment will occur. It’s rare that clients work in person with ghostwriters, and it’s rarer still that writers are paid in cash. Decide how the payment will take place and how long the writer is willing to wait to receive it. No more than 30 days from completion to payment is an industry standard.
Simplify Your Content Creation With Compose.ly’s Ghostwriters
Now you should have a better answer to the question, “How much does a ghostwriter cost?” But you still may be wondering where to find a top-notch ghostwriter. That’s where Compose.ly comes in. Our content marketing service connects business owners with professional writers every day.
When you hire a ghostwriter through Compose.ly, you’ll collaborate with a team of experts who will learn your tone, style, and voice and ensure your satisfaction every step of the way. Learn more about your options to hire a writer with Compose.ly and see how easy this arrangement can be.