How to Hire a Ghostwriter: Everything You Need to Know About Working with a Ghostwriter

Julia McCoy

Julia McCoy

Creator and Co-founder

how to hire a ghostwriter

Fact: Publishing a book is a great way to demonstrate expert status.

You’ve mastered your field of expertise, but you’re not a writer. What’s an entrepreneur to do?

Hire a ghostwriter, of course!

Only problem is:

You don’t know how to hire a ghostwriter.

Or you find a ghostwriter, pay them lots of money, and then they churn out a terrible book.

Yikes. 🙈

What are you doing wrong? It could be a few things:

  • You’re looking for the cheapest option.
  • You check to see if you like them as a person.
  • You give preference to someone who came recommended by a friend.

Maybe you’ve made the first mistake, and now you’re wondering:

How much is it to hire a ghostwriter? Is it worth spending a lot of money on hiring a writer?

Fact: A talented writer is worth their weight in gold.

And: Publishing a terrible book is worse than not writing a book at all.

Here’s the thing: If you want to know how to find and hire a ghostwriter, it all starts with hiring a skilled writer who can get to know you, your brand, and your style.

Before we get into hiring a ghostwriter, let’s get really clear on what a ghostwriter is and why you’d want to work with one.

How to Hire a Ghostwriter: Table of Contents

What Is a Ghostwriter?

Why Would You Hire a Ghostwriter?

How to Hire a Ghost Writer in 6 Steps

What’s Included in the Contract with Your Ghostwriter

What’s the Standard Process of Working with a Ghostwriter?

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

How Much Does It Cost to Ghostwrite a Book?

4 Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Ghostwriter

How to Get Hired As a Ghostwriter

So, How Do You Find a Ghostwriter?

What Is a Ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a person who creates content without receiving credit for it.

It could be the writer you pay to write your blog articles for your website or the writer you hire to write a book for you.

Ghostwriters get paid for the project, but they do not receive name recognition for their work.

A ghostwriter does not own any of the content they produce for you.

In effect, ghostwriters are like ghosts. 👻

They do their thing silently in the background, and nobody can see them. The general public doesn’t even know their name.

Why Would You Hire a Ghostwriter?

Having a ghostwriter seems like such an odd arrangement. Why would you want to work with a ghostwriter if you can just write the content yourself or give credit to a writer?

The reason is pretty obvious: You don’t have the time or the skills to write.

Working with ghostwriters is like outsourcing any other part of doing business. It allows you to focus on other things.

⚠️ Start with my free training to learn why hiring a dedicated writer matters and how to do it.

If you pay someone to produce content for your website or your book, you want to make sure you keep all the rights to that content, because content is a goldmine.

Now the tricky part is finding and hiring the right ghostwriter for you. You don’t want to work with just anyone, trust me.

Without doing your due diligence, you’ll end up with a writer who:

  • Produces lackluster content
  • Doesn’t create in-depth posts
  • Can’t capture your voice and style
  • Won’t turn in any usable work at all

Well then, how do you hire a ghostwriter who delivers the goods?

Be forewarned: The process is intense.

How to Hire a Ghost Writer in 6 Steps

Before you look for a ghostwriter, take a moment to go through these steps. It’s important to think this through beforehand to maximize the chances of finding the right person for the job.

Step 1: Define Your Project

Get crystal clear on what you want your ghostwriter to do for you.

Do you want them to write a book about widgets? Do you want them to write website or blog content for your brand? Do you need them to create content for your brochures?

Don’t just think about what you want written. This goes back to writing content that works.

You also need to think about what you want the content to accomplish.

For example, if you’re writing a book, it can serve different purposes:

  1. A well-written book can bring you expert status
  2. Your book can be your ticket to be a speaker, podcaster, etc.
  3. A book can be a lead magnet to find customers
  4. It can build trust with your leads and turn them into customers
  5. It can be used as a referral tool
  6. It can be an income source of royalty payments for you

If you’re hiring a ghostwriter to create content for your website, your goals might look different:

  1. Increase SEO rankings
  2. Generate traffic
  3. Generate leads
  4. Build trust
  5. Position yourself as an expert

Well-written content can accomplish all these things.

Even if you don’t hire a ghostwriter, you should go through this first step before you write any content for your business.

Every piece of content you produce should help you meet your overarching goals. This is going to take some time, unless you’ve already done a lot of research and thinking about this.

If you’re not sure how to structure your content to achieve your goals, we offer the step-by-step Content Transformation© System to help you build a 7-figure business.

When you’re clear about what type of writing you need done, it’s time to move on to step 2.

Step 2: How Do You Find a Ghostwriter?

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start your search.

You have several options. There are ghostwriting firms that will match you with a writer (some of them are scammers, so be very cautious!), and there are platforms that allow you to post writing jobs.

We like to post our jobs on Indeed, because it’s one of the most popular job search engines out there. Using something like Indeed will vastly increase your applicant pool, which has pros and cons.

With more applicants, you’ll have to weed through a lot of candidates until you find one who’s a good match for you. But you can narrow it down by using a very specific job post.

join our team image

Instead of asking for X years of experience, focus on relevant experience.

You can work as a writer for 10 years without any understanding of SEO, especially if you’ve been doing academic or technical writing.

Experience with your brand, your subject matter, your industry, and your niche is more important than unrelated writing experience.

And this brings us to the next step in the process, which is evaluating your writer’s skills.

Step 3: Do They Have the Skills You Need?

When you’re sifting through resumes and applications, make sure the candidate has the skills you need.

If you want someone to ghostwrite blog articles for your lifestyle site, a novelist or technical writer isn’t the best fit for the job.

While it’s not difficult to unlearn essay writing and write blogs, it takes some dedication and time to make the switch. I unpacked this in an episode on my podcast.

content transformation podcast with julia mccoy episode 25 want your content to win - unlearn bad content habits

Unless you already have other writers on your team and have the resources to train a new writer, you really need someone who is ready to jump in right away and start producing content for your business.

To find out what skills they have, don’t just read their resume or profile listing the skills they’re proficient in. You also want to evaluate their past work and request a writing sample.

Step 4: Evaluate Past Work

A writer’s portfolio says a lot about their ability to write for you. A candidate who wants to work for you will do their best to send relevant samples.

This allows you to look at their current body of work and see if your content needs fit into that niche.

Keep in mind your perfect candidate doesn’t just demonstrate knowledge in your field of expertise, but they can also capture your voice and style.

Step 5: Can Your Candidate Capture Your Voice and Style?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

Your ghostwriter must be able to capture your voice and style.

You’ll have to give this some thought before you hire someone, especially if you’re starting out from scratch.

What do you want your content to sound like?

Think about the tone. Do you want to sound serious, funny, colloquial, interesting, or factual?

Maybe find some other websites or books like the one you want to create to share with your potential candidate. Have them mirror that style for the assignment.

Now here’s the deal.

If you’re hiring a content writer for a blog, you can and should ask them to write a 200-word assignment for you as a skills test to see if they’re a good fit.

A unique, new writing sample as a requirement does two things for you:

  • Weeds out applicants who aren’t serious
  • Shows you what they can do

It’s a little different if you hire a ghostwriter for a book.

It makes more sense to ask a ghostwriter to write the first chapter for you, but that’s a lot of commitment on their part.

If you need a bigger writing sample (over 200 words) or are hiring an experienced professional, expect to pay them for the writing sample.

Once you determine a winner, it’s time to work out the details.

Step 6: Payment Terms or How Much to Hire a Ghostwriter

When you find the perfect ghostwriter, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of price and payment terms, deliverables, rights and royalties, and termination rights.

Now, before you haggle with your writer, remember this person is someone you hope to create a lasting relationship with.

If you nickel and dime them, they’re going to resent you. It’s fine to go back and forth a couple of times, but you should be willing to pay a reasonable amount for their skill set.

If you’re hiring a ghostwriter to write a book for you, you can expect to pay several tens of thousands of dollars. Writing a book isn’t something you can do in a week, and it’s more than just the words inside the book.

To write a good book, you or your ghostwriter need to create a content outline. This is probably the step where you’ll be most involved.

When you hire a writer to produce website or blog content for you, you also don’t want to be cheap. Otherwise, they’ll start looking for other jobs immediately and bail on yours as soon as they find something better.

The relationship between you and your ghostwriter should be mutually beneficial.

And, to ensure you leave no room for disagreements later, you must spell everything out in a contract.

What’s Included in the Contract with Your Ghostwriter

The contract with your ghostwriter should discuss every detail of your arrangement with them. If there are any problems later, the contract will be the document you can both refer to.

You definitely want to have a contract even if you trust this person. Otherwise, you could end up in a he-said-she-said court fight where both parties lose.

signing a written contract

Most importantly, you want to ensure that any content the ghostwriter produces for you is exclusively yours, even if they don’t finish the book or article they were writing for you.

Here is a list of things to include in your contract:

  1. Price or cost of the service
  2. Payment terms
  3. Deliverables
  4. Rights and royalties
  5. Termination rights
  6. Anonymity clause

1. Price or Cost of the Service

The price or cost of the service is something you may go back and forth on a couple of times. How you pay the ghostwriter depends on what type of work they do.

If they’re writing a book for you, you’ll agree on a total price, which can be paid in installments. For example, you can pay a portion once you receive the outline, and another portion when a third of the book is done, and the last payment after the final revision.

You can expect to pay a ghostwriter who creates articles or website content for you on a project basis, usually a set fee per word count.

2. Payment Terms

For a writer who sends in regular assignments, you can decide the payment terms.

Every other week is probably the most popular option, because it resembles a regular paycheck and allows your writer to budget for their expenses. How you pay them (via check, PayPal, etc.) and how often is also part of the payment terms in the contract.

3. Deliverables

Don’t skip the part about deliverables.

You want to be very clear about what your ghostwriter will deliver. This is less important for a contract writer who creates articles for you, because you can give them one assignment at a time.

A ghostwriter for a book must have clear deliverables, including the chapter or word count length, total length of the book, and the number of revisions.

4. Rights and Royalties

Your contract should also specify who owns the rights to the finished product. As mentioned before, the ghostwriter relinquishes all rights to their content when they hand it over to you.

You also don’t want to share royalties with a ghostwriter, unless that’s part of the payment arrangements. There are some services out there that pair you with ghostwriters who will work for a portion of the cost in exchange for a portion of the royalties down the line.

5. Termination Rights

Your contract should include a provision for termination rights. So many things can happen. #FactsofLife

Maybe your business goes bankrupt and you don’t have the funds to pay the ghostwriter. Maybe the ghostwriter has to take care of a sick relative and won’t be able to continue working on your project.

The only thing that’s certain in life is that nothing is certain.

So add some language about termination rights. What happens when one party wants to cancel the book project?

6. Anonymity Clause

Finally, if you don’t want your ghostwriter bragging about writing your book, add an anonymity clause.

If you’re a famous author and hired a ghostwriter, it could ruin your career if word gets out about it. But even if you’re not a writer, you may not want people to know you hired a ghostwriter, since your name graces the cover of a book.

What’s the Standard Process of Working with a Ghostwriter?

Now that you know how to hire a ghostwriter, let’s talk about what to expect when working with one.

Keep in mind, the process varies, depending on the type of projects you’re using a ghostwriter for.

Here is the process in a nutshell:

  1. Give your writer a topic
  2. Ghostwriter produces the first draft
  3. You read and comment on the first draft
  4. You discuss your feedback with the writer
  5. Writer produces a second draft
  6. You make corrections/requests
  7. The writer produces the third (final) draft

How many drafts and revisions your writer produces depends on your agreed-upon terms in the contract. You may also decide to start with an outline or have the writer submit one chapter at a time.

Using an outline and having your ghostwriter create one chapter at a time, at least in the beginning, ensures your writer doesn’t follow a path you don’t like.

There’s also a difference between a revision and a complete rewrite. You want to avoid the latter if possible because that’s going to increase cost and extend the timeline for getting the work done.

When you’re working with a writer to create blog content for you, the process is much simpler:

  1. You or the writer suggest blog topics
  2. The writer produces a blog article
  3. You request changes if necessary
  4. Writer submits the final version

When you first work with your writer, you probably need to provide more feedback. It could be something as simple as asking for a unified title case throughout or adding pictures or links.

When you hire a ghostwriter to produce a book for you, the feedback will be more extensive than for a one-off piece.

Incidentally, managing your writer and keeping them happy is a skill you have to learn.

After all, what good is it to have a brilliant writer only to lose them after a month or two?

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Ghostwriter?

Finding and hiring a ghostwriter are just the beginning. You also have to pay them.

Of course, the goal is for the content to bring in revenue.

Therefore, you need to look at hiring a ghostwriter as an investment in your business.

Writing content for your website should bring in leads. A skilled content writer can bring you new qualified leads who are ready to purchase your products or services.

Similarly, a ghostwritten book will bring in royalties or leads or both.

How much does it cost to hire a ghost writer?

There’s actually a vast range.

For a skilled content writer for your website, you can expect to pay about 10 cents per word.

If you’re looking for a ghostwriter for your book, it depends on the subject matter and length of your book and your ghostwriter’s credentials. You’re looking at upwards of 30 cents per word.

How Much Does It Cost to Ghostwrite a Book?

When you hire a ghostwriter for your book, you usually agree to a total fee for the entire book.

You might pay $10,000 or upwards of $100,000.

If someone quotes you $10,000 for writing a book for you, do your due diligence on that writer. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Writing a book takes months of work, which is why the cost of ghostwriting a book is so high.

If you work with a skilled writer who is new to ghostwriting, you might get a price at the lower end of the spectrum. Experienced ghostwriters who have traditionally published successful books will charge a premium for their services, as they should.

4 Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Ghostwriter

If you’ve never hired a writer or ghostwriter before, you probably don’t know what you’re looking for. Traditional models of finding employees don’t necessarily fit when you’re looking for a writer for your team.

Here are the mistakes you’re probably making:

1. You’re Looking for the Cheapest Option

You often get what you pay for, and this is true for services of any kind. A skilled writer will not sell themselves cheaply. If you look for the cheapest option, you may see that reflected in the type of content they produce.

We all want to get a good deal, but you can’t require your writer to work for low pay and expect them to deliver quality work for years to come. Not gonna happen. They have bills to pay. 💸

2. You Hire Someone You Like

When you hire staff for your office, you want them to fit in with the rest of the team. If the candidate you’re interviewing shares your humor or favorite sports team, it’s a plus.

But a content writer doesn’t have to be anything like you. You could be a fitness coach and the perfect content writer might be a couch potato who has written extensively about health and exercise.

Your writer doesn’t have to share your values, either, but you DO want them to love your brand.

3. You Focus on Credentials & References

When you hire someone to drive a forklift, you probably want to talk to their previous supervisor about them. You’ll ask if they’re a genuinely good person, but you also want to verify they know how to operate that forklift safely.

You have to do the same when hiring a ghostwriter. You want to make sure they know how to write.

You can see this by examining their writing samples and asking them to submit a writing assignment for you. The only question you could ask a previous boss is whether they turned in their work on time and produced reliably great work.

4. You Don’t Have a Contract

You never want to put yourself in a position where you have to trust people’s words. It’s okay to trust them, but you don’t want to have to trust them.

Do you see the difference?

Spelling out the terms of your working relationship in a contract is the only surefire way to make sure you and your writer are literally on the same page.

How to Get Hired As a Ghostwriter

If you want to make a living as a ghostwriter, you have to start by gaining the necessary skills.

Great writers aren’t born, but you can train to become one. If you’re looking for freelance work in the world of SEO content, the first step is to take a course on SEO writing.

Skills are more important than experience.

With Google’s most recent changes to YMYL and E-A-T guidelines, human content writers are more important than ever.

When you try to think of how to get hired as a ghostwriter, don’t limit yourself to the obvious options. Besides blogs, website content, and books, entrepreneurs also need great writers to create emails, brochures, presentations, flyers, and more.

So, How Do You Find a Ghostwriter?

Now you know how to hire a ghostwriter for your website, and how to hire a ghostwriter for a book, what to look for, and what to include in your contract with them.

I admit it’s not a straightforward process.

I’ve hired hundreds of writers myself, for my company and for clients. Thanks to my extensive experience in hiring, training, and retaining writers, I have the process down!

I teach this exact process, from strategy to hiring a content team, in my Content Transformation System.

This is our flagship 12-month mentorship that gives you the skills, strategy, and systems to finally start up and scale your content marketing — which ultimately leads to HUGE business growth.

Apply today to reserve your seat inside. 

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