As you may know, in addition to my copywriting career, I’m a ghostwriter, so each week I get questions about ghostwriting as a career.
* What does a ghostwriter DO?
* How do you get started?
* How much do ghostwriters charge? Etc.
A ghostwriter is someone who gets paid to write; usually books, but also short material like presentations, speeches, and magazine articles. The hirer gets the copyright and the credit. Ghosting projects are works made for hire. For the duration of the project, you’re an employee, and the copyright devolves to the client on payment in full.
The ghost does the writing, and gets zero recognition, but he does get the money. 🙂
I started ghostwriting in the 1990s, writing business books. I was writing for magazines at the time, and a book acquisitions editor made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. From writing chapters in books which were already contracted, but which had problems, I graduated to ghostwriting entire books. Some of these books were contracted by a publishing house, but many were for individuals who hired me to write for them.
You’ll find that once you become known as a ghostwriter, word gets around: you get more offers. It’s easier to break into something than break away from it. I’ve been trying to cut down on my ghostwriting gigs for YEARS, but… I’m weak. When people want you, they just offer more money.
As a ghostwriter, the more you write, the more you earn.
How much do ghostwriters charge?
There are any numbers of formulas for setting rates for your writing. You can use whatever formula you like; there are no standard rates.
Julia responded to a query about this, and here’s what she said; she outlined a very simple formula that you can use…
It all depends on how long you estimate a project will take, and your hourly rate.
Let’s say you can write 1,000 words in an hour, and your hourly rate is $120 an hour.
The project will be around 50,000 words.
You’d need 50 hours for the writing, plus:
* Time for interviews with your subject;
* Time for research (everything ends up needing research);
* Thinking and planning time.
So, let’s say that your base rate would be $120 x 50, which is: $6,000.
But, as we’ve seen, that’s just your writing time. You’ll need more time than that.
You might estimate that it would take you another 20 hours to do the interviewing, etc. That would be another $2,400, and it would take your fee for the project to $8,840.
In practice, you’d add another ten hours to your fee, to cover editing, and overages: $1,200.
This takes your final fee to $10,040.
Once you’ve set your fee, get 50% up front as a retainer, and then set payment milestones, so that by the time the project is done, you’ve been paid.
Pricing tips: things to keep in mind when pricing ghostwriting gigs
Ghostwriting is an easy gig, if you’re used to writing on demand. However, it has its little quirks. Some tips…
- Make sure your client is easy to get hold of. You’ll need to interview him, and there’s nothing worse than having a deadline for a project, and running around after a client. It wastes your writing time and energy. So before you take the gig, call the client, and see how long it takes him to respond.
- Story first, refinements later. Write your first draft fast, while the information from your client is fresh in your mind. Get the basics down. Then focus on the structure (one of the reasons I love Scrivener is because it’s easy to restructure projects). Send it to the client to check the facts. Finally, do a revision.
- Milestones! Make sure the client pays a retainer, and add milestone payments. Add the information to the quote you send the client. He doesn’t need any surprises, and you surely don’t. 🙂
How to get ghosting gigs — tell everyone
When you’re working with a client, mention, “I do ghostwriting projects, so if you know anyone who needs a project ghostwritten, I’m happy to help.” Alert your contacts at agencies too.
As stated, ghostwriting is easy to get into, hard to break free from — there are always people who want you to write for them, under their name. Have fun. 🙂
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Updated: December 20, 2017