How Do I Actually Hire One? The Path to Getting a Ghostwriter

The ghostwriting industry has such vagueness in public perception that the actual job title of ghostwriter can sound really mysterious. Many people don’t feel well-versed in understanding what exactly a ghostwriter does. Those who know how a ghostwriter generally works will still often be unsure what steps are involved to acquire one.

For those who feel they’re yet to understand the ghostwriting process, let’s go through it step by step detailing a typical content creation process. But first, we have to answer the most important question.

Why Hire a Ghostwriter Anyway?

For some writers the idea someone would ask ‘why should I bother hiring you anyway?’ might just be unsettling. Maybe shocking even. But at the end of the day, professional ghostwriters need to speak the language of business. And that means if a prospective client asks an enquiry about the value of your work and how it can benefit them – you need to provide a solid answer.

When it comes to the enquiries and conversations I have with prospective clients, I’m always ready to answer this question, and do so by outlining the following factors. There is a greater need than ever in the online world for a personal profile and dialogue. By contrast, the greater need has meant much greater competition for professional business writers. And ultimately, there’s a difference between writing and communication. 

Those who have a professional writer on their side have someone they can always draw on:

  • to put forward their views, 
  • comment on issues, 
  • build a unique online identity over time.

There’s no suggestion people are simply unable to do that without a writer. But it’s like the difference between racing a FIAT or a Ferrari. These goals will invariably be achieved quicker and faster when you have a professional behind the wheel.

This can happen in so many ways:

  • Websites gain organic traffic that drives a boost in customers
  • eBooks sell month by month
  • Other content like video courses are purchased off the back of good writing

So how is a ghostwriter actually hired? And what is the process for acquiring one? Let’s look in-depth now.

The Initial Enquiry

The initial enquiry for a ghostwriter is a lot like any general enquiry in business. An individual or organisation will ask the ghostwriter if they can assist with an upcoming piece of content, or a bigger project.

The difference with ghostwriting enquiries is often an enquirer will be more uncertain about what the specifics of the workload will involve. For while a journalist will take an article and a copywriter will take a brief and write the piece of content to completion, it’s different with a ghostwriter. 

In certain cases a client hiring a ghostwriter may already have written half a book and simply want a professional to finish it out. In other cases they may simply have a book title in mind, and be happy to have the ghostwriter write the whole book for them. 

Most clients who enquire with this ghostwriter are generally somewhere in between. They’ve an idea and an outline in mind, and now need a professional to go ahead and deliver it for them. 

But because of all the variables, it’s always good at this stage for both the enquirer and the ghostwriter to have some clear ideas about the workload, communication expectations throughout the project, and timeline. It is a big help when it comes to drawing up an outline. 

The Key Questions

Here is where the important initial discussions are had. These are good questions to consider both sides of the conversation:

1. What is the deadline for this?

2. How shall payment occur (e.g. with an upfront deposit, with regular instalments, or in one lump sum)?

3. Does the client require ongoing communication throughout the project?

3A. If so, what sort of communication is desired (e.g. sending drafts of chapters for formal review) or just general progress updates occasionally?

These questions are very general. It’s also likely more will be needed. Such as…

What Is the Level of Confidentiality Involved?

Much creative work done daily is unsigned. Billboards and ads are the most common example. These are not so much ghostwritten as unsigned. The difference may seem small but is important. Unsigned work is often content where the identify of the author isn’t really critical. 

And while some clients may hire a ghostwriter, they also have no issue with others knowing they use one. Yet some clients will be the opposite, and require total confidentiality about the work. That’s why the level of confidentiality from one project to the next can vary considerably, and why each ghostwriting deal can really be tailored to the client’s individual needs.

Drawing Up a Plan

In certain instances a quick piece of work such as ghostwriting a brief toast for a lunch or a foreword for a book is unlikely to need a lengthy and complex contract.

But if you are writing an autobiography for someone who has just hit 100 years old then it’s ideal a formal outline of the project is drawn up discussing due dates for chapters, due dates for payment, and so on. 

Yes this can take some more time at the start, but these contracts are invaluable. And the good news is once an agreement is in place? The project can officially kick off, and the writing begins!

A Special Word for Aspiring Ghostwriters

At the end of the day ghostwriting is not simple. Yes, this writer has some bias as he is one, but also some lengthy experience in the field.  The formula here is one any writer can follow, but having the ability to carry it out can be much harder.

Ultimately, a good ghostwriter must be ready to lead (at least part if not all) of the charge for a client as they look to build out their business identity. People invariably put a lot of time, tears, and ‘sweat equity’ into building a business. It’s personal for them, and their professional pride and joy. They need to know they’ve a safe trusted pair of hands in a ghostwriter.  That’s why it’s always essential to be clear-cut and upfront with your clients.

If you are a ghostwriter specialising in civil engineering? Great. 

A ghostwriter who is an expert on 19th century pottery? Cool.

But if you’ve an enquiry to write a 300 page book on the latest developments in astrophysics and you don’t have the skill set to do it? Stick your hand up, be upfront, and look to refer on your client elsewhere.

All up, while much of the ghostwriting work must be necessarily secret, a good ghostwriter-client relationship will always be at its best when there’s clear communication and transparency.

For anyone seeking to start in the field, a good reputation can be built pretty fast if you make these two your foundations.

Putting Pen to Paper

As well as the advantages outlined above, there’s another common issue that sees many professionals look to a ghostwriter for help. And it’s all about efficiency and energy.

Even people who do find themselves to be serviceable writers may feel the time they take to produce a piece of content is far too long. At least compared to the speed and precision in which a professional writer can get the job done, and the knowledge they bring in how to grow your audience.

For many busy professionals, there is only so many hours in the day, and by the time they do win free in the evening to write a piece, it’s a real struggle. Not only are they tired after a busy day, but there’s other claims to their time, from family, friends, and their wider life. It’s understandable that has an impact, nobody wants to miss out on a bedtime story with their kids no matter what.

The hard reality to that though is that ultimately progress can stall.  That’s why ghostwriters are ultimately investments. Just like good content is an investment. It ensures your career and business will grow some steady momentum today, and overtime great written content can really take on a life of its own. 

Ed Kennedy is a journalist and ghostwriter from Melbourne, Australia. Contact Ed via on Skype or LinkedIn.

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