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ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

How to Hire a Ghostwriter: Making a Decision That Won't Haunt You


Since most ghostwriters work behind the scenes without credit or acknowledgement, many people do not realize that there are many instances in which hiring a ghostwriter can help them write a memoir, build their businesses, market their brands, or gain social media exposure.

What does a ghostwriter do?

Ghostwriters provide services that range from writing other people's autobiographies to managing and posting social media content. A good ghostwriter will quickly learn to emulate your voice and personal style, so readers will not be able to tell that a ghostwriter was involved. Celebrities or sports figures frequently use ghostwriters to help them write memoirs or autobiographies, but ghostwriters can provide valuable writing services to just about anyone.

The prospect of hiring a ghostwriter can feel intimidating, so let's go through the process of hiring a ghostwriter from inception to completion.

How can a ghostwriter help me?

  • If you have a compelling story to tell but do not have the writing skills or the time to draft your memoir or autobiography, a ghostwriter will interview you and write your story in your voice.
  • If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner who wants to increase your web presence, consider hiring a ghostwriter to write blog posts or compelling content on your company's website.
  • If you want to raise awareness of your business through articles published in trade publications or popular magazines, a ghostwriter can write articles in your voice to help you gain exposure.
  • If you want to establish a professional and engaging social media presence but do not know where to start, a ghostwriter can write and post content to increase your social media following.
  • If you need help with branding, brand development, or search engine optimization, ghostwriters can emulate your voice while using their writing expertise.

You will need to invest some time screening ghostwriting applicants, but remember that choosing the right ghostwriter will save you quite a lot of time in the long run.

Before you start looking for a ghostwriter

  • Identify your project goals: Will the ghostwriter be writing to promote your brand or personal mission, or do you want the ghostwriter to help change public perception about you or your business? You will be more satisfied with the end result if you identify specific goals and expectations for the project before you hire the ghostwriter.
  • Identify the scope of your project: Do you need a ghostwriter to write your memoir, post blogs to your website multiple times a week, or write articles to gain recognition in your field? Be specific as you consider the project, and be honest with yourself about your time frame and deadlines.
  • Figure out your budget: As with many things in life, you will get what you pay for when hiring a ghostwriter. A good ghostwriter will be worth the investment if they can help you achieve your project goals.

How to find quality ghostwriting candidates

  • Ask friends or coworkers if they have any recommendations for a ghostwriter.
  • Use a freelance website like this random one here.
  • Read each candidate's reviews, and pay attention to aspects of the reviews that are important to you, such as the candidate's standard response time, attention to detail, or ability to meet deadlines.
  • Choose three to five potential candidates.
  • Contact your top choices. Summarize the scope of your project and identify any important deadline dates, and ask the professional if they are interested in working with you on the project.

Contractors and freelancers are often juggling multiple projects at once, so they might take a few days to respond to your initial request. Once you hear back from your top candidates, you can begin the interview process and start to identify the best potential ghostwriter for your project.

How to narrow down your top candidates

  • Ask for writing samples: Evaluate each candidate's writing style and capability, and compare a few pieces to see if he or she emulates other writers' voices well or if the candidate's personal voice seems to come through in each piece.
  • Schedule a time to meet: You will be working intimately with this person, so it is essential that you communicate well and feel comfortable talking with this person. It is also important that the ghostwriter is available to meet with you throughout the project, so this initial meeting can give you clues about the ghostwriter's time management skills and general availability.
  • Ask for references: Although ghostwriters sometimes sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for high-profile clients, a reputable ghostwriter should be able to provide some previous clients that you can contact as references.
  • Contact the ghostwriter's references: Ask references to provide additional insight into the ghostwriter's ability to meet deadlines and capture the client's voice. Ask if they would hire the ghostwriter again or if there is any aspect of the ghostwriting process that they would approach differently.

What to look for when you meet in person

  • Take notes as you meet with your top candidates. You might think that you will remember how you feel about each candidate, but you might forget critical details about a candidate or confuse aspects of multiple candidates.
  • Evaluate your chemistry with the candidate. You will have to spend a lot of time talking with this person, so make sure you enjoy their presence and can communicate effectively with them. If you are hiring a ghostwriter for an autobiography or memoir, you will be revealing intimate personal details about yourself, so it is essential that you feel comfortable divulging information to this person.
  • Discuss your expectations and the ghostwriter's expectations for the project.
  • Ask candidates about their fee structures. Some ghostwriters charge per word or per page, while others charge by the hour. If the ghostwriter charges per hour, keep in mind that the fees could escalate quickly based on time management.

Now that you've met with your top candidates, one probably stands out as your preferred ghostwriter. If so, then you can start negotiating the terms of your agreement.

To ensure both parties are satisfied, be specific when drafting your contract

  • Identify the scope of the ghostwriting services (e.g., total number of words or pages, or expectations about how often the ghostwriter will deliver/post content).
  • Specify the attribution: Will your project include your name as the author "with Jane Doe" or "as told to Jane Doe," or do you want the ghostwriter to stay anonymous? If you want the ghostwriter to stay anonymous, you will most likely have to pay a larger fee.
  • Consider asking the ghostwriter to sign a non-disclosure agreement if you have privacy concerns.
  • Establish clear deadlines for draft deliveries, revisions, rewrites, and the final project.
  • Specify the process for revisions and rewrites: Identify each party's turnaround time for revisions and rewrites to avoid potential confusion in the future.
  • Establish a payment schedule and be clear if you expect the ghostwriter to deliver drafts or rewrites before you issue the next payment. Do not pay for the entire project upfront. You might need to pay a portion upfront, but a reputable ghostwriter will not ask for the full fee upfront.
  • Specify any additional fees that were not included in the overall quote or general payment timeline.

Once you and your ghostwriter have negotiated the terms of your agreement and signed your contract, your ghostwriter can get to work.

What to expect during the ghostwriting process

  • If you are hiring a ghostwriter to write your memoir or autobiography, you will need to schedule multiple conversations or interviews with the ghostwriter. The ghostwriter will probably tape the conversations and generate a transcript to reference as they shape your story and craft a compelling narrative.
  • If you have documents, journals, photographs, letters, or any other pertinent memorabilia that might give the ghostwriter a glimpse into you or your past, offer to share these things. The ghostwriter might not use your exact words, but giving the ghostwriter access to your personal documents will lead to a better final product.
  • Once the ghostwriter has a vision of your narrative, the ghostwriter will probably create an outline and send it to you for approval.
  • After you approve the outline, the ghostwriter will start working on the first draft. Hopefully you specified delivery time frames in your contract, so you should know when to expect the first draft.
  • Once the ghostwriter delivers the first draft to you, read it carefully and return it with any changes or feedback within the specified delivery timeframe.
  • If you specified the process and timeframe for rewrites in your contract, you and your ghostwriter will communicate about drafts and work together until you are both happy with the finished product.

Whether you've been planning to write your memoir for decades or you need help crafting engaging social media content, this guide should help get you started on your quest for a ghostwriter. Please comment below if you found these tips helpful.

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