Editor’s note: Updated May 2019.
When you don’t feel like writing for your blog, there’s someone who does: your ghostwriter.
We’re not talking about summoning the spirits of your long-lost motivation and talent for writing (although, that would be a rather nifty invention). Ghostwriters are real people – and their job is to write anything and everything their clients need.
Curious about hiring a ghostwriter? Here’s everything you need to know about adding this new spirit to your blog:
So what is a ghostwriter anyway?
What kind of people are these so-called ghosts? Essentially, ghostwriters are paid to write for someone else. They don’t write to be credited as the author, which means you control the byline.
Traditionally, ghostwriters work with an author to write a book. However, with an increasing need for stellar written content on websites, social media and various collateral, ghostwriters have become important tools for content marketing strategies.
Common example: Your CEO wants to publish a few thought leadership articles, but he or she doesn’t have the time nor energy to actually write the pieces. Rather than adding that project to your plate, marketing managers often reach out to agencies or individual writers to develop ghostwritten content.
Note: This ghostly talent differs from freelance hires, as those writers don’t usually have their writing published under someone else’s name. Some companies even hire an influential freelance writer because viewers will recognize and trust the name. A blog ghostwriter will never expect this kind of byline.
Using ghostwriters in marketing
Ghostwriters are not only content creators, but they’re also experts on writing to the style, voice and nuances of different platforms. That includes social media and website landing pages, where the right words can be the difference between a new conversion or a lost opportunity.
More than the platforms, ghostwriters can also write to different types of content. They weave in and out of blog posts, eBooks, white papers, video scripts and websites with ease. Not to mention that they’re keen on catching spelling and grammatical errors so you receive a clean and polished final piece – ready to be published as soon as you say “approved.” Your role as editor is more so confirming the message is on par with the story you want to tell rather than catching basic mistakes.
Their intimate understanding of various marketing content means ghostwriters can help your blog reach its ultimate potential – turning readers into prospects and customers.
Depending on the partnership and project agreement, ghostwriters can also develop content and story ideas, especially if they are familiar with the topic or industry. If it’s a niche subject, ghostwriters can interview SMEs or the intended author for a deeper understanding of the topics and insights they should include in the written piece.
Why hire a ghostwriter
Insider secret: Most successful entrepreneurs, CEOs and even high-level marketing professionals don’t write their own content.
This doesn’t mean they’re cheating the system, but rather that they have limited time and energy for content creation. Thus, reasons you may want to consider hiring a ghostwriter include:
- You’re busy focusing on other areas of running the business.
- Your forte isn’t writing.
- You’re happy to invest money in high-quality content.
- You’re overwhelmed with topic creation and content management.
- Your writer’s block is getting the best of you.
- You want to elevate your brand story with highly engaging, well-written content.
When you purchase writing services, you can alleviate the worries and stress you have about each blog content project. Your blog ghostwriter can help you come up with engaging topic ideas and deliver on your vision for the blog. Plus, when you pay an agency or writer for their services, you can link ROI directly to the finished pieces.
What makes a great ghostwriter
When you’re ready to start a relationship with a professional ghostwriter, you’ll want to know how to find a beloved, uber-talented Casper in a crowd of otherwise bland ghosts.
Look out for these telltale signs of great ghostwriters:
- Their writing style paints an engaging picture, rather than simply telling the facts.
- They are fast and flexible writers.
- They understand voice and tone, meaning they can adapt to – and build upon – yours.
- The best ghostwriters are well-read and up to date on your industry for valuable topic ideation.
- They ask thoughtful questions, which can lead to answers that up the value and interest levels of the written content.
- They’re great listeners, accurately absorbing all of the information clients provide.
- With strong discipline and organization, they save you time and headaches.
- The rough draft pretty much nails it every time, meaning they’re getting it right from the get-go.
- They know about SEO, SERPs, CTAs and so on.
- They are excellent editors, with a knack for condensing subject interviews, data and insights into concise, engaging pieces.
With these skills, ghostwriters assume your brand or individual identity with accuracy and authenticity. It’s an even better deal if their ghostwriting fees are on par with their experience and level of subject matter expertise. Not only do you want to match impressive content with an internal expert’s byline, but you also should feel confident that your money is going toward worthy deliverables.
How to find your ghost
You know what makes a great ghostwriter, but who’s the right match for you?
Once you narrow the pool of ghosts, you can find the winning writer through a detailed interview process. Ask them about their approach to new clients, for instance. Even if they’re a great writer, they’ll only be successful if they can capture your brand voice. That means doing everything they can to get to know clients as people as well as from a business perspective – asking questions, reviewing past materials and discussing project details before writing.
Other important questions to ask potential ghostwriters include:
- Do they charge by project or word count?
How do they define their writing style?
What would they say their strongest writing skills are?
How do they combat writer’s block?
Do they have experience as an editor, marketer or other related position?
Consider looking for subject matter experts. If they have experience in your industry, they should be able to get up to speed on your company quickly. Plus, they are more likely to provide notable insights that can benefit your content marketing strategy.
However, keep in mind that there may be value in the fresh perspectives of writers who aren’t as familiar with the subject or industry. If they know how to ask the right questions, they’ll catch up quickly. This is also beneficial if you’re writing to a consumer audience. When writers start off as blind as the readers, they can think about that original perspective as they write the content.
Getting your hands on previous work can be difficult, considering ghosts don’t have bylines and they typically seal their lips due to confidentiality specifics from previous clients. In most cases, this official guardian of company secrets is the non-disclosure agreement. That being said, you can take a look at other writing samples, especially original reporting work if they have a journalism background. This will give you an idea of their interviewing skills, which are integral to a ghostwriter’s success.
If you don’t want to hire an individual writer directly, you can work with a content marketing agency or ghostwriting company with a trained team of writers. That way, you can feel comfortable that you’ll be matched with a professional writer who the agency feels is the right fit for your business. Plus, they likely have an in-house editor to double down on the level of quality you can expect from each deliverable.
Budgeting for ghostwriting fees
The writing skills and expertise of a professional writer won’t come for free, of course. How much money you can expect to shovel out depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The type and amount of content.
The project specifics.
The writer’s level of experience and education.
The pricing style.
Some writers will choose to charge based on word count. Say 15 cents per word. Other ghostwriters prefer to charge flat project rates or hourly fees, which vary by experience, subject matter and location. According to PayScale data, the average hourly rate for ghostwriters in the U.S. is $47.50.
You can use these estimates to start budgeting, as well as use the maximum amount of money you’re willing to spend to guide your ghostwriter selection.
Remember that working with a content marketing agency is an entirely different ball game, especially as you may utilize other services in addition to writing.
Working with your ghost
Whether you choose to partner with an individual writer or agency, you’ll need to manage your relationships for the most favorable results.
Start by covering the legal elements, setting up the contract and NDA that you’re comfortable with. It’s always better to have this in writing before any work starts.
Clear expectations are also critical to the success of your partnership. Before any writing is done, you’ll need to communicate your vision for the blog and how it fits into the overall marketing strategy. Alternatively, you can work with a writer or agency willing to collaborate on these elements.
Both you and the writer should have a comprehensive understanding of what each party is expected to deliver for every project. That includes a timeline detailing when the writer is expected to turn in a rough draft, revisions and the final piece. You’ll also need to set up an interview process if you expect the writer to discuss content with internal team members in preparation for writing. Depending on how involved you are in the process, these deadlines will also affect when you’re expected to provide feedback and edits for the writer. Allow enough turnaround time if you expect an internal team member to act as the editor for the content.
While writers have their own process, you’ll also need to work out the details of how their methods will complement yours. That means determining whether you or the writer will generate topic ideas, or if you’ll work together to collaborate topics. You’ll also need to answer questions, such as:
- Is imagery included, and who will provide it?
- What kind of content – blog posts, eBooks, infographics, white papers – do you want?
- Will you provide keywords or do you want a writer or agency to conduct that research?
- Who will provide edits and approvals?
- Who will upload the content?
- When is the writer’s payday?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you and your ghost can develop an editorial calendar. This will help keep both parties accountable for meeting project deadlines, as well as give you an overview of what’s coming up. This is especially helpful if you want to plan and schedule posts that support overall brand campaigns and promotions. It’s also beneficial for making arrangements with designers for any pieces that need to be formatted beyond the written word.
Naturally, an optimal working relationship with your ghostwriter also ensures your money is well spent.
Informing your ghost
Good content will come from writers who understand the big picture, as well as every necessary detail in between.
Always provide ghostwriters with more information than you think they need. Any and all background information will help, including writing samples or media appearances by the “writer” they’ll be ghosting.
Give your ghost a detailed overview of your company purpose, products and services and share any preferences for phrases, buzzwords or industry lingo, legal requirements and topics or language to avoid at all costs. If you have style guides, brand guidelines or audience personas in place, make sure the writer has a copy.
As your partnership continues, make sure your ghost is aware of upcoming campaigns, events or promotions that they should work into the content. Plus, make sure your writer has ample time to interview internal experts for necessary insights. If possible, schedule at least an hour for interviews with the CEO or other SMEs for industry thought and opinion pieces.
The more information your ghost has, the better the story they can tell. And they’ll do it with authenticity to boot. Plus, ghosts with great interviewing skills will be able to pull out the most important big ideas and insights, turning them into a thoughtful piece. During the editing process, the “writer” can refine the piece and provide feedback to make sure they’re comfortable with the content being published under their name. This feedback is crucial. The better it is, the faster your ghost will be at nailing this authenticity in future content.
(P.S. You know you’ve hired a great ghostwriter if they ask for this kind of information before you even offer it!)
Here’s to adding spirit to your blog! We wish you the best of luck in finding your Casper – the timely and masterly ghostwriter.