The Ethics and Practicalities of Hiring a Content Ghostwriter

It’s a common problem: you’re amazing at what you do, but putting it into words isn’t your strong suit. Or perhaps you’d like to create more content, but you’re so busy that you just don’t have time. What’s an overwhelmed entrepreneur or a stressed out marketer to do?

Wouldn’t it be awesome if someone could just take all that extra work off your hands? Well, they can! Whether you’ve previously considered hiring a content ghostwriter, or you’ve only just learned that they exist, read on to learn more.

What is a ghostwriter?

A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is hired to produce content that will be published under someone else’s name. In other words, they do the work but you get the credit. The writer is essentially invisible, hence “ghost”.

You might be asking, “what’s in it for the writer?” Simple: they get paid.

There’s an enduring myth about writers that we’re driven purely by our egos and wanting to see our names in print (or, more commonly these days, on a prestigious website). And, yes, most of us have idly dreamed of seeing our book atop the New York Times bestseller chart. But at the end of the day, writers are professionals who want to earn a living. Ghostwriting is a way for us to monetize our skills. Ultimately, it’s a business transaction – nothing more or less.

I’ll let you in on another little secret: sometimes it’s fun! Stepping into someone else’s head and letting someone else’s words flow from my keyboard can be, surprisingly, creatively fulfilling.

hiring a content ghostwriter

Isn’t that unethical?

No. It’s completely normal and VERY common.

It is widely understood that many genres, including celebrity memoirs, business guides, and political books, use ghostwriters. In fact, according to Professional Ghost, over 50% of non-fiction bestsellers are written with the help of ghostwriters.

Of course, there are instances in which using a ghostwriter is unethical. The most common example cited is when students use a “paper writing mill” to produce the thesis they need in order to graduate. But in the vast majority of cases, including executing a content marketing strategy, hiring a content ghostwriter is ethically sound.

Ghostwriting is simply a professional relationship like any other. All good marketers and business owners know that it’s impossible to do everything yourself. You might outsource your website management, graphic design, or accounting. Why not outsource your content, too? The principle is the same.

What are the benefits of hiring a content ghostwriter?

Hiring a content ghostwriter can have significant benefits for your business. For example:

  • They can take the time-consuming work of writing content off your hands, freeing you up to do more of what you do best.
  • They can help you scale your content production. If you want to grow your blog quickly or boost your guest posting strategy, using a ghostwriter allows you to publish more content in less time.
  • If you have fantastic ideas but aren’t confident in your writing skills, a ghostwriter can help you communicate your thoughts and knowledge to your audience.

Where can I find a good ghostwriter?

There are freelance job boards you can use to source a ghostwriter. and Upwork are two of the most popular. Unfortunately, these sites are characterized by a race-to-the-bottom pricing model. Freelancers will undercut one another and bid on jobs they’re not qualified for, so you’ll need to spend a lot of time going through applications. You might find someone amazing, but it’s a gamble.

Instead, I recommend these strategies:

  • Ask your colleagues and associates for recommendations. If someone has worked with an amazing writer, they’ll want to shout about them.
  • Browse LinkedIn, using search terms like “ghostwriter” and “copywriter”. Many writers will link to work samples or a portfolio.
  • Do a Google search for “ghostwriter + [your industry.]”
  • Ask for recommendations on an industry-specific forum.
  • Use an agency. There are small content agencies like Marketing Insider Group around, and many of the large ghostwriting agencies like Vox now offer articles, blog content, and technical copy.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before you hire someone, request samples of their work. Not every writer will mesh well with you, your needs or your brand voice, so take your time to find the right person.

Is it expensive?

That depends.

If you go through an agency, you can expect to pay a premium. Freelance writers charge widely varying prices depending on their qualifications, level of experience, cost of living in their area, what their competitors are charging, and how in-demand their services are. Most charge by the word, but some will agree on a per-piece or per-page rate. If your project is substantial or ongoing, the writer might charge a day rate.

Sometimes when hiring content ghostwriters, you can find writers who will work for exceptionally low rates – I recently saw someone accept $5 for 3000 words. But you get what you pay for, and you won’t receive quality work for a bottom-of-the-barrel price. This is also an ethical issue, because writers should be paid a living wage for their work.

I recommend setting your budget and then hiring the best writer you can afford.

Do I need to hire someone who is an expert in my industry?

Not necessarily, but again – it depends.

If your subject matter is highly specialized, you may want to hire someone with that domain knowledge or specific expertise. For example, technical writers are often also coders or developers, and medical writers generally have at least a Bachelor’s degree if not a graduate degree.

In many fields, though, it’s not necessary to hire a writer with specialized knowledge and the higher price-tag that commands. Research is almost as important a skill as writing when it comes to being a great ghostwriter. It’s also entirely possible to come to an arrangement whereby you give the writer the raw information, and they turn it into a piece of engaging content.

Do I need a non-disclosure agreement?

interviewing a content ghostwriter

In some cases, yes. If your ghost will have access to intellectual property or confidential company data, an NDA or independent contractor agreement with non-disclosure language can cover your back. Or if you’re on the cusp of becoming a huge celebrity and are worried they’ll sell your story to the tabloids!

In a standard work-for-hire ghostwriting arrangement, though, it’s not necessary. Good ghostwriters take their clients’ privacy very seriously. In the event that they want to use the work they did for you in a portfolio, or as proof of skills for a future client, they should obtain your consent first. NDA or no, a professional will never breach your confidentiality.

If you do go down the NDA route, get your agreement checked over by a lawyer. An agreement that is unenforceable or overly broad won’t stand up in court, should it ever come to that.

Why You Should Believe in Ghosts

Q: What do former Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini, and Youtube sensation Zoe “Zoella” Sugg have in common?

A: They all used ghostwriters.

But using ghostwriters is no longer reserved for celebrities and politicians. In fact, it’s becoming more and more commonplace in a wide variety of industries. As long as you come up with an equitable arrangement and pay your ghost fairly, you’re not committing any ethical faux pas. You’re simply engaging the services of a professional to do what they’re good at.

So whether you need a bit of extra support in the short term, or want to outsource your entire content production operation, hiring a content ghostwriter will help you get where you want to go.

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