Why Clients Hire Ghostwriters

In order to get contracts signed and have a strong working relationship with ghostwriting clients, you have to understand why people are out there looking for ghostwriters.

If you don't, you're going to rely on assumptions that can result in lost gigs and rocky working relationships.

To give you a starting place, here are five examples of reasons that clients hire ghostwriters.

Why Clients Hire Ghostwriters

  1. They can’t write the way they want their book to sound. Not everyone has mastered the skill of writing with style. While some would-be clients can write short, simple essays and blog posts, they might not know how to give their content a personality boost to make it sound sophisticated, funny, endearing, or whatever tone they're looking for. It’s up to you to figure out what they think is missing from their own writing and to inject it full.
  2. They don’t enjoy writing. To some, a blank page is like a torture device. And no matter how badly the individual may want to have a book out to cement his or her brand, attract clients or display authority, that individual probably isn’t going to become a masochist to get it.
  3. They don’t have time to write. When a client hires you, not because they can’t write, but because they don’t have time to, you can end up taking a far more service-based role in the process as opposed to the expert role you have when faced with a client who hates writing or isn’t good at it.
  4. They are overwhelmed by the process of “A BOOK!!1!!” I don’t know if you realize this, but books are long. Like, really, really long. And the chapters have to make sense together and maybe even lead to something. It’s not easy to pull this off without experience and a knack for conceptualizing such a big project--and that's where you come in.
  5. The deadline came sooner than they expected. Clients working with traditional publishers may have trouble getting a full book written by their deadline. When you get this kind of client, you’re not just taking a ghostwriting role but also a developmental editing role as you may be completing chapters that aren’t quite final, rearranging things, and expanding on various topics that the original author only touched on.

Figure out the fundamental reasons that a prospective client is looking for a ghostwriter and you'll be better able to define your goals and expectations at the beginning of the process. Doing so will also allow you to give more accurate quotes that ensure you’re paid fairly for the actual work involved.

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Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.

7 thoughts on “Why Clients Hire Ghostwriters”

    • Thanks Raubi 🙂 I don’t query, although I will take certain bylined gigs if the clients find me. Right now I’m 95% ghostwriting with the occasional bylined gig coming through.

  1. Outstanding perspective, Yo. Some people assume clients always hire a ghostwriter because they cannot write. Talk about stepping on an ego. 😉

    How do we know how we can help if we don’t understand our client’s needs? Thanks for a very helpful post.

  2. Good post, Yo,

    As you comprehensively point out here, there are a lot of reason why a prospect might want to hire a ghostwriter, and not all of them are the ones we might guess.

    And I’d add the following-which I send to people asking me for advice on how to approach a ghostwriting project, and with little idea of how to price it.

    All we writers have is our time, so before you get involved in any GW deal, ask as many questions as it takes to get very specific parameters for your participation so you can provide the most accurate estimate of the time involved.

    Find out how you’re going to get the source materials, what’ll be involved on your part in securing that content, how many meetings or interviews will be necessary, how long the book is going to be, what their timeframe is, etc.

    As for pricing, start with your hourly rate, and using the parameters you receive, figure out how much time you think it’s going to take, and always factor in some extra time.

    If the client changes the parameters of the project after initially setting them, you need to go back and renegotiate the terms. Good clients who understand how the world works won’t expect you to do more work than originally contracted for the same price.

    If you’re unsure of how to price a GW project, a good way to approach it is to offer to do a chapter or two, give a quote for that, and then see how it goes, time-, money-, and hassle-wise.

    Once done, sit back down with the client, and assess how it went, where you are, if your quote was on target, etc., all of which will give you a lot better idea of how to set the final terms of the project.

    This last point is key, in my mind, as it’ll be more comfortable for both the client AND you. The client gets to “test-drive” you and see how it is to work with you. And you avoid the anxiety of giving the client a firm price on a huge project BEFORE knowing how hard/easy it’s going to be, and how good/painful it’s going to be to work with them.

    Remember, if you give a quote of the whole gig, and it turns out the process is a lot more involved/time-consuming than you thought it’d be, that’s your problem, not the client’s. You’re the professional after all, and expected to know your business.

    And so as not to fall out of touch with your network, be careful about taking on a job that involves your participation on a full-time basis. Most writers will commit to X# of hours a week to work on the project, leaving time enough to take on other work, and stay plugged into their existing client base.


    • Great info Peter!

      Thanks for the reminder on everything that goes into a project. It’s so important, for new freelancers especially, to account for all of those behind-the-scenes tasks when coming up with a quote!

      Another great point about it being on us if we screw up and underestimate the time required. My husband is a programmer, and had that issue with one of his first clients. He had to suck it up and put in a lot of extra hours for no extra pay because he didn’t account for something he should have. But at least it was a learning experience. It never happened again. 😉

    • Oh man, that first time you misquote something and have to eat the extra hours … it’s one of the MOST painful lessons. But a great one, still, because you’ll very rarely make that mistake again.

      One thing that I like to do in my quotes is to put parameters around EVERYTHING. The allowable time for interviews, the number of pages, the expectations regarding formatting, etc. The more specific you are in your quote/on your contract, the more in control you remain over the working relationship and the more accurate your quote will be. The added benefit is that it shows the client exactly how much they’re getting for the price.


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