Hiring a Ghostwriter for Your Business Blog: Some Practical Tips

Ghostwriters work in almost every industry you can imagine. While often confused with content writers, journalists, technical writers, etc. A ghostwriter’s specific job is to either: perfectly mimic your current writing style, or (with permission) write on your behalf using your name (such as for blogs where you haven’t established a voice of your own yet, but you’ll be taking the credit yourself.)

The Ghost WRiter
photo credit: Thomas Hawk

In the context of blog writing, you would hire a ghostwriter to write in your style, using your direction, with the finished product passing for a post you wrote yourself. By contrast, hiring a writer to write a post about “How to Groom Your Dog”, that will then be posted in a directory or non-authority site, is not ghostwriting, but rather content creation.

This is a distinction that’s often not made and therefore can waste a lot of time for marketers who just go looking for a “writer” without understanding that each specializes in specific projects, and the price from one to the next can be dramatic.

These poor souls scour online ads, or rifle through the phone book not understanding what exactly they’re looking for. You don’t want a sales or catalog copywriter creating your blog posts (good ones cost thousands), nor do you want a content writer writing sales copy (might as well throw your money away), and you probably don’t want either to act as your ghostwriter!

So, are you ready to hire the right ghostwriter? If so, here are some tips for you:

Tip #1: You get what you pay for

Honestly, this is a tired old phrase that you’re likely sick of hearing. But when it comes to hiring someone to write in your own voice, it’s very true. It’s a special skill. If you’re a picky individual (and you probably are and should be), you’re going to demand multiple edits/rewrites, and the writer will have to carefully study your blog(s) to adapt to your “written voice” – all before the dig in and actually have to research the subject matter you want a blogpost for.

Basically, there’s a much larger learning-curve involved than simple researching and writing. You’re paying extra for research, as much as you’re paying more for the expectations that come from hiring someone to speak directly in your place. You wouldn’t let a low or zero-pay intern speak at your trade show and represent your brand without training, coaching, and observing them adequately first right?

Ghostwriters are professionals at adapting to different writing styles, and their payout generally equals their confidence, skill level and time spent crafting each post.

photo credit: eston

Tip #2: You need to assess their skills

This is a tricky one. Everyone has samples and references, but we all know how little value those two factors can have at times. This is for you; not for someone else, so the ghostwriter’s success with one client doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be astounded by them.

  1. Ask them if they have live samples of their past customers’ original work, and samples of what they (the writer) submitted as a finished product. A good blog ghostwriter will have these kinds of samples, but some will not. You can assess how close they came to the customers’, and go from there.
  2. If #1 is a no-go, but their reputation proceeds them, ask them if they’ll provide you a small free sample of something you’re interested in. If they won’t offer this for free (most won’t), ask for a small sample on spec. Give them as many live links as you’ll think they’ll need, include research you want included, etc. Be very specific without writing a novel.
  3. Delivery: After the first sample is delivered, read it with an open mind. Remember that ghostwriting is one of the hardest disciplines; kind of like being a secret agent that has to impersonate the president himself. Assess what’s wrong, what’s right, and detail it in an email or over the phone or chat as concisely as possible. If they’re not open to criticism, you just saved yourself a lot of time, money and aggravation (this is why you paid on spec and not upfront.) Move on, a professional ghostwriter knows it will often take multiple edits, especially during the first order or two, before the average customer will be happy.

Tip #3: Pay them well

“How much should I pay for the ghostwriter’s service?” This is the most common question asked by customers in the writing industry. The most common answer, is “how much is it worth to you?” But that’s just double-talk and not very helpful in terms of an answer.

  • You might find a new-comer or moderately-experienced professional offering their services on a per-word basis. Per-word fees can range from as low as $1 per 100 words, to $10 per 100 words. Paying at least $10/100w means that you’re generally going to get a competent ghostwriter. Though, with that said: per-word pricing is generally where you’re going to end up on the wrong side of the “you get what you pay for” analogy.
  • Per-article, or per-piece pricing is where most of the big boys and girls in the ghostwriting biz hang out. Expect to pay no less than $50 for short articles (300 word or less) and on into the hundreds for longer or highly technical/comprehensive articles. Buying your ghostwriter in this price range will generally elevate your post-quality and readership.

Remember, in hiring a writer, pay equals quality.

Takeaway: Some thoughts on scams

Just like in any deals you would make in business, hiring a ghostwriter also exposes you to the potential of getting scammed.

Have I got scammed before? Yes. I have. Several times. It sucks, but you’ll learn to minimize the risks along the way.

I lost hundreds of dollar to scammy ghostwriters. Here’s the typical scenario:

You look for quality ghostwriters on the online forums. You have discovered several gems inside. Then you do your due diligence: Asking for work samples, some background checks, and read past clients’ review.

For a couple of initial orders, your ghostwriter is doing a great job. Their article quality is stellar and they submit their work on time, if not early. You are becoming comfortable working with your ghostwriter.

Then suddenly, you never heard back from him/her. You emailed and you got no response. You emailed again and – surprise, surprise – you get a reply. He/she said that he/she was sick, and would need several days more to complete the work.

Then you wait. And wait. And wait. Then you try to email him/her again. This time, you’ve got no response. Congratulations – you’ve got scammed!

The above is just one typical scenario.”My mother was sick.” “I’m having an urgent personal problem need to take care.” “My laptop blew.” Yep, I got those replies when I confronted the scammers. In ALL occassions, I never get the completed work. A proper scam, indeed.

The thing is, even if those were true, he/she still need to complete the work assigned, somehow – or just refund my money; otherwise, he/she is a scammer. Plain and simple.

You see, those things happen. So, be sure you do your homework in choosing the right ghostwriter.