The topic of ghostwriting tends to carry a lot of weight.
Some people accept that many of the words of this world are written by authors in the shadows whose names never get attached to the front cover of a book or the byline of an article. Some people find it disgraceful for the author and deceitful to the reader.
If you’ve landed at this article you’re at least curious about ghostwriting, so you probably don’t fall into that second category.
You also probably have so much content to produce that you can’t quite seem to catch up — nobody wants to stay up until 4AM writing articles while building a business while also living life.
If you’ve got a regular cashflow from that business it may be time to hire a ghostwriter.
Below I’m going to lay out the ultimate guide to hiring a ghostwriter for your blog posts. It’s not a quick task, nor an easy one, and it usually takes some trial and error to find someone worthy of the job, but finding the right person can mean you regularly put out high quality content.
Differentiating Between Blogs and Books
Before we begin, a quick note of distinction. This article is about finding a ghostwriter for blog posts and articles in the online sphere. That field is markedly different than ghostwriting for a novel or non-fiction book, which is what most people think of when they think of ghostwriting.
I’ll get into the details below, but a ghostwriter with blog skills has to be more adaptable, quicker, and stylistically different from the book ghostwriter. Of course, a highly skilled individual can do nearly anything, but you’ll be lucky to find one of those.
Before You Hire, You Find
The first real step in hiring a ghostwriter is to find one — of course, after you’ve decided you need one.
That step can prove as simple as a Craigslist post, or as complicated as subscribing to an agency and sorting through a batch of portfolios for extremely qualified candidates.
It all depends on the amount of writing you need done, the amount you’re willing to pay, and how many people you’re willing to test out.
The reality is that there are tons of authors out there chomping at the bit for a paying gig — you should be able to get handfuls of applications no problem. Finding a qualified writer that can produce excellent content on deadline becomes the bigger issue.
One of the ways to jumpstart this process is to go through an agency, like Gotham Ghostwriters. There are plenty of agencies out there, you just need to do a Google search.
The agency typically keeps a large number of ghostwriters on hand, sends them project leads, filters results, puts you in touch, and charges a finder’s fee when the match is made.
If you want to cut through the chaff and get a ghostwriter quick, this is an excellent route.
However, you’ll find that costs tend to be significantly higher through an agency — it’s a bit like union work in mentality (though not in legal terms, at all), so you’ll be paying for that premier writing. You’ll also typically find more qualified writers in an agency because they’ve been vetted and “allowed” into the agency, having a track record of work.
That’s markedly different than your generic job posts, and random individuals you have to sort through.
As I said above, the second option is to spin the Job Post wheel, posting to as many sites as you want or have time for. A few to get you started:
Most people are likely to go this route until they get fed up, or find somebody that works.
How to Interview and Hire a Ghostwriter
After you’ve sent out the job posting or requested work via the agency route, it’ll be a short day or two before the emails start pouring in.
The assumption for most blog writing gigs these days is that they are remote — this means you should have posted that job in boards all over the U.S. (or beyond). This will greatly increase the odds of finding someone quickly.
If, for some reason, you need the person to be in the same location you are, make sure you state this clearly in the posting. However, consider going remote. It can save a ton of effort and time as long as you and your ghostwriter are organized and somewhat tech-savvy.
Sort the Applications
The next step is to sort the applications you receive into piles of “Definitely Not”, “Maybe”, and “Qualified”.
Start with the Qualified and work your way down to Maybe if you need to.
This is one of the big questions. The simple answer is someone who has a portfolio of written experience, a good deal of knowledge in your niche, the schedule flexibility to write as much as you need them to, and an honest and friendly demeanor that makes them easy to work with.
Perfect scenario, right?
To dig in deeper, you want to focus on the portfolio.
In your job posting make sure you ask for writing samples, even if that means a link to websites where you can see their byline and words they have penned for online publications.
You’re looking for their grasp of language and ability to create a personable tone, because you’re going to want a ghostwriter who pens educational, informational, and entertaining articles.
Again, this has to do with the blog mentality. If you’re looking to hire a technical ghostwriter, it will be different, but in the blog world you need to relate to your audience. And, as this person is most likely ghostwriting for you (or your business), it means your tone is at stake.
If the writing is technically fine but dry as a piece of cardboard on a summer’s day, you might get some hard-to-stomach articles.
There’s the flip side, too. You need someone who can handle article formatting, like headers, lists, hyperlinks, images (if you need images), etc. If the writer is all tone but the stream of thought is too spotty — i.e., if they think their James Joyce the blogger — you might end up with a problem.
I’ll assume in your first round there are 3-4 candidates that provide examples of work that prove they can do the job, and each has a slightly different situation.
I do not recommend interviewing candidates with little-to-no writing experience in the professional sphere, because you really won’t be able to judge their ability once you’ve hired them.
A common scenario is somebody who believes they’d be great at ghostwriting for money, and has experience in some other, semi-related field, like email marketing, advertising, etc.
As most of this article goes, nothing is a hard and fast rule. If you find someone you think can do the job but they don’t have any blog articles you can read over, you’ll need to give them an assignment.
However, I recommend doing that after the interview, so you can decide if the person is a fit personality wise.
Interviewing is a complex, human-based process that everyone can be good at, and most people are terrible at. This includes the interviewer (you) as well as the person being interviewed. The rare few shine like a ray of light after a long tunnel, but there is usually awkwardness in an interview, especially for a remote position.
In interviewing a ghostwriter I look for a few distinct things:
How knowledgeable and on top of it do they sound?
This applies to the field of writing, what ghostwriting is, and life in general. Do they know how to bill for their time, are they used to filing a 1099-MISC (if you’re going the freelance route, which is most common), what is their history with deadlines, and how do they feel about the deadlines you’ll be assigning?
Each of these follow-up questions is important to get a gauge on their competency level, and what stage of work life they’re in. They don’t have to have perfect answers to all of this, but a general sense of what’s happening in this remote, often freelance position is a good sign.
What is their work life like?
This mostly pertains to what other jobs they have (if any), and how available they are for your project. Of course this depends on if you;re hiring a full-time ghostwriter, part time, flexible time, etc.
Make sure to state your project specifically, and in doing so get a clear idea of how much time they have to devote to your project. Are they willing to work late into the night to complete on deadline? In the writing field this is often the case, and they’ll need to be able to do it.
What are their rates, and what are you looking to pay?
This is both basic and essential. You have to talk about money in the interview, even if you already stated what you’re willing to pay. Make clear how much per hour, per article, per day, whatever it is you’re offering.
Remember that content production is expensive, and low-balling a writer with some experience won’t result in high-quality work even if they take the job.
Do they understand the topic(s)?
Hopefully the person you’re interviewing already has experience in the topic you need ghostwritten, but if not gauge how good of a researcher they are. Ask how they handle new topics, what they do to find new information, and what happens when they hit a road block.
What are they like?
A classic. Can you work with this person? Even in a remote job you’ll have to interact with whoever you hire, and ghostwriting often means they are writing your words. So, you need to be able to convey what those words should look and sound like, and this means you’ll need a personal relationship with them.
On the flip side, if you don’t ask about this, they might find you cold or off putting. Think about what sort of personality you’re displaying, and if that is attractive to someone looking for a job.
Writing a Test Article
After vetting your potential hires and interviewing them, pick one candidate you think could do the job.
If you feel extremely confident in their ability, you’ve basically found your ghostwriter. Go through the process of sending over paperwork (I’ll get into this below), and send them their first article to write. In the hiring process make it clear that you will pay them for this article no matter what, but you’ll be reviewing the article as a contingency to their employment.
Basically, you’re saying, “I’m paying you for your work, but if it doesn’t go well I will look for someone else.”
In this way you’re offering a test article, but valuing their position and experience by paying them for it.
Some employers will ask for a great deal of pre-work — basically assignments to be done before the person is ever given any money, or told they will be hired if the work goes well. This is generally frowned upon in the blog writing world, especially if the person has a heap of experience.
You can always go with someone else, but if you ask a writer to write a test article (which you should do), at least pay them for that article.
If They Have Little-to-No Experience
The flip side of this is if you’ve settled on someone that doesn’t have a track record of getting paid for writing. In this case you can assign them a test article — a small one, under 500 words, with very specific instructions — to see how they do. Basically this assignment shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours, and you don’t have to compensate them for it.
This is only if the person hasn’t been paid for writing before, as you are going out on a limb in considering them.
Assuming the tests go well, you’ve found your ghostwriter. Congratulations! You’d think the process would stop there, but it doesn’t.
There are a couple more things to solidify before you’re on your merry way. The first of those is creating guidelines for your new writer. If you’re on the uptake in this field you’ll already have a document with basic guidelines for writing — if you’re new to it, you’ll need to create one.
You should have been using such guidelines for your own writing and, assuming you have, put them all down in a Word doc or Google Doc you can share with your new hire.
The guidelines should include:
- How long the articles need to be.
- Examples of structure, including titles, headings, subheadings, lists with numbers or bullets, etc.
- Nit-picky grammar, like AP or Chicago Style, does the period go after the quotation marks or inside it, do you use an Oxford Comma or not, etc.
- If the article needs images. If so, what kind and their attributions.
- If the article needs to include SEO information, like an optimized title, meta tags, meta description, etc.
- What kind and how many hyperlinks to include per article, with examples. This includes external links that for relevant information, and internal links to the website they are writing for.
- Examples of tone, including “I” point of view, or “We”, and what your writing has been like so far, including plenty of example articles for them to review and match.
- How the articles should be sent to you. Either in batches every week or when they’re done, and what file type.
All of these should go into the guidelines and shared with your new ghostwriter.
The last aspect of hiring a new ghostwriter (or any new worker) is to provide them the correct forms. Most often you will be hiring a freelancer contractor for this work, which means there aren’t too many forms to give them.
The basic contract can be given, and should explain the amount of payment for work you’ve agreed upon, the legal number of days you have (or they have) to terminate the contract (usually it’s 10), and the fact that they are not an employee and receive no employee benefits.
The last bit is crucial for legal reasons, and when drafting these forms you should use official documentation or services.
Non Discloser Act (NDA)
Arguably the most important form you’ll send over is the NDA. Ghostwriters will always have to sign an NDA stating they won’t reveal their ghostwritten work without express permission. This also includes a non-talk clause for companies and clients you have, and covers a whole range of legal issues.
Again, follow the guidelines of an official service for this document.
Start Them Off
You’ve hired your freelancer, they’ve signed the forms, and the project is ready to begin. Remember, no matter how professional they are, this is a new job for them. Make sure your ghostwriter feels included, informed, and like you’re available to answer questions as they get into the groove.
Beyond that, you’ll just need to keep giving them assignments, and tweak as you go.