Is Ghostwriting a Profitable Career?

Ghostwriting can be a lucrative career, provided you have the experience and a proven track record. Ghostwriters forgo fame for a sometimes hefty fee and let other people claim their writing credit. It seems strange to write for someone else’s credit, but does ghostwriting pay well?

Ghostwriting is a profitable career with an average of $63,915 per year to $300,000 for high-end celebrity ghostwriters. Novice ghostwriters may not reach these high figures and may only earn around $21,000 a year. Calculated hourly, the average ghostwriter in the US makes $30 per hour.

It takes time to build up a name and reputation, and like most careers, you won’t earn six figures right away. Ghostwriting requires that you build up a stellar portfolio that will attract better-paying clients. This article will look at some reasons why you can make a good living as a ghostwriter and how to make your career more profitable. 

How Ghostwriters Make a Profit for Their Work

Ziprecruiter lists the average ghostwriting salary at $63,915, with the top tier earnings at $104.000 annually. However, according to their estimates, low-tier ghostwriters only make around $21,000.

These earnings vary substantially between experienced and novice ghostwriters and depend heavily on the individual writer’s portfolio. 

There are several ways to negotiate a profitable ghostwriting gig, but your payment plan is not set in stone. However, the most commonly used method is payment by project with a defined time frame with a clause for an hourly rate once the period expires. 

However, there are three methods for payment when entering a ghostwriting contract:

  • Fees per word: Even if you charge a pay per word rate, depending on your experience level, you will earn between $0.10 and $5. The client and ghostwriter will usually set a defined word limit in these contracts before the writing commences.
  • Hourly rates: Writers can earn between $20 and $300 an hour, depending on their experience and track record. As with the pay-per-word rates, the client will usually place a cap on the number of hours you will work. 
  • Payment per project: Payments of this type can be risky for ghostwriters as clear legal boundaries must exist to protect the writer from being dismissed during the contract. You can earn between $1,200 to $100,000 per full-length book/project. 

How To Make a Profit From Ghostwriting

Although not publicly announced, top ghostwriters who write celebrity memoirs may earn millions per project. However, while most of us might not reach that top 1%, there are specific ways that you can make more for your work by following these steps. 

Specialize in a Chosen Niche

The more knowledge you have about a particular niche or topic, the more likely you will command a higher wage. Potential clients will pay a higher rate to individuals who have an in-depth knowledge of their industry and their prospective audience.

Specializing also helps you write faster, as you already have a knowledge base around the subject which cuts down on your research time. You’ll also have insider knowledge of the niche’s key players and be more likely to know who to approach for a writing gig.

Write Extensively in Your Niche

Whether your niche is Regency romance or SaaS, the price you command for your ghostwriting services is directly proportional to your proven track record in your field. If writing a full-length novel or ebook is out of your reach, you may create a blog or join online communities that focus on your subject of interest. 

If Sci-Fi is your niche, you could publish your work in high-end niche magazines such as Asimov’s and Analog to get yourself a name. The more publications or followers you have, the more leverage you will have to negotiate the best writing deals. 

Gain Publishing Experience

If you plan to ghostwrite full-length books for clients, you’ll need some novels published before you can negotiate the best rates. When you have a traditionally published book in your niche, you’ll be in a better position to show that you understand your niche and market that will benefit your potential clients.

Ghostwriters with knowledge of self-publishing or traditional publishing experience are more likely to succeed than great writers with little knowledge of the publishing industry. The experience adds value to your services for a potential client and will command you higher figures.

Factors That Influence Ghost Writer Earnings

Crucial to being a successful ghostwriter is the ability to negotiate a favorable deal with clients. You must also possess extensive writing experience supported by a proven track record in ghostwriting. 

Writing Experience

Like many careers, ghostwriters need to build up their experience and develop a professional portfolio before they can earn higher figures. 

Typically experience involves taking lower-paid work to build up one’s credibility as a writer.

Looking at one of the top freelance platforms, Upwork, the rates range from $1,200 for an 80,000-word novel to $85 per hour for expert ghostwriters. As an open platform, clients often seek writers willing to work for less to create their portfolios.  

However, you can expect higher earnings from professional publishing companies, as they can provide quality ghostwriters. 

A Proven Track Record in Ghostwriting

A publishing industry insider claimed that some top ghostwriters earned an average of $100,000 per project and up to $300,000 for those with a proven track record.

An elite ghostwriter with a big-name bestseller or two under their belts can command the highest figures, but they guard this information closely. Writers with bestseller status who have proven their confidentiality are the obvious choice for top-earning spots in the ghostwriting field. 

The Ability To Negotiate

Experienced ghostwriters often negotiate better deals than those starting in the field. 

Experience gives writers bargaining power and leverage over potential clients. Professional ghostwriters usually charge a flat fee with an hourly rate should the project run longer than expected. 

Savvy writers also charge a separate fee for their proposals and sample chapters as clients often hire and fire several candidates before choosing a writer for a project. Arranging milestone fees throughout the writing process keeps writers from being left out in the cold with no remuneration for the research and work that they completed.

Closing Thoughts

Learning the craft of writing takes time and plenty of practice to place yourself in a position to earn a high salary for your work. Ghostwriting requires a variety of skills and a professional portfolio to be truly profitable. 

However, building up your writing credits and becoming an expert in your chosen niche will fast-track you to the more lucrative avenue of the ghostwriting field.