Choosing a Ghostwriter: 4 Factors, Ranked

Choosing a ghostwriter

So you’ve got a project—a book, series of articles, white paper—big enough, complicated enough, or important enough to necessitate hiring a ghostwriter. What’s the point of doing something if you’re not planning on doing it right, no? Hiring someone to take the job of writing off your plate will be lovely, but now you have a whole new job: choosing a ghostwriter who will be worth your money.

What are the factors you should consider when choosing a ghostwriter? And how should these rank? Well, as an actual ghostwriter, I have a super-insider’s view of what makes a ghostwriter worth hiring. You could say I know exactly how the sausage is made. (As an enthusiastic carnivore, I don’t consider this a disparaging metaphor.)

If I were choosing a ghostwriter, these are the factors I would consider, ranked for relative importance:

Factor #1: Compatibility

How you mesh with your ghostwriter ultimately means more than anything else. If your ghostwriter gets you, communicates well with you, and produces writing that feels like an extension of your mind, that’s everything.

Your initial conversations with prospective ghostwriters will tell you a lot. Are they asking good questions? Do they communicate clearly? Do they have the ability to lay out a plan, describe processes, set expectations? Do you like them? You are going to end up talking with this person quite a bit, depending on the project, so liking the person will mean a lot. A whole lot.

Factor #2: Price

Cost matters. If you are investing into a ghostwriter, it’s probably for a project that’s intended to build your business or career in some way. Will it result in content that establishes your reputation as an influencer or acts as a touch point for bringing new customers into your sales funnel? In any case, return on investment is critical.

Only you can determine what the acceptable level of investment is for the outcomes you’re seeking. Consider your goals when you’re determining how much you want to spend. Are you just trying to add keyword-packed content to your website to boost your Google rankings? Then, for sure, feel free to hire a less expensive writer who can write simple posts featuring particular keywords. But if you’re hiring someone to write the non-fiction book that will help establish your reputation as a thought leader…don’t skimp. Hire a seasoned ghostwriter with a lot of long-form content writing experience.

Factor #3: Relevant Experience

A little further down the totem pole of considerations we find “relevant experience”. My guess is that a lot of people would assume that this consideration should rank higher. I say it matters and helps that your ghostwriter has a level of familiarity with the subject matter, but it’s not as essential as you might think.

This is how super-ghostwriter Jeff Haden describes his career on his Blackbird Media bio.

While I typically ghostwrite real estate, management, process improvement, finance, and investment books, I’ve written books on subjects as diverse as breastfeeding, hydroponics, horticulture, magic (I can explain the tricks but don’t have the dexterity to pull them off), and even personal finance for um, exotic entertainers.  (Don’t ask.  But it did sell really well.)

Ghostwriters are typically people who absolutely love learning. So if a prospective ghostwriter hasn’t written a lot of content in your industry or subject area, don’t write him or her off too quickly. If you’re dealing with a great ghostwriter (like Haden), they will learn your stuff more quickly than you expect.

Factor #4: Geography

In my experience, this is a consideration that matters—but matters least. Personally, I’ve worked with clients across this fine planet, including in Australia (I’m in Vancouver, BC, Canada). The Internet is a wonderful thing.

If you’re someone who thrives on face-to-face communication, then sure, choosing a ghostwriter who lives nearby could be smart. If being close helps with the “compatibility” piece, then choose someone local.

Depending on the scale of your project and its importance to your business, choosing a ghostwriter could be one of the more strategic decisions you make. Consider compatibility, price points, relevance of experience, and geography. Have a positive experience with the person who could help you accomplish things you’ve been mulling over for years. And get your money’s worth.

June 8, 2016

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