How Much Should You Charge As A Ghostwriter? (3 Easy Questions To Ask)

Dickie Bush
June 17, 2024

The way 95% of ghostwriters go about pricing their services is keeping them broke.

Here’s how it usually plays out when a ghostwriter is trying to work out what to quote a potential client:

  • They trawl Upwork of Fiverr to find the “going rate”
  • They ask other ghostwriters in their network what they charge
  • They Google “How much should I charge for a {insert asset name}”

Then, they take any price they find and reduce it by 10-20% to undercut their “competition” to make sure they land the deal with the client.

The result?

A depressing race to the bottom where most freelance writers are underpaid and overworked.

And the people who want to break free from their 9 to 5 and pursue a career as a ghostwriter look around, see this, and don’t even want to make the jump into ghostwriting. They see horror stories of writers working for $0.01 per word. Or hear about others who are trapped in shockingly low hourly rates.

The truth is, you can make a lucrative living as a ghostwriter—if you know how to price your services correctly.

And luckily for us, there are only 3 questions you need to ask.

Let’s dive in!

3 Simple Questions That Easily Reveal How Much You Should Charge

When looking at any writing opportunities with a client and trying to figure out how much you should charge, ask yourself these 3 questions:

Question 1: “What’s this worth to the client?”

Now, this isn’t a perfect science.

But you can get an idea of what this will be worth to the client by thinking about all the problems you are solving with your service. Then, ask yourself these follow-up questions for each problem:

  • How painful is this problem for the client?
  • What is the potential upside of solving this problem for the client?
  • What would you guesstimate the cost of that unsolved problem is for the client?
  • How much could you charge such that the cost of hiring you is negligible relative to the money you are either helping the client save or make?

Every time you write down another problem, you need to think about the ultimate negative outcome you are helping the client escape or the ultimate positive outcome you would be creating for the client.

These typically fall into two categories: Time and Money (and often both).

Let’s take newsletter writing as an example. If you ghostwrite newsletters, here are 3 potential problems you could be solving:

  • Problem #1: “I have a newsletter, but I don’t have time to write it.”
  • Problem #2: “I have a newsletter, but I don’t know how to attract new readers.”
  • Problem #3: “I have a free newsletter, but I don’t know how to monetize it.”

As you can see, each problem either relates to Time or Money:

  • Problem #1: They don’t have the time to write a newsletter, but they need it to keep bringing in clients for their business. And if they wrote their own, it wouldn’t be a good use of their time because it’s not where they could be making the most impact (and money) in their business.
  • Problem #2: They don’t have the time to work out how to attract new readers and they don’t want to waste money on ads or on hiring a full-time content creator.
  • Problem #3: They don’t have the time to figure out how to properly and reliably monetize the newsletter and they are leaving money on the table as a result.

Once you have these problems laid out, you can then put together a rough guess on how much this would be worth to the client.

Let’s say your client sells monthly 1-on-1 coaching services for $5,000.

Your newsletter package costs $3,000 for 4 newsletters every month. These newsletters nurture the client’s list into buying the coaching package. So all they would need is for 1 new client to sign up every month for the investment to be worth it. And once they get that new client (or keep an existing client), then everything else is just profit.

See how this works?

The ultimate goal here is to figure out the intersection between:

  • Which problems you are best suited to help people solve (which ones do you know the most about?)
  • Which problems would either save clients the most money or make them the most money.

Wherever there is overlap between what you know and what is most valuable, there lies the ghostwriting gold.

No, on to the next question.

Question 2: “What’s the time horizon (how long will this take)?”

This is quite a simple question, yet so many writers forget to factor it into their pricing calculation.

Let’s say you have quoted $10,000 to create a LinkedIn strategy and the content for it. This might be the highest amount you have ever charged! You’re so excited. So you sign the client and get to work.

But 8 months later you’re still working on the project.

What once sounded like the deal of your career, turned into a massive suck on your time and you’re not evening getting paid properly to do it.

So before you quote a price, think about:

  • How many hours of work will this take?
  • To get the outcome for the client, how long do I need?
  • What time constraints can I put on this (e.g. is this a 6-month package or a one-off project)?

Then you can price your services accordingly.

Question 3: “What’s this worth to me?”

When you’re first starting out as a ghostwriter, you’re in “Yes” mode.

You just want to:

  • Pay your bills
  • Work for yourself
  • Scale your earnings
  • Save some extra money
  • And maybe even quit your full-time job

You want to get in the reps so you can start to charge more and more for your services.

And this makes complete sense. But eventually, you will hit a roadblock. The number of opportunities that come your way will exceed the number of hours you have in a day.

Then you have to make a decision:

Do I want to do this project? And how much would make this a no-brainer for me?

You go from worrying about what the client will think of your price to worrying about whether taking on another project will eat into the time you want to spend on a personal project or scaling your business in another way (like by selling digital products).

At this point, you’ve reached the sweet spot—and you can hit this level quicker than you might think.

If you ask these 3 questions every time you are looking to price new (or revise existing) services you will never be an underpaid ghostwriter ever again.

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