3 Essential Qualities for a Successful Ghostwriting Relationship

Ghostwriter and client collaborating in a successful relationship

Hiring a ghostwriter poses unique challenges. When seeking someone to pick up the lion’s share of your writing project—while maintaining an amiable collaborative relationship—finding just the right person is essential. What would signal that someone is the right ghostwriter for your job?

There are three essential qualities you can’t do without: trust, expertise, and affordability. Yet none of these qualities are simple to discern. Let’s examine each of them in more depth so that you can be confident you’re hiring the very best ghostwriter for your project.



Trust is essential in any working relationship. You will be entrusting your ideas to your ghostwriter; you'll depend on their writing to convey those ideas in the most effective way possible. From your first research to that initial interview or discovery call with a ghostwriter candidate, listen to your gut reactions:

  • Could you comfortably work with this person?
  • Do they seem honest and straightforward?
  • Do the two of you have a kind of rapport from the get-go?
  • Do they listen at least as much as they talk?
  • What do their own questions (as well as their responses to yours) reveal about their priorities?

You’re hiring a temporary partner. Do your best to make sure you can maintain a partnership based on trust.

Trust, of course, is built over time. You will learn more about each others’ competencies and integrity as you work together. However, even in the earliest exploratory stage, you can be on the lookout for indications that your potential ghostwriter is someone you can trust. Signs of long-term trustworthiness will include:

  • Speaking positively of previous clients. Gossiping or maligning previous clients bodes poorly for how they will speak of you later.
  • Listening well to learn your “voice” so they can write in that voice. This includes doing research into your previous writing and/or speaking so they can pick up your style.
  • Flexibility. Your ghostwriter will need to work with your busy schedule, your family emergencies, your publisher’s requirements, and so forth. Ask questions that elicit examples of their willingness to adapt. Some ghostwriters will be able to offer more flexibility than others, depending on their current workload and the deadlines they are driving toward. (And be reasonable: ghostwriters have a life, too.)
  • A clear contract. A ghostwriter you can trust will spell out everything you need to know in their contract. From payment schedules (per project, per word, or per hour? payments or lump sum?) to expected responsibilities of both author and ghostwriter, everything should be clear from the outset.



Your ghostwriter’s qualifications must align with your objectives for your project. This means that first you must know your objectives.

In this context, objectives refer to your goals in two primary areas: the audience you want to reach and the purpose you hope this project will serve.

First, then, who are your intended readers? Is your audience primarily busy professionals looking to improve their career? Young parents seeking advice? Your family members discovering your history?

The characteristics of your audience will impact writing factors that include:

  • Tone: Will it be conversational and informal, scholarly, or hard-hitting and concise?
  • Format: Will you publish an ebook? A trade paperback? A series of blog posts? Articles?
  • Word count: Will it be an SEO-focused online article of 1500 words or so? A mid-size paperback to hand out after a speaking engagement? A brief, downloadable pdf for visitors to your website? A coffee table book for shareholders, detailing the entire history of your family business?

Knowing your audience profile will help you seek out a ghostwriter skilled in writing for audiences like yours.

Second, how will this writing project advance your personal or business goals? If you need a new book to attract clients out of the crowds to which you will be speaking, that’s very different from wanting a series of blog posts you intend to share across professional networks to build visibility. A memoir for your family to treasure is another creature altogether. Identifying your business or personal goals for your project will aim you toward a ghostwriter with experience creating your kind of content.

Does this mean your ghostwriter must be an expert in your field, or have written 35 celebrity memoirs before they can write yours? Not necessarily.

Good ghostwriters are like skilled actors: they are masters at taking on the mindset and perspectives of each character they portray. (In this case, that’s you). Ghostwriters make this happen by:

  • Doing extensive research to understand your field, your niche, your industry. Even memoir writers will do research to acquaint themselves with the context of your story.
  • Getting familiar with your intended readers’ preferred tone, reading level, and style.
  • Acquiring experience in writing content like yours for similar outcomes.
  • Listening to and learning from your expertise.
  • Coupling your subject-matter knowledge with their writing and publishing expertise.



The bottom line is finding a ghostwriter with expertise that fits your budget.

Undoubtedly, highly qualified ghostwriters tend to charge more. But if you don’t have a “more” budget, you need a way to determine just how much expertise you are willing to pay for.

It’s not hard to do an online search and find ranges of ghostwriting rates. Look carefully at the rates for ghostwriting rates for projects like yours. You can find rates for jobs done by what some might call “content mills,” where a stable of writers are paid to churn out material quickly and simply—with the quality limitations those requirements impose. You can find high-end writers who charge top dollar for their vast experience and finely honed skills. The question becomes, “How much expertise does my project need?” coupled with “How much of that can I afford?”

If speed is your top priority—say, you have a fast-approaching deadline to turn out a short promotional ebook—go with quick and simple. If your billion-dollar career as a rapper is at stake with this memoir, go for the writers who have served other celebrities well.

If your needs (and your budget) are somewhere in between, you have a wide field open to you. Consult others in your field to find out who they have used. Ask your trusted staffers who they know that provides ghostwriting services. (Hint: For the ghostwriter, knowing you came to them via word-of-mouth referral from a knowledgeable friend or business associate will boost your credibility in their eyes, too.)


Essential Ghostwriter Qualities: Trust, Expertise, and Affordability

Your message deserves to be delivered powerfully to the audience you wish to reach. If you won’t be doing the writing yourself, make sure you hire a ghostwriter with the perfect blend of trustworthiness, expertise, and affordability that matches your project’s needs. You are the expert on you and your message. That makes your project unique, calling for a unique author-ghostwriter team. Trust your instincts—and, if possible, referrals from friends—to guide you into creating that perfect partnership.


Explore more about ghostwriting and then reach out for a free discovery meeting.

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