How much a ghostwriter earns will vary depending upon their experience and whether or not they specialize in certain topics. Ghostwriters who have a professional background in a relevant industry like real estate or accounting can earn a lot more by becoming a “specialist” writer in a corresponding niche.
If you don’t hold any licenses or special qualifications, don’t fear. Neither did I when I began writing in 2014, and I have found great success as a ghostwriter. These numbers are based on my own personal experience as a content writer. Use them as a guide to make sure you’re charging a fair rate.
How Much Do Ghostwriters Make Per Word?
Most ghostwriters get paid per word. When I first started out, I had no experience. Thus, I used the strategy many new freelancers use: price low, sell in volume, and build a long list of reviews from happy customers until you can charge more.
In 2014, I originally began writing at the incredibly under-priced rate of just $0.01/word. It only took a matter of a few projects before I doubled it and I later increased my rate again to $0.03/word.
Most new writers start at $0.03/word, which is a fair rate for simple projects. Once you build a reputation, you can expect $0.05/word, which is the same rate you’ll get on a platform like CopyPress and in most business-to-business scenarios.
With that in mind, I typically charge $0.10/word through higher-tier platforms like Scripted because those projects have very complex requirements and they take substantially more time to complete than the work I do for all of my other clients.
It’s worth noting that some sources say $0.10/word is the “standard rate,” but that number is majorly biased by numbers from professional ghostwriters who work regularly for major magazines and other publications. Freelance ghostwriters generally won’t charge more than $0.10/word unless they specialize.
How Much Do Ghostwriters Make Per Hour?
While some ghostwriters charge per hour, I personally do not have experience with that approach. However, charging an hourly rate could be beneficial if you are working on a project that will take substantially long, perhaps due to research or style-related requirements.
The issue with charging per hour is that many clients, especially when you are first starting out, will question how many hours you bill them for. It’s also hard to predict how many hours a project may take, which can make invoicing difficult (and I always suggest charging the full amount up-front).
With this in mind, it is important to work out your “hourly rate” from a profit perspective. This requires you to know your average writing speed.
Calculate Your Hourly Average
Back when I charged $0.03/word, I could produce up to 3,000 words of content in an hour. That’s because I was working with a repeat client who needed basically the same information re-written into dozens of different articles for keyword building purposes. Since this required minimal research, the writing process was very fast. This resulted in average hourly earnings of up to $90/hour.
These days, I charge $0.05/word for most of my clients and I can produce up to 2,000 words in an hour for the average project. That means I earn around $100/hour on most days. However, you can’t take these hourly averages at face value.
What Does Your Hourly Average Mean?
While a ghostwriter may be able to produce content fast enough to earn $100/hour or more, that doesn’t mean they’re working 8 hours and earning $800/day. This is due to many reasons, with the biggest being that most ghostwriters simply do not have a workload large enough to fill an 8-hour work day–and most don’t want one.
As such, if you’re charging per word, your hourly average doesn’t tell how much you’re earning, it just tells you how fast you’re earning, which is why I suggest you calculate your hourly average.
When you’re first starting out, it’s important to know how much you can earn within an hour’s time as that will give you a realistic estimate of how much time you’ll need to spend writing each day in order to meet your income goal.
For example, if you’re charging $0.03/word and it takes you an hour to write 1,500 words, you’ll average $45/hour. If you want to make $2,700/month working five days per week, you’ll need to produce 4,500 words each day. That means you’ll be writing for 3 hours each day or 15 hours each week.
Too slow? Read this article on How to Improve Your Writing Speed.
How Much Do Ghostwriters Make A Year?
According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary of a freelance writer is a little over $49,000/year. Other sources say a ghostwriter’s annual salary is over $79,000/year, with the context of that estimate focusing on the more traditional ghostwriting job where a person writes books on behalf of celebrities and public figures.
So, how much can you make? Determining how much you can earn per year as a ghostwriter will require you to know your project load. If you consistently produce 40,000 words per month (which is 10,000 words per week) at $0.05/word, your monthly earnings will be around $2,000. This is before taxes and any fees the platforms or payment processors you work with charge.
When considering how much you can earn as a ghostwriter, you need to keep these variables in mind:
- How many words do you have the capacity to produce each month?
- How much do you earn per word after fees?
- How much will you owe in taxes?
Once you know your speed and how much time you can commit to writing each month, you need to calculate your actual profit per word. This is the amount you charge to clients minus any fees you must pay. If you charge $0.05/word through Fiverr, for example, you’ll be earning $0.04/word after their 20% fee.
Finally, you need to add up your profit for the year and determine what your tax burden will be. In the United States, you’ll have to pay the 15.3% self-employment tax in addition to federal income tax and state income tax, both of which vary based on your earnings.
A ghostwriter who lives in Boise, Idaho who earns $48,000/year before taxes will pay approximately $6,782 in self-employment tax along with $2,344 in state income tax to Idaho and $4,130 in federal income tax, which adds up to around $13,250/year. That would make their after-tax earnings approximately $34,750/year.
Self-employed individuals are supposed to pay quarterly estimated taxes, but it can be hard to predict just how much you’ll earn since freelancing can lead to major fluctuations in your project load. I’d suggest looking into how to best handle your taxes as a self-employed individual.