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?
In 2015, I began writing at the low rate of just $0.05/word. It only took a matter of a few projects before I increased it to $0.07/word and later $0.10/word.
Most new writers start at $0.05/word, which is a fair for very simple projects. As soon as you build a reputation, though, you should aim for $0.08/word or more, which is about the rate platforms like Scripted, ContentFly, and CopyPress pay.
With that in mind, I charge $0.10/word because I work with growing companies that have specific requirements regarding details like branding, keywords, and structure. Planning and researching to create great content takes time, and my rate reflects that.
With that said, you can always charge more if you build a reputation and choose to specialize in the right niche (i.e., in technical writing, grant writing, etc.).
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 $0.05/word, I could produce up to 2,000 words of content in an hour because I was working with a handful of clients who had very basic requirements and needed content on very simple topics. That represented hourly earnings of up to $100.
These days, I charge $0.10/word for most of my clients and I can produce up to 1,500 words in an hour, if I am familiar with the client and niche. This adds up to average hourly earnings of $100 to $150.
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 $0.05/word and it takes you an hour to write 1,500 words, you’ll average $75/hour. If you want to make $3,000/month working five days per week, you’ll need to produce 3,000 words each day. That means you’ll be writing for 2-3 hours each day or 10-15 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 30,000 words per month (which is 7,500 words per week) at $0.05/word, your monthly earnings will be around $1,500. 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.