A surprising percentage of the texts we all ready on a daily basis were ghostwritten. Ghost writers, who work behind the scenes to help others create the stories and texts they are unable to write themselves, can craft anything from biographies to academic texts.
How do the annual salaries these professionals typically earn compare to those of other writers? What qualifications do you need to become a ghost writer, and where can you find this type of work?
Average Salary for Ghost Writers
Writers and authors in the United States earn a median wage of $67,120 per year, data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. Salaries in this field vary significantly, they add — the lowest-paid 10 percent of writers and authors earn less than $35,880 per year, while the top earners can take home more than $133,460 annually.
As ghost writers work across all of the same fields as other types of writers and authors, it only makes sense that similar fluctuations are seen in this sector, as well. What are privately-owned salary-tracking platforms able to tell us about the average annual salary for ghost writers, since the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not collect data for this group separately?
Let’s take a look:
- PayScale, one of the most reliable salary-tracking platforms on the web today, indicates that ghost writers earn an average of $50,000 per year. Salary ranges between $29,000 and $60,000 per year are typical in this field, the platform adds.
- Glassdoor estimates that ghost writers make, on average, $52,276 on an annual basis. According to Glassdoor, salaries for ghost writers tend to range from $25,000 to $108,000 annually.
- Salary.com reports a slightly lower annual median wage for ghost writers, at $38,680. The majority of ghost writers make between $31,000 and $51,000 per year, the platform suggests, while the top earners make more than $62,000.
- ZipRecruiter offers the most optimistic estimate, as their data set shows that ghost writers earn an average of $63,915 per year. While they add that ghost writers in the highest income brackets can earn more than $104,000 per year, however, they also show that many ghost writers earn $21,5000 annually, or even less.
Here, we would have to point out that ghost writers carry out extremely diverse types of work. The salary a ghost writer earns will largely reflect the precise nature of their writing. Some ghost writers will, for instance, collaborate closely with public figures to write full-length biographies. Others may be hired to write blog posts or other types of web content, while yet other ghost writers craft academic journal articles. 19
An individual ghost writer’s earning potential depends on their qualifications and the skills required to do specific types of work.
What Do Ghost Writers Make Per Hour?
While there will inevitably be great fluctuations in hourly earnings, PayScale’s data points to an average hourly rate of $37.50 for ghost writers.
Some ghost writers are employed workers, but many work as freelancers. These self-employed professionals generally do not receive a set hourly wage. They will instead be compensated per word or per project. Freelance ghost writers may earn anywhere from 2 cents to $2 per word, or even more.
Based on Experience
No government data exists to indicate how a typical ghost writer’s years of experience in the field may impact their earning potential. Salary.com, which listed $38,680 as the median annual salary for ghost writers, does offer some data.
According to this platform:
- New ghost writers earn, on average, $36,166 in their first year.
- Ghost writers who have accumulated three to four years of experience on the job earn an average of $39,968 per year — over $1,000 more than the median reported.
- After working as a ghost writer for five to six years, the annual salary rises further, to $42,361.
- Industry veterans who have been ghost writing for over 10 years earn the most. Their average annual salary is estimated to be $43,282.
Ghost writers do, frequently, face a challenge when it comes to proving their track record in the field — they are often bound by confidentiality agreements, and may have to ask previous clients to confirm their experience with new clients.
Some ghost writers additionally publish work in their own names, which will boost their portfolios.
Based on Education
Ghost writers with an Associate’s degree earn an average of $37,537 per year, Salary.com suggests. Those who have earned a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field have a higher earning potential, and make an average of $37,880 annually. Ghost writers with a Master’s degree under their belt earn, on average, $38,451 a year, meanwhile.
This data shows a clear trend. More highly-educated ghost writers will be able to attract more demanding and complex work, which tends to result in higher earnings.
Top Paying States for Ghost Writers
Data offered by the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program points to California, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts as the highest-paying states for writers and authors. Many high-salary jobs for writers and authors are also based in Washington, DC.
For data pertaining specifically to ghost writers, we can turn to ZipRecruiter — which suggests that ghost writers who are based in California, Alaska, Wyoming, Connecticut, and Washington State earn more than average.
Job Outlook for Ghost Writers
The outlook for ghost writers is fairly positive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics currently projects that jobs for writers and authors in the US will grow by nine percent in the coming 10 years. This is just a little faster than jobs across all occupations. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that this data refers exclusively to employed workers. Recent trends have shown that increasing numbers of workers are engaged in freelancing, and many ghost writers are self-employed.
The BLS additionally points out that job opportunities are set to grow faster than average for writers and authors who are performing internet-based work. As many ghost writers are engaged in web content writing for their clients or employers, this is good news.
Coupled with the fact that ghost writers tend to enjoy steady income increases as they gain experience on the job, it is fair to say that ghost writers will be in high demand over the coming years, and that they have significant potential to earn well.
What Exactly Does a Ghost Writer Do?
Ghost writers work across all industries and they craft, on behalf of their clients or employers, a broad spectrum of texts that will ultimately be published in someone else’s name. This fact means that ghost writers will often have to become deeply familiar with a client’s style and personality, as well as craft excellent professional writing.
Ghost writers may write:
- Full-length or shorter non-fiction books.
- Autobiographies or memoirs.
- Non-fiction ebooks or electronic pamphlets.
- Blog posts.
- Internet articles.
- Welcoming messages, letters to all employees, or similar documents for CEOs and other executive officers.
- Academic articles.
Some types of ghost writing require little to no contact with the person to whom the work will ultimately be credited, while other types of ghost writing depend on extensive collaboration. A famous person may, for instance, want to publish an autobiography but lack writing skill, and in this case the “ghost” will need to interview both the client and other important people in their life.
By the same token, some types of ghost writing require little background research, while other depend on both research and expertise in a particular area, such as business or the sciences.
How to Become a Ghost Writer?
Aspiring ghost writers will usually be professional writers who already have work published in their own name. This can serve as their portfolio. Becoming a ghost writer can be as simple as keeping track of ghost writing opportunities on popular internet platforms that connect clients with ghost writers, and applying for freelance gigs. Ghost writers who would like to write books, however, frequently require industry connections to obtain these opportunites.
Qualifications to Be a Ghost Writer
Ghost writers depend on the same skills as other types of writers, and going to college to study a field related to writing will increase any future writer’s career opportunities. Aspiring writers or ghost writers would be advised to pursue a degree in an area of study such as journalism, communications, creative writing, English, or English literature. A broader liberal arts degree can also be very helpful.
A Bachelor’s degree is usually sufficient to kickstart a career as a writer, but some students will want to consider completing a Master’s degree or even a PhD.
Skills to Be a Ghost Writer
Ghost writers heavily benefit from the following skills and aptitudes:
- Excellent writing, editing, and research skills are clearly a must for ghost writers.
- An understanding of psychology, and strong interpersonal skills, are crucial as well. Ghost writers don’t only need to be outstanding writers, after all. They also depend on code switching skills to be able to tell the story through the eyes of the credited author, and that means people skills are absolutely required.
- Humility is another key characteristic ghost writers need; a good ghost writer will be very comfortable with helping others write stories while remaining in the background themselves.
Can You Be a Ghost Writer Without a Degree?
Yes. Some ghost writers have not completed college, and they are most likely to find work in the field of web content writing.