Calculating Your First Ghostwriting Bid

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“I want to be a writer. What should I do?”

I hear this a lot!

It is one of my personal goals to always encourage people to pursue their dreams. We need more writers in the world. Writing is not only a channel of communication, but it is also an art form!

Mostly though, when someone asks this, they want to make money as a writer. Again, I say GREAT! However, it’s good to prepare a bit.

If you have limited experience (perhaps you have only worked on school projects or written as a hobby), you need to gain more experience. It is a little different writing for another person, under their name, with deadlines that you don’t personally set. Writing as a job is not the same as writing as a hobby.

Finding your first client is your first challenge. It is the old problem of how do you gain experience when people only want to hire writers with experience? The answer is that you must become a sales person (sorry, I’m just being honest). You must sell yourself!

Once you have had one major paid writing assignment under your belt, finding the second is easier. The third is even easier. Finally you get to a threshold where people seek you out and fight to have you write for them. It all starts with getting that first paid gig.

So, how do you start? Talk to everyone you know and everyone you meet. Tell them that you’re a writer. Most writers tend to be bashful about this point. They don’t want to “toot their own horn.” Well, I’m here to tell you that you need to toot away. Don’t be shy about sharing your passion for writing, your ability, your love for the field. Your enthusiasm will attract clients.

Not everyone you talk to will hire you. Most won’t. But if you talk to enough, you will find your first client (and might even get two or three projects).

You won’t be able to charge top dollar for that first job, but you must charge enough to make it worth your while. Don’t allow someone to take advantage of you.

Here’s a basic formula for figuring out a bid for a client:

  1. Calculate how many hours it will take you to write the book (most likely 100 to 200 hours for a 200 to 300 page book).
  2. Figure out how much you’d like to make per hour (please do not accept less than $20 an hour).
  3. Multiply the two. For example, say you feel it will take you 150 hours to write their book and you’d like to make $30 an hour, you’d have a figure of $4500 at this stage.
  4. Ask questions, talk to the client and get a feel for various factors. How do they communicate? Do they write well? Will they provide all the information or will you have to do most of the research yourself?
  5. Add or subtract from the above figure, taking these factors into account. For instance if you see they don’t respond to emails and phone messages immediately, know that this will add time for you. In this case, raise your price a bit. Or if they write very well and respond quickly, you might reduce your fees, as they will help you to write the book.
  6. Now, add in a buffer, which will take into account a miscalculation in one of the above steps.
  7. If someone referred the business to you, add in something for them. I always include a 10% referral fee. I like to reward people who send business my way.

This is a good starting point. It will give you an idea of what you should charge for your first project.

If you ever want to bounce a bid off of me, please feel free to email me. I can help you sort out the correct price point!

Laura Sherman (85 Posts)

Laura Sherman, a.k.a. “Laura the Friendly Ghostwriter,” is a professional ghostwriter and author. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction and is happiest when juggling multiple projects. She recently authored “Chess Is Child’s Play” to introduce the next generation to the game of kings and queens. As a parent of three, and one of the top 50 women chess players in the United States, Laura wrote this book to teach any parent to teach any child, of any age, to play chess.


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