What is a ghostwriting contract?
A ghostwriting contract is a written agreement between a writer and their client for ghosting writing services. It's typically a contract for a freelancer-client working relationship rather than an employee-employer relationship.
Ghostwriting contracts are usually project-based, for example, writing a novel can be the whole project scope. This will depend on your client, so unless they're a public figure who needs consistent ghostwriting services, the details you include in your contract should be based on each project.
Note: If you're ready to get stuck into your free ghostwriting agreement template from Bonsai, you can sign-up now.
Why you need a ghostwriting agreement
In a legally binding ghostwriting agreement, the ghostwriter acknowledges that they'll be writing for someone else and will likely receive no credit for their work—other than in the form of financial compensation.
You need a ghostwriting agreement to get everyone on the same page with the project’s expectations and to ensure the ghostwriter gets paid. When you start your working relationship with the formality of a ghostwriter contract, both parties can relax into the agreement knowing there's nothing left unsaid.
Writer agreements, in general, need certain clauses to ensure they're legally binding—all of which we've included in this article.
What should be included in a ghostwriting contract template
Every ghostwriting agreement template needs the clauses we've listed below. From how and when the client agrees to pay ghostwriter fees, to what happens in the case of major revisions. Whether you're writing your own or editing a Bonsai template, make sure you twist and tweak these clauses to fit future work proposals.
Start your professional writer agreement off by naming all parties involved. Name yourself as the freelance writer, your client, and any other party deemed integral to this freelance writing contract.
For example, perhaps your client is hiring you to ghostwrite for someone else.
Detailed description of the project
Next up, you’ll need to go into detail about the project and what services you’re offering. If this is an ongoing agreement, then it’s a good idea to detail these services as much as possible.
If this hire agreement is for a specific project, for example, writing a blog article, or a book, then outline everything that’s expected of the writer here. This is otherwise known as the scope of work.
Here, you’ll want to agree to, and list out the deliverables for, the finished product. For example, if the detailed description of the project includes social media caption writing, the deliverable for this would be a specific number of social media captions and a certain number of potential revisions. Perhaps a technical writer contract template requires you to prepare instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and other supporting documents. Whatever it is, it should be outlined.
Schedule and timeline of deliverables
We all know that great writing takes time. However, here the ghostwriter and client will need to agree on a certain deadline for the project. This will help you and the client to manage workload and expectations.
Plus, there may be other steps the client needs to take that rely on the ghostwriter's words. For example, a graphic designer or illustrator may need to pick up the project next.
We can all agree that this is the clause most eyes are drawn to whenever a contract is on the table. Writing an invoice as a freelancer is hard work, you have to consider:
- Payment terms
- Due date expectations
- Details on royalties
- Payment of expenses
Be sure to include other factors that are relevant to your situation too. Document everything here so it’s clear to both parties.
Copyright terms and the right to create derivative works are crucial for a ghostwriting agreement.
Essentially, the ghostwriter will need to agree that once their work is released, they cannot claim it is theirs. It's similar to a non-disclosure agreement. The client is—in most cases— the sole owner of the content created.
As is often the case with any content work, there needs to be a certain amount of revisions in the scope of the project.
Writers will often give one round of free revisions to a client.. This will depend on what you’re comfortable with—just make sure you state the amount of free revisions or edits. At this point, you should also make clear how much you’ll charge for every additional edit or revision after the freebie.
Clients need more than an oral agreement to be assured they have your confidentiality. Ensure your ghostwriter agreement includes a clause stating you will not claim that you wrote the content which the client is publishing under their name—or someone else's.
A permissions clause is the only exception you'll be granted to showcase your work in your digital portfolio.
Admittedly, as a ghostwriter, getting a yes from your client on this one is rare. However, it's worth a try—just make sure to highlight it to your client when you send the contract over.
Termination of contract
We're not talking about the contract drawing to an end here because the work is done.
Termination happens when there is a breach of contract or there’s gross misconduct from either party. It's a shame that it happens, but it does, and your termination clause should explain the process and conditions for both parties when terminating.
Lastly, are there any tools or permissions the writer needs to get the job done? Are there any third parties that need to be listed for the project to be duly executed? If so, list these details in your final clause.
What's the benefit of using Bonsai instead of editing a template yourself?
All of Bonsai's contracts have been reviewed by experts. That means they're legally verified and tailored to your business niche. They save you:
And knowing that most of the heavy lifting is already done, you can focus on doing what you love instead.
How to create a ghostwriting contract template with Bonsai
Creating and editing a contract in Bonsai is done in a few easy steps. All you need to do is:
- Sign up for the tool
- Go to the type of contract you want, or build your own from scratch
- Edit the template with the details specific to your project
You'll be able to manage, edit, and assign all of your contracts to your projects within your Bonsai dashboard. Easy peasy!
Ghostwriting agreement FAQs
How do I start freelance ghostwriting?
Ghostwriters often have at least a few years of experience writing professionally before deciding to shift into ghostwriting.
This shift can come naturally as new clients discover your work, like your tone of voice, and want you to replicate it for themselves. Or, you can actively seek ghostwriting opportunities by reaching out to figures in the public eye and within your knowledge niche.
For more resources on becoming a freelance ghostwriter, see how to manage self-employment tax deductions.
How much do ghostwriters get paid?
If you're ghostwriting a book, you can earn anything between $5,000-$50,000. There's clearly a big gap here. Why? It largely depends on your experience, the industry you’re writing for, having a good network of freelance writing clients, and the clients themselves.