5 Key Elements of a Ghostwriting Contract to Keep Both Parties Secure

ghostwriting contract

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A ghostwriter contract is a legally binding agreement between a ghostwriter and a client. Ghostwriters, writers who create written content without requiring bylines or any credit, work to produce content that clients may present as their own. 

Ghostwriting contracts are generally straightforward. They often require:

  • Work to be delivered on a set timeline
  • A nondisclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Set content briefs with a description of the project
  • A payment agreement (amount to be paid and when)
  • Contact information for both parties
  • Revision agreements

Ghostwriters agree to write content without credit in exchange for compensation. They can produce all types of content under this arrangement, including:

  • Scripts
  • Books
  • Social media advertisements
  • Short- and long-form blogs
  • White papers
  • Press releases

…And many more. 

The right kind of contract prevents ghostwriters from disclosing who they’ve worked with, how much they were paid, and other information about the client. It also indicates how much money the ghostwriter will receive in compensation, the timeline for a project’s completion, and other vital details about the working relationship.

Which key elements should you include in your contract? There are five that we believe are essential.

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    Why Do You Need a Contract When Working with a Ghostwriter?

    A contract with a ghostwriter helps secure the rights and obligations of both parties in the transaction. As a client, you want to know that your personal information and project will be kept private. For example, you can ask a ghostwriter to sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) that limits who they can tell about the project. 

    Need a real-life example? 

    Imagine that you give your ghostwriter three pages of sensitive data to turn into an SEO-optimized white paper for your digital marketing agency. The writer is expected to create this document but never completes the project. Eventually, you find out that they took the information and gave it to another company. 

    In that case, a nondisclosure agreement could help you hold the writer accountable for any damages caused. 

    How a contract can help protect a ghostwriter

    Imagine that Ghostwriter A agrees to write 500 words of social media copy for your website and social media pages. They agree to do the copy and two revisions within two weeks. You agree to review the work within five days and pay within five days of approving it. 

    Sometimes, people get busy. You forget about the review period, and you mistakenly fail to look at the first piece of copy within five days. The writer, at this point, can request that you pay them by the end of the following five-day window. If you don’t, they will have legal standing to seek arbitration, mediation, or support from a court. 

    Writing a Secure and Equitable Ghostwriting Agreement

    The reason why you want to put together a fair agreement is that you want the contract to hold up in court (should you ever need to go). But, what can you do to create a fair agreement?

    When hiring a ghostwriter, talk to them about how they want to get paid, the amount they expect, the timeline for the project, and other details. Be reasonable with them as you draw up the agreement, and remember not to hold the writer to terms that might constitute employment. 

    Terms that could indicate that you’re actually hiring the ghostwriter as an employee rather than a freelancer may include:

    • Having them work on a set schedule (such as 40 hours per week, from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.)
    • Requiring the ghostwriter to wear a company uniform
    • Controlling how the writer does their work, such as requiring them to use a company-issued computer

    You can read more about independent contractor (freelance) vs. employee status on the IRS website. Once you’re sure that you’re not asking anything of a copywriter that could be construed as employment, it’s OK to move forward.

    Be clear about expectations, and stick to your end of the agreement, too. Doing this will keep both yourself and the ghostwriter on great terms while keeping you on the right side of the law. 

    Now, what are some additional elements to include in your agreement? Here are the five we’ve chosen as the most important.

    1.  Scope of the project 

    Clearly defining the nature of the writing project is essential to help the ghostwriter gauge the required time and resources for successful completion. Whether it’s a book, article, or essay, the type and length of the work should play a pivotal role in determining the writer’s service charges.

    2. Author-client relationship

    A well-crafted ghostwriting contract should outline the collaborative process between the writer and the client. This may involve a series of face-to-face meetings, or virtual discussions via phone or teleconferencing.

    The contract should spell out the responsibilities of each party. Will the writer be primarily responsible for research, or will the client provide the necessary information? Clarifying these details ensures effective communication between the author and the client throughout the project.

    3. Prices and payment terms

    Ghostwriters must transparently specify their payment terms.

    The contract should indicate the exact amount the writer will be paid, the schedule of payments, and the preferred payment method. Typically, a portion of the agreed fee is paid in advance, with the remaining amount disbursed upon project completion.

    The final fee should encompass all time and efforts invested in the project, not solely limited to the writing process.

    4. Copyright and confidentiality

    Upon project completion, the ghostwriter’s work becomes the property of the client, and it bears the client’s name. This is the core essence of ghostwriting – creating content for another party to be published under their name.

    The contract should explicitly state that the client holds full copyright to the original work and any derived ancillary works. While a ghostwriter may negotiate for a percentage of royalties based on future sales, they relinquish all other rights to the work produced for the client.

    5. Termination and escape clauses

    A comprehensive ghostwriting contract should include termination clauses for both the author and the client. There are instances when terminating a project is the best course of action due to incompatibility or significant changes in the project scope.

    By incorporating an exit clause with a predetermined “kill fee,” both parties can gracefully terminate the contract. This ensures the writer receives fair compensation for any ghostwriting services rendered, even if the client expresses dissatisfaction with the results.

    WriterAccess Marketplace: A Safer Alternative to Hiring Freelance Ghostwriters

    It can be a challenge to hire the right freelancers. You may not know who you can trust, and it can be difficult to find out who has the experience needed to do the job well.

    You don’t have to leave your ghostwriter hiring process to chance. A safer alternative is available right here at WriterAccess. 

    WriterAccess is a platform where you can connect with thousands of professional copywriters from all over the world. Why use this platform? It’s a safer way to work closely with freelancers while still having a third party to fall back on. 

    WriterAccess has terms and conditions that keep both writers and clients working together without complications. The terms of use and nondisclosure policies help protect your sensitive data and content while also eliminating the need for a new contract every time you begin working with a writer. 

    What are some of these terms and agreements? 

    • When you pay for content through WriterAccess, you own the copyright. 
    • WriterAccess serves as a content creation platform, and it has a nondisclosure agreement (NDA). Freelancers may not distribute or publish approved content through external means.

    Clients and writers work together on this platform knowing that the agency (WriterAccess) will handle any conflicts or disputes that arise. For peace of mind, there’s no better solution.

    Do you want to test out WriterAccess for your project? Give us a try during a 14-day free trial and see what human-powered content can do for your bottom line. 


    Human Crafted Content

    Find top content freelancers on WriterAccess.

    Human Crafted Content

    Find top content freelancers on WriterAccess.

    Catrina Cowart Rock author vector
    Rock Content Writer

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