Protect Yourself With A Ghostwriting Contract [Template Included]

How to Protect Yourself With A Ghostwriting Contract [Template Included]

A ghostwriting contract is a legally binding agreement that outlines the working relationship between you (the ghostwriter) and your clients.

Here, I'll break down how to create one for your own ghostwriting business and give you the template I use for my working relationships.

Why do you need a ghostwriting contract?

Besides the obvious reason for a written agreement (it's legally enforceable), the unique nature of a ghostwriter’s freelancer-client working relationship creates additional liabilities like ownership and confidentiality.

A ghostwriting agreement protects your client. People who hire ghostwriters are usually business leaders, entrepreneurs, and online personalities. Word getting out could hurt their brand.

It also…

  • sets boundaries
  • protects you from a client holding you responsible if your Twitter content's representation of them causes backlash or legal action
  • gets you and your client on the same page about whether you can publicly claim your work in your writing portfolio

10 things every ghostwriting contract needs

1. Work and payment clause

The first clause of your ghostwriting agreement outlines the specific tasks you'll perform for the client, plus how and when you'll get paid.

There are six areas I include in my first section:

  • Project — Explanation of services and bullet-point main tasks
  • Schedule — Start date and brief termination clause reference
  • Payment — Payment amount and structure (flat fee or monthly)
  • Followers — "I won't buy fake followers, but followers aren't guaranteed."
  • Invoices — Payment dates, terms, and interest for days outstanding
  • Guarantees — "If you force me to change your Twitter content, my guarantee is no longer valid."

2. Ownership and licensees

By definition, "ghost" writing services mean your client takes credit for the work. This section confirms you won’t take any credit or royalties.

My ghostwriting contracts cover these three topics:

  • The client is the sole owner of the entire work product once it's paid in full.
  • Unless they permit me (here) to use it, I don't talk about us.
  • I might need intellectual property to do my job, but they control the extent to which I can use it.

3. Non-solicitation

Solicitation is when a client actively tries to entice your employees, contractors, or clients away from you. It's standard practice.

In the context of a ghostwriting agreement, it's the opposite. Until the contract ends, you won't...

  • encourage their employees or service providers to stop working for them
  • try to get customers or clients to stop doing business with them
  • hire anyone who worked for them over the 12-month period prior to the contract ending (unless you put out an ad and they respond)

4. Representations

Representations are statements that help the client trust you're in a position to do what you say. This is where the ghostwriter acknowledges:

  • You're authorized to sign the contract
  • You (or your agency) creates the work
  • The client owns and will review it before handoff
  • You won't break any laws or infringe on others' IP

Here, the client also has to verify their supported materials don't infringe third-party IP or break laws.

5. Contract term and termination clause

Here, you detail when the project starts and ends, plus what happens if someone ends the agreement prematurely (and circumstances where they can).

Termination clauses are in case projects go south. If you terminate early, my ghostwriting contracts say it officially ends 14 days later.

6. Independent contractor agreement

This section of the ghostwriting agreement basically reiterates you're an independent contractor, not their employee or partner.

The client can't control how you get your work done. And they don't owe you benefits or withhold taxes.

7. Non-disclosure agreement

As a ghostwriter, you get access to your client's sensitive and proprietary information.

The NDA protects the confidential material that isn't revealed to anyone else (which includes the fact that you're working together).

8. Limitation of liability

A limitation of liability clause lays out the worst-case scenario and assigns responsibility for damages to you or the client if one of the parties does something wrong.

It also sets a cap on how much money is at stake.

In mine, it's zero.

9. Indemnification

Indemnity is important for you and your client.

  • Agency/ghostwriter indemnity — You agree to pay back the client for any issues caused by your breach.
  • Client indemnity — The client promises to pay if you're sued over your work.

10. General terms and conditions

Anything you haven't outlined above, you'll put here.

For my ghostwriting contracts, that includes:

  • Binding and confidential arbitration
  • Contract modification waiver
  • Notices, including timing
  • Signature requirements
  • Governing state law
  • Final verification of written and oral agreement

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How much should I charge for ghostwriting services?

Depending on the scope, I charge my clients between $3,000 and $12,000 per month. My ghostwriting students generally start between $2,500 and $4,000 per client.

  • Charge a monthly retainer fee
  • Definitely don't charge hourly
  • Don't undervalue your work, even if you think you're a "beginner"

If you're having trouble closing clients at this price, eliminate the risk by offering a free month-long trial period.

How should I get paid for ghostwriting services?

For automated retainer payments, I use Stripe. Per-transaction pricing means no monthly fees. Instead, it takes it off the top. It also integrates with your website's payment gateway.

If you charge per completed project, Wave Invoicing is free and practical.

Common issues with client payment

Your ghostwriting contract will immediately resolve most of the issues that come up with client payment.

The three most common are:

  • Clients who take forever to pay (or simply disappear)
  • Scope creep (your client asks you to do more work than you initially agreed to)
  • Needy clients (they're never satisfied with your work)

Charge interest for late payments. Don't work outside your contract's terms. And set a payment schedule regardless of how many revisions they want.

Who is Dakota?

I show you how to build a high-paying creative business without doing work you hate.

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