Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

ethical considerations of ghostwriting

The world of freelance writing is vast and diverse. Copywriting, creative writing, and content writing are some of the most common and favored freelance writing jobs by many.

Ghostwriting, on the other hand, may be a less popular option. But it is also one of the most lucrative freelance writing jobs. You may also discover a new passion and upskill yourself throughout the journey. But is ghostwriting ethical?

Ghostwriting is a very distinctive freelance job, for sure. If you’re new to the topic, or you want to take another look at it, let’s break down the basics of ghostwriting and explore its ethical considerations.

The Ghostwriter’s Main Jobs

What is ghostwriting?

Many beginner writers may ask the same question. In a nutshell, ghostwriting is the act of writing something, such as a book, article, or speech, on behalf of someone else who takes credit for the work. 

In other words, the ghostwriter is invisible to the public, and their name doesn’t appear on the final product. The client who hires the ghostwriter provides the content and ideas. The ghostwriter turns them into polished and coherent written work. 

is ghostwriting ethical?

What’s even surprising is that, according to an expert, around 60% of nonfiction best sellers are ghostwritten. That means only 40% are written by “real” authors. Perhaps, the nonfiction books you read aren’t the real work of the book’s authors. Who knows?

In terms of salary, ghostwriters typically receive $32k to $53k. However, it may come differently according to the project type, location, experience, and other factors.

Ghostwriting is common in various industries. You can source clients in the publishing, politics, and entertainment industries by sending them outreach emails.

You can improve your skills in writing biographies, editing, and making business manuscripts, as the three are the top requests by clients.

However, the practice raises several ethical questions, such as:

  1. Is it fair to the original author, as they don’t receive any credit?
  2. Is it ethical to write on behalf of someone else without proper attribution?

To answer the question, let’s examine the ethical considerations of ghostwriting for freelance writers in the following discussion.

The Ethical Considerations of Ghostwriting

We’ve rounded up eight vital ethical considerations of ghostwriting. You must learn and be able to incorporate these practices to build credibility as a professional ghostwriter.

1. Provide Work Transparency

Ghostwriters should be transparent about their work with their clients. You must show transparency in the writing process, timeline, fees, and other expectations. 

The client should know what they are paying for and what to expect from the ghostwriter. You may also offer revision services to a particular extent to ensure their work satisfies the client.

Additionally, you can show some common work transparency on your online pages. But, further discussions with the client directly may also be necessary before signing a contract.

2. Understand the Authorship

Understanding authorship is a critical ethical consideration for every ghostwriter. You must know that you won’t receive any attribution or public credit. So, don’t complain if your name doesn’t appear in the credit section.

Moreover, ghostwriters should also consider the impact on their reputation. You must be aware of the potential consequences of your work; that’s why you must ensure that you produce high-quality writing that meets ethical standards.

For example, if a well-known author hires you to write a book, you won’t receive any credit. The attribution will go to your author, AKA, your client. So, ensure that your work is error-free and doesn’t include any plagiarized content or ethical violations. 

In addition, you must be aware of the potential impact on your reputation. Sometimes, if your work doesn’t satisfy your client or the readers, they may criticize you.

Grammarly Writing Support

3. Check Confidentiality

Ghostwriters often work with clients who provide confidential information, such as personal stories, business strategies, or proprietary information. You have a responsibility to respect the confidentiality of your clients. 

As a ghostwriter, you must not collect or comment on confidential information. Moreover, never disclose sensitive information to third parties without the client’s permission.

Moreover, ghostwriters should know the potential legal and ethical implications of breaching confidentiality. For example, if a ghostwriter discloses information about a client’s business strategy, it could harm the client’s business.

Worse, your client may take your action into a lawsuit. Therefore, ghostwriters should take steps to protect their client’s information. Use secure file transfer methods or sign non-disclosure agreements to avoid data leaks.

4. Show Integrity in Your Work

Ghostwriters must maintain integrity in their work—as any freelance writer must. You must avoid plagiarism and misrepresentation by producing a high-quality and authentic outcome that meets the client’s specifications and standards.

Be honest about your qualifications and expertise as a writer. For instance, if you’re not qualified to complete a project, you must be honest about your limitations. You can refer to another writer who is better suited for the job.

Additionally, ensure that your work meets ethical standards. Suppose you write a potentially controversial or offensive piece for a client. In that case, you should raise ethical concerns with the client and work collaboratively to find a solution. 

You may need to change the content, use different framing, or decline the project if deemed unethical. Doing so can build a reputation as an ethical and reliable writer who provides valuable services to your clients.

5. Discuss Fair Compensation

Have an open and honest discussion about fair compensation with your clients. Be transparent about your fees and discuss factors impacting the project’s final cost.

Consider things like the complexity of the work, the expected time commitment, and any additional expenses. You can also negotiate writing rates that reflect the value of your work and expertise.

Also, consider the client’s budget and the market rates for similar work. If you’re hesitant about deciding the fee, you can ask or check your fellow ghostwriters so you get appropriate compensation.

6. Set Ethical Boundaries

Setting ethical boundaries between you, as a ghostwriter, and your clients are necessary. Decline projects that involve illegal or unethical practices, such as writing content that promotes hate speech, plagiarism, or other forms of unethical behavior. 

In addition, avoid writing content that infringes on intellectual property rights. Learning the ethical boundaries may require theory comprehension and working experiences. You can join a ghostwriting class or ask professionals to ensure this matter.

7. Ask Your Client’s Permission (If You Can Include Your Work in Your Portfolio)

To build credibility, you need an impressive portfolio from previous works. But as a ghostwriter, you must acquire the client’s permission before including your work in your portfolio.

Some clients may not grant your wish to include your work in your portfolio, so ask for their permission. It’s a way to respect your client’s privacy and intellectual property rights.

8. Invest in Professional Development

Ghostwriters should invest in professional development and continuously strive to improve their writing skills and knowledge. It can be a lifetime of learning, so you must take writing courses, attend conferences, or read industry publications.

As a ghostwriter, you can stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques in writing. It also shows a commitment to their craft and a willingness to improve, which can enhance your reputation as a professional and reliable ghostwriter.

Ghostwriting and Ethics FAQ

FAQ generated by ChatGPT 

What is ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is the act of writing content on behalf of someone else, with the understanding that the person for whom the work is written will take credit for it.

Is ghostwriting ethical?

Ghostwriting can be ethical if the writer adheres to certain ethical principles. Ghostwriters must be transparent about their role in the project and obtain the necessary permissions from the person taking credit for the work. They should also ensure that the work they produce is of high quality and accurately represents the person taking credit for it.

What are some ethical concerns related to ghostwriting?

Ethical concerns related to ghostwriting include a lack of transparency about the ghostwriter’s role, presenting the work as their own, using someone else’s ideas or work without proper attribution, and producing work that is inaccurate or of poor quality.

Can ghostwriting help freelance writers?

Yes, ghostwriting can be a good opportunity for freelance writers as it provides them with a steady stream of work and income. Ghostwriting assignments can also help freelance writers to build their skills and gain experience.

How can freelance writers ensure that their ghostwriting work is ethical?

Freelance writers can ensure that their ghostwriting work is ethical by being transparent about their role in the project, obtaining the necessary permissions from the person taking credit for the work, and producing work that is of high quality and accurately represents the person taking credit for it. They should also ensure that they do not use someone else’s ideas or work without proper attribution.

So, Is Ghostwriting Ethical?

Short answer: Yes.

See the FAQ above. 👆🏾

If you want to expand your client base and get consistent work, you can explore ghostwriting opportunities and make a name for yourself in this arena.

Do we have any ghostwriters here? Care to share your experiences?

About the author

Andre Oentoro is the founder of Breadnbeyond, an award-winning explainer video production company. He helps businesses increase conversion rates, close more sales, and get positive ROI from explainer videos (in that order).

Twitter: @breadnbeyond


LinkedIn: Andre Oentoro






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