Every so often I expound upon the expectations, reasonable and unreasonable, the clients impose upon the writers and editors they hire. So, here we go again.

  1. Ghostwriters are not photocopiers. Clients often require writers to adhere to style and content guidelines to ensure the content written for them meets certain minimum standards, fits the corporate message, and supports the corporate image. That’s entirely reasonable. Client who insists that a ghostwriter match and/or mimic his style is not. A ghostwriter may be able to replicate that client’s voice for a short length of content, but sustained replication is neither feasible nor practical.
  2. Editors cannot guarantee 100% error-free work. Editors are human and humans make mistakes and miss things. Also–and not to mention–grammar rules in English are malleable: there are exceptions to every rule and sometimes those exceptions work best. What a competent editor does is improve the content.
  3. Well-written, custom content is not cheap. Sure, you can use artificial intelligence to generate huge quantities of content, but that content will lack both style and nuance. It’s flat. Consider what’s entailed when you have someone write for you. If it’s nonfiction, the topic may require hours of research before the writing begins. The writer’s time spent in research is valuable. A professional writer who adheres to standard of professionalism will not deliver a rough draft, but drafts the content and self-edits it at least once, ensuring the work is polished before submitting it. A professional writer also revises at the client’s request, although limiting rounds of revision is entirely reasonable. When it comes to writing, you pretty much get what you pay for.
  4. Editing is not a one-and-done process. Especially pertinent when authors submit what are essentially first drafts to editors, editors deliver their best value when they don’t spend their valuable time and effort on correcting egregious errors. An editor who focuses on correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation cannot focus on plot holes, discrepancies, inconsistencies, redundancies, tautologies, and the like. An editor who focuses on what a writer should catch during the self-editing phase(s) cannot focus on tightening the prose and making it sing. This kind of multi-level editing requires multiple rounds of editing.
  5. Writing takes time. So does editing. That 100,000-word manuscript will take more than a week to edit and certainly more than a week to write. Writing and editing speeds vary, but good average to use in calculating how long your project will take are: a) 3 hours and 20 minutes to write 1,000 words; b) 1 hour to edit 1,500 words. Variances depends upon the writer or editor’s natural speed, the detail necessary, the writer/editor’s familiarity with the topic, the state of the manuscript or level of detail in the background information guiding the ghostwriter. When seeking to hire a writer or editor, use the above averages to consider an hourly wage: what would you expect a professional to earn per hour? Would you accept that hourly wage?
  6. Writers and editors are small business owners. Writers and editors deserve to be paid promptly and in full for the services they provide. Often working a sole proprietors, freelance writers and editors must operate their small businesses as businesses, which means they must ensure cash flow to pay their expenses. A client’s lack of cash does not relieve the client of any obligation to pay for services rendered.
  7. Unpaid samples exploit writers and editors. There’s a strong market for stealing a writer’s hard work by demanding unpaid writing samples. Many professional writers understand this and the savvy ones refuse to accept such trials. That’s why they maintain portfolios of work that provide potential clients with access to past projects to showcase their capabilities. Editors may agree to provide sample edits of a limited quantity of words or pages to demonstrate the service they provide, as it’s more difficult to show “before” and “after” editing projects without client approval. Clients, for good reason, don’t want their potential customers reading their unpolished, unedited content.

Clients with unreasonable expectations will always be disappointed in the writers and editors they hire. For best results and a continued good working relationship, respect is necessary.