How to hire a great copywriter: 5 Tips from a top content consultant
You’ve made the decision to hire a copywriter for your business. Good choice! Now, all you need to do is find a great one. For ten years I’ve worked with and hired copywriters. I am also a professionally trained journalist, copywriter and content consultant. Here are some tips on how to hire a great copywriter and why it’s important.
Hiring a copywriter
First, I want to clarify that if you’re looking for a cheap or budget copywriter, this article won’t apply to you.
You get exactly what you pay for when it comes to copy. So if someone seems suspiciously cheap – you should be suspicious.
Why? Because good copywriters have experience. The better they are at what they do, the more experience they will amass. As copywriters gain experience and hone skills, their prices will rise in accordance.
Do keep a lookout for copywriters whose prices say “experienced” but in reality don’t match up to their promises. Also, someone with fancy-schmancy branding and a spangly website doesn’t guarantee value for money.
Marks of a great copywriter
When hiring a copywriter, look for these key things:
- Experience in their industry
- Understanding of online copywriting and organic SEO
- Passion for what they do (a love of writing in general, do they have their own blog for example?)
- Processes and frameworks
- Digs deeper
Many businesses will look for copywriters with specific experience in certain fields but this is often a mistake. Your copywriter doesn’t really need to already be an expert on what you do unless your audience are experts too. Their job is to figure out how to present what you do in the most effective way.
If a copywriter has only ever written about one subject they can lack experience. This is because it’s much easier to write about things you’re inherently interested in than what you’re not. Having to learn about products, services and audiences you’re unfamiliar with is harder. It requires you to push yourself creatively and step out of your comfort zone to get great results. This inevitably makes you a better copywriter.
Great copywriters will usually have experience working with different kinds of businesses to help them achieve various goals. Writing content mostly for one type of business or audience doesn’t mean you’ll automatically create great copy. The rules of great copywriting and persuasive language apply whatever you’re writing about. The subject is almost an aside.
Each business you work with as a copywriter is different. Each varied element of copywriting you take on, you learn from. The more businesses you work with, the more you learn and can cross-apply.
Copywriters don’t have to be passionate about what you do. But they should be passionate about what they do. So, ask them about it. Do they have a blog on the side, or write anywhere just for fun? What was the last book they read and what did they think of it? What websites or brands do they think are inspirational in terms of copywriting?
Understanding online copywriting
Online copywriting is different from creating copy for print. Ideally, copywriters should be able to do both. But, that’s not always the case.
Many people get into copywriting after a degree in something unrelated to marketing like English, history, philosophy, politics or something similar. This is fine, but unlike degrees in journalism, advertising or marketing and communications, there’s no emphasis on writing for online audiences.
Understanding how to structure copy for maximum impact for online audiences is important. Almost the entire process of consuming content online is different from reading print.
There’s also the impact of SEO. Lots of people that don’t understand SEO will say things like “we want to focus on creating great content, not SEO”. Well, in the world of online copywriting, this doesn’t really make sense. That’s because creating great content and content being beneficial to your SEO is kinda the same thing. You can’t have the latter without the former.
Let me explain why. If your content is: 1) Informative 2) Well structured for online audiences 3) Relevant to your site in terms of what customers are interested in 4) Easy to navigate 5) Keeps people on your website. Well, guess what, it will also be beneficial to your SEO!
You do, however, need some knowledge of SEO to ensure you’re doing 2, 3 and 4, and some Analytics know-how for 5.
Processes and frameworks
Every experienced copywriter works with processes and frameworks. These are the things we use to ensure no stone is unturned in a brief. Processes help copywriters be as productive as possible. Having processes or frameworks doesn’t mean you’ll get cookie-cutter copy. What it does mean is that you’re working with someone who knows what techniques work, and how to apply them for your business.
A great copywriter will guide you through what needs to be done if you’re unsure. They’ll also ask hard questions if you’re certain of what you want, to test your theories!
Let your copywriter get to the bottom of what they’re writing about. Answer their questions as best you can and explore their suggestions. Your copywriter is here to help you and your business. Use their knowledge and expertise!
TIP: Approach agencies with caution
I don’t like working with copywriting agencies for several key reasons. 1) Agencies employ copywriters who are willing to work for low prices, this means the writers are either not experienced or aren’t skilled enough to have picked up enough work on their own. 2) Agencies don’t usually allow direct contact between the writer and the company, so everything including feedback is given to the writer second hand. This does NOT make for good copy. Writers should have no holds barred access to who and what they’re writing about to get the best results. 3) The first two points mean that although you may get an article quickly, you may end up spending a lot of time giving feedback. Time is money.
TIP: Get an original example
If following the advice in this article you’re still not sure about a potential hire, ask for an original example of their work. Give them a topic, title and word count and share your tone of voice document with them. Keep the article around 500 words unless you’re going to pay them for it (although if you use the article, you should pay, however, short it is).
Note what questions the copywriter asks you. Do they want to know where the article will be published, or if you’d like readers to go on to perform an action?
Copywriting is a skill that must be learned and honed, even by naturally gifted writers. Anyone can write words on a page, but not everyone can write words that will actually sell your services and products. Copywriters craft what’s often the very first point of contact between a customer and your business. It’s worth finding a great one!