What to Consider When Hiring a Copywriter

Michelle Hunter by Michelle Hunter

How to evaluate a copywriter and select the right person for your website copywriting project.

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Content creation is an important part of just about any business. From website content- those pages of text that share information about your products and services, your mission, and your background- to blog posts, articles, and marketing material; content is at the core of your ability to engage potential clients. Once a business grows beyond the DIY stage, many business owners identify a need to hire a copywriter.

Copywriting is a specialized skill. While nearly anyone can communicate in writing (via email, text, or personal note), persuasive writing requires a combination of talent and technique that many business owners lack. While I recommend you learn the basics of copywriting as a part of your entrepreneurial journey, an investment in skilled copywriting support is one of the best ways to spark revenue growth.

Once you’ve decided to hire a copywriter, things can get a little tricky…

You want to select someone who can collaborate with you, draw out your story, and position your business for success. The ideal copywriter understands your industry, has experience in your market, and can partner with you strategically as you work toward your goals. You want to find a professional, knowledgeable guide with a writing voice that resonates with you.

Here’s the problem – – > without clear criteria for evaluation, most of us default to considering budget as the primary factor for our decision. Don’t do this!

Copywriting fees vary wildly in the online marketplace. You can source a writer in a freelance forum (ODesk, Fiverr) very economically. Of course, you usually get exactly what you pay for in terms of quality. You can find freelance copywriters at a variety of price points with hourly rates, project-based fees, and deliverable packages. Budget alone will not give you a clear picture of the value a particular writer can deliver.

So, what should you consider when hiring a copywriter? Here’s how to find the best fit for your copywriting project.

Evaluate the copywriter in terms of writing style.

Just like designers, artists, and other creatives, writers have a style and a voice. This voice reflects the way the writer phrases things and the way he prioritizes information. It reflects her marketing viewpoint and writing lexicon. This style is foundational to how copywriters approach a writing project.

How can you evaluate a writer’s voice? Most copywriters either have a blog on their website or regularly provide content for a community or other online outlet. Take the time to read a few blog posts or articles. Ask potential copywriters for links to articles or posts they’ve contributed to online publications or communities.

As you read, notice how you feel. Does the writing connect with you intellectually or emotionally? Does the writer use storytelling to illustrate a greater point or describe a complex idea clearly and articulately? Notice the flow of the writing. Do ideas build on one another logically to arrive at a conclusion? Does emotional engagement increase, drawing you into the storyline and holding your attention until the end?

Now that you have an idea of overall writing voice, evaluate a few samples of similar projects. If you’re looking to complete a website project, ask for references to sites the writer has completed for other clients. Review the content carefully… you’re looking for depth of writing ability here.

The mark of a good writer is the ability to write clear, compelling content for a variety of clients.

You should be able to identify the writer’s foundational voice, but each writing sample should also have a unique feel and flavor.

Two sites written by the same copywriter should feel related in the same way that first cousins look similar (that’s the writing voice) but shouldn’t be identical or incredibly similar as if they were twins or siblings. This variance demonstrates copywriting skill- the ability to use differentiators to make individual businesses stand out in the mind of the reader.

Evaluate the discovery process.

Before anyone can write your website copy, an information transfer has to take place. The copywriter has to get inside your head and understand your mission. The writer also has to obtain a feel for your unique personality and character in order to write in a style that matches how you would present in person to potential clients. This process is called discovery.

The better the copywriter, the more personalized the discovery. Some copywriters simply ask for a few details about your business or use your existing site copy or marketing materials as a starting point without taking the time to meet with you. Others use a questionnaire of some kind to gather information, or ask you to provide first draft copy or answers to journal questions.

The best copywriters, in my opinion, use a combination of a discovery questionnaire, a review of existing content, and an in-person or virtual strategy session. During sessions like these, an experienced copywriter will ask thought-provoking questions and dive deeply into the factors that set your business apart from your competition.

In my work for clients, I’m listening closely during strategy sessions. I’m listening for information to deepen my understanding of the business and the mindset of the business owner. I’m also listening for context and the core motivations that drive business growth. Finally, I’m noticing tone, word choice, and emotion. These factors allow me to write in a way that reflects the heart of the business owner and accurately depicts the transformation this business provides to its customers and clients.

The discovery process is crucial for creating compelling marketing copy that engages your clients and draws them closer to your business. When evaluating a potential copywriter, be a bit suspicious of someone who doesn’t use a questionnaire and virtual meeting for discovery.

Is the copywriter strategic or task-oriented?

Copywriting is a strategic component of your business. Your website is your online marketing hub- the platform you use to connect with potential clients and share your expertise with the world. The articles and posts a copywriter might write for you are a reflection of the value your work provides to the market. The social media content and marketing material you need written is a vehicle for driving leads into your sales funnels.

So… here’s the question to consider: Who will set the strategy your copywriter will implement? You or your writer? Or will the strategy component of this work be forgotten or neglected?

Experienced copywriters are well aware of the important role marketing strategy plays in results.

Some writers prefer to implement established marketing strategy. These writers want to understand the strategy, but not develop it. Their focus is task-based… and they work efficiently within a strategy developed by another professional or your team.

Other writers (myself included) prefer to help the client create marketing strategy. My work leads with strategy development, with the copywriting coming as a predictable conclusion to my collaborative strategic process. Does this make me a better writer? Not necessarily… but my approach is different.

Will I work within a previously developed marketing strategy? Yes, in some cases. My best work comes when I can collaborate around strategy, help refine it, and make suggestions as to the best implementation. I don’t function well as a task-based writer… I can’t keep my fingers out of the strategic pie.

As you evaluate potential copywriters, think about strategy. Identify your marketing strategy needs and how you would prefer to meet those needs. Do you have a clear strategic vision for your business? Or, have you worked with a consultant or strategist to create a plan? If so, a task-based copywriter is likely a better fit for you. However, if you’re interested in strategic advice, core strategy, or solutions to recurring marketing challenges, you may want to find a strategic partner, like me.

Evaluate the copywriter in terms of deliverables.

In my mind, this is actually the least important part of the evaluation process. I don’t recommend getting hung up on details like page counts or revision cycles. These can be negotiated during the sales process and scope can be flexed accordingly.

Instead, I recommend looking for key deliverables such as strategy calls with the writer or a collaboration protocol your writer offers for communicating with other members of your creative team (internal staff, designers, freelancers, agencies).

Good copywriters understand their role in the greater process and allow room in their work to collaborate with the team.

Ask questions to get a feeling for the overall flexibility of the work.  What happens, for example, if you identify a need for additional materials or a slight shift in direction? You want a copywriter who will balance project management and deadlines with a willingness to expand scope or shift when business conditions warrant a change.

Hire slowly. Communicate clearly. Collaborate openly.

Take time with the selection process. Be willing to adjust project deadlines so you can find a copywriter who understands your needs and is willing to partner with you to achieve your goals. Don’t let an external deadline (such as a planned website launch date) force you into hiring a copywriter based on availability or budget.

Once you select your writer, dedicate yourself to clear communication and open collaboration. Ask questions and provide feedback. Share concerns and praise with equal openness and honesty. Invest your time into the relationship so that you and your writer can work effectively together to achieve your goals.

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