Written By: Leah Roper
So you finally decided to take the plunge. You’ve got some killer business goals ahead and you’re ready to invest in a copywriter.
But the more you research working with a copywriter, the more unsure you become. Article after article fills your screen about why you shouldn’t hire a copywriter. The horror stories of copywriter/client relationships going up in flames are horrifying. And the idea of investing in someone who doesn’t deliver is a hardcore buzzkill.
You know quality copywriters are out there. You see their amazing work in other thriving businesses. So how do you tell the good copywriters from the bad? 1 How can you be sure they’re going to deliver quality work?
It’s simpler than you might think – if you learn to look for the red flags.
Don’t fall victim to the content marketers who give copywriting a bad rep. Grab your notebook and settle in. We’re diving into all the things you need to know about working with a quality freelance copywriter.
What Is A Copywriter?
First, let’s make sure you’re clear about what copywriters do. To put it simply, copywriters write the words your business needs to grow.
No, this isn’t the same as content writing. Copywriters write with the intention to call your audience to act. Whether that’s purchasing your products/services or watching your latest cat video. The call to action is the biggest difference between copywriting vs content writing.
Copywriter, Jacob McMillen, defines a copywriter as:
Someone who is paid to write “copy” – words designed to prompt action.
But wherever there’s successful copy there’s an impressive behind-the-scenes checklist. Quality copywriting requires:
- Thorough industry research
- Consumer analytics
- Persuasive and motivational writing techniques
- Applied psychology techniques
- Search engine optimization
- Content marketing strategies
- A strong call to action
- Updated topic research
- Creative storytelling
- Marketing platform education – and more.
Copywriting takes on many shapes and forms within a business.
- website copy
- social media posts
- landing pages
…you name it.
Those blogs you look to for the latest scoop? Yup, even those.
See, everyone who runs a successful business knows their marketing isn’t about them. It’s all about your audience. And your audience loves content.
Stats from Quora Creative claim:
3 out of 4 consumers prefer informative content over an advert to learn about a product or brand. And that, for content marketing, conversion rates are six times higher than other marketing techniques. 3
What does that mean for you as a business owner?
- You need to up your content marketing game.
- You’re gonna need a quality copywriter to help get ‘er done.
Copywriting puts your audience’s needs where they should be – first.
Addressing your audience’s pain-points is huge for your online authority.
You become the go-to in your industry when you continuously provide relevant information. And you know what that means…business growth!
But your audience isn’t the only one copywriters write for… You know that tricky SEO stuff? Yeah, the search engine optimization you wrestle with? Copywriters do that too.
They write for your Google ranking.
They use keywords and marketing strategies to boost your online visibility.
They keep up with the latest algorithm changes – making sure you’re ranked appropriately with Google.
You can see how working with a copywriter saves you from a huge marketing headache. They research and write. And you continue doing what you do best – run your business. All while your income continues to rise. It’s a win-win.
That is to say, if you have a high-quality copywriter… Let’s unpack what to expect from a good copywriter.
What Can You Expect From a Good Copywriter?
It’s easier to recognize a good copywriter when you’re familiar with their qualities.
What do I mean by a good copywriter? Someone who delivers effective copy, yes. But also someone who wants to help you succeed.
Finding a copywriter is easy, however finding a copywriter who…
- Works with their clients – putting your goals front and center.
- Brings value to the table – doesn’t hesitate to offer advice.
- Listens and asks questions – noting the details of your business for the best results.
- Has developed an easy work-process – making expectations clear and streamlined.
… is priceless.
It should be clear from the get-go that your copywriter’s priority is helping you reach your goals.
A good copywriter takes the time to understand your marketing needs – wherever you are in your business journey. They know you’re an individual with goals unique to who you are. That means cookie-cutter interactions and deliverables [insert, content mills] are a hard-pass.
To recognize a quality copywriter pay attention to their work process.
Take their emails for example. Read between the lines:
- Are they already trying to make your life easier?
- Are they saving you time by setting expectations early?
- Linking their writing examples?
- Scheduling turn-around times and establishing a solid work-relationship?
- Or are you the one always initiating the next step?
Every freelance copywriter has a work process unique to them, true. But the good ones share these 5 common characteristics:
- Organization: Nothing says “professional” like a copywriter with all their ducks in a row. An organized copywriter is confident in their process. From the get-go, you’re reassured by their clarity and progressive action. So, look for straight-forward communication and a plan of action as a sign of a good copywriter.
- Accountability: Delivering on expectations is huge for quality copywriters. They know client-trust builds on honest accountability. This means prompt project deliveries and reliable communication. Accountable copywriters are up-front about scheduling, time-management, and budgets. They’re ready to work with you and keep you in the loop.
- Listener: You want a copywriter who asks the questions and listens with intention. Listening is crucial to many aspects of business, including content creation, because it is the surest way to understand the needs of a company’s leadership and its customers. 5 So don’t feel rude or awkward if you find yourself the center of attention. Dive into the essence of your business goals without hesitation.
- Value: I can’t emphasize value enough. Offering advice and marketing knowledge tells you a lot about a copywriter. Especially advice without a price. Observe your interactions and take note of how your copywriter is trying to bring you value.
- Creativity: Creativity plays a huge role in producing content your audience raves over. Your copywriter should be able to capture your audience and create an image with words. Take stock of how you felt reading their website copy. Does their work inspire you to act or do their words leave you feeling “meh”?
In a nutshell, a great copywriter inspires motivational hell yeah’s and showers their clients with value. Any red flags are wayyy easier to identify in so-so copywriters when you learn what to expect from a good one.
And trust me, when you find a great copywriter, you’ll never go back.
What Questions Should Copywriters Ask Their Clients?
When it comes to copywriter/client interactions – the more questions asked the better. Most questions take place during the initial consultation or discovery call. And no, I don’t mean you asking them all the questions. This isn’t a job interview after all.
Two of the biggest hurdles I’ve found with new client/copywriter consultations:
- The copywriter isn’t asking enough questions or is asking the wrong questions.
- The client doesn’t know how to answer the questions or is asking all the questions…
Freelance copywriters are business owners providing you their services. It’s part of their job to ask everything they need to know about you and your business.
How else are they supposed to write copy on point with your goals and brand?
If you come across a freelancer who hands you radio silence on your consultation call – run, don’t walk, my friend. Because it’s likely they don’t have all the info they need to deliver the copy you need.
On the flip side, it’s super beneficial for you and the copywriter if you know how to answer their questions. Because, there’s nothing that makes a client/copywriter relationship go south faster than not being in agreement about what you’re going to do. And I get it – it’s easy to get tongue-tied when you’re put on the spot. That’s why familiarizing yourself with these questions can help you prepare.
Questions copywriters should ask their clients:
- What are your goals for your business?
- What is your business story?
- What is the point of your website – what do you want people to do?
- Who is your current client/consumer?
- Who is your ideal client/consumer?
- What marketing actions are working for you currently?
- What type of voice/brand do you want your business to reflect?
- Who are a few professionals in your industry you admire? Why?
- What do your customers love most about your business?
- What do you love most about your business?
- What kind of marketing budget are you working within?
- Who in your business should I expect direct feedback on my writing from?
- Do you have a direct competitor that you want to outshine?
- How do people find you online?
- What set’s your business apart from your competitors?
- What do you love most about your clients/customers?
- What is your marketing experience? Have you worked with a copywriter before?
- What is your lead product/service? How are you marketing it/them?
How Much Should You Pay a Freelance Copywriter?
How much you pay a freelance copywriter depends on three things.
- What the project is.
- If you have a marketing budget.
- What the copywriter charges.
There is no universal one-size-fits-all fee that copywriters use. Let’s burst that bubble right away. Every freelancer charges differently. Experience, range of services, and industry-specialization all determine how much you’ll pay. Regardless of what average cost per word you might see pop up on a Google search.
But believe it or not, this works to your advantage. How?
Because some copywriters write for any businesses where others specialize in specific industries. Like yours.
Whether you’re a doctor, pet-shop owner, or herbalist – there’s most likely a copywriter writing for your niche. A copywriter who already knows your audience and what marketing strategies you need.
If a freelance copywriter already understands your niche, it means they’re passionate about what you’re doing. They’ll be more motivated and less overwhelmed studying about your business before coming up with copy.
The same thing goes for types of copy. Say you need someone to only write nurture emails. You guessed it – there’s a copywriter for that. One with pricing catered to what you need.
And you might be thinking, well that’s great but how do you approach working with a copywriter who’s out of your budget?
Like I mentioned before, a good copywriter is going to work within your budget as best as they can. Giving you a clear game-plan that tackles your to-do lists, budget-friendly. In fact, most offer subscription or bundle prices for this.
Does this mean you should ask them to lower their prices or to give you extra discounts?
In a word – no. Just as you pick a copywriter who’s right for you, copywriters also choose clients right for them. By asking them to lower their prices you’re demeaning their work and throwing shade on your own client reputation… Awkward.
That’s why it’s smart to sit down and get real about how much you can invest in your marketing beforehand. Most copywriters layout their rates and services online for your convenience. Do some digging and see if your budget aligns with their rates before you reach out.
Now to answer the big question I hear so often… why is copywriting so expensive?
My answer is simple, it’s not. Here’s why.
Copywriting isn’t another trivial business expense. It’s an investment. An investment with long-term profits that far outway the cost of the copy itself. When you pay for copywriting, you’re investing in the future of your business.
You’re also investing in the hard work and research of your copywriter. That’s why it’s key to make sure you’re working with a pro who’s going to deliver.
You get what you pay for couldn’t ring truer with marketing.
10 Red Flags to Look for When Hiring a Copywriter.
- You’re promised immediate SEO results.
If you know anything about Google’s ranking system, you’ll know this is a big fat lie. A copywriter can only estimate the timeframe of your SEO results. And it isn’t immediate. If you hear this from a copywriter, then proceed with caution. Google ranking can take up to 3-6 months 8 before you notice any changes.
- They claim they don’t have a portfolio to show because of client confidentiality.
While client-confidentiality is totally a thing – a lack of portfolio is not. Writers know they’re gauged by the quality of their work. They need to have something out there to show prospective clients. Whether that’s unpublished work or a personal blog. Even a beginning copywriter has work to show.
- They suggest starting a new client with a large project.
Be wary of copywriters who want to jump into a large project with you right off the bat. Most freelancers want to build trust with new clients as much as they want to make sure you’re a good fit. They’ll propose a small-scale project as a way to test the waters. Sometimes they’ll even require 50% of the fee upfront and 50% upon completion for good measure.
- They’re an expert copywriter because they have an English degree.
In today’s market, an English degree is nice, but not necessary for quality copywriting. In fact, most copywriters have to unlearn what was taught in school to write copy. Effective copy is relatable and direct with no fluffy extras or extravagant thesis statements.
- They say you won’t need to edit anything.
Ahem, bull-crap. Of course, you should block out time for edits. This is how you tell if the copy is on point with your brand and is targeting your goals. A freelance copywriter offers usually 1-2 rounds of edits. Because they want you to be happy with their work. So give them as much feedback as possible.
- They suggest forgoing a consultation.
A client-call or consultation is key for quality work. Yes, you can communicate only through email but it’s likely some things will be lost in translation. Your copywriter needs to know your goals, audience analytics, and more before they can start writing. If they don’t take the time to know your business, you can expect copy that fails to deliver.
- There aren’t any testimonials on their website.
Like with most businesses, testimonials are everything. Especially for a freelancer. It raises an eyebrow when there’s zero praise or reviews. Be cautious and do your homework before starting a project with no references.
- They promise a turn-around time as soon as you need it.
A quality copywriter cannot snap their fingers and create effective copy on-a-dime. It takes research, brainstorming, and more research to write what they do. That requires time. Especially when balancing many clients. Don’t be wary of a copywriter with a full schedule – that means they’re doing something right.
- They swear your current project would sell anyone.
News-flash, you don’t want to sell to anyone. You want to sell to your ideal clients. Don’t be sold on a promise of profiting from everyone – it’s not possible with one piece of copy. Your business has an audience you’re trying to target to reach your goals. Stick to your guns.
- They charge a flat rate for all clients and projects.
Not all projects or clients are created equal. Where some might need extensive research and length, others not as much. Like I said before, you get what you pay for. My advice, steer clear of flat-rates and find a copywriter willing to work with your budget.
It’s Hiring Time
Now that you know what to look for, identifying a quality copywriter won’t feel so impossible.
When you’re ready to hire, listen to your intuition and look out for those red flags.
- Are they bringing you value?
- Do you feel heard and prioritized?
- Are expectations clear and acted on?
- Do they understand your mission and audience?
- Does their work inspire you?
If the answer is yes!, congrats, you’ve got yourself a good copywriter – it’s hiring time!
Watch as they combine their word-wizardry with your goals and voila! Your business is booming and your audience can’t get enough. Mission accomplished.
Not sure how to market your biz to today’s number one consumer?
Check out Your Definitive Guide to Millennial Marketing for your go-to marketing must-haves!
- Noah Nanon, Copywriters.com, Why Hire A Copywriter For Your Business, (2020)
- Jacob McMillen, How To Become A Copywriter & Earn Six Figures+ In 2020, (2020)
- Asad Butt, Quara Creative, Content Marketing Statistics And Trends, (2020)
- Neil Patel, Google’s May 2020 Core Update: What You Need To Know, (2020)
- Brad Shorr, Jeff Bullas, 50 Attributes of A Great Copywriter, (2018)
- Jen Phillips, B2B Writing Success, 8 Questions To Ask A Client Before Every Copywriting Process, (2019)
- Giovanni Lee, Copywriters.com, 7 Quick Tips On How To Hire A Freelance Copywriter, (2020)
- Neil Patel, The Biggest SEO Trend You’re Ignoring, (2020)