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How to hire a copywriter.

​Anyone can write. Right?

In a way, yes.

If you write English and you communicate marketing or sales messages to your customers via the written word, technically you’re copywriting.

But there’s this: how easy is it for you? How much time does it take from your day or week? How does the copy sound? And most importantly: how creative or effective is it?

If you’re struggling to create a 1,500-word blog, or you’re spending hours trying to compose one paragraph for your home page, or simply reaping poor results from your marketing, maybe it’s time to hire a professional copywriter.

Perhaps you’ve never hired a writer. Maybe you simply don’t know what to ask or look for. Maybe some of these questions are floating around in your head…

When should I hire a writer?

Will it pay off to hire a writer?

How much do they cost?

What kind of experience should they have?

How do I compare writers?

All great questions. I’ll answer some of the most common ones I receive:

1. When do I need a copywriter?

Truthfully any time you’re in need of communicating a compelling message to your target audience. But here are some more telling signs…

  • If you’ve chugged through four coffees trying to hack together a social post

  • If the only hits you’re getting on your website are from your own staff

  • If the time you’re spending writing is taking away from your other tasks and goals

  • If you don’t really enjoy writing, but you think you ‘should' be able to do it yourself

  • If you need professional-sounding, letter-perfect copy your readers will love

  • If you need to improve your sales/ROI/integrity/brand image

The integrity of the written word is greatly underestimated. With the right concept and words, magic really can happen. It’s been done.

Which brings me to the next question:

2. Will it pay off?

We all know Nike’s slogan, “Just Do It!” Did that slogan pay off?

You tell me.

In the winter of 1987, Nike was in the midst of the biggest slump in the company’s history. They had just laid off 20 percent of their workers and were in dire need of a new direction. That’s when their ad agency Weiden+Kennedy received a new campaign brief and as a result developed what is today, one of the world’s most recognizable slogans.

Global sales were $877 million the year the campaign launched; 10 years later, the company recorded $9.2 billion in sales. They just did it.

3. What should I expect from a copywriter?

A smile, first of all.

Seriously, an upbeat disposition beats moody every time. Don’t let the stereotype of angst-ridden writer sway you into expecting genius.

Besides courtesy and open communication, you should also expect a few basics like a timely reply to your inquiry and a quote or estimate on the work required, stating a fee or range.

You should also expect the copywriter to specify:

a) If revisions are included

b) If a deposit is required and how much

c) Timelines for delivery

d) Past experience/clients

e) Way of working

Always ask to see samples or a portfolio. It’s 2018. So any established copywriter should have a website with a portfolio or at least a link to one. Getting a feel for the writer’s abilities, style and experience is so critical before you hire a copywriter. It needs to feel like a fit.

To that end, it can be worthwhile to check out a few writers and ask for quotes to compare and contrast.

The copywriter should also ask for details about your business, as well as your specific marketing needs. The more information you can provide about your brand and objectives, the better results you’ll get from your writer.

4. What should I pay a copywriter?

Cost depends entirely on the project scope, the complexity of the business or idea, timelines, the experience and expertise of the copywriter, and what the market can bear.

Junior copywriters typically charge an hourly fee, somewhere in the $35 - $60 range. A senior writer may charge anywhere up to $150/hr.

Some writers may quote a flat fee for the project, which could come in the form of a range to accommodate variations in the project. The more specific you can be with your exact needs and scope, the more specific the quote you'll receive.

Like anything, so many factors go into a quote:

  • How much background research is required?

  • The type of project: is it a one-page press release or a 20-page website?

  • How many rounds of revisions are anticipated?

  • How tight is your timeline?

For regular work and reliable delivery, you may want to consider negotiating a retainer or contract with your writer.

It’s common for some writers to request a deposit before starting your job. They may ask for a one-third or one-half payment for the job upfront, depending upon the size and nature of the work.

5. What kind of experience should they have?

It depends on your needs.

If you’re a small business on a small budget and you're looking for someone to hammer out some short copy or a quick blog post, a junior copywriter with a few years’ experience will probably be sufficient.

If you’re in need of an entire website rewrite, comprehensive sales package, advertorial or ad campaign, you’d do well to invest in a senior writer who has that level of experience. But ensure you have the budget first. As always, you will get what you pay for.

Ask if that copywriter has specific or comparable experience in your industry. A writer who knows how to write for retail or has experience with not-for-profits can be very valuable if that’s your biz.

Yet, it’s also about talent.

A great copywriter should be able to write about any topic or industry, given they have received enough information and insight into the business and objectives, customer profile and objectives at hand.

6. What direction does a copywriter require?

Think of it this way: the more you share with the writer, the better results you’ll get.

At a minimum, you should be providing a thorough brief, a description of your brand and company, the demographics and psychographics of your audience, the specific objective, strategies and approach, as well as bullet points or an outline/overview of the content required, and any design ideas or progress (if applicable).

Some copywriters have an established briefing document to help guide and direct the discovery process.

Once the writer delives a first draft to you, it’s your responsibility to go through it thoroughly and provide specific, relevant feedback if you have any.

And remember: the more specific you are with feedback, the better the results.

Don’t be dismayed if it’s not exactly what you wanted at first draft. But it should be close. You may require some tweaks and revisions. That’s expected and normal for even the best of copywriters.

Some writers will build in the cost of revisions into their quote or fee. Others may charge hourly for each round of revisions. So be specific with your feedback to avoid runaway costs for endless tweaks.

It all comes down to communication.

A professional writer makes their living from being a thorough communicator. To get the very best from any writer you hire, establish an open dialogue, don’t be afraid to ask questions and share information.

After that, have faith in your writer to do their job. Give them space and time for their creative spark and expertise to give your project the life it needs.

Christine Thompson is a senior writer at her self-owned business, Jellybean Communications.

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