Anyone can write. Right?
Technically, in a way, yes anyone can write.
If 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 for days 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?"
"What should I expect from a copywriter?"
"How much do they cost?"
"What kind of experience should they have?"
"What kind of direction do they need?"
All great questions we can dig into here.
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 that you need one, like, yesterday.
You've chugged through four coffees trying to hack together a social post
The only hits you’re getting on your website are from your own staff
The time you’re spending writing is taking away from your other tasks and goals
You don’t really enjoy writing, but you think you ‘should be able to’ do it yourself
You need professional-sounding, letter-perfect copy your readers will love
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. 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 the slogan we all know today. Things got, well, a little crazy from there.
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 a genius. Because moody means creative, right? No. Not necessarily.
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 almost 2020. 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 critical before you hire a copywriter. It should be a fit for both parties.
To that end, it can be worthwhile to check out a few other writers and ask for quotes and previous work, 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. Intermediate copywriters are, as you'd expect, somewhere in the middle.
Senior writers may also 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 will be.
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 also common for some writers to request a deposit before starting your job. They may ask for one-third or one-half of the job upfront, depending upon the size and nature of the work.
5. What kind of experience should a copywriter have?
It depends on your needs. If you’re a small business on a small budget and you need a couple of easy blog posts, 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.
Ask if that copywriter has specific or similar 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 GOOD 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 creative brief, including 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 they deliver the 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 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.
Professional writers make 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 an established copywriter who has been writing for decades. Find out more about her services at jellybeancommunications.com