These days, more and more people are choosing to outsource their copywriting. This is great news for freelance copywriters like me but I often wish there was some kind of ‘Code of Practice ‘ for people who choose to work with us that would make life easier for both the writer and the client.
I guess the difficult thing for copywriters is that our skill is part science and part art. Yes, there are certain things you want the copy to achieve, but different writers may have different ideas as to how it is going to be achieved. And sometimes what makes good, effective copy isn’t what you expect.
So here are five guidelines I think you should stick to when working with a freelancer. And by following these, the whole process is bound to be a lot smoother.
1) Choose Wisely
Just about anyone can call themselves a copywriter, or content creator these days. All it takes is a bit of writing skill and an internet connection, right? WRONG.
A copywriter is a wordsmith, which means they need to know what they’re doing.
I’m assuming you want at least a good mid-level writer, so you should look for these things:
A website with samples and portfolio
Anyone who cares at all about what they’re doing will proudly show of their best work on an online portfolio, so you can get an idea of what the finished product will be like.
2. Someone who asks pertinent questions
Any good copywriter worth their salt asks a client questions. I can’t possibly sell someone’s business or services if I haven’t gotten inside their head.
3. Some kind of training or certification
If you’re just looking for a blog post writer, then this mightn’t be necessary. Samples will probably be enough. But if you’re looking for someone to do your whole site, sales material, landing pages, or autoresponders (anything that has to convert), it’s best to find someone with some kind of training or professional association membership. For example, I’ve completed three separate courses on classic direct mail, B2B, and information marketing, and I’m a member of the Professional Writers Association.
4. The ability to invoice
You’re a business, so you don’t want to be drawing from your petty cash in order to pay someone who isn’t a registered business, and can’t issue an invoice. Dealing with someone who has their own business registration means you’re dealing with someone who cares enough about what they’re doing to devote themselves to it full-time, and set themselves up in a way that shows they’re ready to make life easier for clients by doing things properly.
2) Pay Accordingly
The other day I saw an advertisement for a copywriter that went like this:
‘We require a degree in something related to communication, and knowledge of the product, perfect spelling and grammar..’, and so on. Oh, and they paid $5 per article. Even better are the ones who expect you work for free, as a ‘’volunteer’’.
Surely I don’t need to come out and tell you how RIDICULOUS it is to expect someone to work for such crap money. But time and time again, you see it.
Look, if you were hiring any kind of consultant to work for your business, you wouldn’t pick the bottom of the barrel, so why do so many people do this when it comes to hiring someone to market their business over the internet?
That said, I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are a whole range of fees a writer can charge, ranging from $5 per article to $250 per article. So what justifies the higher fee?
Well, a lot actually. The ones who are charging at the bottom end of the spectrum are probably:
- Non-native speakers
- Young students doing this as a side gig, or
- People who, while they might have some good writing skill, have not invested in their writing. In other words, the haven’t completed any courses, don’t really know how to write something persuasive, how to adjust tone, or how to write something that engages an audience
- Not a registered business, and can’t provide invoices.
They might be okay, but they’re not professional. But hey, if you’re the kind of business owner who only pays rock bottom rates, then you shouldn’t expect professionalism. Would you work for $5 per hour? No? Then don’t expect anyone else to.
At the same time, you shouldn’t be paying ridiculously high fees either. $250 per article is a bit steep. But choose the best writer you can afford. This is your business that’s going out there for the world to see. Invest in it.
3. Trust Us – We Know What We’re Doing
One of the most frustrating things about being a copywriter is that everybody will have an opinion on your work. And most of the time that opinion is based on, well, not much really. For example, in the television-advertising world, a lot of kudos is given to ads that are creative and entertaining, but these might not be the ads that actually sell the most product.
Likewise, for your website, you might have an idea of what you think website copy should look like, based on other sites you’ve seen, but these sites might not actually be performing all that well.
If you’ve bothered to do some research and have found yourself a writer that either comes recommended, or who has a significant portfolio, and is charging a decent fee, then treat that person with respect, and let them do their job.
That said, it’s great to establish some guidelines at the beginning of the project for reviewing work. Their initial proposal should mention how many re-writes they’re willing to do. If your agreement doesn’t contain this, ask them to include it. It’s only fair.
One more thing – everybody loves to give their opinion on things. But don’t show their work to everybody, and get a whole bunch of opinions. Better to test it by putting on your site and letting analytics do the work. Then you’ll have something to base your criticism on.
4. Find someone who specializes
Nobody can write about every subject. So if you’re topic is something quite specialized, look for someone who knows that topic. For example, if you’re a mortgage broker, look for someone who has a track record of writing financial material. That way, you won’t have to explain things to them, and the job won’t take as long for them to do.
The exception to this rule, however, is copy that needs to convert leads to customers. In this case, it’s better to choose a writer who specializes in lead conversion, as no amount of topic knowledge is going to convert leads if the copy doesn’t work.
5. Be prepared to answer questions
I understand that you want to outsource you’re writing to someone else so you don’t have to think about it, but you still need to answer some questions. For example, how is anybody going to write your ‘about’ page if they don’t know anything about you? Good copywriting that is designed to sell you and your business needs at least some input by you. I always like to visit a client at their business if I can, so I can get a feel for who they are, and get a vibe for the culture of the place, or some unique selling point that they may have missed.
So when we send you a questionnaire, or book a time for a telephone appointment, we’re not trying to create more work for you unnecessarily. We’re trying to get the message right. If we don’t do this, you just end up with generic content that isn’t effective.
So now you understand these five guidelines for working with copywriters, I hope the process works more smoothly for you.
Also, please share this with anyone you think would find it useful.
have a great day