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5 steps to choosing a 5-STAR copywriter

You’re reading this post because you know that the quality of your company’s written content is critical to its image and marketing efforts.

And you’ve also come to the (very sensible) conclusion that copywriting is a rare and valuable skill that’s worth paying for.

So you’re ready to engage a copywriter. High five to that. Now all you have to do is find one. Easy right?

Wrong.

Over the years, I’ve had way too many clients engage me after they’ve already had a ‘bad experience’ with another writer. They’ve wasted valuable time and money on content they’ll never use.

But thankfully this doesn’t need to happen to you. Simply follow these five steps to ensure no regrets.

1. Ask for recommendations

Thanks to Google, it’s cheap and easy to find potential suppliers (for anything) these days. A few keyboard taps and a couple of mouse clicks… and voila! Pages and pages of search results to ponder.

But when it comes to hiring a professional to represent your business, Google is not the only way.

Before jumping online, why not reach out to your network and ask for a recommendation? Post a message on LinkedIn or send emails to a handful of business contacts you trust. Chances are many of them have worked with a (quality) copywriter at some point.

From there, aim to gather a shortlist of three or four copywriters to consider. If your network doesn’t come through for you, then of course, both Google and LinkedIn are a good ‘Plan B’.

2. Do your due diligence

Once you have a shortlist, it’s time to compare your options. Even if you received names from trusted sources, never neglect this step. Your standards might be higher or simply different to those in your network.

Due diligence is all about transparency and credibility. Here are six questions you need to ask about each of the copywriters on your shortlist:

  • Who’s doing the actual writing? The ‘face’ of a business is not always the person who does the work. Many copywriters outsource projects to freelancers (who charge much lower rates) – and they may or may not be transparent about their approach. Either way, you need the truth so that you can make an informed decision. If you have an enormous amount of ongoing work, a well-resourced content agency may be the best choice. But if you’re looking for a long-term partner who will get to know your business inside-out, a sole operator is the way to go.
  • How long has the copywriter been in business? Newbies may be super keen and budget-friendly, but engaging an inexperienced writer could cost you a lot more in the long run. You deserve to know your copywriter has done this time and again – with a proven ability to take a brief, quote accurately and deliver to expectations.
  • How broad and deep is their portfolio? Some businesses prefer to engage copywriters with specific experience in their industry. While I don’t believe this is necessary (sometimes a clean slate is a huge advantage), you do want someone with a portfolio that spans a range of sectors. Whether you’re a small business, a not-for-profit, a government organisation or a large corporate, a broadly experienced copywriter will instinctively understand your industry’s unique communication challenges.
  • What’s their professional background? Some copywriters come from a journalistic background. Others once worked in the advertising world. While others are former marketing professionals. Although all of them may be decent writers, you want to know their expertise aligns with your needs. A former journalist would be ideal for writing press releases and for articles requiring research or interviews. An agency professional will be best suited to traditional advertising copy for print, outdoor and TV. While a marketing professional will be the best choice for writing website content and marketing materials.
  • Do they have testimonials? Testimonials from satisfied clients offer great credibility. You might find them on the copywriter’s website or as ‘recommendations’ on their LinkedIn profile. (The more the better.) In the B2B space, endorsements are typically authentic – and a genuine indication of a person’s experience working with someone else.
  • How well have they presented themselves? How effective is the copywriter’s self-marketing? Do you like their website, LinkedIn profile and blog? Is their ‘pitch’ clear and convincing? A copywriter that can successfully communicate their own pitch is more likely to be able to communicate yours.

3. Review (relevant) work  

Your next step is to check samples of each copywriter’s work.

Most copywriters should have writing samples on their website. But if not, you may need to request some recent examples via email.

Ideally, you want to review work most relevant to your project. If for example, you need website content written, don’t spend time critiquing annual reports, white papers and tender documents. As with all types of writing, writing for the web requires a very specific approach.

Once you’ve found some pieces to review, ask yourself if you like their style of writing. Is the quality up to scractch? Do you find the content easy to read, interesting and compelling?

4. Do an (efficient) ‘personality test’

Okay, so you think you’ve found the perfect writer. They’re experienced and credible. And their portfolio rocks.

That’s all well and good, but you also want to know they have the right type of personality – and that working with them will be easy and enjoyable.

Meet or speak with the copywriter to determine if they are friendly, personable and articulate. Do they listen attentively and ask intelligent, relevant questions? Are they able to give you a clear outline of how they work and what to expect?

This is the time to listen to your gut.

5. Get a quote

This is the final step in your search – mainly because quotes should never be considered out of context. You want to be sure you’re comparing like for like. Apples with apples.

Copywriters have different ways of quoting. Many quote hourly rates. Others quote per word (weird, I know). While others quote fixed prices.

Ultimately you deserve as much certainty as possible. Ticking clocks and vague estimates are dangerous territory. And that’s why I always recommend choosing a copywriter who is prepared to give you a fixed project fee upfront.

What’s more, make sure you read their terms of service closely. Some copywriters charge for every round of changes. Others don’t.

And beware of very low quotes that seem too good to be true. As the saying goes: you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.