06 Aug Hunting for a copywriting partner? These rookie questions could lead you off course.
Finding a new service provider is hard. Whether it be your next hairdresser, dentist, barista, broker or accountant.
And finding the right copywriter is no exception.
Much like choosing a hairdresser, it takes a little trial, error, and a bad fringe or two, before you get it right.
“Not me,” you say. “I’m going to get it right first try – by asking my prospective copywriters some hard hitting questions.”
Smart cookie. Questions are a great place to start.
But, as someone who’s on the receiving end of these questions most days of the week, it always amazes me how rarely I get asked the right questions.
So, what are the questions you should ask a copywriter? And what rookie questions should you be wary of?
Rookie question: What’s your hourly rate?
This is not a bad question per se – because the answer often says a lot about the writer’s calibre and level of experience.
But if you’re asking it to find the most cost-effective solution? Beware.
Consider this: Copywriter X charges $125 per hour, while Copywriter Y charges $235. Surely Copywriter X is going to be the best option for your project, right?
Hourly rates tell you nothing about how much you’ll end up paying if Copywriter X takes a day to complete your project – and Copywriter Y takes a couple of hours.
A smarter question to ask: What can you deliver within my budget?
Alternatively, you could also ask: Can you provide a fixed fee quote for my project?
The takeaway? Match outcomes for outcomes. Not hours for hours.
Rookie question: Who will actually be writing my copy?
This is a reasonable question to ask, because many digital agencies do have a penchant for outsourcing their clients’ copywriting tasks (sometimes to cheap offshore providers).
And that can lead to plain-Jane copy at best. Nonsensical word vomit at worst.
You also deserve to know that they’re not going to pawn you off to their most junior team member and block your phone number the moment you sign that contract.
But if you’re working with a copywriting agency, it will rarely ever be just one person writing your copy. So the question isn’t going to offer an answer that’s overly helpful.
A smarter question to ask: What’s your content creation process?
Every copywriting team should have a robust content creation process in place that they can clearly articulate to you.
At RM for example, it’s a team effort. One writer will draft the copy. Another writer will edit it. And then another will proofread it. That’s at least three pairs of eyeballs and creative brains across your project.
But no matter where the copy starts, it never leaves our doors (well, technically our inboxes) without either me or Vikki checking that the messaging and tone are on point.
And if it doesn’t make the cut?
Well, that’s not a situation we’ve ever been in. Because our frequent checks with our team ensure that each and every project glides over the proverbial well-oiled tracks. From start to finish.
Rookie question: How soon can you start work on my project?
I’m always surprised when I see fellow copywriters brag about how quickly they can start on client work.
Think about it. Would you really choose the empty restaurant over the bustling one with a queue out the door – if you genuinely cared about quality?
As consumers, we instinctively know busy means popular. Popular means something special. And that something special is worth waiting for.
It’s no different when it comes to copywriters.
We’re always excited to work with a new client and get our creative juices flowing on a new project. But the boatload of regular client work we’re managing means our books are often full (veritably bulging, at times).
The takeaway? When you ask this question, all you’re going to find out is how in-demand your potential provider is (or, is not).
Smarter questions to ask… yourself
Start by asking yourself if the deadline in your mind is absolute. Or if it’s arbitrary.
For example, we often hear from companies who have been meaning to get onto their website for two years – and have finally got their act into gear.
And then suddenly, it becomes the world’s most urgent project.
Don’t get me wrong, I love enthusiasm and momentum. But not if it comes at the expense of quality work that will naturally take longer to produce.
Another question to ask yourself: How long will this content be working for me?
For example, if it’s website content you’re after, you’ll likely be benefiting from it for the next 3-5 years. But if it’s a flyer for next week’s conference? Its lifespan will be much shorter.
The flexibility of your deadline and strategic importance of your content will help you determine if it’s worth risking a rushed project with a less reputable writer. Or whether it’s better to wait for your preferred partner.
But what if your project deadline is immovable and it’s of high importance?
You can always ask if your preferred writer will accept a ‘rush fee’. (This higher fee is to compensate your copywriter for the fact they will be working their weekends, evenings and typing in the shower to give you quality work within your timeline.)
A final word
When questioning prospective copywriters, your ‘deep dive’ may only be scratching the surface.
So don your deerstalker, pop in that pipe and get your Sherlock Holmes on. It’s time to put your potential provider under some scrutiny.
The best ones will welcome it, knowing they’ll hold up.
And finally, when it comes to choosing any kind of professional service provider, there’s also something to be said for trusting your gut:
- Price too good to be true? It probably is.
- Processes feeling confusing and unclear? They probably are.
- Suspect you’re being told exactly what you want to hear? If your copywriter has agreed to getting your work done ‘yesterday’, you definitely are.