Help! I need a copywriter!

Let me clarify, I don’t need a copywriter – but maybe you do. Maybe you’ve decided to re-vamp your website, or perhaps you’re creating your website from scratch after relying on job boards or the Yellow Pages so far (if it’s the latter, I’d also like to officially welcome you to the 21st century…and maybe the 20th.)

You might feel like you don’t know where to start, or you do, but then it sounds all wrong. Whatever you write may seem boastful or *whispers* boring. That’s okay. We’ll go through it together.

Asking for help is tough.

Actually, let’s dial it back a few steps. Realising you might need some help is even tougher. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t seem to find the words to make our personalities shine through, or cast light on our achievements to display them (and big them up) the way we should.

Most people struggle to name their best qualities, let alone communicate this information in a way that shows your ideal clients why you’re the best person to solve their problems. In fact, sometimes, writer’s block, self-doubt and good old-fashioned panic all conspire to make writing about ourselves an impossible task.

The DIY copywriter route

Hiring a copywriter isn’t always necessary. Often, we can rectify the situation ourselves.

In fact, I think magic can happen when entrepreneurs write their own content - after all, who knows your business better than you?

I help dozens of entrepreneurs get their word magician on - a good place to start is my Magic Words Members’ Club - check it out.

But what if I actually really do need a copywriter, Jo?

Sometimes, the DIY copy route just doesn’t work. Try as you might you can’t bully past the writer’s block. Or it just feels weird to be all “Yay me!”. Figuring out your USP, and how this helps your clients is difficult.

Cue: Copywriter

Getting someone to write the copy on your website is not a sign of weakness. It doesn’t mean you’re lazy, or less committed than your colleagues. You’re just as invested as them – heck, you’re so invested you’ve invested actual, honest-to-goodness cash in your copy. As you probably know, I’ve written copy for lots of translators, and the number one thing people always say is:

“I just feel weird talking about me.”

That’s okay. Let’s be honest, it is kinda weird talking about ourselves. After all, we know ourselves. But that doesn’t make it any less necessary. Remember, when someone is visiting your site for the first time, they don’t know you. They have no idea about you as a professional, much less about you as a person.

Having clear, confident copy on your site means they’ll be clear on the what, and confident in the who.

So how do you hire a copywriter?

In this section, I’ll take you through the process of finding someone who fits. Fits your style, fits your personality, and fits your price range.

Step 1: What do you want?

Having a clear idea of what you actually want before you get in contact with any service provider is always a good idea. It’s like any form of shopping, really. Shopping without a list leads to impulse buys (and possibly floral bomber jackets….but that might just be me.) Before you reach out, try to answer at least some of the following questions:

  • What do I need a copywriter for? (e.g. a website, a specific web page, a Facebook page, blog posts…)
  • What do I want to achieve? (e.g. copy that appeals to a certain audience, a regular readership, increased web traffic, a site that feels more “you”…)
  • What tone or register would I like? (e.g. corporate/chatty/friendly/technical/authoritative…)
  • What’s my target audience?
  • Do I have existing material on which I’d like the copywriter to base the new copy? (e.g. your existing site text)
  • What’s my budget for the project? (Remember here, if you’re planning on a re-design for your website, you might also need to factor in the costs for a web designer.)
  • Do I have a deadline in mind?

Answering these questions will help you gain clarity on exactly what you’re looking for. You might not be able to answer all of these questions (and a good copywriter will take you through these anyway), but personally I prefer to be prepared and be clear in my mind before I chat to anyone.

Step 2: Ask around

Word of mouth, in my experience, is the best way to go. You don’t necessarily have to pick a copywriter who has worked with another translator, but choosing a copywriter who is trusted and recommended by someone you trust (regardless of their profession), is a great first step on the path to success. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for details on price, either. Most people are happy to provide details on what they paid. You don’t want to get in touch with someone only to discover at proposal stage that they’re not in your price range.

In contrast to translators, copywriters don’t usually work on a price per word, so don’t expect that. Usually, it’ll be a project price, or a daily/hourly rate. If a colleague does give you details on what they paid, ask them what they “got” for that price, i.e. was it a whole website or just a few pages, how many revisions, etc. You need to compare like with like.

Step 3: Have a good chat

Once you’ve found a few providers who you think might be suitable for your project, get in touch. In my opinion, finding someone you “click” with is vital. You need to feel like your copywriter truly gets you, and what you’re trying to achieve. This person will be writing in your voice, after all.

With that in mind, I recommend actually talking to your copywriter, not just chatting over email or on social media, but getting on the phone or chatting to them in person (even if it’s only on Skype video.) I feel putting a real-world voice or face to someone’s online profile is extremely beneficial. One last thing: when you do speak to potential copywriters, remember – this is about you.

They should be trying to find out as much about you as possible. On your calls or emails with them, it’s you who should be doing the talking – not them. Their job is to listen (and ask more questions.)

If a copywriter is doing all the talking then they’re not doing any listening.

A great copywriter can adopt many “voices”, so don’t be put off if the style you see on their own blog doesn’t quite sit with what you have in mind. You can easily check in with them on their areas of expertise, and, as per Step 5 below, you can ask to see their portfolio.

Step 4: Provide a brief

Yeah, not that sort of brief.

Remember all those questions we went through in Step 1? This is where you use them. Your copywriter will probably have a pile of extra questions they’ll want you to answer too. Questions like:

  • What’s your business strategy for the next year?
  • Who are your dream clients?
  • Can you tell me about your favourite clients and projects (and why they’re so great)?
  • What’s your why? (i.e. why you do what you do.)
  • How did you get in to business?

Your copywriter will have their own style for how they get the information they need, so trust that when they’re asking you questions, they need the answers!

For your part, producing an official brief for the project will ensure that your copywriter has all of the necessary information for providing you with a proposal.

Step 5: Check out their portfolio

As freelancers, many of us protest at the term “references”. Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting you ask your potential copywriter to provide references from employers or anything like that. What I am saying, is that a good copywriter will have no problem either showing you a portfolio of their work, or providing details of past clients, with whom you can get in touch to hear details of their working relationship.

On the testimonials front, copywriters sometimes have it tough. Many clients wish to keep the fact that someone else is writing their content under wraps, so they may hesitate to shout it from the internet rooftops. However, clients are usually more than happy to provide private feedback, and, often, they’ll give links to the material written by your potential copywriter.

Step 6: Be clear on the terms

Once you’re happy with Steps 1-5 above, you can request a pricing proposal (or quote) from your copywriter. This is a great opportunity to confirm that they’re clear on your brief, and you can see what they’ll provide, how much it will cost, and what’s included in those costs.

By way of example, here are the contents of the pricing proposals I send when a potential client requests a quote:

Page 1 – Cover page (client name and project name, with the day’s date)

Page 2 – Confirmation of the request, along with my understanding of the client’s project brief

Page 3 – Suggested approach (for example, if it’s a completely new website and I’ve been asked to write all the copy)

Page 4 – Price (total cost of the project, along with the number of revisions and extra services included, plus the format in which I’ll deliver the content)

Page 5 – Terms of the contract (project duration & delivery date, start date, payment terms, quote validity, content amendments, delivery format)

Page 6 – Proposal acceptance (I require a signed proposal acceptance before commencing any project)

Page 7 – Financial information (registered company address, tax and bank details)

Your copywriter might have a different way of doing things. They may provide you with this information via email, for example. I would recommend that, even if you do not get all of these details in one single document, ensure that you know the answers to questions like “How long will it take?” and “How many revisions do I get if I’m not happy with the first draft?”

Remember – this is your project. You need to be happy with the service you’re paying for. Hiring a copywriter to write your content is a commitment to making your website serve its purpose of attracting your dream clients.

Do it right.