20 Things to Know BEFORE You Hire a Copywriter

before you hire a copywriter

How do you know you’ll get quality work when you hire a copywriter from the freelance community? 

One thing I’ve noticed in my 10+ years as a professional writer is there’s a lot of confusion about my industry. I’ve been working as a full-time freelancer since 2014, and it appears copywriters have popped up on every corner. It’s like walking through a crowded market where people scream out, “BUY FROM ME! THIS IS THE BEST PRODUCT AROUND! THE CHEAPEST IN THE WORLD!”

It’s a madhouse in the freelance writing world. Hiring a copywriter shouldn’t make you feel like you need to hire a bodyguard. You shouldn’t feel the need to chain your wallet or doubt yourself. There are good people out there who offer fair prices for this work, so here are 20 things you should know BEFORE you hire a copywriter. It’ll help you find one who’s worth every penny:

1. Know the difference between copywriting, content writing, and blogging.

Copywriters use the science of selling and storytelling frameworks to generate leads and sales. The primary goal of blogging and content writing is to inform, engage, and delight the audience.

hire a copywriter goals

2)  Be specific about your needs.

Do you need to sell or inform? Do you need to get a sale or a lead, more social engagement, or more foot traffic? Do you need to scale or maintain your level of revenue growth? Try creating a SMART goal using the formula below. Once you know this, you can narrow down what you need to hire a copywriter.

Goal Formula: To so that <who/what?> will <increase/decrease this much> by as measured by .

Example Goal: To increase traffic to my e-commerce website so that sales will increase by 30% by Dec. 31, as measured by the number of online purchases from Jan. 1 – Dec. 31.

You’d Need: SEO content writing for social media, website, and blog; copywriting for ads, promotional materials, email campaigns, and landing pages. They are NOT the same skill set, though equally important.

3.  Consider the skill levels of your copywriter.

If you don’t know anything about what you need or how to go about reaching that SMART goal, aim for someone with an advanced, versatile skill set; however, someone who is totally familiar with the topic could hire an entry-level writer.

4.  Create a reasonable budget.

Please stop asking U.S.-based copywriters and content writers to work for pennies. That kind of budget will attract bottom feeders and foreign imposters. That sounds like paranoia, but you’d be surprised. Professional writers don’t just tell stories to sell and entertain; they become a part of the saga. We meet your customer, the hero, where they are in the plot, and guide them through to sale, ease them into loyalty, and offer new scenarios and adventures down the road.

Remember, you get what you pay for, so if you’re looking to spend less than $50/hour, you risk hiring a copywriter who may not be committed to the profession. A bad writer can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Businesses spend more than $3 billion on remedial writing training every year because a third of the workforce are poor writers.

5.  Ask for the best quote.

If you’re shopping around and asking for quotes, expect the numbers to be all over the board. Instead, try asking for their best quote on your project. Provide them with a budget range of what you think it would cost. If you allow the pro to gauge and guide the project in this way, you’ll not only get a fair price, but you’ll also see the copywriter’s project management skills and industry knowledge.

6.  Consider offering the potential for partnership.

Freelance copywriters are always looking for long-term clients. Not only is the work more profitable, but it also helps your sales. Customers want to engage with a consistent message and style from a brand or company they can trust.

7.  Ask for examples or a portfolio to review.

This one is a given but see No. 8.

8.  Don’t focus too much on your copywriter having experience in your niche.

A predominant trait of a pro writer is someone who can write about anything that can be personally experienced, observed, or researched. What matters is their passion for your product or service and their desire to succeed.

Versatile copywriter on social media

9.  Look for versatile writers with experience in several industries and styles.

Someone who calls themselves a copywriter but only writes blog posts will be of little use to you if you need copy that sells.

10.  Copywriting is a science.

If the copywriter you want to hire can’t explain this concept to you in 3-5 sentences, they’re not someone you want to hire. Here’s my explanation in one sentence: Copywriting uses data and people analytics, buying behaviors, and market research to target keywords and messaging that inspires a specific action.

11.  Look for avid and passionate readers and storytellers.

We know how to structure a message so that it tells a relatable story. Think of a copywriter as the person who writes the synopsis for a book. By using unique storytelling frameworks developed by some of the greatest experts in history, copywriters can place your customer as the hero and help them see the value in buying from you.

12.  Do a discovery project before you hire a copywriter for a long-term partnership.

Choose 2-3 small projects or one big project to determine if this writer is what you need. Most freelancers are (or should be) happy to oblige.

13.  Make sure you have a realistic timeline.

If you need a 25-page sales letter, then you’ll need to expect a few days and a round or two of edits. If you need something shorter, like a digital ad campaign and landing page, then the copywriter will need just a few hours. Ask them to provide approximate turnaround time when you request their best quote!

14.  Consider the medium when creating your writing projects.

Social posts shouldn’t be written like a social ad, and website pages shouldn’t be written like a blog.

15.  Some people like to ask for references.

I don’t usually get this request, but I’m always happy to give them; however, I believe reference checks are a colossal waste of time. The real tells are in the discovery project.

16.  Don’t work on a handshake.

Get your project, deliverables, cost, and agreement in writing. Make sure you have a contract that says the materials belong to you to do with as you please.

17.  Provide a reasonable amount of info for them to do their job.

Don’t overload the copywriter or content writer with dozens of documents. Unless the project is large and you’ve agreed to compensate the writer for those hours of research, don’t bog them down with all your research data. Give them an abstract of your findings.

Hiring a freelance copywriter

18.  Writing isn’t easy.

Expect a round or two of edits and be kind to your writer. We’re proud creatures who love the art of using words to sell, engage and entertain. We’re good at it, too. We wouldn’t presume to walk into your business and tell you what you were doing wrong, so we would all appreciate that kindness in return.

19.  Be sure to do your due diligence.

Research the platform and copywriter. Google his or her name and search for what other people are paying for similar services. Google is a vast resource; use it to your advantage.

20.  Give your writer what they need and get out of their way.

Copywriters and content specialists thrive on autonomy and are incredibly self-sufficient. Don’t make them spend too much time on calls and emails, and don’t make them hunt you down to answer questions. Time is money. Be precise and let them get to work.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when you go to hire a copywriter. If you like the way I wrote that and want to see more of my work, please click around. Otherwise, would you like to talk about your project?  Get in touch!

3 Tips to Enhance Your Content

Enhance your content marketing

Trying to stand out online is like standing in a crowd at a concert and screaming your friend’s name, and she’s 100 yards away, watching the main noisemakers on the stage. She can’t hear you. She’s not even looking in your direction.  And if she were, she’d probably see the bigger people around you first.

My point is that standing out is hard.  The internet is a saturated marketplace with a whole lot of noise, a lot more chaos, and a heavy-handed dash of capitalist ambition. It’s noisy, and most businesses are only adding to the noise rather than creating a bit of quiet.

No, I don’t mean going dark and ghosting your digital audience. I mean creating a moment of quiet from your audience. Getting them to stop in their scrolling, clicking, flipping, and tossing to engage with your video, post, blog, website, email or advertisement is the goal. That’s the pivotal moment. Will they or won’t they become a paying customer? What will make them click?

It’s in the way you connect, which is to say, your story. Not the “who we are” kind of story, but the “we’ve got your back, and here’s why” kind of story.

In this post, I’ll outline three ways you can spruce up your content to create that moment of quiet for your customer so they can make a split-second decision to trust you.

Tip 1: Determine the Problems You Solve

Make a list of 1-5 main problems you solve for your customers, and then make a point of talking about them to everyone, think about them regularly, and constantly work toward solving these problems. Go to bat for your customers against an obvious villain! They’ll thank you for it with their business.

Here are the problems we help our customers solve:

  1. Being left behind by the growth of digital marketing and the overwhelming noise online.
  2. Struggling to keep up with the competition online.
  3. Unable to commit the time to content.
  4. Not enough staff to help with content.
  5. No marketing budget.

That last one is actually a misnomer; every business has a marketing budget, or they wouldn’t be a business at all.

Tip 2:  Write Out How IT Happens

“It” being your customer’s purchasing journey. What steps do they need to take to buy from you? Creating these steps is a practical exercise, and not so much a creative one. Your purchasing process should be no fewer than three steps, and no more than six. Here’s an example:

The Your Imprint Customer Journey:

  1. Visit my site, blog and social pages
  2. Schedule a 15-minute consult.
  3. Get a custom quote with a scope of work.
  4. Sign the Services Agreement and other needed paperwork like a BA or NDA.
  5. Have a discovery meeting with us (jokingly called “The Data Dump”).
  6. Pay invoice after work is completed.

Yours may be much simpler, like:

  1. Visit store
  2. Purchase items
  3. Refer a friend for a free gift

Once you have the steps they can take, you’ll want to make sure those steps are easy to follow through your website. For example, if your main call to action is “Buy Now,” that needs to be a huge, bright button in the top right corner of your site. It should also be a button all over the website to make it easier for customers to buy no matter where they are on your website.

Tip 3: Create a Funnel

It’s much easier than most people make it sound.  I really like this picture from Bias Digital because it lays out the kind of content used in each part of the funnel.

3 Tips to Improve your Content Marketing
Image by Bias Digital.

Here’s how ours is set up to help you on your way to creating an airtight funnel: 

Visitors comes into the funnel by organic search, referrals, social media, or they go directly to our website. They get here with content to look at more content. That’s a good sign. At the top of the funnel, we build trust. We prove ourselves by:

  • Having a fast, user-friendly website that looks good
  • Writing content that is relatable to the audience
  • Making it clear what we want them to do (schedule a consult!)
  • Make it easy and convenient for them to buy (pay after we perform!)

In the middle part of the funnel, people aren’t usually ready to buy just yet. They’re thinking about us, though. They come back to the website a few more times, follow us on social, or sign up for our newsletter. In this part of the funnel, we create content for:

  • Email deals at the end of the newsletter
  • Social media giveaways
  • Polls and surveys to engage them with our services
  • Special printing deals

The bottom of the funnel is for sales. These are paying customers who deserve and expect to be honored by their favorite brands. Content here is focused on:

  • Delighting them with extra special offers and sneak peeks
  • Loyalty program/subscription
  • Regular gifting
  • Upsells

So, now you know what the customer needs from you because you solve a specific problem they’re having. You’ve created a clearly defined process to communicate with your audience on how they can buy from you, and you’ve made a funnel that will help you create content and keep up with the fast pace of digital marketing.

My article today is a broad brushstroke of how to boost your content to stand out. Stay tuned for more tips and helpful tools on distributing your content and broadcasting your message. Keep Learning by signing up for my company’s Content Marketing Newsletter (Your Imprint)!

Content Marketing and Your Budget: Here’s What to Expect

content marketing budget

We all want to know: how much does it cost? 

That’s usually the first question I have whenever I’m shopping around for a service or product.  Most of us are thrifty buyers, and we’re looking for someone or something who can help us solve a problem we’re having.

Because of that, I don’t give two hoots about you and your story.  I’m a buyer, and I need something.  Lead, follow, or get out of my way.  Stop throwing how great you are down my throat! 

Businesses are adding too much extra noise to our digital world, and I’ve made it a goal to find more ways to help more businesses make better content marketing choices and stop contributing to the noise. 

That goal usually starts with the right price.  Most agencies and freelancers will NOT put their price on their website or anywhere in public.  We don’t have what would be considered “standard pricing” either.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.      There’s no telling what you need or want in a content marketing plan.  Once we have an idea of what you’re trying to do and the timeline for your goals, we’ll be able to tell you how much time and effort it’ll take us to help you. 

2.      There’s a bit of a price tag because of the time and materials required to perform the work.  Further, the industry is highly competitive, and certain competitors will do a half-assed job for you at half the price.  We’re not going to help them prey on you.  It’ll end up costing you more in the long run.

3.      Would you hire an employee without meeting them first?  Probably not.  And you shouldn’t hire a marketing consultant without meeting them first.  I act as an extension to your team, and I want to meet you before we do anything.  I don’t do hard sales – that defeats the purpose of my goal to minimize irrelevant noise and build B2B partnerships. 

What should you expect in terms of content marketing costs?

If someone is offering content marketing for under $1,000/mo, you should be wary.  Here’s why:

  • Unless they’re working for minimum wage, it’ll be difficult to create and implement a content strategy on that budget. 
  • The best people in the industry who can use content marketing to grow your business start in around $80/hour and can go up to $250/hour.
  • Expect a good content marketer to need a minimum of 20 hours per month to do this work. 

I’ve been in the content marketing niche for more than a decade, and I’m still surprised by the drastic differences in prices from freelancers and agencies.  It’s important to know what to expect.  Never hesitate to ask questions of someone trying to sell you marketing services.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How will you track my return on investment? 
  2. Who will be responsible for what? 
  3. Who owns all the assets?
  4. Are there long-term or short-term contracts?

Helpful Tips

When looking for content marketing support, keep the following in mind: 

  • Small and medium businesses can benefit from a small, yet powerful content marketing team with a diverse skill set.  Don’t overspend at bigger agencies where you’re paying for skills you may not need, and don’t under-spend by hiring a single freelancer without the appropriate skill set.
  • Outsourcing is usually better than bringing someone in-house because you don’t have to worry about management, spacing, or overhead. 
  • Don’t try to put the tasks on a current employee.  Content marketing is a skilled trade, and one of the biggest, glaring holes in small and medium business marketing plans is a lack of qualified talent. 
    • For example, your secretary or cashier may know how to use social media, but she is not a social media expert who sells online. 

Reality Check

Respect your brand, respect your customers, and respect the industry.  Don’t insult your customers with cheap marketing ploys and ugly branding efforts.  They notice.  Marketing should be all about giving customers what they want and need in a way that benefits your business.

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll put it another way – if you have someone who has never been formally trained in the marketing industry in some way, you are cutting corners, your audience can see that, and they respond by giving their business to someone else and forgetting all about you. 

Let’s talk more.