8 Tips on Hiring a Copywriter
By Daniel C. Bartel
You’ve heard the saying “a picture tells a thousand words.” Well, a word can convey a thousand pictures. Words are what drive customers to your business. Words impact your bottom line. That’s why finding the right copywriter is one of the most important decisions you can make for your company.
You'll want to get the most for your money. You'll need someone with a good command of language, someone who can meet deadlines, someone who prefers what sounds effective to what sounds pretty.
Copywriting is work and takes years to develop. Seasoned writers arrive on the scene after years of working for agencies or newspapers. The writing pro works to see your business in a new light. They draw out exciting and interesting aspects of your product. They ask good questions and stay current with the latest trends. They are skilled learners and persuaders. Speak with one over the phone and you’ll see!
Best of all, they value your time and are there to put your mind at ease. Trusting a stranger to say the right thing about your company can be nerve-wracking. You have to know if someone is capable.
Listed below are some tips to keep in mind while you’re recruiting:
1) Always see writing samples. Be wary of would-be wordsmiths peddling unpublished manuscripts, unfinished novels, plays, screenplays, poems, or personal journals. Copywriting is no place for the budding artiste. Instead, look for press releases, brochures, news articles, editorials, advertisements, collateral, and white papers. The creative hopeful won’t trump the voice of experience.
2) Ask about SEO/SEM. Both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are critical if your company is on the Web. Ask your potential writer if he or she considers SEO in their writing. If they hesitate, you should find someone else.
3) Creative staffing agencies help. Paladin Staffing, Aquent, Swingshift and Boss Staffing specialize in creative services recruitment. Most require their applicants to go through a screening process that tests experience and ability. Some agencies charge a fee, but it's a small price for finding a writer you can return to for jobs later.
4) Consider his or her Web site. With a single point-and-click, the copywriter demonstrates several things: a) professionalism, b) resourcefulness and c) marketing savvy. Who would hire a writer to sell a product when the writer can't even sell his or her services?
5) Be upfront and do your homework. Writers need good information about your project before starting. Some will turn down projects that sound half-baked or shady. It's best to send a proposal including pertinent background materials prior to a first encounter meeting. Also, don’t renege on pay. It’s great way to kill a relationship. To avoid getting fleeced, get everything in writing, beforehand.
6) Avoid hiring friends. If you’re inclined to hire someone just because your kid and their kid play on the same little league team, beware. Pure and simple, friendships have tainted many a professional relationship. Too many liberties are taken. When resentment starts, your project flounders. Save the friendships for the backyard barbecues and keep the projects among professionals.
7) Think nationally. Telecommuting is here to stay. Don’t limit your options by thinking you have to hire locally. A Dallas copywriter can work just as well for you, whether your office is in New York City or Los Angeles.
8) Don’t micro-manage. Once you’ve hired someone, leave them to their genius. Don’t be overly distracted if the drafts you’re seeing aren’t EXACTLY what you want. It simply means that it’s time to review and clarify project goals. Otherwise, you’ll delay production and multiply stress for all parties.
If pay is a concern, the Writers Market is a good resource for accessing fair market rates. Others such as http://www.professionalcopy.ca/rates_2003.html are also helpful. A good rate for a copywriter is somewhere between $30-$75/hour, depending on experience and market.
Ultimately, you have to go with your instinct. Someone who has written for big name clients doesn't necessarily make them a match for you. Most people work with people they like, and writing is much the same. Ask your Web designer to recommend someone they find agreeable.
Copywriters can really prove their worth on an unexpected project. So take the time to find the copywriter that’s right for you. It’s worth the effort.