“Should I hire a copywriter?” I get this question a lot. Here’s the thing: If you have to ask, the answer is almost certainly “yes.”
Should I Hire a Copywriter?
Copywriters write copy, or words, to promote goods and services. They often take content direction from someone else and aim to inform or persuade. Technical writers are often called copywriters. Technical writers communicate technically difficult information for different audiences. For example, technical writers might write how to guides and user manuals. Marketing writers are also often called copywriters. Marketing writers might write website copy, blogs, case studies, and proposal content.
A good copywriter knows what she’s doing and isn’t afraid to speak up. Once she’s assigned a writing task, she learns everything she can about that task in order to achieve the designated writing goal. She strives to know her audience, understand the appropriate language and tone to use when communicating with that audience, meet desired length requirements for the piece she’s writing, and share information in exactly the way the audience needs to receive it.
She’s accustomed to critique, collaboration, and iteration. She knows how to manage schedules, interview subject experts and elicit key information, accept and implement feedback, and push back when that feedback may not be in the best interests of the audience or the task at hand.
Now, everyone’s working on their desktop or laptop all day, every day. Ostensibly, everyone’s a writer. However, the good writers are few and far between. One of the worst ways I’ve seen companies save money is by handling their marketing strategy, content strategy, and copywriting in house when they lack the in-house expertise.
You should hire a copywriter (a good one, mind you) if you choose to write lots of high-value, keyphrase-focused site content for credibility and SEO purposes. Your copywriter can also support other company efforts, including business plans, investor presentations and pitches, proposals, annual reports, process manuals, and technical papers.
Should I Hire a Content Strategist Instead of a Copywriter?
“Content strategist” is a stupid title. It sounds made up or pretentious. I get it.
The problem is that lumping content strategists in with copywriters isn’t useful — especially when you need the support of one vs. the guidance of the other.
A copywriter takes direction and writes what she’s told to write — a proposal, a user manual, website copy, blogs, etc. A content strategist, on the other hand, draws upon leadership experience and marketing expertise to determine what needs to be written and then direct the writing task. (Sometimes the content strategist also writes copy.) You can learn more about the difference between the two jobs or titles here.
If you have an in-house, agency, or freelance marketing team in place that you trust, you may still need a copywriter. (Agencies in particular often employ random freelance writers of varying skill levels.) On the other hand, let’s say you don’t have a marketing team or you have a marketing team that doesn’t seem to excel at marketing (it’s way more common that it should be). In that case, you probably need a content strategist who also writes copy.
How Do I Hire a Copywriter?
Wow, this is a tough one. As I mentioned, anyone who owns a laptop is a copywriter. Don’t believe me? Spend five minutes skimming Indeed.com and Fiverr. Five minutes is all it’ll take.
In other words, finding a copywriter or a content strategist is the easiest thing in the world. Unfortunately, the bad copywriters and content strategists far outnumber the good ones. In my estimation, it’s ten to one. Possibly even twenty to one.
To make sure you find a good copywriter or content strategist, here are 10 questions to ask your next prospective copywriter or content strategist:
- Do you have a website or writing samples that I can review?
- How did you get where you are right now in your career?
- What clients have you served, and what kinds of work have you done for them?
- Do you provide marketing guidance and content strategy, or do you prefer to take direction?
- Can you share an example or two of clients you’ve supported successfully — what worked so well on their projects?
- What do you know about on-page SEO? (Ask for specifics — they should be able to speak to overarching SEO goals and these 15 criteria.)
- Describe how we would work together — what’s your process?
- What is your experience interviewing subject matter experts?
- How to you charge (by project, by the hour, by the word), and what do you charge — and why?
- Can we work together on a small, paid project and then regroup to discuss what worked, what didn’t, and what’s next?
Red flags: They have no website or writing samples. Their website copy, writing samples, Fiverr or Upwork posting, or emails to you are written poorly. Their career path has had little to do with content marketing or writing. They don’t know much about SEO. They don’t really have a process, per se. They say they work with big-name clients but charge under $100/hour (copywriter) or $150/hour (content strategist).
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