If you’re selling products or services, you need marketing materials. You want prospective customers to be able to find you and gain a quick understanding of who you are and what you’re offering. A professional copywriter can compose content for your marketing materials to help you generate leads and sales.
Most small to mid-sized companies don’t have the budget or volume of work to justify hiring a full-time copywriter, so they hire a freelance copywriter, essentially a contractor, to provide copywriting services on a per-project basis. But finding the right person involves doing some homework.
To get you started, here are the 10 most commonly asked questions and answers for hiring a freelance copywriter.
Copywriters can often provide written content for any of the following items and more:
Assuming you don’t have a referral from a friend or coworker, search Google for “freelance copywriters” or copywriters in your industry or geographic area.
Start by looking at writing samples. Most copywriters have an online portfolio or writing samples posted on their website. Read through samples; don’t just look at the pretty graphics. Determine if you like their writing style and are impressed with the quality of their work.
Once you zero in on a freelance copywriter whose services fit your needs, you’ll want to inquire about the copywriter’s rates and availability. As you might expect, more experienced copywriters charge more than people new to the field. Also, specialists (i.e. technical writers or direct mail copywriters) charge more than generalists.
When you communicate with the copywriter you’re considering, be sure you will like working with her. You don’t have to become her best friend, but you will need to interact with her. You’d prefer to work with someone who is pleasant and upbeat, right? Also make sure she follows through on commitments. For example, if she tells you she’ll get you a proposal by a certain date and time, she needs to deliver.
With regard to availability, let the copywriter know your timeline or what deadline you are trying to meet, so she can tell you what her schedule will allow. These days, many copywriters operate at capacity and have a queue of projects that can span several weeks or even months.
One last comment regarding the selection of your copywriter. There are copywriting services companies that take on your project and then have sub-contractors do the work. Because these service companies pay low rates, most of the copywriters hired by them are inexperienced or foreign (English is their second language). The result is the quality of their copy may not be the best. Make sure to ask for writing samples from the person who will be doing your work and then choose wisely.
If you can find a copywriter who has previously done writing in your field, you’ll certainly save time and energy bringing that individual up to speed. But don’t let that be the only deciding factor. Having direct industry experience isn’t a necessity for most projects unless the subject matter is highly technical.
Many copywriters are generalists and can do the necessary research and learning to write about subjects that are new to them. Nonetheless, be sure to provide your copywriter with good information to help shorten the learning curve.
It’s worth mentioning too, that you don’t need to find a copywriter who is local. You can work with a freelancer based anywhere in the world via phone, Skype and email.
No, copywriting and graphic design or web design are different disciplines. You’ll want to find people who specialize. So, for example, if you’re creating a brochure, you’ll need a graphic designer.
If you’re creating a website, you’ll likely need a copywriter and a web designer. You might also need a web developer to do the site’s programming/coding.
Often copywriters have professional relationships or partnerships with graphic designers and web designers/developers and can easily refer you to someone they trust. Some copywriters will also offer project management services, overseeing all vendors involved in the project and ensuring all your objectives are met.
The process typically begins with a phone call, Skype or in-person meeting to discuss the project. You may then want to connect the copywriter with a subject matter expert (SME) within your organization who can provide additional background and context.
Experienced copywriters will help move the process along by asking pointed questions and requesting the information she needs.
Most copywriters will also do research on their own, including reading relevant books, looking at competitor websites and seeking out articles online.
If you pay a copywriter for a custom project, you own the copy. That means you can use it, or not use it, any way that you like. Some companies will leverage their investment in professional copywriting by repurposing the content.
For example, I recently was hired by a data company to write a short report on current industry trends. From that report, the client was able to do some creative editing and generate an ad, a sales letter and two blog posts, thereby spreading the cost of professional copywriting over multiple projects.
I should mention too that you own the copyright (note the spelling) to the copy so no one can legally use it without your permission. It’s all yours.
Copywriters are not mind-readers, so be sure you tell them what you’re envisioning before they put pen to paper. Once they submit a first draft, you should review it and then provide constructive feedback. Tell them what you like and don’t like. Be specific. If there’s anything you left out but now want to include, this is the time to speak up. Repeat the writing and review process until you’re satisfied with the final project.
Most copywriters include up to three sets of revisions in the project price. Often though, you won’t need to do that many rewrites. A talented copywriter provided with good information should be able to nail the copy within one or two drafts.
Most copywriters charge one of two ways: 1) an hourly rate, or 2) a project rate.
The hourly rate can range from $50 to $200 per hour based on the level of experience the copywriter has. The problem with an hourly rate is you only have one-half of the equation. You need the copywriter to give you an estimate of the number of hours required if you want to get to the true project cost.
The project rate is a quote customized to your project, taking into account variables such as the level of complexity, the research needed, the number of meetings required and the number of hours estimated to do the work. Be sure the quote you receive accurately spells out the parameters of the project, so you know the copywriter understands what is required and quotes accordingly.
If a project is difficult to define up front, and new variables may ultimately affect the amount of work needed, the copywriter can quote the project in stages once certain benchmarks are achieved or she may be able to give a total will-not-exceed number for the whole project.
The types of issues that result in add-on charges are:
Most copywriters require a 50% deposit up front before beginning your project. The balance is due upon successful completion of the work.
For large copywriting projects that can last several weeks or months, you may want to set benchmarks along the way with the copywriting receiving a portion of the total fee as each benchmark is reached.
After you’ve established an ongoing relationship with a copywriter, you may be able to negotiate terms to eliminate the deposit and instead pay the full project amount upon completion.
Once you find a copywriter whose style you like and with whom you enjoy working, establish an ongoing relationship. Whenever you need marketing copy, you now have someone you can call, and you won’t have to take the time to tell her about your company. She’ll already have that foundation.
Most copywriters also have marketing experience. They can be a great resource for you. Don’t hesitate to get their input on your promotional materials. They can help you establish a direction and make recommendations for building your brand.