7 things to look for when choosing a copywriter

Copywriter. As a job title, it’s pretty lame, and you’d think we, of all people, would be able to come up with something better. We do a whole lot more than writing. But we seem to be stuck with it for the moment, so if a copywriter is what you need, how do you go about picking one?
We’ve asked a few of our clients why they choose to work with us, and here are their top 7 priorities. If you’ve got other ideas, please do add them in the comments, or email me.

1. Customer Service

That’s right. Top of the list WASN’T writing skills. So many of our clients have asked, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a good, reliable freelance writer?”

Whether you’re an agency looking for specific extra skills, or a business hoping to build a relationship with a writer, you want to be sure they’ll be available, flexible and offer a professional, agency-style level of service. Take the time to ask them about how they work– and if you haven’t already seen client testimonials, ask for some. They should be happy to put you in touch with a previous client if you ask.

2. Credibility

What’s their track record? Can they show that they understand your business? It’s not always necessary for a good writer to have worked in your sector, by the way. A good writer should be versatile enough to work in more or less any industry. But just because your favourite dog-groomer recommends their social media content writer, don’t assume that writer will be a best fit for your corporate finance website.

3. Curiosity

Questions, questions, always questions. If your writer comes back to you with queries, it’s usually not because they don’t get the brief. (Unless it was vague–in which case, any writer worth their salt will get all diplomatic with you rather than swanning off to write something when they haven’t got a clue what you need.) Learning about new stuff is one of the joys of the job, and that curiosity feeds better writing and better results for you. Those killer phrases don’t materialise out of nowhere, though. That’s why they’ll ask loads of questions, and allow for research time in their quote to you.

4. Strategic insights

Brief a good writer and you shouldn’t be surprised if they come back at you with questions about your business or marketing strategy. In fact, if they don’t quiz you about what you’re trying to achieve, at least the first time you work with them, it’s time to get suspicious. To do our job properly, we need to understand your business and your existing and potential customers. We’re not creating masterworks of fiction here, we’re making words work for your business. How can we do that without strategic insights?

5. Brand savvy

Words remain at the heart of how you communicate your brand. Yes, imagery and video are vital in today’s world, but you still use language to define your offer and to have conversations with your customers. Your writer should understand how brands are built and sustained, with an instinct for tone of voice understanding how subtle nuances of language can strengthen, or chip away at, your brand’s core.

6. Creativity

Writers are storytellers. Whether we’re creating a world inside our readers’ heads, or shaping a brand, we’re telling a story. That takes a particular way of looking at the world, finding connections and using words to tease the senses. There’s a view of writers as solitary creatures hunched over a laptop–some are, it’s true, but a great copywriter is often a collaborator at heart, inspired by working as part of a creative team. How inspired by your brief does yours sound?

7. Writing ability

Surprised to see this one last on the list? I’m not. Loads of people can write, and many of them can write well. But it takes a professional writer to combine creativity with strategic insight, and the ability to get inside your customer’s head with a powerful turn of phrase, and prompt action.
If you think you need help from a writer, talk to us about your project and we’ll happily advise on the particular skills you’ll need to look for.

Follow our blog to make sure you don’t miss out on essential things to include when briefing a copywriter.

3 things a copywriter can do that you can’t.* And 1 thing they won’t.**

What does a copywriter actually do, anyway?

I get asked this question a lot. And I mean a lot. But even if you think you know what a copywriter does, the answer isn’t simply: writes stuff.

Let’s start with what they won’t do. They can’t help you with the legal process of protecting your intellectual property against theft**. That’s copyright ©, and for that you need a copyright lawyer. So if that’s what you’re looking for advice about, it’s been lovely having you along for the ride, but you’ll probably want to hop off now.

Put simply: a copywriter works with words. They write the words that go into your website, brochure, catalogue, or email campaign. They’ll plan and implement a marketing campaign, write reports and case studies, and even write your industry award entry for you.

Anything that uses words to promote your business needs a copywriter.

These days, of course, that also means understanding SEO and writing all that lovely stuff known as ‘content’ – blog posts, social media, video captions and scripts, as well as product descriptions.

But to do any of that, we do a lot more than just writing. We research, interview, think, write, question, edit, think, edit again, and proofread. We learn about your business and your industry, craft and adapt to your brand’s tone of voice, and find the words that talk directly to your audience.

But I’m the business owner, and I can write. What can a copywriter do that I can’t?

Offer you a different perspective

A good copywriter will ask a whole lot of searching questions. That’s because they’ll want to understand your company, your audience, and your aims for whatever they’re writing. They’ll look at it in context (what will this sit with?) and from every angle. Because they are on the outside of your business they’ll challenge your perceptions and suggest creative ideas you might not have considered.

Be objective

It can be hard to critique your own work. A copywriter looks at every word from your audience’s viewpoint, and isn’t precious about cutting stuff out. The turn of phrase they were really pleased with? Ego doesn’t come into it. If it doesn’t meet the brief, out it comes. If you’ve tried writing, you know it can be a painful process. We will take that pain away.

Their job, rather than yours.

If you’re a business owner, your job is to work on your business. It isn’t to spend hours burning the candle at both ends and second-guessing your audience as you write your own brochure copy, web copy, blog posts, email campaigns, social media posts…

That’s a copywriter’s job. Using one saves you time, and gets better results for your business.

Let’s have words…

*probably.**unless they also happen to be a copyright lawyer.

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