As a marketing manager – especially one without a large team under you – you may well at some point need to hire an external copywriter. But how do you go about finding the right one?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as posting a shoutout on LinkedIn and waiting for your contacts to tag their favourite copywriters. To find a good match – one that will deliver results and be worth every penny that you pay them – takes planning.
Here is a step-by-step guide for marketing managers looking to hire a copywriter.
Define the scope of your copywriting project
Have you got a detailed brief ready to send to your chosen copywriter? Without a good brief, you are setting your copywriter up to fail, no matter how good they are. To write effective copy, they need to understand things like:
Who the audience is that they’re writing for
How the product or service benefits the reader
What the copy is supposed to achieve
What you want the reader to do once they’ve read the copy
Why they might not want to or be ready to do that
If you aren’t used to writing copy briefs, it’s worth finding out if your potential copywriter has the experience to help you do this. Agencies tend to use freelancers themselves and are therefore used to creating as well as following briefs.
Have an idea of your budget
You might have a set marketing budget for the year or it might be that your company is a little less rigid and you can apply for what you need on a case by case basis. Either way, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to fund your copywriting project.
Obviously, the final cost will vary hugely depending on what you’re looking for and who you use. For example, a simple five page website selling yoga classes will cost less than a large and complex website for a financial analytics consultancy. And a freelancer who’s just getting started might be charging as little as £120 while a specialist might charge five times that amount.
Sticking with pricing models, some people charge on a day rate, others on a project basis. And agencies usually have some sort of blended rate to cover the various people who will be looking after your work, from the account manager to the writer and possibly a strategist or even the creative director.
It’s worth noting that some copywriters – particularly the more experienced freelancers and agencies – may have a minimum fee that they will accept.
Work out what type of copywriter you need
Not all copywriters are the same. Here are some of the different types of copywriter you might come across:
Content writers, who produce long-form copy like blog posts designed to add value and build relationship.
Advertising copywriters who are skilled at coming up with snappy campaign concepts and billboard lines.
Technical copywriters, who specialises in areas like SaaS or finance or biomedical engineering.
SEO copywriters, who can seamlessly weave keywords into your copy to improve search.
Brand copywriters, who can help you create a strapline or articulate your value proposition succinctly.
Conversion copywriters, whose specialism is creating landing pages and sales emails that will sell.
Although many copywriters will be able to work across more than one, few can do everything. If you need input into a range of copywriting projects, you might be better off looking for an agency with a bank of different writers that can be pulled in as needed.
Freelance copywriter vs copywriting agency
In fact, let’s take a moment to talk about the choice between using an individual freelance copywriter and a copywriting agency. The first thing to say is that one is not better than the other! There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
A freelance writer, being a single individual, is likely to have a degree of flexibility to the way they work. They might be able to come and work in-house with your team one day a week, for example, where an agency might not offer that service.
Because they don’t have the overheads of an agency, a freelancer is also likely to be relatively cost effective. Although make sure you get a range of quotes and that you compare like for like. In many cases our rates are lower than that of specialist senior writers!
The problem with freelancers is that the best ones get booked up fast. An agency, on the other hand, will usually have a stable of tried and tested writers they can call on, plus an in-house team to handle the strategy, brief creation, editing and so on.
This also helps when it comes to illness or holiday. With an agency you know there will always be someone available to look after your needs. And of course there’s that team we mentioned, bringing a range of experts together to help with all aspects of your project, not just the writing.
Starting your search
Once you know what you’re looking for and what you want your copywriter to achieve, it’s time to start your search properly. Having said that hiring a copywriter isn’t as simple as putting a shoutout on LinkedIn, that’s not a bad place to start.
Be as specific as you can with your post. If you need a technical copywriter, say so. If it’s an ongoing project that needs a commitment of six months, put that in your request. The more detailed you can be, the better the referrals you’ll get.
A Google search is also a good option, especially if you’re looking for an SEO copywriter. After all, if they’re good at what they do, they should rank fairly well.
But there are other places to search too, such as creative networks. Here in Bristol, for example, we’ve got Bristol Creative Industries (formerly Bristol Media) where you can search the membership directory by sector.
Checking the quality
Once you’ve got a few options on your radar, it’s time to work out whether each option is able to deliver what you need. In some cases it will be obvious – you need a website copywriter for your SaaS company, but Option A specialises in advertising copywriting for FMCG brands.
But when it comes to quality, it can be incredibly difficult to decide how good a writer actually is until you’ve worked with them. Hopefully they will have a website where you’ll be able to see examples of their work, testimonials and even case studies. If you want specific examples, get in touch to ask for them.
If someone has referred a copywriter to you, ask them about the experience they had with them. What kind of project did the copywriter work on? Did they help with the brief creation and if so, was it helpful? Did they deliver when they said they would? How many amends stages did the work need to go through?
Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a small selection, arrange a face-to-face or video meeting with the most promising individual copywriters or copywriting agencies so you can get a sense of who they are and whether you get on. If they seem like a good fit, you can move forward to the quote stage.
Don’t forget the details
During your exploratory meeting, make sure to dive into the nitty gritty. Here are some additional details to establish:
What exactly is included? What are the deliverables? How many rounds of amends will you get? Will they do a final proofread of your website copy once it’s designed? Can they provide social sharing copy for your blog posts?
What are their processes? How quickly can they start work on your project? What’s their turnaround time? What tools do they work with (Slack, Google Docs etc)?
What are their payment terms? Will they invoice before the project or after? How long will you have to pay? Do they offer payment schedules?
What contracts need to be in place? Do they need to agree to sign an NDA? Will they want you to sign an SLA?
Making your choice
So let’s recap:
You’ve established the scope of your project and made sure you have access to a realistic budget.
You’ve thought about the kind of copywriter you might need, and whether a freelancer or an agency might be right for you.
You’ve used your networks and Google to come up with a list of possibilities and checked out their online profiles.
And you’ve met a few candidates, getting a feel for whether you get on and nailing down the details.
By the time you’ve gathered up all this information, you should be in a good position to engage a copywriter or copywriting agency that will be a good fit for you, your business and your project. It’s time to get in touch with your preferred choice and get your project started.
Journalist turned copywriter Rin Hamburgh (formerly Rin Simpson) is the founder of RH&Co, a Bristol-based strategic brand copywriting agency working with expert-led businesses across the South West, UK and Europe.