By Marte Cliff
First, why do you need a copywriter? What can a copywriter do for your business?
A copywriter helps grow your business by doing something that’s very difficult for most small business people. He (or she) looks at your business from your customer’s point of view, and answers that customer’s most pressing question: “What’s in it for me?”
He is trained to focus on the customer’s interests and to use enticing words and phrases to show prospective customers how your product or service will benefit them.
She’s also trained to take a good look at your business and shine light on benefits that you might not even be noticing yourself.
What should you look for in a good copywriter?
- Clarity of expression: Your prospective customers need to easily understand the message. Read the writer’s own website and some samples of their work before you choose.
- Understanding: Next, the copywriter you choose should have some understanding of your product or service and of your target audience. It’s a mistake, for instance, to hire an industrial parts “business to business” copywriter to promote a “business to consumer” health and beauty product. Also, if your industry has it’s own “language,” such as stock market trading, you need a writer who is familiar with that language and can use it correctly.
- Curiosity: Look for a writer who asks a lot of questions about your product or service. He might not use everything he learns but wants to understand your offering inside out.
- Willingness to consider new ideas: If you send your copywriter an article about copywriting, he should say thanks. Good copywriters are interested in what other copywriters have to say and are continually reading and considering new ideas.
- Interest: Your writer should be interested and enthusiastic. A bored writer will write boring copy.
- A friendly, cooperative manner: You’ll be working closely with this person. Don’t choose someone who seeks to intimidate you or who refuses to listen to your suggestions. After all, it will be your copy.
- A reputation for on-time delivery: Some writers promise unrealistic delivery dates and then offer excuses when the deadline isn’t met. That kind of irresponsibility can throw a kink in your entire marketing plan.
- A writer who uses a contract: Your writer should be willing to put his or her promises on paper and clearly outline what you’ll get for your money. The contract should also state the copywriting fee and what is needed from you before writing can begin.
What should you expect to pay?
This is a difficult question to answer because prices vary widely. In general, the starting rate for a good copywriter is about $50 per hour, with most charging $75 to $100 per hour. However, the most widely recognized people in direct marketing charge several hundred dollars per hour.
But most writers don’t charge by the hour, and it’s better for you if they don’t. (I think this is a particularly good tip. I always pay contractors by the project and this is the best way to get what you want and control costs)
Most will try to estimate the time needed to research, plan, write, and fine-tune a project. Then they’ll give you a firm quote based on their estimate, so you’ll know the cost before starting the project.
Exclusive web marketing content should start at about $250 per page – depending upon the length of the page. “Information only” articles generally cost considerably less.
You can, of course, find writers who charge as little as $5 per hour or even $3 per page. What you’ll get for that price will be filler – not marketing copy. In most cases, you’re better off without it because it will reflect poorly on you and your company.
What preparations should you make before hiring a copywriter?
First, know your objective. Do you want to sell something directly, or do you want prospective clients to call?
Know your prospective customers. Who are they? What is important to them? The answer may not be obvious, and your copywriter can help you find the underlying motivations, but you do need to know who is buying your product or service.
Know your product or service. How does it benefit your customers? How is it better than your competitor’s offering? What makes it special?
Know your budget. If you can’t afford everything you’d like, you and your copywriter can determine which parts and pieces are most important and start there. If you don’t have a marketing plan, your copywriter can help you create one, but do be prepared to pay for his or her time.
Do be prepared to pay a deposit, at least on the first project you do with a copywriter. On small projects, many writers ask for full payment in advance – but their contracts allow for revisions to assure that you’ll be pleased.
What are the warning signs to steer you clear of a poor copywriter?
The writer has no website, no blog, and no samples to show you. Note that not all writers are at liberty to show samples of work they’ve done for others. Sometimes it’s confidential. However, their own website and blog should serve as samples of their work.
She talks in copywriting “jargon” to impress and confuse you.
He doesn’t have time to talk with you about your copy – and isn’t interested in your opinion.
She doesn’t return your phone calls or emails in a timely fashion.
He starts right in telling you how awful your current copy is. (It might need improvement, but he doesn’t need to insult you!)
She doesn’t use a written contract and won’t give you a firm price and/or a firm deadline.
His copywriting fee is too low.
Her turnaround time is too fast.
His promises are unrealistic and over-blown.
One last tip…
Choose a writer you like, and follow your own instincts. Even a top-notch writer is the wrong choice for you if you aren’t comfortable talking with them.
Creating new marketing copy is an exciting adventure, so choose well and enjoy the ride!
What Marte has to say about Happy Grasshopper:
“My first mailing got 3 or 4 responses – and one of them thought he had some work for me. So, I’ve done two small jobs for him since then.”