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How to hire a copywriter... and get what you want

It’s simple, right? Sorta like finding an accountant, an internet provider, or a plumber—someone to provide a straightforward service for a straightforward rate. Right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. When it comes to the wild and wacky world of copywriting, shit is anything but straightforward—not at first, anyway. But you know what? That’s a good thing. So hold the phone, hearty entrepreneur, and hold the panic. The business of finding the right words may be a fickle one, but when you do happen to stumble across the right copywriter for your biz, you’ve hit the jackpot, and you can bet that your life is about to get a hell of a lot easier.
The good news? There is no shortage of writers to choose from. On the contrary, we’re a populous bunch. We exist at all levels of expertise, have different specialties or niches, and come at wildly varying costs. Some of us adore storytelling. Some of us excel at interviewing and producing case studies. Some of us actually live for technical writing—true story. Unraveling it all can get overwhelming, particularly if you’re not a writer yourself. If words aren’t your thing, you might not even know how to put into words what it is you actually need in a writer!

In order to save you both time and money (don’t deny you could use more of both), here are a few quick and dirty tips for streamlining the process of finding and hiring the right copywriter. You know—one you’d bring home to mom.

Figure out exactly what you want. Make a list.

It’s possible (ok, highly likely) that you don’t exactly know what it is you need help with. So your tendency may be to hire a “jack of all trades” type of writer. Which is fine if you’re okay with the “master of none” part of the adage. Weekly blogs? Web content for your site? Editing? Social media posts or profiles? Press releases? An email campaign? Slogans? A video script? Product names? SEO-rich content? All of the above? Or maybe you want more of a branding consultant?

And the second part of this is: are you looking for a one-off, or a long-term, meaningful relationship?
Once you know what you want on both fronts, honing in on the perfect copywriting professional for the job really will be that much easier. 

This is also a great opportunity to take stock of your company’s resources. If you’re not the person with the best firsthand knowledge of your copywriting and editing needs, set a meeting with colleagues where you stage a mini interview and get the best possible info on gaps that need filling and goals that need fulfilling. 
Figure out your budget.

Be practical. Be real. Maybe you can do it all. Again, make a list. If you need to create marketing materials, pay designers or programmers, buy ad space, or fly to the moon and back, that’s all cash money. Figuring out how much you have to spend might translate in part to figuring out your timeline, especially with longer-term work.

You may be shocked at how much you’re expected to spend… “On what? Someone scribbling a love note on my cocktail napkin?!” But while great copy alone can’t save a business that’s already on a crash course (for reasons other than bad copy), it’s important to understand how every proaction increases your likelihood of increases…if you get my drift. A strong and effective branding message that is well-timed and well-targeted can move mountains, infusing your business with new life, and facilitating your cash flow. As I like to say: Words are like fire. They can either destroy or create. Hiring someone who knows the difference is crucial.

So how much should you expect to spend? That really depends on the quality you’re after, and what your needs actually are. If the work you need done is integral to your business, then hiring based on dirt-cheapness rather than experience, credentials, or a quality portfolio may just end up costing you more money (and peace of mind) in the long run. If you want quality blogs, articles, copy, or campaign-writing from a talented writer with SEO and research skills to boot, again, pricing varies wildly, but I’d say paying $75-$100 an hour is a good bet. You may alternatively end up committing to per project pricing in the range of $1000-$4000. If it’s world-class, (oft-times award-winning) advertising copy you want, you can expect to dish out between $5000 and $10,000 for smaller projects, or hourly rates of $500 to $1,000+.

No matter what avenue you choose, think of your copywriter as a valuable member of your team, and the cost will no longer appear as, well, a cost. 

Shop around, baby.

There are infinite ways to find writers. Most of them advertise their services. If you’ve never hired a freelance copywriter before, ask colleagues for recommendations. Try to give yourself enough time not to have to rush the whole process.

Especially in cases of long-term or permanent hiring, know how to assess whether your copywriter has what it takes. Questions to ask would-be copywriting heroes: Is there a product or niche category you prefer writing for? What’s your favourite brand and why? What’s your biggest success? Can I see some samples?

If your instinct is cloudy, try hiring your new writer on a trial basis the first time around, or for a set period of time, and if it turns out they’ve got what you need (they get you), you know you have a keeper.

Q: Am I for you?

That all depends. Start by checking out my site and my portfolio.

When you get in touch with me, be prepared for a li’l conversation. I’m really into questions. Hugely. As a child, I used to annoy every adult within hearing distance by bombarding them with questions. What is this for? What does this mean? Why? How come? Now, as a well-adjusted adult copywriter (ha), I’m similarly driven: I crave information, details, particulars. They are the stuff of powerful copy. Even if I don’t use a single word of the information you provide to me, it will still have informed the end product greatly. I’ll ask questions like: What products or services do you offer? How long have you been in business? What are your website urls? Have you ever worked with a copywriter? Do you have a copywriting budget? If you do, what’s your range? What do you see as your most significant business obstacle? Why are you hiring a copywriter?

I have set fees for specific types of projects. But the fact remains that each and every project is a unique beast. Once we get to talking, it’ll become clear pretty fast whether we’re a good match for one another, and we’ll settle on rates and terms upfront.

Prefer to have the conversation in person? If you’re in Toronto or Montreal, that’s especially doable (and other places may require more arranging, but I’m open!). Looking forward to working with you! But if that's not in the cards, I hope I've helped guide you along the way.