ATTN Info-Marketers: Best Practices for Hiring a Copywriter

Every info-marketing business needs good copywriting.

And just like your body needs protein to function, your info-marketing business needs a steady diet of copywriting. It’s the essential fuel needed for growth.

You may try to write it yourself. And you may even be good at it.

But as your business grows and expands, you’ll quickly become its bottleneck. That’s why hiring a copywriter will speed the growth of your business exponentially.

That said, hiring a copywriter can be a daunting process for a business owner – especially if you’ve never done it before.

Today, I’ll demystify the process … and give you the best and most effective way of hiring a copywriter that is a right fit for your business.

Best practices for finding a copywriter

Before you even start talking to potential copywriters, there are a few things you’ll need to get in order:

  1. Know what you want to accomplish. This goes without saying, but you need to know what it is you want your copy and campaign to accomplish. Are you trying to renew subscribers? Reactivate old clients? Generate qualified leads? … Then, how are you doing that? Is it by testing a new offer or a new bonus? Or maybe a new follow-up sequence?
  2. Get clear on what you need. Once you know what you want to accomplish, you need to decide on what copy elements you’ll need. Maybe it’s a sales letter, two follow-up postcards, and an email sequence? Or maybe it’s just a free report and some landing page copy? Figure this out and then decide how it will be delivered to your prospects (physical mail, email, PPC ad, etc.).
  3. Create a job brief. Now that you’ve taken the time to get clear on the campaign, it’s time to put it all together into a job brief so your copywriter knows what he or she is signing up for. Make sure to include what you’re trying to accomplish, along with the elements you’ll need (in this case, what the copywriter will need to write and deliver to you). Also, include a project timeline that outlines deadlines and milestones along the way to completion.

Great! You’ve got the initial groundwork taken care of. Now it’s time to get down to business:

  1. Find your copywriter. Place an ad or start asking friends or colleagues for a recommendation. Alternatively, you can post your job brief on a job board. One great place for this is AWAI’s DirectResponseJobs.com – a service that allows marketers to connect with copywriters looking for work. Or you can attend events and seminars and see if you can find your potential candidate there (AWAI’s Copywriting Bootcamp and Job Fair is a great place for this).
  2. Decide. At this point, you’ll need to choose a copywriter. The best way to do so isn’t to get a handle on their pedigree and resume. Instead, start talking about your project, your business, and your industry. Then judge the copywriter by the questions they ask you … how interested do they get in what you’re talking about? Do they “get” it? Does it spark anything within them? You can learn so much more about a potential candidate from these kinds of conversations than you can any other way.
  3. Negotiate compensation. The more experienced the copywriter, chances are the less negotiating “wiggle” room there will be. But it doesn’t mean you can’t try. Some compensation models include a flat fee, a flat fee plus royalty or a commission on sales performance, or no upfront fee plus a higher percentage commission on gross sales. The sky’s the limit here as far as how creative you can get. Most likely, though, you’ll end up agreeing on a flat fee or a flat fee plus commission or royalty.

They’re hired. Now what?

Once you’ve hired your copywriter, it’s important to give them as much information about your project and your business as possible:

  1. Know your prospect. Your copywriter needs to know who they’re writing to. And while the copywriter will do research on your prospect, it’s still important to give them your perspective. After all, you know your prospect better than anyone else. So grab a sheet of paper and write out a full profile. Give this prospect as much detail and life as possible. Yes, include basic demographics. But then go deeper. What is your prospect worried about? What keeps him or her up at night? What is their biggest problem right now? You probably know this intuitively or instinctively, but you need to make sure this writer knows this person as well as you do.
  2. Know your offer. What is your campaign offering? Be very specific and clear here. And if you want, let the copywriter get creative with it. Either way, make sure the offer is clearly articulated, as it is a big piece in the success of your marketing campaign.
  3. Gather all proof elements. You want to give your copywriter all the ammunition they could possibly need to make your campaign a big success. So give them all the proof elements you can gather. These can be any awards your company has won, anecdotal stories, customer testimonials, track record of success, checks of income or profits earned, charts and graphs, etc. These are elements you’ll always want to be collecting and adding to your “proof” inventory.

At this point, you may want to have one final call before the project starts. This can be a brainstorming call where you talk about potential ideas for the direction of the copy or discuss any aspects of the project the copywriter may still not be clear on.

Also, it’s always a good idea to ask for a headline and lead (or at the very least, an outline of some sort) within 48 hours of having this call. It ensures the copy is written while everything is still fresh and has that air of excitement.

Once you’ve got your copy …

How do you know if the copy you received is any good?

This is the tough part that comes with experience.

The best advice? Make it a point to learn as much as you can about what good copy is.

So study the greats – Gary Halbert, Dan Kennedy, Michael Masterson, John Carlton, etc.

Study the AWAI copywriting program. Study your competitors’ marketing.

The bottom line is that you need to be studying and reading good copy constantly.

This is the only way you’ll be able to recognize it. Another tip: read one sales letter a day. Save the ones you like. Maybe even write a few out by hand. This will show you the rhythm and cadence good copy has … but usually passes by unnoticed.

Once you start doing this, recognizing good copy becomes second nature.

Also, a good test is to ask yourself, “Does this copy make me want to buy/act?”

Finally, there’s only one guaranteed way to find out if your copy is good or not … test it and let your customers decide.

It’s an investment

Realize that hiring a copywriter is ultimately an investment. It’s an investment in your business that is expected to bring in a return. So don’t try to “cheap out” on paying for copy, because that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Finally, start small. It’s best to make sure you get along with a copywriter. So “test” them out with a smaller, less expensive project.

If you work well together, gradually move to bigger and more important projects.

So there you have it. Follow these best practices and you’ll most likely have a smooth experience when it comes to hiring your next copywriter!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »


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Published: August 25, 2011

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