Marketer-to-Marketer:
How to Find Great Copywriters for Your Business

Good copywriters come in all shapes and sizes. They come from all backgrounds and from all experience levels.

But what about great copywriters … What separates great copywriters from good ones? And how can you find them?

The great educator, Charles Swindoll once said, “The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.”

That’s what all great copywriters share. But there’s more to identifying a great copywriter than the attention they pay to details.

I recently sat down with Jenny Thompson, CEO of NewMarket Health, and Charlie Byrne, Senior Copywriter for The Oxford Club, and between the three of us, we identified five traits all great copywriters possess.

Then we took the conversation one step further and created a blueprint that shows you how to hire a great copywriter. Someone who will save you time, effort, and wasted money. And, best of all … someone who can transform your business.

The five great copywriter traits are:

Great Copywriter Trait #1: They’re Curious

Jenny Thompson likens a copywriter’s curiosity to the difference between a snorkeler and a SCUBA diver.

If a copywriter isn’t curious, he’ll do surface-level research — he’ll find ideas, and facts, and statistics that everybody already knows. He may be very talented at drawing inspiration from other people’s work, rewording old ideas to make them look new, but he’ll never deliver groundbreaking results.

A curious copywriter is never satisfied with what he already knows. He digs deep. He follows one source to the next and to the next and to the next until he’s found nuggets of information that can capture the imagination of his audience. A curious copywriter is the one who will deliver new ideas and approaches … and that’s how you come up with new breakthroughs.

Great Copywriter Trait #2: They Work with a Team

If you’ve been a marketer for very long, you’ve met a prima donna copywriter or two. These are the copywriters who think the world revolves around them — or at least that your business should. They want special treatment.

Ultimately, they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

Direct-response marketing is a collaborative process. The copywriter plays a key and critical role. But the contributions made by editors, by the production team, and by everyone else involved are important, too. Look for a copywriter who appreciates the team he’s going to work with.

Great Copywriter Trait #3: They Welcome Feedback

This is a tough one because even great copywriters struggle with receiving feedback. Having your writing criticized can always bruise the ego a bit.

But if you can, find a copywriter who values the process, bruised ego and all, because he knows it will lead to stronger results and bigger successes for everyone involved.

Ideally, you want a copywriter who will take the feedback the team gives and sit with it a while. He’ll think it through and see how each comment applies to the package as a whole, not just to the line or paragraph where the comment was given.

This copywriter will give you a revised package that will be very different from the original … and much stronger because of his ability to take feedback.

Great Copywriter Trait #4: They Don’t Have These Red Flags

Charlie underscores knowing who not to work with. There are beginner mistakes that are worth working through and there are other mistakes that signal the copywriter may not really understand what makes good copy.

If you review a copywriter’s samples and see a lot of hype, an over-reliance on metaphor, or a lot of vague and unsubstantiated claims, that writer still has some work to do before he’ll be ready to write copy that is worth mailing.

Great Copywriter Trait #5: They Approach You with Ideas

If a new copywriter is coming to you looking to form a working relationship, the best indication that he’s serious is that he has ideas about your product, your audience, and your sales funnels that he believes could help you make more money.

If he approaches you to tell you what you’re doing wrong and how he can do it better, he’s probably not going to be a good fit. But if he comes to you and says, “I think I have an idea for a headline and lead that could beat what you’re currently running for XYZ product,” that’s a copywriter worth talking to.

Bonus Idea: One way to find and hire great copywriters is to hold a contest with an irresistible prize. Jenny has done this before — offering $25,000 plus royalties to the copywriter who submitted a package they wanted to mail. The contest resulted in her hiring a full-time copywriter who has delivered consistently great results since he joined the team.

5 Steps for a Great Working Relationship — The Blueprint

Once you’ve landed a great copywriter — whether she’s working with you on a freelance basis or joining your staff — you want to grow that relationship into something that lasts and benefits you both.

Jenny, Charlie, and I have some ideas to help.

1. Communication is Key

We all agree that clear communication between you and your writer is key. You need to let her know what you’re happy with, what you’re not happy with, and why.

A lot of times, marketers worry about copywriters taking criticism personally, and so they couch feedback and even direction in vague or confusing terms.

Be direct, fair, and honest with your copywriters. They’ll appreciate you for it, and it will save you a lot of headaches.

2. Emphasize Collaboration

A lot of writers like to work in a vacuum, and as marketers, we want to respect their process. But if you have a copywriter working on a major project, let her know you are available to bounce ideas off of.

Also, insist on a couple of key milestones where you collaborate. As the copywriter determines her framing and her Big Idea, ask to review that with her before she begins writing.

And again, once she’s written a headline and lead, take that as another opportunity to provide feedback.

It may make the writer uncomfortable at first, but it’s a lot better than if she writes a full package only to have you tell her she’s off-the-mark or that there are legal problems with her approach and you can’t use it.

3. Set Up Objective Measures

Jenny talked about how subjective copywriting can feel, but the direct marketing process is completely objective.

So she sets up clear, objective measures for the writers she works with. She uses quarterly royalty earnings as a way to benchmark success. If a copywriter isn’t hitting those marks after six months, then Jenny knows that writer isn’t succeeding and something needs to change.

4. Show Your Appreciation

Sometimes with freelancer writers, marketers are guilty of thinking they should be able to produce brilliant copy without any input, without any editing, without any revision process to speak of.

Instead, try treating your freelance copywriter like you would any other member of your team. Provide feedback. Work with her to make her copy stronger. And let her know how much you appreciate her ideas and her contributions.

5. Learn the Language

Understanding copywriting terms is critical for you as a marketer. This actually goes back to the clear communication — the number one thing you can do to keep your copywriters happy.

When you speak the same language as your copywriter — when you know about the Big Idea and the Power of One, and other terms copywriters use — you’ll be able to convey your thoughts more clearly. And that will create a better work environment for everyone.

Bonus Tip: Use a Training Program

When you hire a writer to be part of your staff, you’re making a significant investment. It’s a smart move to take that copywriter through a training process — one that involves reading great copy, evaluating copy that’s working, and practicing writing skills.

You’ll be able to see her progress and know when she’s ready to start writing promotions that are of good quality to mail. And she’ll develop the confidence to rise to your expectations.

Copywriters play a crucial role in the direct marketing world. So, it’s well worth your time and energy to find and hire the best … and then to make sure you have a good, long-term relationship with each writer you choose to work with.

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Published: September 21, 2015

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