10 questions you should ask before engaging a copywriter

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Find out more about a copywriter before you start on your web content

1. Is English your native language? If the answer is “No.” then you should look carefully at all the communications between you.  It may not show during your initial enquiries, but chances are you will soon identify this as a problem.  If you do, then the materials you are producing may suggest that your business has cut corners and this may damage your professional image.

2. How do you develop your copywriting skills? You will be able to assess some professionals by the years of experience they possess, but this is not always the best indicator of skill.  A good copywriter is always honing their skills and trying new techniques to appeal to different audiences – a good copywriter will admit to learning something new every day. You can always learn more about the target audience, and what motivates them to act – and it is this ongoing professional development that improves the reach and effect of your messages.  Words are the tools of a copywriter and a skilled copywriter uses words to increase your business profitability. Choose a copywriter that has a plan for continuing their own education.

3. Do you keep abreast of latest trends and messaging vehicles? Your copywriter should be aware of new trends, be learning from peers and be willing to try new vehicles for getting your messages seen by the right audience.  Does your copywriter use platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn, or Google+ and Facebook? Social media is a fantastic way of content marketing; it’s not just about the words that your copywriter uses, it’s also about where these words are seen, and by whom and how often.  Good copywriters should have ideas about utilising different vehicles for promoting your message, and should be able to explain the value (or otherwise) in trying them.  Finding out how they keep up to date with trends could be very important for your campaign or project.

4. Which Professional Organisations or Influencers are you connected to? Find out whether your copywriter is in contact with, or connected to appropriate individuals or groups.  Is the copywriter in touch with influencers in sectors that are relevant to your campaign or project? There are many professional groups that a copywriter should belong to but it’s also important that they can appeal to influencers that will positively affect your campaign objectives – find out how they would do this

5. Do you have any peers that can provide you with constructive criticism? Copywriters should use editors or reviewers to make sure their work fits the scope and reads well – especially when working to tight deadlines.  It’s often difficult for a copywriter to review their own work objectively and most copy can be improved by being reviewed by a peer. You may not be the best judge of what is great copy – you’re probably too close to your product or service and probably not a copywriting expert.  It’s worth finding a copywriter that can turn to someone knowledgeable that tells them honestly what needs to be improved, and can make suggestions on how to.

6. Do you base your copy on Direct Response Marketing? Good copy should demand a response from the audience! Newsletters, blogs, brochures and websites are NOT just about the copy!  Direct Response Marketing is not the only way that a copywriter is trained, but it is a proven technique of getting a reaction.  Your copywriter should take time to learn about the audience for your message, and should be absolutely clear about the action you want them to take before writing anything. You business wants a measurable return on the investment you are making; the copywriter you engage should apply the principles of Direct Marketing to be far more effective in achieving your project or campaign objectives.

7. Do you have a solid grasp of how your copy fits into my overall campaign? Copywriting is not marketing!  Marketing sets the stage for the sale, identifies the target market, prepares them to receive the message, creates the offer, chooses the most effective media platform and determines the timing of the message. Your copywriter will close the deal with the right message.  A good copywriter will focus each piece of material on achieving a single, definite, action.

8. Do you understand H2H (Human to Human) communication? If your copy is to be really effective, your copywriter needs to understand your audience’s pains, fears, joys and other emotions.  A mature, experienced copywriter will often be more effective at hitting these emotions by having a deeper understanding of the human psyche. This is not persuasion, this is helping to choose those things which directly meet their needs and achieve their goals.

9. Do you have a method for gathering the required information from clients? Your copywriter should be organised and efficient – understanding the campaign objectives and the target market sufficiently at the beginning of the project will prevent delays and will produce a more accurate first draft every time. Questioning at the outset is vital to your project or campaign and your copywriter should provide you with a comprehensive questionnaire.

10. Do you have a comprehensive checklist to make sure your copy is ready? You must be confident that when you receive draft copy from your copywriter, it is as good it can be. Like the questionnaire at the start the process, a final checklist (assuming it is used diligently), means you can confidently launch your campaign. Typos, mis-spellings, headlines, emphasis, accuracy and layout should all be covered to make sure the (final) draft is ready to go. There may be some “back and forth” checking before you sign the project off as complete, but before you engage a copywriter you should know that they have a method for checking the quality of their work.

Finally. Ultimately, your mailing, social, print or web copy will be tested by how clearly it speaks to your target audience, and the responses it evokes.  The psychology behind the copy is as important as the quality of the writing, and the strength of the message. Any copywriter that achieves all these may be expensive but your business should achieve a better Return on Investment.

Peter Stephen is a Surrey based freelance creative copywriter for hire, call 07917 36 01 01 or email peter.stephen@astutecopy.co.uk

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