The idea for this article came from conversations with clients who approach our agency to find a copywriter, but understand copywriting itself to mean completely different things: writing sales texts, advertising slogans, video scripts, social media posts; on top of that, there are texts for landing pages, websites, information and other articles, etc. What’s the big deal, you may ask? First of all, let’s get clear on the concepts involved.
Who do you need: a copywriter or a content writer?
When it comes to writing commercial texts, whether it’s descriptions for a website or an article to be published on third-party resources, there are two kinds of professionals: a copywriter and a content writer. It’s important to keep the two concepts separate, because they have totally different jobs and approaches. And, of course, they produce different results.
The table shows the main differences between a copywriter and a content writer.
Now we’re clearer on the terminology. So, do you want to find a copywriter or a content writer?
For convenience, in the remainder of this text we shall use the word “copywriter.”
How and where to get a copywriter (or content writer)
Getting a good copywriter for your job is no easy task. This can be confirmed by anyone who has ever tried looking for one, especially if you need a text in a foreign language.
On the whole, finding a copywriter is a lot like finding any other kind of employee: You need to sift through a load of possibles, and there’s no guarantee any of them will be quite right. Even if the interview is encouraging, you can’t be sure the person you choose won’t vanish without finishing the job, or miss the deadline, or produce work you aren’t satisfied with. So what can you do to minimize the risks?
- When you’re looking for a copywriter, first of all you should talk to colleagues and acquaintances and see whether they can recommend anyone. Tried and tested writers are worth their weight in gold.
- Look on professional networks and exchanges (LinkedIn, Upwork): You can see feedback from real clients, previous experience, and ratings, and also find out how long the collaboration lasted.
- If you don’t have time to search for a copywriter yourself, get in touch with an agency like Alconost who has built up a database. There are a lot of benefits to doing that, because agencies will generally see to drawing up the terms of reference and selecting a suitable writer, as well as all interactions with the writer, textual revisions, preparing illustrations, and SEO optimization of the text. If necessary, they will also look after placing the finished material on external resources.
- Check whether the copywriter has experience writing text about the topic area you need. The fact somebody writes outstanding texts about finance doesn’t mean they will necessarily cope as brilliantly with a text about app development (although you never know!). But, in fact, a good copywriter will be reluctant to take on a topic where they really aren’t at home.
- Study their portfolio carefully. That’s your chance to look at the copywriter’s style and check they can convey the topic effectively. You can learn a lot, actually, just from examining the way the portfolio and the texts are presented.
- Talk to the candidates. If a copywriter is too pushy, or on the other hand too indifferent — if they don’t ask questions about the topic, if they don’t clarify the details of the task, if they’re ready to take it on without even glancing at the terms of reference, if they name a price that is too low or unreasonably high — then it is a sign that you may do better avoiding working with that person. This point probably applies to other professionals as well!
- When you set a copywriter a task, make it as detailed as you can: The more specifically you describe all your requirements, the more chance you have of getting the results you want. See below for how to draw up the terms of reference.
- Set a test task. If you want to find a copywriter for a large project, it makes sense to give them a small test task before throwing them in the deep end — that way you can see what they’re like in action.
What are copywriting rates?
This is a difficult question. We need to admit that the profession of copywriter has been compromised. This is because people often try copywriting jobs because they are looking for easy money, without having the necessary qualifications: It could be students looking for part-time work or people who imagine just anybody can do it. Some clients take a superficial look at copywriting exchanges, see the low quotes some hack writers are offering, and imagine they represent the market price.
You should remember that quality text does not come cheap. This is because:
- It takes time to read up about your topic area and acquire a good knowledge of the field;
- The copywriter needs to study similar texts and the interests of potential readers;
- It is a creative process and can be extremely labor-intensive;
- The text needs to be corrected, polished, and brought into line with the terms of reference.
Besides, a good text cannot be written quickly: It takes an investment of time and mental labor. Ask yourself how much you would charge to write the same text?
So a price that is too low ought to put you on your guard: An experienced writer, with a sense of self-respect, will never agree to work for pennies. Does this provide a guarantee that you will be completely satisfied with the results of their work? No. It is just the same as when you buy, say, an expensive phone: You may end up disappointed with the functions it provides. But if you respect a writer’s labor, trust their professionalism, and pay a fair price, you are increasing your chances of getting a great result from collaborating with them.
How to formulate a task for a copywriter properly
The quality of the final test will depend not just on the copywriter’s experience but also on how responsibly you approach the preparation of the terms of reference. In our experience, the more detailed and systematic you make the terms of reference, the better the result is going to be.
Remember: Things that are obvious to you, given how deeply you’re immersed in the topic, might never occur to an outsider. And however abundant a copywriter’s previous experience is, they cannot be certain about every detail of your product. So, before the work begins, we recommend that our clients do everything they can to inform the copywriter about the product or service. If possible, provide test access to the system or let them try the service so they can see the product from the inside.
You can read how we make terms of reference for copywriters in the full article here
Assessment of the result
Making your requirements clear and explicit increases the likelihood that the text will meet them; it also makes it easier for you to assess the result you get back.
We described how to draw up your requirements in the previous point. But that refers to the semantic component of the text — what it means. There are also general criteria for assessing a copywriter’s work, independent of the terms of reference. They are:
- Whether the text is written correctly. It needs to contain no mistakes as regards spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
- Whether the text is unique. There are many tools out there to check a text for plagiarism. Use them.
- Keyword stuffing and empty words. The same services check a text to make sure it is substantive and not spammed with keywords.
- Structure, coherence of thought, absence of semantic and stylistic mistakes.
Pay attention to whether the copywriter has stuck to the deadlines you agreed to, whether they asked questions to clarify the task, how deeply they got to know the topic, etc. All these things together give you a sense of whether this copywriter is suitable to keep working with, or whether you’d be better off testing someone else.
Reasons why your text isn’t producing the results you want
So you’ve got your text and you’ve posted it on your website/blog/some other resource. You look at the stats, and you can’t see any results. Readers aren’t reading it, commenters aren’t commenting on it, and at the end of the day you’re not getting a flow of leads! Your first instinct will probably be to blame the copywriter for producing a text that isn’t sufficiently interesting/doesn’t sell the product hard enough/isn’t attractive (delete as appropriate). But the text may not be solely to blame.
- Let’s be honest: No text is going to help if your website, service, or product are no good in themselves.
- An ill-considered marketing strategy and chaotic promotional activity can’t usually be put right even by the world’s greatest copywriter.
- You may have defined your audience wrong, or chosen an unsuitable platform to publish on.
- The text may not have a clearly defined goal: creating interest, a call to action, sales — it may just be a text for its own sake.
- Or the text isn’t being promoted. Yes, texts themselves can generate organic traffic, but it may take a while. If you want a quick effect, you can’t do it without boosting the texts via contextual and targeted advertising, promo posts on social media, and so on.
The main thing to understand is that copywriting on its own isn’t a panacea, if you have poor marketing or a poor product or your service limps. Of course, if you can get a good copywriter then that’s definitely a bonus. Text is a marvelous tool, but it works in tandem with other means of promotion. So you should neither overestimate the importance of copywriting nor underestimate it.
It could be a good idea to plan the content marketing work — including copywriting — as a part of a general marketing strategy. So you will not find yourselves wondering whether you got a bad copywriter, or whether there are bigger problems that need solving.