When people hire me to write their copy, they’re often nervous – with good reason.
They’ve got good reasons for hiring a copywriter. They’re tired of staying up late to put the finishing touches on their sales letters. They want to get higher conversions from their copy. They want to nail their brand and message.
But often by the time clients call me, they’ve had a bad experience with a copywriter. Or they know someone who has. Or they’re just shocked by what they need to pay for quality copy and wonder, “How do I know I’m making the right decision?”
Almost always, when someone’s had a bad experience, they’ve made one of these 5 mistakes…in fact, almost every business makes at least one.
Mistake #1: “Hiring a copywriter with a job interview.”
I hate getting questions like these:
“How did you become a copywriter?”
“What was your most successful project?”
“Why do you think you’re a good fit for this project?”
These interviews usually waste everyone’s time. Some top copywriters began with an ad agency. Some are completely self-taught with no formal training or corporate employment. Some began by writing for themselves and then decided to offer their services to a wider market. In the end, what matters is what they offer today.
Those of us who have been around a while don’t bother to rank our past projects in terms of success. We’re too busy focusing on the next one. And we think we’re a good fit because … well, we don’t want to waste time on projects that don’t fit.
Skip the interview and follow these 4 steps:
Step 1 – Read the copywriter’s website, blog, and samples. Neville Medhora suggests:
“[Start with] whoever writes your favorite blog posts or whoever writes your favorite emails. You probably have 1-3 websites or email newsletters you always read. Identify those people. Then reach out, asking if they do consulting.”
Step 2 – Read the copywriter’s testimonials. That’ll give you an idea of their strengths and style.
Step 3 – Pay for a small, one-time project to test the fit between you, your company, and your copywriter. Or pay for a consultation to see if you and this copywriter are on the same page.
Unpaid meeetings don’t operate the same way; the energy changes as soon as money changes hands.
Mistake #2: “Timing is off.”
Sometimes I get calls from someone who just wants to “see what’s out there.”
Or a consultant says, “I’ve got lots of clients who need copywriters! I’d like to add you to my list.”
Or a client says, “We’re not ready to start yet. Can you check back with us in a few months?”
I applaud anyone who plans for the future. But these queries represent a waste of time for both of us. By the time you’re ready to hire, I might be caught up in so many projects, I’m not available. And you might move in a new direction, so you need skills I do not offer.
At the other extreme, business owners wait to start on their copy till they after they’ve got everything else in place. They hire a designer. They hire a tech support team. They even hire SEO specialists.
If there’s enough budget left over, they look for a bargain basement copywriter. They end up with an inexperienced copywriter. Or the copywriter can’t take time to do all the things you need to do before writing a single line of copy.
The sweet spot for hiring a copywriter has 3 parts:
1 – You’ve got a goal and a deadline. You’re committed to the project.
2 -You’re not going on a tech-free vacation to Tahiti. Your copywriter will have questions.
3 – Nothing’s written in concrete. You’re open to design. You can still add features to the offer; in fact, ideally, you write your sales letter BEFORE you start developing the offer.
Mistake #3: “Not having a budget.”
When your copywriter asks, “What’s your budget?” she’s not being crass or mercenary. She wants to save your time and her own time too. She also knows that people who are serious about their businesses will be straightforward about what they need and what they can spend.
John Carlton, a legendary copywriter with a strong personality, encourages business owners to focus on the value of the project. What’s the value of an hour of coaching, a logo, or a winning sales letter, in terms of getting a nice flow of cash… and what’s the value of a sales letter that bombs and wastes your time?
Carlton adds, “Experienced marketers will have a “war chest” for any new project (or any other situation requiring hiring outside help). It’s an approximate amount of moolah they’re willing to shell out to get things rolling.”
If you’re selling a $97 ebook and expect to sell 10 copies, an appropriate amount of moolah might be the cost of a copy review.
If you’re selling a $997 workshop and expect to sell 12 spaces, your appropriate amount might be as high as $3000 or even $5000.
D0n’t forget to:
— value your own time: your hourly billable rates times the hours you spend writing. It adds up fast.
— pay by the project, not the hour. One client was quoted a ridiculous $30 hourly rate…and ended up paying $4000 for a project that should have cost a flat $1500.
— be ready to answer the question, “What’s your budget?” If it’s too low for a full-scale done-for-you project, your copywriter might offer alternatives. Or you can schedule a consultation to plan the timing and budget for the long haul.
Mistake #4: “Reading the copy as if you were the target.”
“That’s my copy? I hate it!”
The first time I heard this I got discouraged. I knew the copy was good.
I suggested, “Show the copy to a few of your favorite clients.”
He did. He was surprised.
“I thought it was too sales-y. They thought it was friendly.”
You’re not the audience. Your copywriter will be targeting your audience. And you’re very, very close to the offer.
The best copy I’ve ever written,” John Carlton says, “has nearly given my clients heart attacks. If they say, “hey, this is great copy”, then I suspect I’ve failed to deliver the best ad possible… I want them up all night, worried sick about how the ad’s [going to] do… because great copy always takes you out of your comfort zone.”
So go ahead. give it a run. You may be surprised.
Many of my clients are surprised to discover that copywriting actually contributes to their understanding of their markets and strategy. As we work together you get new ideas for your product features, your theme and your message. Your design needs to incorporate those new insights.
Experienced marketing consultants insist their clients get their sales letter drafted as a first step to creating programs or products. That way you build your benefits and desired outcomes into your program, rather than spin wheels trying to find benefits in a program you already created.
Mistake #5: “Hiring a copywriter solely to be a wordsmith.”
“But you’re a copywriter. Don’t you …well, write copy?”
Sure. But quite honestly, that’s only a part of what we do.
When you hire lowball copywriters from Craigslist or Upwork, and you pay as little as possible, your copywriters might jump in and start writing. They won’t ask a lot of questions. They’ll write.
A professional copywriter takes time to get a in-depth perspective. Often it doesn’t take a large amount of clock time because we know exactly what we need in the way of information. But it does take time.
Some places to learn copywriting basics:
My course on “Becoming A Copywriter” includes a video course on copywriting (by a successful marketer) http://mycopy.info/beaco
My Udemy course on “Copywriting For Non-Copywriters” shares the basics in a series of audios – this link gives you a significant discount – http://mycopy.info/copy20
Connie Ragen Green has a short, practical course designed for people who want to write copy without becoming professional copywriters. My affiliate link is here: http://mycopy.info/copycourse
If you’re serious about getting professional copywriting, I’d love to talk with you to see if there’s a fit! Here are 2 ways to get started:
(1) If you’ve got a significant project coming up, let’s connect by phone or email.
Send a message to me at http://cathygoodwin.com/contact
Please answer these questions before we talk so our call will be productive:
- Briefly describe your current project and time frame.
- What is your website URL?
- How long have you been in business? Are you committed to delivering quality products and services to your clients?
- Have you ever worked with a professional copywriter before? If yes, what was your experience? If not, what are your beliefs about what a copywriter will do for you?
- Do you have a budget for hiring a copywriter? If so, what are you budgeting, right now, for hiring one? If you don’t have a budget, we can discuss your options during a consultation.
- What do you feel are your greatest marketing challenges right now?
We’ll know quickly if I’m your best choice for a copywriter, and if you’re a good fit for the kind of copywriting I create.
(2) Skip the preliminaries and set up a consultation.
If you’re not sure of the answers to the questions above, or if you need to define the scope and requirements of your project, begin here. See http://mycopy.info/copyconsult
Your payment for this consultation will be deducted from your copywriting project when you hire me within 1 week of our call.
“Cathy, I don’t need this, but I know someone who does!”
You bet! http://mycopy.info/referrals
About the Author: Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.
|I’m a copywriter and content strategist who’s|
|also a published author, former college|
|professor and sometime standup comedian. My|
|business is about implementing insanely useful|
|marketing solutions that deliver results quickly and|
|make life easier.|
|I’ve taken a strong stand against wimpy copy, “pretty face” websites, mediocre|
|results and strategies that sound good till you get ready to implement your|
|It’s time for a smarter, simpler approach that seamlessly integrates strategy,|
|branding, copy, technology and design. It’s time to write conversationally,|
|professionally and purposefully. It’s time to recognize that storytelling can be the|
|most important tool in your marketing kit (if you know how to use it).|
|I’ve worked with clients ranging from attorneys to astrologers, from software|
|developers to interior designers. I’ve taught courses in copywriting and website|
|makeovers. I’ve studied with some pretty amazing pros and keep learning all the|
|Before going online, I was a marketing professor for over 20 years, where|
|my students ranged from bright-eyed teenagers to CEOs returning for advanced|
|degrees. I’m trained to analyze complicated business cases (so I will “get”|
|your business challenges right way), simplify complex concepts and recognize a|
|For over a decade, I’ve been working with clients and selling products to buyers all|
|over the world and 99% of my revenue comes from my website. Type my name into|
|any search engine and you’ll see me all over the place. I’m not going anywhere!|
|On the personal side, I’ve lived all over North America, including Alaska and Canada.|
|Now I live in a historic neighborhood in Philadelphia with 2 cats and a dog, all|
|mixed-breed rescues. I volunteer with animal rescue, take classes in ceramic|
|sculpture, and enjoy the historical and cultural life of the city.|
|Let’s get started! Visit my website, http://CathyGoodwin.com|
|or send a message via http://cathygoodwin.com/contact/|