You know your product / service / offer is awesome. But you’re not sure how to translate that awesomeness into copy that converts. Ready to hire a copywriter that’ll get results?
By results, I mean turn visitors into prospects. Then prospects into customers. After 10+ years in the digital trenches, I’m revealing how to hire such a (rare) copywriter.
If you’re not converting, you’re not selling. Period.
Do you have low click through rates? A high bounce rate? Not enough leads or sales? If so, your copy isn’t getting it done.
A good copywriter knows how to craft copy that keeps visitors engaged. Whether it’s through headlines, bullet copy or advanced elements such as social proof & guarantees. They know how to turn attention into interest.
Great copywriters on the other hand, they know how to make your customers feel understood and motivated; so they want to buy now.
Direct response copywriting is designed to persuade a prospect to take a specific action, such as click on an ad, enquire about your services, or say ‘yes!’ to your offer.
This guide offers insights for hiring a copywriter that’ll results (while avoiding stress-spiking lacklustre copy, missed deadlines, and the time & money drain all too common amongst amateur writers).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hey, I’m Paul. I’m a direct response copywriter and marketer with 10+ years industry experience.
Whether you’re a scrappy start-up or a seasoned brand, conversion-friendly copy paired with direct response campaigns will put more money in the bank.
When it comes to hiring a freelance copywriter, it pays to be aware of common pitfalls.
In this section we’ll look at a few ways you can be ripped off and flush hard earned cash down the drain.
First off, we’ll cover common copy scams by the way of typical lies that some desperate copywriters will tell you.
Then we’ll look at the “go-to expert platforms” (these have sucked-in an ungodly number of business owners) which are a fast-lane to crappy copy & wasted budget.
Before we get started, you may be wondering:
A quick extended intro from Paul:
“After a Bachelor in Business (Finance) and Masters In Advertising (both of which I’d think long and hard about doing again if you gave me a time machine)…
I kicked off my professional career in London in 2010 working for a well regarded digital agency. I was managing Google PPC Ad campaigns for Pokerstars, Samsung, and a bunch more.
After a couple cold winters in the UK, I moved back to Australia to thaw out. I spent the next few years working for www.realestate.com.au; managing data & analytics, research & supporting our sales teams with audience insights to get the buy-in for big deals like NAB, ANZ & others.
Needing a new challenge, I joined a small (but powerful) full service digital agency. Working alongside the owner, we 3X’d MRR over the next few years. During this time I hired at least 30 freelancers & contractors in the digital space; from writers to editors, to SEOs to designers, VAs to developers and more.
I’ve seen all the tricks in the book. Heard all the lies. And figured out how to kiss enough frogs to find the princesses. You’re about to read the exec-summary of these years.”
Paul Giannotti, Persuasive Prose
Here’s the thing:
While most of us have a healthy BS meter, if you’ve never worked with a copywriter before it can be easy to be burnt.
There are 7 common statements that range from while lies to downright hustles:
1. “I can get it done as fast as you need it”
The copywriting truth:
Most of the time for a skilled copywriter, writing the copy is the least time consuming part. There’s a hefty time requirement before pen ever gets to paper.
It takes time to understand the client’s business thoroughly, research the market, review competitors, and get your head in the game.
So when a copywriter tells you they can deliver the project yesterday, you gotta wonder if they’re going to do right by you.
2. “I’m not allowed to share my portfolio”
Some writers will tell you they can’t share previous client work.
Of course, if they’ve had a client request an NDA, sure.
But most quality copywriters will have a series of case studies that outline successful copy and campaigns they’re responsible for.
Ask for these!
3. “My copy will sell ice to eskimos”
Cocky young copywriters might have this opinion of themselves. But they’ve been watching too many re-runs of Ocean’s 11.
The fact is that high performing copy is not written for anyone and everyone. It’s actually the reverse.
High performing copy is extremely dialled into your ideal clients; their issues, problems, challenges and dreams.
The truth is that a high performing sales page converts at 2-5%, meaning it fails with at least 95% of the people who read it.
If someone tells you their copy will take your business to the moon – start thinking about backing away slowly.
4. “I’m qualified because I have a degree in English Literature”
In all honesty, degrees do not matter. Results do.
The best definition of copywriting comes from an unknown copywriter in 1904, who gave Albert Lasker (a then titan of advertising) this definition:
“Salesmanship in print”.
Meaning, copy is there to sell. That’s it.
5. “I charge the same for all clients”
Every copywriting client I’ve worked with took different amounts of time to deliver. Each project is unique. The requirements differ. The skillsets vary.
To develop an understanding of the market. To find top performing funnels & campaigns already working. To identify the key hooks and sales messages we want to test.
It’s impossible to have a one size fits all price list. And if a copywriter produces one of these, you should question their experience.
6. “Let me know how long the copy is, and I’ll give you a quote”
This is another common statement that should set off warning bells.
A great copywriter may charge $10,000+ for a sales letter. Does that mean a 3-word slogan should cost $30?
Let’s ask Nike’s creative team who penned “Just Do It”?
Only inexperienced copywriters will want to charge you by the word. For the very reasons we mentioned in lie #1.
7. “You email’s been stuck in Spam”
Ah, the classic email in the spam folder “time buying” trick.
It’s funny how this generally doesn’t happen when you’re negotiating the deliverables and costs of a new project ;)
Let’s move onto the next copy-trap.
The “outsourcing platforms”.
You need to know:
On these platforms you’ll find thousands and thousands of “copywriters”.
But the majority of these writers are simply article and content writers who slap on the term “copywriter”.
Remember the definition of copywriting?
Salesmanship in print.
(If you’re curious about the influences, mentors and training that real copywriters have learned from, read this page).
Now sure, you can get these writers at $10 an hour.
But I guarantee this is a path leading directly to heartache and frustration.
I mean, if you love editing copy that was written by someone who speaks English as their second language, this’ll be right in your wheelhouse.
More often than not, the copy will be lacklustre and the results will be worse.
Not only will you burn budget, you’ll waste a resource exponentially more valuable – your time.
“We launched a Facebook Ad Campaign 10 days ago, which Paul wrote the copy for, and it’s already bringing in over 50 new customers every day with plenty of room to scale.
If you have the opportunity to work with Paul, take it!!
– Lachlan Berry (Onest Health)
This section arms you with a shopping list of must-have traits for your next copywriter.
You might think that the best copywriters are the most creative, eloquent & expressive writers…
But the truth is this.
Writing quality, grammar & highbrow-readability (yeah I just made that one up)… they don’t put money in the bank.
That’s why college professors don’t make great copywriters.
Ever tried reading a scientific paper?
You can read an entire 6-line paragraph and still not understand the point they’re making.
Try putting copy like that on a Facebook Ad.
You’ll get exactly 0 conversions.
So what works?
— Simple language (grade 6 or below).
— Short words and sentences.
— Lots of bullets & breaks & sections & images.
Comprehension = conversion.
Confusion = procrastination.
So, aside from being able to use grade 5 level language, what else should you look out for?
These are 5 traits I believe all elite copywriters possess:
1. Results orientated
As we already touched on, creative awards and the ability to write a headline that makes someone think… “Oh, isn’t that clever…”
Don’t put money in the bank.
Your copywriter must be laser focused on the purpose of writing copy in the first place…
To move prospects closer to whipping out their credit card and shouting “take my money!”.
This is why direct response copywriters are so valuable.
Because they’ve had this mantra drilled into their minds.
“Don’t bother writing a single word that doesn’t move a prospect closer to a sale”.
2. Numbers driven
If results matter to you, you need a copywriter who understands digital tracking and analytics.
If they don’t, they’ll have no way of judging the effectiveness of the copy they deliver.
Facebook Ads, Google & YouTube Ads, email marketing platforms, sales page builders (like ClickFunnels), online eComm (like Shopify), LinkedIn, all feature robust analytics.
An effective digital copywriter uses these tools to measure how their copy converts.
From micro-conversions such as landing page views and button clicks, to hard metrics like enquiries & revenue generated.
Tracking copy performance and split-testing are crucial skillsets to continually improve performance.
(Did I mention I managed analytics for www.realestate.com.au’s sales teams back in the day? We used Adobe Omniture. You probably use Google Analytics).
3. Channel agnostic
Sometimes writers silo themselves into a single channel.
They’ll say, “I’m a white paper copywriter”.
But what happens if you ask that person to come up with a Facebook Ad? Or write a cold email template to attract influencers? Or write a script for your next YouTube video Ad?
Partner with a copywriter that understands the bigger picture. How all parts of the marketing jigsaw fit together.
Of course, they need the writing chops.
But those are nothing without solid strategic thinking.
This is one of the reasons I value so highly my 4 years managing a full service digital agency.
I led teams across SEO, PPC, Email Automation, Analytics & Tracking, Social Media, Influencer Campaigns, Sales CRMs, Video Marketing, Conversion Design, Website Design, Content Marketing, Sales Funnels, Growth Hacking and more.
Strategising, managing and delivering campaigns across 12+ digital channels has given me a unique 10,000 ft view that’s hard to develop elsewhere.
4. Story tellers
Stories are primordial.
Thousands of years before we had the printing press (and copy was just being born), our ancestors shared important life lessons through story.
It’s in our DNA to pay attention to, engage with, and importantly, remember a story.
So a highly effective copywriter needs to be able to spin a yarn.
To relate with readers. To build rapport. To increase trust.
The ability to tell a story and connect with a variety of audiences comes with life experience. With a few grey hairs.
That’s why you rarely see top ranked copywriters under 40 years old.
5. Curious researchers
All top copywriters are curious cats.
Like a detective… they obsessively learn about you, your business, your products or services, your team and delivery processes.
Like an armchair psychologist… they’ll dig into the psyche, the emotional needs and the decision making processes of your prospects.
Like an analyst… they’ll review your past wins and losses, study your core competitors, and identify your market’s top performing digital funnels & ad campaigns.
Only then will they have the context to write great copy.
No doubt, the best way to find the right copywriter for your business is to ask the right questions.
Below I offer 9 key questions to ask a copywriter. I’ve given my answers too, so you’ll have an example to compare against.
1. “What’s your experience with the industry I’m working in?”
Ideally, although this is usually not a dealbreaker, you’ll select a copywriter who’s already worked in your industry. This can speed up the research phase as they’re already aware of how the industry works, key players, typical sales processes, etc.
If you’re curious which 30+ industries I’ve worked with, head over to this page and scroll towards the bottom.
2. “What sort of results have you achieved in my industry already?”
The natural next question then, is whether the copywriter has developed any winning campaigns in your industry. For sure, if I was an eCommerce brand looking for a direct response copywriter I’d ask about campaigns & copy they’ve already produced which have worked.
Checkout my Growth Stories page for a library of case studies of successful campaigns I’ve developed. If you dig them, make sure to join my Persuasive Prose newsletter. In my newsletter I take deep dives into why these campaigns worked and what we can learn from them.
3. “Can I see samples of your writing?”
As a client, you’re completely within your rights to ask for copy samples.
Of course some of what they’ve delivered for other clients may be shielded by an NDA. However they shouldn’t have a problem taking out brand & product names to give you a sense of the quality of their work.
Want to see some of my samples? I’d be happy to share them with you. Simply scroll to the bottom of these page and request a complimentary 20-minute strategy call and I’ll get back to you asap!
4. “What are your qualifications?”
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not the biggest fan of degrees (I have 2).
In my humble opinion, the best places to learn copy are from the OGs of the industry. Top copywriters obsessively study from masters who have succeeded before them. Seek out influences such as Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, Clayton Makepeace, Jay Abraham, Drayton Bird, etc.
Theses are masters of the craft who were at the top of the game and decided to give back in the form of books, seminars, courses and mentorship. I’ve deeply studied many and been mentored personally too. For a full list of influences read this page.
And of course, be on the lookout for industry qualifications. Myself, I’m a certified Google Ads & Analytics partner, an Active Campaign agency partner, a Facebook Blueprint partner, I’ve completed several Digital Marketer qualifications, and I regularly invest in training and mentorship (I’m in several top masterminds that have a 5-figure price tag attached).
Lastly, great copywriters and marketers are students of the market. Always on the lookout for the market’s top campaigns & funnels. The idea to model the best in market that’s already working, then iterate and improve on it.
4. “How long have you been in the field?”
This is a fair question to get a sense of their experience level. I started writing and split testing copy & landing pages when I kicked off my career back in 2008 managing PPC campaigns in London.
I began taking my journey into copywriting seriously around 2010 (when www.persuasiveprose.com was first registered). And I started working professionally as a copywriter in 2014.
5. “What is your experience & knowledge of marketing in a wider context?”
Of course the deeper and wider their knowledge of marketing in general, the better they can support your business to grow. Ideally, you want a copywriter who understands how to generate leads, maximise Average Order Value (AOV), optimise design for conversions, how to structure Ad Campaigns across your funnel, maximise backend sales value, increase retention, etc.
As you can see, copy is just one element that fits inside the greater strategic marketing mix.
6. “Do you have any case studies?”
A great copywriter will share successful campaigns.
7. “What type of content do you specialise in?”
This is a great question to ask to identify your copywriter’s strengths. I also like to ask “What do you love working on?” because having someone work on in an area that lights them up will generally get you a better result.
For me, my passion lies in email marketing copywriting (for samples, go ahead and join my free newsletter), Advertising Copy (Google, YouTube, & Facebook PPC Ads), Sales Pages & Conversion Pages / Funnels.
8. “What is your availability?”
A crucial question to avoid disappointment. Especially if you need a copywriter on a regular basis, it’s best to check their availability long term before kicking off a project.
I’ve you’ve come to this page through a Google Ad, you can assume I have a couple hours per week available right now :)
9. “What are your rates?”
Different copywriters will offer different rates, and while there’s no set standard, there are rough guidelines.
Here’s an overview from GrowthLab that averaged the rates of around 70 active copywriters:
Now here’s one last critical tip.
As you listen to them answer these questions…
Pay attention to the questions THEY ask you.
You already know that the best copywriters are intensely curious, so if they’re not asking a ton of questions about your business, it’s an obvious red flag!
Here’s some of the things they should be asking you:
– Can you give me a background on your business?
– What makes your business unique?
– What are your business objectives with this copy?
– What’s worked & not worked for you in the past?
– What do you know about your ideal clients and how they make decisions?
– Have you got any customer reviews / testimonials / case studies I could review?
– And so on.
“Just wanted to let you know that we won the Nespresso contract, AND, Nespresso said that our tender was the most professional they had ever seen. BTW, that was said by the new boss who used to be at Apple! So, yay, your letter totally rocked it!!”
So you’ve found a copywriter you’d like to work with.
Now I’d like to close out this hiring guide with 3 short secrets on how to kick-off your copy project the right way.
Secret #1. Strategy first
Before anyone puts pen to paper, it pays to have your strategic ducks in a row.
Here are strategic questions you should have answered before you brief your copywriter.
— Who are your ideal clients (demographics, psychographics, buying processes, etc.)?
— What is the ideal Client Journey (sales process and journey from learning about your brand… right through to becoming a raving fan)?
For more on this, read my free Copy Crash Course – lesson #4 ‘Client Journey’.
— How will you drive traffic (SEO, Facebook Ads, email, partnerships, YouTube etc.) to your website or offers?
— What’s your lead generating strategy (Lead Magnets and lead-gen offers)?
— What will you do to nurture leads, support sales, and drive back-end Customer Lifetime Value?
Without answering these questions, you could seriously sabotage your new copy project.
Imagine that you own a Saas platform and you brief a copywriter to write new website copy for you. But you don’t brief anything around your lead-generation strategies.
You may not get back website copy that includes any strategic elements to drive leads and trials. It would be a disaster for your business.
For clients with little marketing experience, this is especially risky because there may be a range of strategies and digital marketing requirements that you’re not even aware of.
This is why it pays to work with a copywriter with wider marketing experience.
Secret #2. Quality of the brief
When it comes to hiring creatives, here’s one lesson I wish I learned years earlier:
“The quality of the creative is tightly linked to the quality of the brief”.
What this means is that the clearer you are on the outcome you want, the better the resulting creative will be.
Remember: no-one knows your business like you do.
So you need to clarify & articulate exactly what you want from the copy.
But here’s the thing:
Sometimes as a client, you don’t know exactly what your copywriter needs to know.
Which is why I developed an exhaustive Copy Briefing form to ask you all the questions you never knew you needed to answer.
Secret #3. Iterate early & often
There’s nothing worse (for both copywriter & client) than turning in completed copy and it being way off the mark.
To avoid this heartache, it pays to build in several feedback touch points throughout the process.
This allows you as the client to give feedback early and in return, help shape the copy towards what it is that you’re after.
Here’s a visual guide to the process I use:
I like to provide a ‘Copy Outline’ prior to writing copy.
This is done after I’ve completed the research phase. At this point, I share my ‘Big Idea’ for each copy piece, along with key Call To Actions (CTAs).
For example, if I’m writing you an 8-part Email Lead Nurture Welcome Series, I would outline the Big Idea and CTA for each email.
Depending on the client, we may schedule a call to explain my thought process and strategy, or to ask further questions and dive deeper into strategic considerations.
Only once we’ve both agreed to the strategy do I write.
Also notice the ‘Revisions’ stage is a potentially endless loop.
Because of my of experience and detailed onboarding processes, I’m comfortable offering something few copywriters can:
A 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Meaning that I will continue writing, refining and honing draft copy until you are happy to sign it off.
This wraps up the Copywriter Hiring Guide.
If you found this guide insightful, please consider rating it by clicking a star rating in the yellow box below.
And if you feel that I might be the right copywriter for your business, I’d like to suggest a risk-free next step below.
Would you like an experienced copywriter to develop winning copy for your business?
The next step is to request a complimentary 20-minute Strategy Call.
In this friendly online meeting:
It’s an obligation-free session:
So request your free session today by completing my 2-minute Strategy Call Questionnaire below.