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Need a content writer? How to be a smarter consumer of creative services

Let’s pretend you’ve never hired a content writer before… or you’ve struggled to find the best copywriter for your needs. There are five critical questions to ask yourself before you interview a writer. With the right insight, you can make a much smarter choice in copywriters and save yourself the headache of a poor fit.

So, you need a content writer.

Now the real fun begins. How do you hire the best copywriter for your needs?

Alas, not all writers were created equal.

Alas, not all writers were created equal.

Fact is, not all writers were created equal. They have different strengths. Specialties. Writing styles. Work styles. Personalities. Haircuts.

Some writers are going to give you a much greater return on investment than others.

There are a lot of articles that describe good questions to ask a writer in an interview.

So instead, I want to explore questions you should ask yourself first.

These questions will help you become a smarter consumer. With a little personal insight, you’ll be in a much better position to identify the best copywriter for your individual needs… and save yourself a lot of time and hassle.

It’s worth mentioning that these questions can help you hire any business that offers creative services − a graphic designer, web firm, marketing expert, brand consultant, etc. For sake of this post, though, I’m focusing on copywriters.

Ready? Question one…

#1: Do you need an executor or a consultant?

If you ask yourself one question only, this is the one.

Are you looking for a writer who will simply execute your vision? Or, do you want someone who is going to push and stretch you?

  • If you only want someone to wordsmith your copy or write a pretty sentence, look for an executor. You’re not looking for a writer to offer a lot of ideas. You just need a writer to execute what’s in your head.
  • If you want someone who will share his or her expertise to make your business better, look for a consultant. Someone who will offer his or her professional advice. Get you to think differently about things. Push you outside your comfort zone.

You may find the best copywriter in the entire world. But at the end of the day, if you and your writer have different expectations about your writer’s role, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Personally, I vote for choosing a copywriter who will thrive under your expectations.

Someone who won’t butt heads with you every… step… of… the… way. If that sounds good to you too, decide (in advance) what role you want your writer to serve.

Then, clearly communicate your expectations during the interview process. That way, the writer can either agree to your terms or politely tell you, “I’m not the right fit.”

There’s one thing to keep in mind.

You’ll need to pay more for a writer who is a consultant. You are investing in his or her professional advice.

If you’re focused on ROI, though, that partner is much more likely to help you achieve your desired results.

 #2: What do you want your content to do for your business?

This is a fancy way of asking, what are your goals? What results do you want?

I realize that these questions may seem obvious. Nonetheless, it’s easy to get caught up in the creative development process and lose sight of what you’re trying to do for your business.

When you’re clear on your goals, share them with your copywriter.

The more specific you can be about what you’re trying to do for your business, the better your copywriter is going to be able to help you.

There are three key reasons…

  1. You’ll share the same expectations. There is less of a chance of surprises and misunderstandings later.
  2. A good copywriter will use your desired outcomes to develop a strategic approach to your content. It’s much easier to write to specific goals when you know them in advance, rather than trying to retrofit copy to serve a different purpose.
  3. The consultant type of writer can help you stay on track. When you’re in the middle of a project, it’s easy to get distracted with new priorities. If you’ve established your objectives upfront, your writer can reign you in and help you stay on course.

If you’re unclear about your goals (and hey, that happens), take the time to figure them out. Make it a priority.

Otherwise, if you’re muddy on what you want to achieve, your messaging is going to end up muddy too. You’ll have less of a chance of moving the needle for your business.

At that point, you’re just throwing money away.

#3: What traits are most important to you in a writer?

Creativity? Experience? Project management skills? Responsiveness? Price? Eccentricity?

(Hey, whatever works for you.)

If you’re unsure because you haven’t hired a writer before, think about other professionals you’ve worked with − such as graphic designers or web developers.

  • What traits did you value in them?
  • What traits did you really miss?
  • If you had a poor experience with a creative partner in the past, what things went awry and why?

Make a mental list of the traits that are most important to you.

Rank them. Decide which traits you can’t live without and which traits would be nice, but aren’t essential.

Then, ask your prospective writers about those traits.

For example, if hitting deadlines is really important to you, ask a writer how he or she manages a timeline. “What’s your process? What’s your track record?”

If it’s important for you to work with an effective communicator, ask your prospective copywriter to describe his or her process for communicating with clients.

The goal here is to avoid disappointment and frustration. Missed deadlines. Misunderstandings. Personality conflicts. All the headaches that can waste your time and money.

You may not get every characteristic in your writer of choice. But if you have a clear sense of what’s most important to you, you have a much better shot of identifying the best copywriter for your business.

#4: How do you prefer to communicate?

We all have our favorite ways of communicating: Email. Phone. Face to face. Text.

If you prefer one communication method over another, let your prospective writer know what it is.

Ideally, your creative partner will proactively ask you about your communication preferences. But if he or she doesn’t, tell your writer what works for you.

This is about setting yourself up for a successful relationship!

#5: What’s your timeline and why?

Ah, timelines. They can make or break a relationship.

There are actually a couple of questions to ask yourself related to timelines. The first question has to do with your personality.

Are you a planner or do you thrive on getting things done at the last minute?

Again, it’s good to share your preferences upfront, so your prospective copywriter can let you know whether he or she is a good fit for you.

It’s also worth exploring what the writer’s preferences are. If your writer loves a good fire drill and you don’t (or vice versa), you probably haven’t found a great match.

The second timeline question has to do with your project at hand.

When does your project need to be done? Why? Is there an event driving your timing?

The answer for most people is, “I need this work done yesterday!”

My recommendation is to be honest with your prospective copywriter about your timing. You’re creating a foundation of trust.

If you do have an urgent need, you should know that:

  • You may have to pay a rush fee, depending on the turnaround time and circumstances.
  • You may lose out on a writer who is a good fit because he or she is booked out a few weeks.

A little planning can save you some cash and better guarantee your writer of choice.

Until next time!