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How to Hire a Copywriter

Choosing a copywriter can be a bit bewildering. Unlike buying shoes or a car, marketing services are often a first-time, or unfamiliar purchase for new or small businesses.

There are thousands of writers, providing many different kinds of services, from journalists to speechwriters to direct marketing copy. With all those choices, and your business riding on the results, how do you pick the one that's right for you?

Look for a Business Copywriter with Skills That Match Your Needs

Review the writer's Web site and determine if the writer's services and background complement your business. A speechwriter can produce a speech for a conference presentation, but may not have the ability to create direct marketing copy that drives sales.

Is the site well-written? A site riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and other mistakes is a sign of sloppiness and poor writing skills; look for someone with a strong grasp of English.

Seek Business Copywriting Expertise

B-to-B marketing requires different skills and expertise than big-budget television advertising or branding experience. The object of a "brand" campaign is to show the product repeatedly, and hope that consumers remember it and buy it.

A direct marketing campaign (whether through postal mail, email, or the Web) is designed to generate actual measurable sales. A writer who focuses primarily on selling soap or consumer products may not have the expertise or background to sell more expensive business products or services.

If your marketing budget is small, it can be tempting to do it yourself. This can be hazardous for several reasons:

Falling in love with your product

It's easy to lose your objectivity, rather than focusing on solving your customers' problems.

Is this an effective use of your time?

If you charge $100 an hour for something you do well, or sell software priced at $400 and up, does it make sense to spend hours working on copy? I could do my own taxes, but I'm not very good at it, so I pay an accountant to do it for me.

Evaluating the Copywriter's Fees

Beware of choosing on price alone. There are numerous sites featuring overseas writers offering to sell copywriting services at low prices — but they are often untrained, unskilled, and write poorly.

A brochure or a Web site is an important investment of your time and money; don't risk your image and credibility to save a few dollars.

How does the writer calculate fees?

Some writers will charge by the hour, by the word, or by the page. Get an estimate upfront about how many hours are likely to be required. Ask what happens if the writer takes more time than he or she estimated.

Other writers prefer to work on a project fee basis, which makes calculating the final cost much easier.

Standard practice for writing projects is generally a deposit up-front, and a payment schedule based on completing different stages of the project, such as submission of a draft, and final approval.

Determine how many revisions are included and how the writer charges if there are major rewrites. A revision like changing a tire. A rewrite is repainting the car, replacing all four tires, and adding high-power headlights.

What is your timeline?

Rush projects will generally cost more than those with longer deadlines. If you need something done very quickly, the fee may be as much as 50% higher than if you gave the writer more time. Some copywriters prefer not to take rush projects at all.

How to get a lower fee

  • know your target market;
  • have samples of marketing you like;
  • understand your customers' problems and how your product solves them;
  • have a clear idea of what you want (a 5 page Web site or a 50 page site).

The more preparation you are able to do in advance, the less time and effort will be required for the copywriter to complete the project, and the lower your cost.

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