8 Key Questions To Ask When Choosing Your Copywriter

If you are looking for online copywriting help then knowing the right questions to ask can make the task easier and help you find the best writer for your needs

If you have a website then making sure every page and every word works as hard as it possibly can to get your business message across or service customers is vital.

You’re probably expert in running your business but not necessarily expert at writing digital copy, so you may want to seek some help to improve your site. There are lots of agencies and copywriters who tell you they know how to write for websites – but can they really?

Use this list of questions to help you weed out the also-rans from the leaders in the field.

Questions to ask potential online copywriting suppliers

1.  Do you have in-depth editorial experience?

Check who have they written for and what. A good writer working for well-known businesses will tell you about the experience they have of working on similar projects or in a similar field.  They should be happy to show you examples, if they don’t ask to see some. What is the background and experience of their staff? Have they got proper editorial experience for writing for a variety of publications and media?

2.  Do you have experience writing for digital media?

Do they really get digital? Some people may be able to write long feature articles but not have experience of writing key calls to action, and tightly crafted online pages. Find out how up-to-date their thinking is on SEO and copywriting. Do they understand the effects of the Google Panda search update and how to create online copywriting that rises through the search rankings?

Does the writer understand how to write for mobile? Will any new copy will work well in that setting? Make sure you are not one of the brands missing out on mobile.

3.  What other services do you offer?

If a copywriter offers other services like content strategy, you know they will be looking at the work in a wider way – how it will fit into your long-term plan, whether it is the right content in the right place at the right time. They will see the work in a wider context and can help guide you.

Writers that offer online copywriting training will also clearly understand the nuts and bolts of how to write good online copy that works.

If they offer tone of voice services it should be able to match yours in their writing – or help you create one if you need it.

4.  Who will actually be doing the work?

With volumes of online copywriting being variable some companies use a lot of freelancers rather than using in-house writers. While some will carefully screen writers to ensure the quality of work others just work on a job-done basis.

5.  How do you quote for work?

Some copywriters will quote by the word. However, this is naïve. Short copy works better on the web but requires more thinking. If you are paying by the word this may encourage the writer to just dash it off. Often a project is not just about writing – the writer should spend time getting to know you, your brand and the project – so it is worth investing in this process.

6.  Do you have old-school editorial rigour?

Ask about how they deal with deadlines and quality control. For example, is all work proof-read before being sent to you? What is their usual turnaround time for work? Can they match your style guide rather than using their own? Ask about their editorial processes – you’ll soon find out if they have one or not.

7.  How can I be sure the end result will be of good quality?

The best writers will have a number of mechanisms to help ensure quality. For example, if you have a large project they might write sample pieces and ask for feedback at the start of the project to make sure they are on track. Once the work is sent over they should have priced in amends to the original.

8.  How do you ensure that your work fits best practice?

A lot a work has gone into understanding how people use websites and what makes them usable. Best practice for writing web copy is that it should be:

  • well planned
  • easy to navigate
  • written in everyday English
  • optimised for search
  • in your brand tone of voice
  • accurate and logical

Anything that is written for you needs to follow these key criteria. Find out whether the writer you are considering understands them.

Many websites now test copy – so you could ask the copywriter to provide you with different versions you can test. Many websites don’t even think about the wording of links and buttons – just relying on standard phrases like click here or buy without understanding the uplift that a carefully worded call to action can produce.

If you have particular needs, for example copy needs to pass through legal and compliance, or it is very technical, then ask the copywriter if they have experience of this and how they deal with it.

A few more tips

  • Have a look at the writer’s own website – is it clear and readable?
  • Check out the clients listed and any testimonials or case studies. This will give you a good idea of the standing of the agency.
  • SEO tips: Read Google’s webmaster’s advice on what counts as a high quality website.

 

Simon Wilson

Simon Wilson blogs about small business marketing and runs copywriting courses in London, covering everything from tips for creating a content strategy to writing case studies. When he’s not online Simon enjoys swimming, cycling and visiting his local cinema.

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Comments

  1. However good a copywriter is, they are only as good as your brief. So, you have to know exactly what you want to say on each page of your website.
    You also need to be sure that the tone is correct.
    Does the writing read in the same voice/style as you would discuss your business with clients?
    Does the writing convey the seriousness or the humour inherent in your business?

    • Great points Lynn and I totally agree with the importance of the brief. A copywriter can also help you to enhance the brief by asking the right questions and encourage you to look at your business in a different way. Sometimes you can be so close to your business that you forget to see it through the eyes of your customer and a copywriter can help refocus you to achieve that.
      You mentioned matching tone, style and seriousness – as a micro business, you need to feel comfortable standing behind what someone else writes for you because it’s got to represent what you stand for.
      Thanks for your comment and for starting up a great discussion :-)

  2. I was talking about this with Jo Disney on Monday.

    As a one man band, I wouldn’t hire a copywriter who wasn’t also a one man band, or at least used to be in the recent past. I want to see them in social media hanging out with who are my target market. I want their website to be in a style that speaks to me. I want them to be approachable. I want them to be able to get out of me what they need for a brief.

    Nothing much ;)
    Rosie Slosek recently posted..Thinking about your tax return?My Profile

    • Hi Rosie, well said ;-)
      A copywriter has to get under the skin of your business and then get into the head of your target customer. That’s the way to ensure you find the right angle to present your message so it entices a reader into action. For sure the briefing stage is really important as this is when a copywriter will ask those probing questions, cast fresh eyes and find those little nuggets and insights that can transform how your message reads.
      If you ask me, it’s a pretty cool job :-) And I think that’s the beauty of working with another business, they kind of get where you’re coming from.

  3. I think you expressed what I meant in a better way than I did, Rosie. Fancy being my blog copy writer?!

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