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For Best Results: The Care and Feeding of Your Favorite Copywriter

The Care & Feeding of Your Favorite Copywriter

You may start out writing your own copy, but as your business grows, you’ll want to bring in a professional to help write important marketing materials for your business. To address this, I asked my friend Amy Harrison to weigh in.

Amy is a top-notch copywriter who is also a skillful teacher. And in today’s post, she’s teaching us how to make the most of your work with a professional copywriter.

Enjoy her post, and please make Amy feel welcome by leaving a comment at the end! – Pamela


Copywriters can be strange and mysterious creatures to work with.

Trained in the art of persuasive writing, they’re a killer marketing ingredient.

But if you’ve never worked with one before, how should you handle them?

Simply follow the below instructions and you’ll be sure to make the most of your investment in this rare, but eager to please breed.

1. See how they’ve behaved with previous “owners”

Most copywriters have a portfolio of samples and can put you in touch with previous employees if you want to chat about how they’ve worked before.

Don’t be discouraged if they won’t disclose results from other client campaigns. A lot of this data will be confidential and because there are so many factors to consider in each campaign, another client’s numbers won’t tell you how your copywriter will perform for you.

If you do talk to a previous owner, here are some good questions to ask:

  • How did the copywriter research the business/product?
  • What were they like to work with?
  • Was the copy delivered on time?
  • Were any revisions needed, and if so how long did they take?
  • Were you happy with the final copy? What did you like about it?

Looking for a copywriter to write in your voice? Have a look through their work to see if they’ve done the same for other clients and see how well they’ve matched the copy to that client’s tone of voice and language style.

Copywriters are often chameleons, so even if you don’t see writing in your particular style of voice, if they’ve managed to capture the voice of a range of customers, there’s a good chance they can adapt to you.

2. Get familiar with their routine

Find out early on how your copywriter works, so there are no surprises. Each copywriter has a slightly different method of producing copy and knowing their routines will make you much more comfortable.

Some basic information that will be invaluable to know when you chat to your copywriter is:

  • What does the research process look like? Is there a research call? Do you need to test the product or service first?
  • How long will the first draft take to write?
  • How much of the copy can be changed from the first draft?
  • If revisions are needed, how does that work, and how long do they usually take?

These are pretty basic questions for your copywriter to answer, but it will make you feel more confident knowing what’s ‘normal’ and when you should expect your copy.

3. Before taking your copywriter home hiring your copywriter, make sure you have these provisions details

If you find yourself still at the stage of outlining your offer, product, or ideal customer, it’s worth holding off before hiring a copywriter.

Your copywriter will want to know a lot about what you have to offer, and without these details, they won’t be able to write the kind of copy that you and your customers will love.

If in doubt, there’s no harm asking a copywriter what they need to know before you hire them but if you want to save time and money, it’s definitely worth knowing:

  • Who your ideal customer is
  • The problem they have that you solve
  • Why this is so important to them
  • What you want to offer them
  • How much your product/service is, and what the customer will get for that
  • How the product or service is delivered

4. Know how to spot a gem (that others might turn away)

There are two copywriter ‘quirks’ that are perfectly normal, but can put off some customers who feel they are strange, or unreasonable requests.

Quirk number 1: Your copywriter refuses to guarantee results

A common request to copywriters is to pay only if their copy generates a certain number of sales.

On the face of it, it seems like a logical ask, especially if your copywriter is writing a sales page, right? The copy is there to generate sales, so if that doesn’t happen, why should you pay?

The best copywriters I know won’t guarantee results and it’s not because they can’t improve your copy and get you those results, it’s because there are too many variables out of their hands that can influence your sales.

Your offer, your price point, the size of your audience, your marketing strategies and the product you have will influence how many sales you make. Your sales copy is just one component.

What most copywriters do guarantee is that you are satisfied with the copy before it is published.

Quirk number 2: Your copywriter won’t agree to unlimited revisions

Unlimited revisions might seem comforting, but like that extended warranty on your toaster, it’s not something you really need.

Your copywriter should ideally spend a whole lot of time researching you, your business and your product to give you a strong first draft that is close to what you want.

In my experience of working with clients, after that only one, maybe two rounds of tweaks are really needed until the copy is ready to go.

It also works better for you as a client, knowing that your copywriting project isn’t going to limp on indefinitely, but rather has firm deadlines so that you can launch that new site or product.

If your copywriter has these two quirks written into their working process, don’t be put off — they’re not being unreasonable.

5. Be prepared for their insatiable hunger (for information)

You know how in those cold case TV movies a new detective always manages to spot a clue that others have missed?

That’s the power of a fresh pair of eyes, and your copywriter is trained to hunt for nuggets of gold that can be turned into selling points.

But you might be surprised at just how much information they want to see before they write the copy. Past brochures or marketing, current copy, copy in development, training manuals … all might be on the list of materials needed by your copywriter.

Don’t worry, they’re not a spy or being overly nosy, they’re just hunting out detail to improve your copy.

They might also want to talk to your firsthand about your customers, business or offer. This is something I love to do, because quite often a business owner will give me more gold in 15 minutes of chatting, than in any written questionnaire.

Why?

Because when you speak in your own voice, rather than through a pen the information is much more free-flowing. Every time I’ve got off the call with a client I have a new turn of phrase, or piece of information that I just know is going to rock the copy.

For example, a business coach, when asked about their customer’s problem, might write:

“They want to know how to grow a successful business”

But on the phone, after chatting a bit, they might tell me:

“My client is just sick and tired of having something great to offer and not knowing how to offer it. She’s a smart woman, she’s educated and she knows that she could run a kick ass business if she could just talk to someone who’s been there before…”

Which one is going to be more powerful in the copy?

If you can make yourself available for a phone call with your copywriter, do it!

6. Show them how you want them to behave (and what you want them to avoid)

Trying to describe in words how you want your copy isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

Recently I had my hair colored for the first time, and I loaded my iPad up with pictures of what I liked, but more importantly, what I didn’t like.

You can do just the same with your copywriter.

Browse other businesses whose copy you like or don’t like. It doesn’t have to be within your industry, but a good sample of what you want to aim for and what you want to avoid is invaluable to your copywriter.

Here’s an added tip: try to describe specifically what you like or don’t like about it and you’ll get better results.

For example, do you like the headline on one sales page, or the tone of voice? Do you not like how another sales page feels too pushy and impersonal?

The more details you give, the more you’ll get back.

7. Don’t be afraid of feedback

While copywriters can be sensitive creatures, they’re not protective poets when it comes to revising your copy.

When your draft is submitted, don’t think you can’t ask for changes, this is a chance for you to provide valuable feedback so that they can take the copy to the next level.

So how do you get the best results from this stage in the copywriting process?

As with rule 6, you want to be specific as possible.

A good tip to follow here is instead of focusing on how the copy should be changed, tell your copywriter how you feel from a customer’s point of view.

For example, instead of saying:

“I think the copy needs to be more compelling”

You’d get better results by trying to pin down what you think might be missing specifically:

“I just don’t feel I know enough about the product, or why I need it. I don’t feel like the problem is that important to solve.”

That will give your copywriter much more to go on when creating the revisions.

What copywriter questions do you have?

Have you worked with a copywriter and got a question about a quirk you didn’t understand?

Are you thinking of hiring one but not sure what to look for?

Let me know your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

About the Author: Amy Harrison is a copywriter and content trainer. She provides workshops and resources to help business owners and employees write captivating content. She’s also the host of AmyTV, an irreverent, sketch-based show with a humorous look at writing better content. To watch an episode or find out about a workshop, visit her site here.

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18 thoughts on “For Best Results: The Care and Feeding of Your Favorite Copywriter”

  1. Hi Amy: Thanks for sharing these great tips–I’m a fairly new copywriter and I’m finding that sometimes clients do get irritated because they think we ask an endless stream of questions for no good reason. But, as you said, we’re looking for those golden nuggets to include and the best way to get those is to ask lots of questions and listen more than we talk.

    Just stopped by your site as well.

    • Hey Diane!

      I know what you mean I’ve definitely modified my approach from the early days (which, looking back was more of an enthusiastic inquisition).

      Today it’s a more casual chat but a trick I’ve found useful is to let them know what you’re looking for, and also when you find it. For example:

      “I love how you just described the problem your customers face. That’s going to show your customer you understand them, it’s going to jump out and catch their eye because they’ll recognise their situation.”

      or “We should definitely list those qualifications, it builds credibility and gives your customer confidence that you can help them.”

      But you’ve definitely got to keep asking, because you never know when the gold is going to show up! 🙂

  2. Hi, Amy!
    This was fun. I couldn’t help but chuckle (in a horrified way) at clients asking for sales guarantees.
    I’ve been an advertising/marketing editor for years, and I love the craft of putting the finishing touches on the solid foundation of great copywriting. I was on-site the other day and most of the print ad copy was solid except for one thing: the use of “small-time” when the writer meant “small-town.” Quite a difference in meeting, and we had a giggle over it.
    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Thanks for reading and commenting Andi! Your story made me laugh, it’s funny how just one word can change the whole meaning of a piece like that! One of the reasons I love playing around with copy to try and find just the right one.

      If someone’s really adamant for a sales guarantee, it’s usually not a good fit. I’d love my hairdresser to promise to make me beautiful, but really all she can guarantee is shorter hair. 😉

  3. Nice work, Amy. There is a real dance between business owner and copywriter, and sometimes it can be exhilarating, and sometimes it can require a podiatrist to treat the damaged toes. I’m a copywriter, and your points give some good tips for both dancers to smooth out their moves.

    • Loved the dancing analogy! Yes, it’s not always a first-place freestyle, sometimes more of a kicking shins stumble, but we get there. 🙂

      Personally I’ve found explaining how I work, what I do and why I do it makes the dance a lot more enjoyable 🙂

  4. Pamela Wilson rarely disappoints…even when it comes to picking guest bloggers. Hi there, Amy! Always a joy to read or watch one of your pieces. No exception here. I know quite a few folks that need to read this one. I will tag you both over on Google Plus when I do.

    • Hey Lori – great to see you over here and thanks for the share on G+. Always a joy to see you in the hotspots of the internet 😉

  5. Thanks, Amy – great stuff! I’m a DIYer so far, but your tips are great for when it’s time to hire a copywriter. I love your videos!

    • Thanks James! Nothing wrong with a bit of DIY, but when you’re ready to take on a copywriter, you’ll be prepared for their quirky ways 🙂

  6. I’m with you on unlimited changes and like the extended warranty analogy.

    Some clients will make the changes anyway but that’s their problem I suppose.

    A varient on that is the one I had a couple of weeks ago, the “oh I forgot to mention this” type of change. Technically speaking, it’s not an edit and it’s difficult to say no, but it means a small job takes ages!

    • Ah – yes, the expanding job 🙂

      I don’t mind adding in a couple of extra things as I know it’s easy to forget details here and there. But it’s really important that a client is clear on the big things: the offer, the price, how the product is delivered.

      What you don’t want to do is write copy alongside the brainstorming / ideas process. Better to wait till that’s finalised to then tell its story!

  7. Loved your article Amy! I am a beginner and it explains why it has taken me so long to get to know my first client – lots of back and forth so far. It is a real challenge to speak in someone else’s voice.

    • It’s all part of the process and it will get faster the more you do it. Capturing someone’s voice is a real skill to learn. I once immersed myself listening to audio files of an early client. I’m talking hours of audio so that I could pick up her phrasing and rhythm.

      What I hadn’t counted on is by the end of the project I’d also started to pick up her accent!

      As a Brit talking with a Texan twang it was something my friends found quite amusing. 🙂

  8. Great tips Amy! I especially agree with talking to the client on the phone and asking for “like” and “don’t like” samples. That provides valuable information when I am beginning a project for a client.

    • Thanks Sara!

      The like and don’t like samples have been invaluable for me.

      A client might tell you they want the copy to sound ‘confident’ for example, but unless you know what they think of as confident you could end up being way off. Getting them to point to examples gives you a much better idea when you come to do your own writing.

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