The proof is in the pudding, sure. But when it comes to copywriting, ability and trust need to be established and proven – usually, long before any copy has been written.
Over the past few months – in various meetings and phone calls – several prospective clients have asked us to provide previous examples of our work. And rightly so. As a marketer, you’re trusting a copywriter with more than just your budget; we’re often writing your innermost secrets and assets. You want to be 100% certain we’re going to do a great job.
But lately we’ve seen an increasing number of people asking about the writers themselves. What’s their experience? What kind of content formats do they prefer? And does more than one writer work on a particular project?
These are all excellent questions. So, I’ve decided to answer them – and suggest a few more. If you’re choosing a copywriter (or copywriting agency, in our case), here are some things you might want to ask before you take the plunge… and what the right answers should be.
“How current is this portfolio?”
Think of all the writers’ websites you’ve visited that list big, international clients – pretty impressive, huh? Well, that list wasn’t created by accident, because let’s be honest, who’s going to brag about writing copy for an exchange-and-mart ad?
But what are the chances that the writer still works for those clients? Or even that they’ve worked for them in the past 10 years? Often, the correct answer is very, very low. And even if a writer has written for the likes of Oracle, or Salesforce, or Adobe, what use is that, unless the piece saw the light of day?
(And yes, these are all brands we’ve written for. This week. And we’re more than happy to direct you to examples of our work in the real world.)
This is precisely why asking to see previous client work is vital. Not only will it give you a good idea of a writer’s raw capabilities, but it’ll also give you a good view of how often they work for a particular client. (The date the piece was published is a big giveaway.)
At the same time, though, bear in mind that the writer or agency has likely signed a non-disclosure agreement, which will limit aspects of what they can and can’t tell you. And as much as the writer may want to work with you, their first duty is always to meet their obligations to the client.
“What’s your writing ‘sweet spot’?”
While a writer having experience in your sector is helpful, it’s not the be-all and end-all… especially if your aim is to sound different from your competitors. So you should also ask for evidence of the writer’s ability to write in a voice and style that’s close to what you want – even if it’s about another subject entirely.
At Radix, for example, we specialise in B2B technology – but our writing experience is pretty varied. As I glance around the office right now, I can see a former games journalist, blog writer, PR writer and engineering writer. And that’s not including my background in ecommerce and B2C tech.
That variety of experience means we have writers who are specialists in different styles, topics, and formats. That’s important because it helps us to match the right writer to each project.
You might want an educational white paper on service mobility, for example, or an agenda-setting blog post on the future of HR technology, or a quirky video script about an aspect of IoT. Having specialists in different styles and formats means you get the best-equipped writer for the job, without sacrificing consistency.
“What’s included in the price?”
It’s the elephant in the room, and for some reason, it’s still taboo. But it’s important and can be a barrier to working with someone. This is – quite literally – the money-shot.
Too expensive, and you’re left wondering what you’ll get for the money. Too cheap, and you’ll be wondering if you’ll get anything usable at all.
But like it or not, price can often be the clincher, regardless of how good the copywriting is. And that’s exactly why we have a price list – and why we quote for every job upfront. Our prices always include research, briefing calls, writing, internal review, and two rounds of reasonable amends, so nothing’s hidden – and there are no unpleasant surprises.
“Why are you calling me so often?”
We’ve all experienced the hard sell. Whether it’s for a mobile phone contract, PPI compensation, or car insurance, it’s a sure fire way to turn someone off.
If a writer is pestering you for work, by phone or email, there are two options: either you’re genuinely a company they really, really want to work with (and that does happen – we all have our own secret list of dream clients), or they’re not as busy as they might be.
As good writers are usually booked to the hilt, a constant stream of calls could be a sign that your would-be writer isn’t quite as great as they make out.
“Is this going to work out, long term?”
Ultimately, you’ll get the best work from a copywriter or agency who’ll get to know your business over a number of projects. So if you think you might have found a true copywriting partner, take the time to discuss your objectives in depth – because if the fit isn’t right, it isn’t right.
(And in our case, we’re never precious about recommending someone else, if we think they’re better suited.)
If you like the sound of the way we work, and you’re interested to know more, feel free to give us a call on 01326 373592 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. (And don’t be shy to ask for examples of our work; we’ll be more than happy to send you some.)