We met with Dianne Vanstone, Senior Copywriter to discuss how best to go about hiring a Copywriter and the kind of questions you should be asking to get the most out of your kick off conversations.
What do you think are the key characteristics of a good copywriter that might be tested at an interview?
Curiosity, empathy, enthusiasm and copywriter know-how.
Good copywriters are incredibly curious. If you interview someone and they're not asking lots of questions about the project, your business, branding and your customers, they're not trying to get to the heart of what you do to enable them to craft powerful messages that distill your company values and speak directly to your target clients. One of the key skills of a copywriter is empathy, which is where enthusiasm and passion come from. If your copywriter isn't excited about the project and isn't engaging with your passion for the company, they won't be able to convey genuine enthusiasm or passion to your customers.
You can gauge if your copywriter is a good fit by how much they listen when you talk about the project and the work you do. You are the expert. You know everything about your industry and your customers, and it's our job as copywriters to soak up all the information you give us. We ask questions and then listen. We listen to what you want to convey in the copy, the story behind your company, what problems you solve for your clients and your expectations for the project.
Did you know that copywriters often use your tone of voice when writing the copy? That's because often as a business owner, you are the brand.
Experienced copywriters are well trained, and have a sound knowledge of the craft of copywriting. By asking them questions about branding, website and brochure copy, social media and advertising, you'll get an idea of how much they know about the art of persuading people to buy your products and services. They will talk about getting the tone of voice right, grabbing the reader's attention quickly on websites, the customer's journey, crafting powerful headlines and the psychology of the buyer. Good copywriters love what they do, and the experienced ones have a lot of tried-and-tested-techniques up their sleeve.
You are the expert.
Lastly, check out examples of their work. They may not have a website, but they should be able to send you examples. Look at their use of language and their skills in writing a powerful heading and a good call to action. Look at the variety of the work too, as you don't want someone who just writes in one key. Look at their reviews, and see what previous clients say.
What questions should a client ask of a freelancer?
Apart from questions related to the craft of copywriting, you need to get a sense of how they work. There's no right or wrong here, but it needs to suit you.
You need to agree on a time frame for when copy will be supplied.
Do they have a rough idea of how long the project will take, and when you can see some initial copy?
Be realistic about deadlines, but also make sure your copywriter is on the right track from the start. You may want to see the first page of the website or brochure to make sure the tone of voice is spot on.
If you need them to work closely with another creative, ask them if they have experience of working collaboratively.
A seasoned copywriter will regularly work with marketers, designers, illustrators, web builders, photographers, picture editors and videographers. They will know how they need to supply copy and what creative process comes first. They will have a professional and friendly way about them that makes collaboration successful too.
What information do you need to complete this project?
If they don't know during the brief, ask them to make a list when they've digested what's required, and try to provide that information as soon as possible.
Ask them about additional amends to the copy, and let them know how many rounds of amends can be expected.
One problem that copywriters sometimes encounter is when clients find it hard doing a final sign off. Make sure this is agreed up front. Will you extend the contract if you have further amends? Or will you expect one or two rounds of amends out of the YunoJuno contract time frame as part of the fee? Again, there isn't a right way or a wrong way to do this. Just make sure you are both in agreement.
As a freelancer, what questions would you ask a client in regards to the project?
As a copywriter, I always try to get as much information as I can from my clients. I've usually done my research beforehand, but I want to be inspired by your enthusiasm and passion. Great copy makes readers say 'yes'. It strikes the right notes, and that's what we're trying to get to the bottom of. I want to hear a good story, so I always ask how the company was started, what clients say, how clients interact with the brand and what's the next step in the company's journey.
I'll ask what the aim and expectations for the project are; is it to drive sales, to increase engagement, to increase brand awareness, to entertain, to inform or to offer something new. I need to be clear on the primary aim of the work I'll be doing.
I'll ask practical things such as who's checking the copy, and what structures have you got in place for production of the brochure, website or advertising campaign. Knowing that my copy has to go through three company departments for fact checking will help me manage my own expectations of the job. Similarly, knowing that the final sign off for a website will only come from the managing director when it's ready to go, will allow me to mentally prepare for changes late in the process.
Ideally, I'll also want to know soft and hard deadlines, launch dates and time frames for each part of the process. I may also ask who is going to be involved in the project, and if it's possible to have meetings with those involved. I'll also ask if we need to present to stakeholders, and what's the best way to present my ideas.
What considerations should a client take into account for the project and freelancer they’re trying to hire?
If you can give a detailed brief with lots of information, impart your passion, project manage it professionally and have realistic deadlines, you're a dream client.
There are several things a copywriter needs to know in a creative brief…
- Who is this targeted at and what is the aim of this project?
- What pain points do your clients experience that you solve?
- What do you do that other companies don't do?
- What is the company ethos and purpose?
- Where does this project fit into the customers' journey?
- What do you want your customers to do to make a conversion?
Try to give your copywriter as much information as possible by providing…
- Sitemaps and wireframes.
- Branding guides.
- Copy guides.
- Links to websites and e-brochures.
- Customer profiles and testimonials.
- Old brochure copy.
- Your own notes and ideas.
When is the best time to get a copywriter involved?
As soon as possible.
If you're rebranding you need a copywriter on day one. If you're thinking of refreshing your website, get a copywriter in straight away to work on the sitemap and wireframes. Need an advertising campaign in print and digital? A copywriter will tell you how these two can work together.
A lot of jobs start with the copy. Even refreshing a new logo needs a copywriter to add the strap-line or come up with a new name. Copywriters are solely focussed on your client's journey and this can be useful right from the start. You may have a great looking website, but if it doesn't make sense and is hard to navigate then you've lost people.
Copywriters can save you a lot of time and money in the initial stages by…
- Creating sitemaps that are easy to navigate.
- Creating wireframes of pages so that information flows properly.
- Create paginations of brochures and leaflet.
- Crafting company names and strap lines.
- Drafting ideas for logos.
- Coming up with creative marketing campaigns for print and digital.
- Working alongside designers to create successful branding.
If you have the initial bits in place, your copywriter will write your brochures, websites, advertising campaigns and marketing materials, but they can also finish off the process by...
- Creating and writing social marketing campaigns.
- Writing emails and newsletters.
- Creating weekly/monthly blog posts.
- Writing brand copy guidelines for use company-wide.
Anything else to add that may be of use to a potential client?
Find a copywriter who you have a good rapport with. Who you can communicate with ease, and who can offer you advice and also take your feedback well. Look at their portfolio of work and read client reviews so you don't waste time on copy tests.
Remember, the interview is not a time to ask for ideas on your project. It's just a way of choosing the right person for the job. Don't be put off if they haven't worked in your industry because they have probably written for your target clients before and can get a fantastic understanding of the industry from the experts… which is you.
Go with your gut instinct rather than who looks better on paper, and choose someone you know you can work with.
Dianne is a Senior Copywriter with over 22 years' experience, and specialises in helping new and existing brands communicate strong messages confidently to their customers.