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How to Hire a Freelance Copywriter

I get a range of inquiries when businesses come to me to hire a freelance copywriter.

Everything from people wanting to “tweak” their about page, to writing a website, to optimizing email campaigns. They have budgets from $50 to $10,000 +.

And with this wide range of expectations, I’ve learned to do a better job of qualifying prospective clients to avoid wasting time.

But the thing is, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of helpful information out there for marketers, agencies or business owners about what they should look for, or questions they should ask when they want to hire a freelance copywriter.

Or even the questions they need to ask themselves before they start looking.

So they end up wasting their time, too.

And none of us like to waste our time, do we?

Besides the annoyance of wasting time, you likely want to work with someone who is just as interested in your success as you are. The good news is that most freelance copywriters also want you to succeed – it makes us look good. If a copywriter is only interested in hitting a specified word count, well… we’ll discuss this a bit more in this post. 

What is a Freelance Copywriter?

In my time working freelance I’ve encountered all sorts of different understandings and expectations of what a freelance copywriter is:

  • writer for hire
  • short order writer
  • time saver (“I’m a pretty good writer, but don’t have the time.”)
  • wordsmith 
  • medium/mind reader (“I want you to write exactly what I’m thinking, but I’m not sure what I’m thinking. That’s why I need you.”)
  • researcher
  • consultant
  • strategist
  • marketer
  • psychologist
  • business owner

This is an abbreviated list, but you get the idea. 

These expectations don’t just fall on the side of the person hiring a freelance copywriter – many copywriters think of themselves as one or more of the words on that list. And there’s nothing wrong with any of the descriptions above… except, perhaps the mind reader. 

I would suggest, however, that you keep an open mind especially if you have high expectations for your business.

Which means you need to know what you want from your copy before you start looking.

What do you want your copy to achieve?

Some of the questions you can ask yourself to determine what you want from your copy are:

  1. Do you want copy on your website simply to have an online presence?
  2. Do you want copy that is creative and personality driven?
  3. Do you want copy that grows your business?
  4. Do you want copy that connects with your customers?
  5. Do you want copy that sells?

Once you decide what you’d like to achieve, you’re in a much better position to find the right freelance copywriter.

This step is crucial. Everything I talk about for the rest of the post will come back to this.

Copy that’s just words on a page can be gotten at a fraction of the cost of copy that will attract prospects and make sales. And if you just want words on a page, don’t spend your money on a copywriter skilled in direct response or sales copy. (Of course, don’t get me started on why you would ever just want words on a page.)

Copy is your online salesperson. It doesn’t matter how great your product or service is if you can’t connect it to the pain or desire of your prospect. Don’t underestimate the importance of copy… it is the driving force of your marketing strategy.

But, different copy goals mean different hiring choices.

Who can you trust?

I recommend speaking with a few copywriters.

You’ll get a good feel about who you’d like to work with. 

I also recommend doing this early in your planning. You should not be looking for a freelance copywriter when your website is almost ready. Copy leads design, not the other way around. And generally, freelance copywriters cannot start on your project right away – you should expect a lead time of at least two weeks and many copywriters have wait lists of several months.

When you do get on a call, some of the questions you should ask are:

  1. Tell me about your process (they should have one!)
  2. What kind of research do you do? 
  3. Have you worked in my niche before?
  4. What kind of results have you gotten with your copy?
  5. How do you get the results you get? (this goes back to their process)
  6. Can I see some of your testimonials from previous clients?
  7. Can I see some of your copywriting examples or a portfolio?
  8. Do you provide a wireframe?
  9. What is your availability?
  10. Do you provide a contract with timelines and deliverables?
  11. Do you present your copy upon completion, or do you email it?
  12. How do revisions work?

This is not a complete list of questions. You’ll probably have questions for the context of your project.

You should also provide thoughtful answers to the questions you get from the copywriter. We need to understand your project and decide if we want to work with you too.

How much are copywriting fees?

A little while ago I was wrapping up a call with a prospective client and he stopped me and said how confident he was in my abilities because of the thoughtful questions I asked him and the suggestions I made to build out his sales funnel.

He said the first question from the other copywriter he spoke to only asked about word count for the project and clearly had no grasp of strategy or tying copy to business goals.

I then quoted him a price for the project.

He was shocked and said it was more expensive than the quote from the other copywriter. (The one with no grasp of strategy.) 

I don’t know if he ended up hiring the other copywriter who he was complaining about on our call, but he didn’t hire me. My quote was not particularly high, but it was more than he expected and more than he perceived the value of the project.

He wanted cheap, fast and excellent. 

I understand it can feel like the Wild West when getting such a wide variety of copywriting fees. But the aphorism of you get what you pay for is often true.

You can help protect yourself by, again, knowing what you want to achieve from your copy. If you have big sales goals and choose to work with the inexpensive copywriter who is only trying to hit the 750 word mark, then you are likely wasting your time and money. 

Have a budget in mind when you're looking to hire a copywriter

If you don’t know if you’ll budget $1000 or $5000 or $10,000 for your copy, go back and determine what you want your copy to achieve. (Sorry for repeating myself, but this can save you a lot of grief.)

If you want your copy to make sales and drive action, then you need a bigger budget. And the closer your copy is to the sale, the higher the price. For instance, a sales page will likely cost you more than a blog post. (Even if it’s the same word count!)

I also recommend you share at least a range of your budget with a prospective copywriter. If you say $5000 – $7000 you’ll get a much more realistic understanding of what you’ll be able to execute on with that copywriter. 

When prospects give me a range, I offer an option at the lower end, in the middle and the higher end. This gives them a choice and they get to see that I’m not just trying to squeeze every last dollar out of them.

If no range is given it’s very difficult to create a strategy that considers the best opportunities for reaching your business goals.

With my freelance business I have a range of copywriting fees for my projects, and I’m happy to share them with prospects. I generally don’t take projects under $5000 USD, and most of my projects are in the $8000-$15,000 range. Often I’m working on a few pieces for a client such as a website and onboarding email series. Or Facebook ads, landing page and email.

I suggest speaking with several copywriters and giving them your budget range. If you get three quotes, you’ll have a comparison. Of course I don’t suggest making your decision on price alone.

You need to do your due diligence beyond price. There are all levels of skill and experience, and you can get burned if you don’t take this into account. 

Do you want strategy or execution? Or both?

I once had the opportunity to work with a small SaaS company.

Before they hired me, we chatted about their marketing goals. They wanted to tackle a number of projects but felt their priority was overall strategy, their website and an onboarding email campaign. After some back and forth they decided to work with a marketing consultant for the overall marketing strategy and website. They hired me to handle the emails.

I completed the email project and presented the copy along with my research findings (such as customer interviews and competitor audits) on a call with them and their marketing consultant.

The next day I received an email saying they were kicking themselves over not hiring me for everything right from the start. They said they were impressed with my grasp of their customers and that they learned things about their customers they never knew.

So, now they are paying twice. Once for the marketing consultant whose work they aren’t happy with, and now me who they’ve asked to take over the work.

You may think you’re getting a bargain by hiring a consultant who can “handle the copy,” but I can tell you from personal experience my example above is not the only time I’ve replaced a consultant or been brought in after a “cheap” copywriter didn’t produce strong copy.

You can spend a lot of money on a consultant or strategist who can design complicated funnels or marketing roadmaps, but if you don’t have someone who can execute on it you’re stuck. You may have also just spent your entire budget on a document or plan that is worth nothing until it’s implemented.

Want to Make it Easy to Hire a Copywriter?

If you know you want to create whitepapers, find a copywriter who specializes in whitepapers or a copywriter who specializes in your industry. Of course you can hire a generalist, but ask yourself how much of a priority whitepapers are to your overall strategy. If it’s critical, hire the specialist. If it’s not, you can find a generalist who will do a fantastic job for you. You can also hire a junior copywriter who you’re willing to spend time with coaching.

But, if you know that you don’t know what you want, a copywriter can help you with this, too.

You can hire a freelance copywriter to help you create a roadmap of your marketing plans. An experienced copywriter, particularly one who works in your niche, will have the practical knowledge to give you and your business the direction you need. Another advantage is the copywriter who helps you strategize will be able to execute on those plans, which is not necessarily the case with a consultant.

So, if you’re thinking about hiring a freelance copywriter consider these points:

  1. Decide what you want your copy to achieve
  2. Determine your budget
  3. Figure out if you need help with strategy, execution or both

Once you’ve considered these points, then it’s time to speak with several copywriters to find the best one for you. 

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