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Flaky. Unreliable. Arrogant. Incompetent. Long-winded. Unresponsive. Disheveled.
These are just a few words I’ve heard people use to describe copywriters who didn’t live up to expectations. To be fair, most of these words could be used to describe any number of service providers who don’t cut the mustard, but especially creative professionals.
First, let me say that not all copywriters are disheveled. I shave at least once a week, for goodness sake.
Second, there are red flags that you should be able to spot early in the process of choosing a copywriter. If you notice these red flags, do yourself a favor and choose someone else. The aggravation – and the content – likely won’t be worth it.
They Don’t Do Enough Heavy Lifting.
I’m not talking about taking notes and asking for “copy points” – a term I can’t stand, by the way. A marketing copywriter’s heavy lifting involves asking probing questions about a company’s target audience, business goals, challenges and values. This will help the copywriter communicate what you do and the results you deliver in a way your audience will understand.
Copywriters are more than note-takers and typists. They’re good interviewers and translators.
They Don’t Challenge You.
A “yes man” might get a project completed more quickly, but the finished result probably won’t be as strong as it could be. For example, when you say your unique selling proposition is your great customer service, a good copywriter will say that’s not enough. Part of the heavy lifting process is refusing to settle for clichés and crafting a message with substance.
Copywriters make you dig deeper to uncover the most compelling selling points.
They Refuse To Collaborate.
It’s embarrassing, but there are a lot of divas who do what I do. They insist on working in their own little bubble, accountable to nobody. However, in the real world, collaboration breeds success, whether you’re developing a website, a print brochure or a blog strategy. Copywriters, designers, developers and consultants all need to work cohesively.
A good copywriter welcomes collaboration. A diva can bring down your whole team.
They’re Great Writers But Lousy Marketers.
Some people are skilled wordsmiths but don’t know how to put sound marketing strategy behind the words. Or they get so caught up with their own writing wizardry that the marketing message gets lost, and your 500-word blog post is transformed into the next great bad novel.
Your copywriter needs to be equal parts marketer and writer.
They Act Like They Know Everything.
We’ve all encountered salespeople who promise the world in order to close a sale, and then figure out the details later. If a copywriter claims to be an expert in your field, ask for their thoughts on topics that are relevant to your customers. This will prove how much they know – and whether or not you can trust them.
A copywriter probably won’t have your level of expertise, but they should at least be honest about it.
They Don’t Include Any Revisions In Their Cost.
Every content writing proposal should include two rounds of revisions, which is pretty standard for any creative service. If revisions aren’t included, the copywriter could potentially refuse to revise content or make you pay for any revisions.
Revisions are an inevitable part of the game, not a hidden cost.
They Like To Talk About Their Awards.
Here’s the thing about award competitions. Rarely does the phrase “produced measurable results” appear anywhere in the judging criteria. Some agencies have even run an ad or published content for no other purpose but to make it eligible for an award. This means they care more about winning awards and landing their next job than producing results for you.
Results matter. Awards don’t.
They Don’t Practice What They Preach.
Personally, I would never hire a copywriter who doesn’t write their own content on a regular basis. If you’re evaluating a copywriter, ask for examples of content they’ve written about marketing, not just a portfolio of what they’ve written for others. This content provides insights into their approach and style and shows passion for what they do.
Content shouldn’t just be something a copywriter does to pay the bills. It should be something the copywriter believes in.
What do you look for in a copywriter? What makes you run in the other direction? Do you have a horror story to share? Let me know!