5 Quick Tips for Small Businesses Hiring a Copywriter
by Michael Premo
Hiring a professional writer is easier and more cost-effective for a small business than you may think. We are also more versatile than you may think.
A professional business writer learns every aspect of your business. We understand your audience and how to connect with them in meaningful ways. We are more than just a copywriter. We are a resource and extension of your business that can create more opportunities for you.
Challenges for Small Businesses
Content Is a Marketing Necessity
The one thing holding a lot of small business owners back from implementing a content strategy is cost. It’s a valid worry, but businesses have to invest in their digital marketing (website, social, email, and text) or fall behind their competition.
Content is essential to your marketing efforts. There is no way around it. Plus, it covers a range of marketing activities that support your efforts to retain customers and entice potential ones.
Many small business owners have known for years that they need frequent updates to their website and social media, or else Google won’t find them. The problem is that small business owners don’t have the time to post something a couple of times a week or write an extensive blog. It’s because they are pulled in a lot of directions throughout the day.
Sometimes copywriting or posting to social media is delegated to a manager or employee. This is a Band-Aid solution that leads to poor results due to infrequent updates to their websites and a lack of social media engagement.
Employee As Copywriter
Some employees are good writers, but they eventually experience writing fatigue, which leads to missed deadlines and animosity. Or, in the worst-case scenario, they’re not a good writer and make mistakes that work against your organic search efforts. Google will lower your ranking if you post irrelevant content or have grammatical errors throughout each post. Plus, bad grammar doesn’t look right to potential customers.
Writing takes time and energy, so if you’re a small business owner, you’ll need someone to do it for you.
There are many gifted writers available for businesses to take advantage of their talents. There are only 280 thousand of us, which is fewer than the 1.25 million accountants and 1.34 million lawyers in the United States. So that makes finding a qualified writer for your business or ghostwriter/editor for your book a little tricky. Thankfully, we’re writers, so you’ll find a lot of us online.
Once you find us, you will quickly learn how different we are in skill sets and experience. This is an excellent thing for anyone looking for help. There is a writer out there that is an excellent match for your needs.
Know When You Need a Writer
Some people don’t like to write or know they need help right away.
Employees can get overwhelmed and frustrated when writing for your business.
Here are 10 signs of when you need to hire a writer.
An important project involving content has been on hold or in stasis for too long. Your social media presence depends on more frequent updates than once a week.
You don’t have the time to write for your company.
You want a more professional look and feel for your marketing materials—free from grammatical errors and confusing messages.
Facebook Live is good, but a scripted video is more professional and representative of your brand.
A writer can help with creating sales presentations.
You want to write a book about your personal or professional experience and need help with your writing.
Boosting a company’s website search results, search engine optimization (SEO) comes from relevant content.
If you don’t like what you write, it’s a good sign that your audience won’t like it either. It would be best if you got a writer to help you.
You don’t know what to write about. We are full of ideas, just ask.
Branding narratives are essential for marketing today. Some writers can create narratives using advanced story-telling techniques that will grab your audience’s attention.
In general, most of us had good teachers, so we can write well enough to fill a couple of paragraphs. This means that we can maintain a blog or social media posts with some frequency, yet there may still be a need for a writer to help with various projects.
Do You Need a Different Writer for Every Project?
Book-length projects (50+ pages) are very different from 300-word blogs. Both require different skill sets to organize and create them. Plus, there’s a difference between a proofreader/copyeditor and a writer. Some editors are good writers, and some writers are good editors. Few are both. If you look at their portfolio, you will see if their skill sets fit your needs.
Hiring a Writer As an Extension of Your Marketing Team
Typically, a professional writer can provide direction on media planning and have an excellent understanding of SEO. Many also have experience working in marketing departments, which means you can use it to your advantage.
Good writing comes from an advanced understanding of language and some creativity. Professional writers put a lot of hard work and years of study into their craft. Because of this, they can become a valuable asset to your marketing team by adding another level to your skill sets.
When hiring a professional business writer, you get more than someone churning out a blog or press release. You get an experienced employee who will think deeply about your audience, how to reach them, and the right message to convey.
They Come Prepared to Write
One thing you probably don’t realize is that professional writers can hit the ground running. We have learned our craft, much the same as a graphic designer or videographer, so there’s no learning curve to overcome when completing your projects.
We need little guidance beyond a thorough meeting at the start of the project. We also can learn about new concepts and products. We can write about innovative ideas or be more persuasive to potential customers.
A writer is a master in the art of persuasion. They know how to convert leads. Attention to detail from a writer gives your company a more professional appeal. It says, “You can trust us!”
Save Time and Resources
A writer can free up your time, so you can concentrate on what you need to do and not spend more time than necessary on writing a blog or white paper. Take it from me, some of the content related to a single marketing activity can take a whole day or up to a week.
There’s also the simple fact that a person who doesn’t write frequently won’t write well or quickly. Writing takes a lot of practice and attention to detail.
Per Project Basis
You can hire an outside writer on a per-project basis, bringing them on board to see if they are a good fit. If they are, then you can have them work on a wide range of projects, or just one. This flexibility allows you to gain marketing support without hiring another full-time person. Plus, they work remotely but can make themselves available for high-level meetings.
A writer’s creativity is a unique asset to your team, especially an outside one who brings fresh perspectives and different ways to capture more attention. We have a lot of ideas. Remember, we want to be an advocate for your business because we succeed when you succeed.
Look for Quality Writing
Your brand is more than just a logo. It’s a combination of everything the company does, its products, the clients it embraces, and the employees it hires. The content in your brochures and on your website helps define your brand. I would even go so far as to say it fine-tunes it by making clear statements about what you can do for your customers.
In their website evaluation guide, Google has strict criteria for placing one page before another. This quote sums up their stance on how they will rate the quality of a site’s content:
“We will consider content to be Low quality if it is created without adequate time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill. Pages with low-quality MC (Main Content) do not achieve their purpose well.”
Writing quality blogs and articles takes time and research. We will know what Google considers to be quality content and how to write it. Their Portfolio
Now that you’ve found your match take a look at their portfolio and the type of work they do. If it’s not available online, send the writer an email for samples and their work descriptions. You can also explain what you would like them to do. Here are some details to look for:
Voice – Can they write using conversational or formal language?
Media – Do they understand how different media affects their audience?
Sales – Can they craft messages for soft sales?
Writers learn a lot about the subjects that they write about. Some of us are generalists, so we’ve had experience writing for the following industries:
Advertising / Marketing
When choosing a content writer, it’s best to think about some of the most significant challenges others have had. These challenges are some of the most common and often challenging to overcome. The list below has 5 challenges that reflect my experience with a wide range of client types.
Lack of Experience
Finding a writer with industry experience is not as easy as it may seem. Finding ones with multiple industries under their belt is even more difficult. But they are there and write meaningful content that will align with your brand.
A writer should have the experience to understand conversion optimization and techniques to capture the reader’s attention in a matter of seconds.
Your time. It’s one of the most challenging obstacles to hiring a writer. There’s also the time it takes to build a content strategy. You need to research the writers you pick, then take a look at their portfolio. Finally, you’ll need to interview them for the job, which takes time to manage it all.
Find a content strategist and writer who will save you time, cause fewer headaches and get a better return on your investment.
Connecting with the Audience
This is important. Writers have to be marketers, too. They need to know marketing, and they absolutely must know how to connect with your audience—including demographics and psychographics. They should know how to reach out to millennials, the silent generation, and other population segments.
Look for writers that understand tone and voice in a useful way that persuades the target audience.
Can they consistently write about your business and meet deadlines? Are they personable and consistently communicate with you and your team? A writer needs to be consistent to achieve your goals.
Ask for case studies or about the writer’s process.
A professional writer should understand when something is not working and how to fix it. They should also know how to try something new and work with you to get the results you need. This may even require technical assistance from a website developer.
The writer should know how each media platform works, especially in the digital world where messages need to change to fit the audience.
Find Your Writer
Now, let’s focus on hiring one. The best place to start is by reaching out to your business network. You can quickly find a writer on LinkedIn. The businesses I typically work with are from my network.
Your business connections can also tell you who they are using, so ask for recommendations. These are trusted sources with experience or first-hand knowledge about the writer. Don’t be afraid to pick their brain about how the process works and costs.
Stay Away From Freelance Exchanges
Many freelance sites will connect you with writers throughout the world. Most of these services look like a bargain. You’ll often find that the writers are inexperienced and need to boost their portfolio, so they charge nominal fees to gain some experience. This may save you money in the short-term, but it will end up costing you time and may reflect poorly on your brand.
The biggest thing to consider is that these sites have fees for you and the writer. Some exchanges charge writers up to 25% of the contracted rate. The result is that you lose 25% of your budget to an intermediary that acts merely as a liaison. Try to avoid the middleman as much as possible.
Over the years, we have seen many freelance platforms, such as Upwork and Fiverr, gain popularity. The great thing about them is that members can choose from a wide range of services, and the platforms get their cut (One, in particular, Textbroker, takes a 30% cut, reducing the professional writer’s take-home pay of just $0.05 per word, roughly $25 a blog). At $25 per blog, a writer is essentially getting minimum wage while covering their personal expenses.
When a writer needs to build a portfolio, they often use these platforms, but the discrepancies in pay need to be addressed. I know it’s up to us—the writers—to settle on where to hang our shingle, but business owners need to be aware that they will get what they paid for with this type of service.
Many of the “discount” writers on these sites also fail to develop a close relationship with the businesses they serve. They may be good writers but cannot connect with your audience, which turns the discount into a loss.
Copywriters collaborate with you on every project.
Make It a Professional Relationship
This topic is difficult to generalize because writers’ rates vary according to what you’re trying to achieve. Some are paid by the word, while others (like us) charge by the hour. Please take a look at your budget, then negotiate with them for the best fit.
Rates and Retainer
We work on retainer, so be prepared to pay one upfront to get your projects rolling. For our business clients, we charge by the hour or the project. These rates are often based on “per word” averages and how much research it takes to complete a project.
A contract puts forth the terms of your agreement. It should contain:
All of the Parties Involved
Terms of Compensation
However, you get to choose how you want to proceed. The terms of your agreement can also be detailed in an email. This will give you and the writer all of the direction needed to conduct business. We believe in detailed contracts and emails to set the stage for meeting everyone’s expectations.
Hire Your Professional Writer
We have developed and implemented various content strategies for local, regional, and nationally recognized clients. If you want to get your content marketing going in the right direction, let us know what you’re looking for by simply filling out the form below.
Writer. Editor. Project manager. Researcher. Collaborator. Graduate of the Spalding University Masters in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Fiction. Theory junkie. Avid reader. University of Iowa (BA '97).
Michael's unique ability is to understand and write to the audience for any business application or ghostwriting project. It's his passion for writing that keeps him learning more-and-more every year. He is a member of the Association of Writing Professionals, and fully versed in Associated Press (AP) and American Psychological Association (APA) writing guides.