When I tell people I’m a copywriter, I usually get the same reaction: “Oh!”
Followed by, “Cool. That’s pretty cool.”
In general, most of the people I meet don’t quite understand what copywriters do, or how they get paid for it. Even my own mom wasn’t clear on what I actually do for a living and I’ve got a handful of family members who think that I “just do something online”.
Or I get the fun mix up where people think that I do copyrighting – as in something related to copyright law. I do not, repeat, do not, know a thing about copyrights and patents!
If you’re curious about copywriting, but haven’t ever had the chance to ask, pull up a chair and grab some coffee!
And if you’re on the fence about hiring a copywriter, don’t worry. We’ll look into the pros and cons of hiring a copywriter, as well address times when you might be better off doing the work in house.
First Things First: What do Copywriters Do?
Copywriting is a profession as old as the idea of product marketing.
If you’ve ever read an ad, you’ve read something written by a copywriter.
If you’ve ever watched a television show, you’ve listened to lines written by copywriters (from a specialty you probably know as screenwriting).
If you’ve ever read a product description in a catalog or on a website, you read the work of a copywriter.
Copywriting is all around us.
In the era of online business, we’re exposed to copywriting everywhere from websites to email newsletters and social media posts.
Copywriters are the nameless lot responsible for much of the content you see and interact with on a daily basis. The copywriter’s writing exists to make other people’s brands/products/causes/ideas shine.
Many large companies hire copywriters to work in-house and submit work for various marketing plans, web content or other company-specific purposes. Other companies work with off-site copywriters on an as-needed or freelance basis.
Contract, or freelance, copywriters dominate a large corner of the copywriting industry because, well, most writers are perfectly capable of working from home and balancing work for multiple clients. Businesses enjoy working with freelancers because doing so cuts down on their overall costs for copy (versus having to hire an employee to do the work). Contract copywriters enjoy working with businesses because they can do the work from pretty much any location and enjoy job flexibility. It’s pretty much a win-win.
No matter if a copywriter is on staff or contracted, they’re usually responsible for a variety of writing activities for the businesses that they work for. These include:
Editorial scheduling is the first step in putting together any copywriting campaign. Using an editorial schedule allows everyone to be on the same page: aware of deadlines and go-live dates. This helps writers to complete their research and content offerings in plenty of time for revisions and publishing.
Research (Including Keyword Research)
Research is a critical component of the copywriter’s job description.
Contract copywriters primarily write content for businesses across multiple industries. Sometimes, copywriters “niche down”, or work with one sector primarily (think: finance copywriter, eCommerce copywriter, parenting copywriter, and so forth) But often, copywriters specialize in a few areas or are generalists.
Even the staff copywriter should be well-versed in various writing styles, from emails to internal branding.
What does this mean? Your copywriter needs to learn the ins and outs of your industry in order to write the best possible content for your brand. Research is an essential part of writing solid copy that’s going to work to reach your customers.
Part of the research process includes keyword research. Keyword research helps to boost your webpage’ and articles’ search engine rankings, meaning that when Internet users Google something like “replace roofing shingles after a storm”, your blog post on the topic or a roofing service landing page from your site comes to the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
Of course, keyword research is only the start of the SEO services that your copywriter should offer. After all, your copywriter is the one writing your copy. This means that they need to take time to optimize your content for prime SEO ranking.
In addition to keyword research, your copywriter should be mindful of writing accessibly, customizing content for both readers and skimmers, developing creative headers, and perhaps even customizing metadata or social media descriptions for SEO.
Most importantly, your copywriter needs to actually develop – write – the content that you’re going to use. Copywriters may write between 1,000 and 5,000 words per week for each of their clients.
It takes some time and skill to get to the point of completing necessary research and crafting thousands of words of copy in a single week. And many copywriters work with more than one client at a time.
Bottom line? Copywriters are professional writers. They can balance the unique challenges that the job demands, and most of them actually enjoy meeting the challenge week after week, month after month.
But if you’re not a copywriter, you might not enjoy the work and the endless scramble to generate content week in and week out.
How to Determine Whether Your Business Needs a Copywriter
Now that you know what a copywriter does, it’s time to answer the most important question: does your business need a copywriter?
Do You or Your Staff Have the Time to Write the Copy You Need?
One of the biggest challenges to writing the copy that you need is finding time to actually write it. In a perfect world, we’d all have the time to do all of the things that we need to do.
But in reality, we rarely have the time we need to do even half of the things that we need to do. And if you’re a business owner, you’re probably only able to realistically accomplish a quarter to a third of the things on your to-do list by yourself.
When you’re working with limited time and priority projects, you need to delegate some of the work to others who bring value to your business. That includes copywriters.
Sure, it would be great if you as the owner or marketing manager could hand type every single piece of correspondence or web copy that you need, but is that really where your time is best spent? Maybe not.
Realistically Determine the Time Commitment Your Copy Needs
Writing takes time. A lot of time. And that’s why it’s one of the first things to get pushed to the back burner when time gets tight.
It’s not that you don’t want to write. You do. But the mental and emotional effort that comes to putting words on the page takes a lot from the other tasks you need to be doing. Not to mention that writing chains you to a desk or laptop for the better part of an afternoon.
The average person’s writing speed is 13 words per minute, which calculates out to roughly 800 words an hour, if you’re totally focused and in the groove.
Professional writers don’t necessarily type much faster than the average writer, but when your job is writing, you develop systems that help you save time and get to work. It’s not uncommon for a professional writer to log more than 20,000 words a week.
But you don’t develop this proficiency overnight. And if you’re not striving to become a professional copywriter, why should you?
There’s absolutely no need for non-writers to force themselves into the time pressure and mental focus required to fulfill their business’s writing needs from week to week or month to month. That would be like asking a professional dancer to run a marathon. Sure, maybe he/she could do it, but why? Their strengths are obviously better used elsewhere.
Do You Have a Budget for Copywriting?
So, you don’t realistically have the time to do the writing your business needs all by yourself. Congratulations on realizing your limits and wanting to delegate this work to someone who gets off on discussions about the Oxford comma!
It’s a big deal to make the mental leap from handling everything yourself to delegating tasks. Now, you’re working smarter instead of working harder.
When you’ve decided to hire a copywriter, your next step is to determine what your budget is (or will be) for your writing. It’s often at this decision point that some business owners decide to rethink their option to offload the work.
Budgeting for creative work is a tricky balance.
On one hand, you want amazing content to help you grow your brand. On the other hand, creative work is expensive. After all, work that will truly elevate your brand and help you capture more sales is not going to come cheaply.
At the end of the day, you need to decide whether the upfront cost is worth the benefit that well-written content will bring to your brand.
If you really want to see results, you might just find that space in your budget.
If not, then you might want to see how you can get the work done in house.
An Honest Look at a Copywriting Budget
I won’t mince words. Good copywriting is expensive.
The thing about copywriting (as with most custom creative services/products) is that it’s tailored specifically to make your brand better.
Good copywriting will boost your SEO.
Good copywriting will help you to make more sales.
Good copywriting will make your brand more attractive to potential clients.
But it won’t do those things overnight.
And that’s where a lot of business owners find themselves disconnecting with the point of copywriting: boosting their company’s bottom line.
Utilizing copywriting as a piece of a marketing strategy is a long-term game.
Over time, solid content will boost your website, blog and other sales channels. It’ll help you rank in web searches and it’ll draw organic traffic straight to your brand. The more well-written, researched content you have, the better your brand will perform year over year.
So yes, you will spend more money now. But in six months, a year, two years, your brand will have a stronger, more enviable position online.
With that careful positioning and through leveraging written content on social media and other channels, you’ll get the results you’re seeking.
Do You Want Your Copy to Strengthen Your Sales Funnels?
We’ve established that copywriting can help you grow your sales and extend your online reach. But how exactly does copy do so much for your brand?
Most data online are text driven. Even if you see and interact with photos or videos online, there’s text behind those media to tell search indexes how to categorize that content. Chances are, you’re probably reading captions, transcriptions and accompanying content as well.
This means that at some level, your potential clients are going to run into written content that will help persuade them to use your products or services to solve some problem that they have.
Targeted copywriting can help you design or enhance sales funnels that lead visitors to your company website through the decision process: from problem recognition to choosing your products to solve those problems.
If you want strong sales funnels, you need strong copy. And it needs to strike the balance between persuasive and personable.
For the strong sales funnel, you don’t want it to feel pressing or “used car salesman” in any way. But you also don’t want visitors to lose interest or miss the point of your targeted content.
The well-written sales funnel travels the journey from helping potential customers to identify their pain point to learning how your product or service can solve it and leveraging your expertise to invite buy-in. It’s a difficult balance, for sure, and one that most non-writers simply don’t have the time or desire to master.
If you want to strengthen your brand’s sales funnels, you can’t afford not to hire a professional to author landing pages and other funnel content for you.
Weigh the Costs of Copywriting Against Potential Sales It Might Generate
We’ve established that good copywriting is expensive. But what are you missing by trying to do the writing on your own? Can you afford not to hire a copywriter?
You probably invested in your logo and branding because you recognize that you need to stand out on a product package or brochure.
Maybe you invested in a fancy digital sign that you can update in real time to draw new customers into your building’s doors.
If you do any kind of machining or assembling, you might have invested in more expensive tools that let you complete more work in less time or create uniform batches that better meet your customers’ needs.
Whatever the investment, at some point in time, you’ve shelled out a chunk of change for something that’s better than a cheaper alternative you had available to you. You valued the potential revenue that the better investment offers you.
That’s how great copywriting works, too. Sure, you could handle the writing yourself or have an employee balance it with their other work activities.
Or you could spend a little more for writing that will accelerate your sales process and help you reach your goals more quickly.
Do You Want to Work With a Professional Copywriter?
Okay, so that’s a lot of buildup. You’re probably wondering “how can a copywriter really do these things?”
That’s a valid question.
A professional copywriter is someone who’s trained specifically to help brands make their marketing messages better. Copywriting has been around for a lot longer than the Internet and will exist long after “SEO” and “keyword research” fall out of style.
But in today’s day and age, it’s essential for your copywriter to understand the ins and outs of SEO. It’s important that your copywriter has a background in marketing and understands the sales end of your operation. And it’s critical that your copywriter can conjure compelling, error-free content.
A copywriter should ideally be a part of your marketing team, even if you work with your writer on a contract or freelance basis. If they don’t jive with your overall marketing strategy, they’re going to fail you.
All too often, wannabe writers label themselves as copywriters because they think that they can get themselves gigs by doing so. But they show their hands pretty quickly when they deliver subpar content that’s a waste of your time and money.
Professional copywriters spend time getting to know your brand, your voice, your style. They don’t rush into your writing without researching your industry and your unique offerings. And as a result, the product they deliver is of a higher caliber than a low-priced alternative.
Assess What a Professional Writer can do for Your Brand
Imagine that you’re working one day and the sink in your office starts to malfunction, spraying water everywhere.You might hop up from your desk and try to solve the problem or have an employee shut off the water to the bathroom. But likely, you’re not going to leave the sink repair to someone you already have on staff.
No, you’re going to call up a plumber to fix the sink problem. When the plumber comes and give you an estimate that includes new hardware and the hefty labor price tag, you sign on the dotted line and ask him to get to work ASAP. After all, he’s the professional!
Your staff are great at the work that they do for your brand. But they’re not able to handle every single problem that happens within your four walls. Similarly, they cannot be responsible for everything that happens in the virtual cloud surrounding your brand’s online presence. Certain things are simply beyond their skill set.
Copywriting is a finessed art. It’s not something that every person can or should master. It’s not something that even every writer is comfortable with. And that’s okay.
You and your staff may be able to do the equivalent of stemming the sink rupture and turning the water off when it comes to your company’s writing. Maybe that translates to some sparsely written web pages, an infrequently maintained blog or email templates from 2014.
Sure, you’ve gotten some writing done. But is it really what your brand deserves? Are you and your staff honestly able to craft regular, well-researched and compelling written content that makes your brand stand out?
If not, it’s time to call in a professional.
Determine Whether You Need a Staff or Contract Copywriter
When you’ve made the decision to hire a professional copywriter, you need to decide whether you want that person to be working on staff or whether you’d like to contract the work out. There are pros and cons to either arrangement, and only you know which is best for your company.
The Staff Copywriter
Hiring a staff copywriter gives you a copywriter that’s loyal to your brand alone. Any emails, blog posts, web content, physical copy can be simply handed off to your copywriter. If your writing needs grow, you can always hire another writer for your team or restructure your marketing department to accommodate your content needs.
Staff copywriters are also exclusive to your company – at least for the part- or full-time workload for which they’re hired. They’re not going to be balancing projects for multiple clients or scheduling your work for a later date. If you’ve got a full plate of recurring writing work and want someone to be available for project turnaround at a moment’s notice, you may want to consider adding a staff copywriter to your marketing department.
That being said, a staff copywriter commands the same treatment as any of your other employees. They require office space, benefits and regular work. If you’re ready to add a full-time writer to your staff, then by all means, go for it!
If you’re not quite ready to make the commitment to a staff copywriter, there’s still plenty that you can accomplish by working with a contract copywriter.
The Contract Copywriter
When you choose to work with a contract copywriter, you get the benefits of bringing a solid writing plan to your brand without the attached strings of employment. If you’re running a small team (or solo operation), don’t have a physical office space or don’t have a recurring lineup of writing work, working with a contract copywriter is ideal for you.
Contract copywriters (sometimes called freelance copywriters) work on a per-project basis or a recurring contract to provide written content for your brand.
You can find contract copywriters to do any type of writing work you need, from brochure content to ebooks. Some writers have niche specialties and some are jacks of all trades that can customize any content you need.
Your copywriter will assess your needs, get to know your brand, help you develop an editorial schedule and deliver written content at the frequency established in your contract. Your only job is to find the perfect person to personify your brand.
There are, of course, some drawbacks to working with a contract copywriter. One is that they typically charge rates that work out to be quite a bit higher than what you’d pay a staff copywriter per hour. But if your copywriter is doing 20 or less hours of work for you per month, the bottom line cost will still be lower.
Part of why contract copywriters charge higher rates is that they are (usually) self-employed or business owners– they have to provide their own health care, office space and other everyday necessities. Working with a contractor necessarily means paying for part of that overhead.
Another potential drawback is that your contract copywriter is probably working with other clients in addition to your projects. That’s usually not a problem for most companies. If we go back to the plumbing example, you certainly wouldn’t balk at your plumber needing to service other clients in the same day or week as your sink repair.
But, like the plumber that has other jobs, sometimes the contract copywriter has a full workload that doesn’t allow them to get to your emails or revisions at the drop of a hat. Your copywriter should be enough of a professional to properly pace their workload and provide realistic deadlines as well as email and revision turnaround so that the diverse workload doesn’t negatively impact any of her clients.
If you’ve been burned by a contractor who didn’t deliver what she said she would, it’s time to find a true professional to take on your work.
A Word About Outsourced Writing from Elance, Upwork, Freelancer, Etc.
On the note of getting burned, I have to divert to an important issue: if you’re working with freelancers from Elance, Upwork, Freelancer or any other job board-style service, you’re doing it wrong.
Crowd sourced work boards like these hurt writers and their clients. They’re not much good for anyone except for those who run the sites and skim off of every transaction that comes through the portal.
In general, you want to avoid these places. You don’t know the quality of writing that you’re going to get since there’s no guarantee of the writers’ skill level or proficiency.
Many of these boards are even open to international applicants, meaning that you may end up working with non-native English speakers trying to adopt your voice and write compelling web content for your brand. Yikes! That’s an SEO nightmare.
Sure, they’re cheap. Often times, you can find writers to work for as little as $0.01 a word. That’s a steal. But again, you have to consider who you’re hurting. The average writer would need to write 2.5 MILLION words a year at that rate, just to scrape by financially – and that’s not factoring in the overhead rate that the parent company (Elance, Upwork, etc.) levies. No, thanks!
If you want to go the contract copywriting route, do yourself a favor and look for an independent writer or boutique agency that openly names and brags on its subcontractors. Contractors who are in the business of delivering stellar content and have some skin in the game as independent contractors are going to likely provide you with a much better experience.
Bottom Line: You Get What You Pay For
When it comes down to it, the old adage holds true: you get what you pay for.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m shopping for anything – products or services – I don’t like to scrimp on something and have to pay for it twice or three times over in the same period of time that a more expensive model would’ve gotten me. Just as a cheap shirt is likely to wear out after a season or two of wear, cheap writing isn’t going to get you very far.
If your writing budget is small – or non-existent – consider whether cheap writing is really the best option for you. Would you do better to save the money now and clear a larger line item the next time you go through your company budget?
Ultimately, this is a very personal decision and the answer might be different for Brand A than it is for Brand B. That’s okay. You know best what your content needs are and how to achieve them.
So… Do YOU Need a Copywriter?
After learning about what a professional copywriter can do for you brand, I’m sure you probably have a good idea about whether you need a copywriter, and what type of writer best suits your needs.
Or contact your local business group to connect with a local copywriter and support your town’s economy. We promise we won’t be offended!
Bottom line: if you need a copywriter, do what it takes to get the ball in motion sooner, rather than later. You certainly don’t want to miss out on a chance to boost your SEO in the near-future, even as you plan your long-term content strategy.
Or are You Good to Go?
Maybe you just don’t need a copywriter right now. If your content strategy is working for you, then keep doing what you’re doing.
If you’re still on the fence though, give us a holler and see whether or not our services are a good fit for you. There’s no harm in asking whether or not you actually need a writer. And if you don’t, we’ll be straight with you – no strings attached.