Hiring a writer

Hiring a writer? 10 must-ask questions

Posted by Matthew Stibbe Picture of Matthew Stibbe on 20 February 2013
Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing. Writer, marketer, pilot, wine enthusiast and geek. Not necessarily in that order. Never at the same time.
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Bad writing is expensive. You can spend a lot of money building a great website and ruin it with lousy copy. Spelling mistakes alone are thought to cost UK businesses millions each year in lost revenue.

I know how to use a paint brush, but it would be a disaster if I tried to paint my house (trust me, I’ve tried). It’s the same with writing. Just because we all know how to write, it’s easy to think that we all know how to write well.

In fact, it is usually cheaper and more effective to hire a professional to do your writing, especially for copy that your customers will see.

Before you hire a writer, however, you need to ask a few key questions to make sure you are both speaking the same language.

  • Can I see some examples of your work? They do not need to have covered your industry before; a good writer will be able to research and write on any new topic. They do, however, need to impress you with the style and clarity of their previous work.
  • Do you have references? Ask for them and check them out. Always.
  • How’s the chemistry? If you want a writer to communicate your ideas and your brand in a way that makes you happy, you need to both be on the same wavelength.
  • What do you know about my company? Any good copywriter will research the company they are pitching to and will have read beyond your homepage.
  • How do you work? Writing involves more than sitting down and typing. A copywriter will need time to research, conduct interviews, write, edit and proofread. Get an idea of a writer’s working method so that you can both be happy when creating expectations and deadlines.
  • Can you provide a written quote? This benefits both of you. The quote should contain a breakdown of your brief and the work involved. This means any road bumps or changes to the brief or cost can be managed fairly.
  • What do you need from me? Give your copywriter everything they need to do their job: style guides, marketing plans, product specifications etc. This also includes a detailed brief – the clearer you are, the more likely you are to get what you want.
  • Can you back that up? Quality copywriters will keep notes, record interviews and back up any claims with independent sources.
  • Can you send all work directly to me? Really this is an instruction for you. Copywriters work best when there is a single editor giving feedback rather than a committee pulling in lots of directions. If other people in your company need a say, gather their ideas together and then present the copywriter with a single and cohesive brief for revisions.
  • Can you tweak that? You should not have to fight with a copywriter’s ego. If you want changes, explain why and give details. If you’re being reasonable, the writer should be happy to get your feedback. (But be fair. Don’t expect free rewrites if you change your mind about something you agreed in the brief, for example.)

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