(Or, 6 Questions Copywriters Need to Know How to Answer)
When your brand, your site, your marketing materials need development (or an overhaul), it’s not the time to trust them to your cousin’s neighbor.
Anything less than messages that are expertly crafted to strike at the heart of what your prospective customers most want and need are going to fail. And worse, they’re going to have a demonstrable effect on your business.
So, you’re sold on needing a copywriting pro.
The tricky think about choosing a copywriter is that it isn’t just a matter of Googling your city and the word “copywriter” or choosing finding one who’s had the biggest brands as clients.
You need to find a copywriter who understands your company and can write copy that will affect your customers’ experiences and your bottom line. It’s not enough for them to get copywriting—they have to get you, too.
So, to that end, here are seven questions to ask a copywriter when you interview them.
NOTE: Before you set up your call or meeting, though, be sure to give your copywriting candidate your website address and any other pertinent information to them a few days in advance.
1. What do you know about my business?
This question isn’t so much about copywriting, but it helps to weed out the hard workers, the ones who really want your business, from the lazy or too busy ones. They’ve had your website and any other information you gave them for at least a day or two. If they don’t give you an answer that proves that they’ve looked at what you’ve given them and thought about it, you might as well end the meeting.
2. Who is my target audience?
Now we’re starting to get into their understanding of the craft and how it relates to your business. You already know your target audience, but you want to know if they were able to glean it from your information. Even if your target audience isn’t well-defined (yet!), they should be able to have some idea of it based on your products or services.
3. What is my biggest benefit to them?
This is a biggie. Being able to identify the benefit your product or service offers to your audience—and then being able to write to it—is a crucial part of copywriting. The benefit, of course, is what’s in it for your audience.
If you are selling a new razor, the benefit isn’t that it has seven blades (that’s a feature), it’s that they’ll get a closer, smoother shave than ever before. If you sell travel deals, the benefit isn’t that your audience “gets deals,” it’s that you make it more affordable for them to take trips that offer relaxation, once-in-a-lifetime experiences and/or a new view of the world.
See how important it is to talk to the benefit instead of a feature? You need to make sure you get a copywriter who can do that, too.
4. How would you describe my brand’s voice?
Your brand’s voice is the way it “sounds” to your customers and prospects across all of your different touchpoints. The best way to describe a brand voice is by identifying the adjectives that most closely match it. Is it friendly? Is it serious? Is it quirky? Is it straightforward? Is it authoritative? (And so on.)
A brand should have a few different adjectives to describe its voice, and a good copywriter should instantly be able to pick up on that brand voice. This is important because you want to know that you’re hiring a copywriter who will create pieces in your brand’s already-established brand voice.
Now, if you don’t yet have a brand voice, an alternate question to ask would be “I need you to create a cohesive voice for my brand. What kind of voice would you recommend?” From here, you can tell whether you and your prospective copywriter are on the same page.
5. In your portfolio, which piece or pieces are most similar to my project?
Presumably, your prospective copywriter has already given you a link to their online portfolio and, if you’re meeting them in person, will also have a print portfolio to show. (Do not even consider a “copywriter” who does not have both online and print portfolios. This is a red flag mark of an amateur.)
This question will help you to see if they’ve done any work that’s similar to the kind of copywriting you’re looking for. If you’re looking for print ads geared toward women, they may show you some of those.
By that same token, though, this question will also allow them to talk in bigger terms, showing you work that you might not immediately think is related, but then explaining why it is. For example, they copywriter might show you a picture of a dog food site, but explain that the company was looking to revise the brand’s voice and image and then go into how they did it.
You don’t necessarily need a copywriter who has done work for the exact same kind of product that you have, but you need to know that they can solve the marketing and branding problems you have.
6. Why should I hire a copywriter?
I know that this may sound a bit too straightforward for some—but just as your product or service has to answer this question about itself every day, a copywriter needs to be able to answer this about him or herself.
After all, if a copywriter can’t sell him/herself to you, how can he or she sell your product? Put another way, if he or she has never taken the time to think about their most valuable product (themself), how can you trust that they are serious and professional enough to work for you?
You can’t choose a copywriter based on client list or portfolio alone—and certainly not on just a pleasant conversation. But if you add these questions to your interview process, you’re sure to weed out the copywriters that aren’t worth working with and quickly identify the superstars.
What do you think? Are there any questions you’d add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.
About the Author: Nicki Krawczyk
Nicki Krawczyk is a copywriter, copy coach and founder of FilthyRichWriter.com, an online resource that provides tips, tools and training for new and aspiring copywriters.