How to hire a copywriter – and the skills to look for in a copywriter

Writing incredible copy is not only a way to stand out, it’s essential if you want to do business online. Hiring a copywriter can help you create this incredible content. And improve your sales.

In this guide we will tell you what skills to look for when hiring a copywriter, and what steps to follow once you find your candidates.

Copywriter skills | Steps to follow when hiring a copywriter

But first, let us tell you why we think you want to hire a copywriter.

Why you need a copywriter

Would you let your marketing team declare your taxes?
Or do you prefer an accountant who actually studied taxes and makes a living out it?

Anyone can write a piece of copy
Anyone can write a piece of copy

Same counts for writing your copy. Yes, anyone can write a piece of content. But if you want copy that will help you reach your business goals, a professional copywriter is the way to go.

You want to write better content! Product descriptions, sales pages, blog articles, and with these your sales, all thrive with well-written copy.

Don’t get us wrong. It’s perfectly fine that someone from within the organization writes an occasional blog post. And yes, the marketing team will be able to write a decent piece of copy too. But if you can make a big sale, you want your best sales rep to do his/her magic. And that’s exactly the reason why you want the best possible copywriter to write your important pieces of content.

Now this is off our chest…

Let us dive into the skills we think you should look for when hiring a copywriter.

Top skills to look for in a copywriter

Anyone can be a copywriter – but it takes skill to be a great copywriter.
These are the skills that we want you to focus on.

  • Stellar research skills
  • creative mind
  • Can write different types of content
  • Eye and ear for detail
  • Write killer headlines
  • Can work under pressure
  • Can revise texts
  • Is a native speaker

#1 Stellar research skills

If you want your content to result in rankings and leads, you need to do your research. And a good copywriter can do this research for you.

It’s not that hard to write a piece of content, add a few keywords, and publish it. But average quality type of content will not make it to the top of the search engines. To rank these days you need to understand search intent, and add value with your content. And for this you need to do research.

A copywriter needs research skills

A good copywriter is able to find creditable sources and research a topic, your audience and the competition. And put this all together in a well-written piece of content.

#2 Creative Mind

A copywriter also needs to have a creative mind. For different reasons.

Sometimes, there is just not much information to go on. Or a topic has been covered so often already that it is hard to find an angle to create something unique.

At the same time a copywriter needs to be able to break down complex topics into something both understandable and pleasant to read. Creating a logically build piece of copy that gets your message across.

Only those copywriters that have a creative mind can deliver you that piece of copy and make you stand out from the competition. And perform in the search results.

#3 The ability to write different types of content

Look at the type of content you are currently producing. And what you are planning to produce. Ideally you want to hire a copywriter who is skilled to provide all; brochures, newsletters, landing pages and maybe even the summary of your financial reporting. Don’t settle for less when you review your applicants!

types of content
What types of content does your copywriter needs to create?

#4 An eye (and ear) for detail

How often do we say something, and then end up rephrasing ourselves again because “this wasn’t exactly what I meant.”

A good copywriter needs to be able to ‘hear between the lines’, and understand what the actual message is you ask them to write. For this they might need to know you and your business a little better. But you definitely don’t want to hire a copywriter that ‘knows it all’.

A good copywriter is a good listener

At the same time a good copywriter also needs to be able to ‘hear’ your audience and customers – to write towards your target audience in a way as if s/he is part of that same audience.

The eye for detail is about grammar and spelling. A piece of content with bad grammar and obvious mistakes is bound to distract your readers. And lose their attention. You don’t want to lose customers over a misspelling.

#5 Write killer headlines

Give your top candidates a subject, and let them think of an article title and headlines.

The headline of an article is perhaps one of the most important parts of the text. It’s what triggers the attention of your audience, and helps them understand what your content is about.

In that split second it takes to read your headline the reader decides if they will continue reading, or scroll on to your competitor. You want your headlines to capture the attention, and trigger the curiosity to continue reading.

8 out of 10 people only read headlines

Moz, 2013

And when we are talking about headlines; catchy titles are more likely to attract clicks, which improves your conversion rate and your rankings.

#6 Can work under pressure

The deadline for the new brochure is approaching fast. You are already halfway through the week, and the writer didn’t even start Saturday’s newsletter yet. And now merchandising is pushing for a new landing page for this new product they are about to release.

Sounds familiar?

The life of a copywriter can become quite stressful with all these deadlines and requests. Ask your candidates about their time-management skills, and how they plan for deadlines. You want to hire a copywriter who will meet these deadlines.

A copywriter needs to work under pressure
Deadlines are a big part of a copywriter’s job

#7 Can revise texts

And this implies 2 things; being able to update a text, whether it’s their own or someone else’s text, and being able to handle feedback professionally. Without being offended with update requests.

Not every text is perfect from the first go. Perhaps the writer failed to address an important feature, or maybe the briefing was not detailed enough. Either way, a copywriter needs to be able to revise their copy, and be able to cooperate with editors and your marketing team.

These revisions can go from adding or removing part of the content, through completely rewriting paragraphs. We, for instance, advise many of our clients to update their existing pieces of content as a project. This is a job for your copywriter.

51% of companies say updating old content has proven the most efficient tactic implemented.

SEMrush, 2019

#8 Is a native speaker

Now this is not a must. But you want to find a copywriter who goes beyond writing words, and can capture the language of your audience in a message.

If you are are real estate agency for instance, your copywriter should know that New Yorkers live in apartments, while Londoners live in flats.

Missing these subtle differences will distract your readers, and will make them think twice before they want to connect with you.

Use the right language

Steps to follow when hiring a copywriter

Find the Contact Us button and send us a message!

And then read on.

We want you to find the copywriter that fits your business. That can be us. Or someone else. The steps below will help you figure this out.

Step 1: Be specific in what you need

When you want to find a copywriter, you need to prepare a job description that specifies clearly what it is that you need. Every copywriter has his style – and this is hard to change. For example, some copywriters are good at writing in a friendly expert voice, whereas others are more comfortable with writing strictly informational content.

This is why you need to be clear about what you are looking for. And put that in the job description. If you need a particular tone of voice, mention that too. Potential candidates will understand what you mean. And it helps to narrow down the applicants.

Step 2: Do a job interview

Even if the copywriter will work remotely. This might sound obvious, but we ran into many examples where teams had no idea who was actually writing their copy.

We will not go into the benefits of why a job interview is a smart thing to do. But instead, here are a few questions for your copywriter interview cheat sheet:

  • Describe your general writing style > to understand if there is a match.
  • What type of content do you find difficult to write? > is this something you need?
  • Describe your research and writing process. > understand how they work.
  • What do you read to stay updated on our industry? > know their sources.
  • Describe the reason for the last time you missed a deadline > you want to understand how seriously they take deadlines.
  • What do you expect from an editor? > understand if they can work within a team and if they are open to feedback on their work.
  • What is your general word count per day? > tells you how productive they are.
  • How do you optimize your work for SEO? > is this in line with your SEO team?

Step 3: Review previous work

Action speaks louder than words. Or in this case, written words speak louder than the spoken words of a copywriter.

Ask your candidate copywriters for examples of their previous work. And read it. Pay specific attention to the call to actions, accuracy of the content, writing style and structure of the copy. Then ask your editor and marketing team to read the copy.

If you know any companies your candidate worked for, check their content.

This can also tell you something about their sense of responsibility. Are they sharing any copy that they shouldn’t share? This could be internal documents, competitor details or any other sensitive information. You want to be able to trust your copywriter when it comes to your business intelligence.

Review previous work
Review previous work

Step 4: Ask to write an article following your style guide

And if part of the job will be to update existing copy, ask them to update an example piece.

Before hiring a copywriter, you want to know how they interpret your style guide. And if they can adjust their writing style to follow this guidance.

And to keep it fair, offer some kind of compensation for this work. Trust works both ways. Too often we hear stories from copywriters that spend precious time on writing an example piece to never hear from the other side again. It’s part of the investment to make when finding the perfect copywriter.

Step 5: Offer the right compensation

Keep in mind that copywriters are in high demand – particularly the good ones. The last thing you want to do here is to push the perfect copywriter away with a salary offer that doesn’t meet the market standards. So do your homework.

The right compensation might also be figuring out the right model – a full-time position, freelance based, on a pay-per-word or pay-per-copy type of term. Be open to discuss these terms if you feel you found the perfect copywriter for your organization. Each model has its pros and cons. For both you and the writer. Be ready to start this conversation.

To wrap it up

Writing incredible copy is not only a way to stand out, it is essential if you want to do business online. But finding a good copywriter can be challenging. And you don’t want to make the common copywriter mistakes.

Focusing on the right skill set will help you narrow down the candidate list. Look for a creative mind that can meet deadlines, who is able to write different types of content, and is a pro when it comes to doing topic research.

You also want to review previous work and have your top candidates write an example piece of copy following your style guide.

Last, but definitely not less important, learn about the compensation standards that apply in your niche, and be ready to discuss different types of compensation models. You don’t want to lose the perfect candidate with a compensation offer that doesn’t meet the market standards.

Bring your content to the next level!

Do you want want to hire a content writer to take advantage of the power of professional copy? Or do you need help with finding the right copywriter? Contact Us and we will help you get started. From creating a content plant to finding you the perfect copywriter – we got you covered!

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