Questions multicolour

Unless someone you trust has recommend a freelance copywriter to you, you’re probably left with trying to find one online. This can be an ominous task if you’ve not done it before so to set you in the right direction, I’ve compiled a list of essential questions you should ask each candidate before making your final decision.

To start with, type the words “freelance copywriter” into Google and you’ll soon discover that there are pages and pages of us. Don’t despair or just choose the first link on page one. You can narrow the numbers by simple adding the name of the industry you work in, So is you work in pharmaceuticals, type in “freelance copywriter” pharmaceuticals.

You can be more specific by indicating on the search facility that you only want to search for a freelance copywriter within the UK. By now you should have reduced the numbers by at least a half.

You’ll soon discover that unsurprisingly copywriters say more or less the same thing, so it’s more or less down to gut feeling, whether you like the sound of them and their style. I would recommend choosing at least three to approach

So, as I promised, here is a list of questions which will help you sort the wheat from the chaff, the frustrated poets and novelists from the professional copywriters. Don’t be shy, we’re used to it. You’ll soon discover that the good copywriters are more than up to the challenge.

How do you charge?

Although most good copywriters don’t want to compete on price, as a prospective client you need to know about their pricing structure. So let’s cut to the chase. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to charge for copywriting – by the word, by the hour or day and by the project.

Just a quick look around Google will throw up thousands of adverts for copywriting at ‘£12 per page’ or ‘9p per word’. Avoid, avoid, avoid! The quality is rarely any good. After all, the more words the copywriter writes the more they can charge. And there certainly won’t be any research involved.

The same often applies to copywriters who charge by the hour or day. By agreeing to it, you’re basically giving them carte blanche to charge pretty much what they like and you will end up with a heft bill and more than not, a disagreement.

Any decent copywriter will charge you a fixed fee based on the merits of the project and what it will involve. This means you won’t get any nasty surprises once the copywriting has been completed. But still make sure that you get a full written quotation/proposal from your copywriter outlining everything that is included in the quote.

How much do you charge?

Copywriting prices can vary hugely depending on the experience of the copywriter and on the type of service you require. Like most things in life, whether you’re hiring a plumber or caterer, your best bet is to contact at least three copywriters, explain what it is that you’re after and ask them to provide a written quote detailing what the price covers. But remember, you’ll get what you pay for. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. On average, copywriters charge anything between £150 and £500 per day, so as you might with any service provider opt for somewhere in the middle.

How do you work?

A good copywriter should have a tried and tested briefing process. This will be their way of finding out everything about your business and what you need the copy to achieve. Some copywriters use a briefing form which will contain questions which will give them the answers they need, while others will prefer to interview you over the phone. Answering questions via email will give you more time to consider you answers but if briefing over the phone make sure that you have prepared in your own kind what it is that you want to achieve.

Can I see examples of your work?

Your prospective copywriter should be able to supply you with examples of their work. This could be in the form of links to published work, or a PDF of client work.

Where are you based?

Not that this matters as much in this day and age. With today’s reliance on technology, you can work with anyone just about anywhere in the world. However, my advice would be to choose someone who at least lives in the same country as you.

How long will it take?

Your copywriter should be able to give you a clear timescale for delivering the first draft. Typically, they would allow time for a briefing with you, research of your business and competitors, drafting, editing and proofreading. And they may also need to schedule your work around other client work.

How many rounds of revisions do you offer?

This is a key question because although sometimes copywriters hit the mark with their first draft, more often than not the first version is for you, the client, to read, consider and tweak. This could be as simple as asking your copywriter to rephrase a paragraph or to clarify some details. Or it could be that your copywriter is wide of the mark and a significant rewrite will be needed. So always ask them how many rewrites will be included in the price.

What if I hate the copywriting you’ve done for me?

A good copywriter should have a clear set of Terms that explain what will happen in the event of a problem.

Can I see a copy of your Terms?

Although most copywriting projects go as planned, there is always the chance that they won’t. So ask to see a copy of their Terms so that you know how you can exit the agreement if need be.

Can I have it by tomorrow?

If your job is urgent, it’s always worth chancing your arm with this question. After all, freelancers are notorious for pulling all-nighters to meet client deadlines. However, you should be prepared to pay an additional charge if you’re asking them to burn the midnight oil. One thing to note is that while good copywriting can be done in a rush, it’s always going to be better if the writer has time to fully research the subject, write the first draft and let it ‘sit’ overnight before looking at it again. So if you can, give your copywriter as much time as possible.

Do I need to have a website or brochure for you to write the copy?

No, not always. If you don’t have anything to show the copywriter find some examples online of websites that has a similar style and tone of language that you’d like to replicate.

Are you a specialist copywriter?

Unless you have a niche business, when sourcing a specialist copywriter might be more appropriate, it’s not necessary. Ask your copywriter if they have any experience of your industry or the wider field but don’t despair if they haven’t. Any good copywriter will have written for a wide variety of sectors and should be able to get up to speed with your business without much fuss.

Do I own the words after you’ve written them?

Under UK law, the copyright of any literary work automatically rests with the creator of the work, provided the work is original. However, you’ll find that most copywriters will transfer full copyright to you once their bill has been paid. It should be dealt with in their Terms but just be to be sure, always ask.

What are your payment terms?

As with any business, copywriter’s payment terms vary. Some writers will ask for a deposit before they start work and others won’t. Again, this should be clearly laid out in their Terms but to make sure always ask.

Can we meet up to chat about my project?

If you’re using a local copywriter, they may well agree to visit your offices to discuss the project. This can also be good for the copywriter as it gives them a useful glimpse into your business. Check whether your copywriter charges for time spent travelling to and attending meetings. If you’ve hired a copywriter who is based a distance away, you may be able to talk to them via Skype or similar.

I need you to liaise with my graphic designer/project manager.

A good copywriter will be happy to liaise with relevant members of your company or a third party designer.

So now it’s over to you. If you’ve found this guide helpful then make it easy on yourself – just pick up the phone and tell me about your project.