How to *Actually* Find a Great Copywriter for Your Business

{This blog post was repurposed from episode 1 of our podcast. Listen to it if you can’t be asked to read today.}

The truth of the matter is anyone can say they’re a copywriter. Copy is a lot harder to dissect because something that may look a little boring or a little bland can actually be the copy that performs. So we want to help you find a copywriter that kicks a** and helps you convert like crazy.

We’ll help you discover the difference between a fantastic copywriter and an average copywriter. The real question is; how can you validate what makes a copywriter good or bad when you aren’t a copywriter yourself?

1. Put Them to the Test (03:22)

The cold, hard truth is that copywriters want to work, they want to get paid. This means, every once in a while, they falsify samples or exaggerate their credentials. So, our first piece of advice is to always give them a test project first.

This first test project can be something simple. Give them a topic and tell them to write 10 testable CTAs for X, Y, or Z. Slap a time limit and word limit on it. See if they can deliver. That’s it. 

You want to see if they can turn something good, solid. They need to be able to deliver copy that has some oomph to it, even in a short test project. You’ll be able to tell if they are pulling in emotion, if they are using good copywriting strategies, and if they have done any kind of research on your brand voice.

A good copywriter will make the writing interesting in a way that attracts people to want to know more, become more invested, and hopefully buy whatever you are selling. The secret to great copywriters is they know how to be entertaining and persuasive at the same time.

Now, after the test project, pose a few questions and poke at their copy a bit.


Why Did They Write That?  (05:47)

Once you get their test project back, give it a once over. Then, ask a single question: why did you write what you wrote?

If you want to know how to find a copywriter that kicks a**, then this question is vital. A great copywriter should be able to explain why they chose to write a certain way. The best copywriters will have a well-thought out response, presumably with some great feedback and notes on research they did on your brand and tone of voice.

The problem is, some copywriters are good but they may not understand why just yet. Copywriters like this are going to be great for helping determine your brand voice and being creative, but for great copywriters that boost your marketing profile you are going to have to dig a little deeper.

A great copywriter will always have the end goal of conversion in mind and know why they chose a certain way to express what they wanted to say. If you find yourself satisfied with their explanation, then it’s time to poke the hornet’s nest (or the copywriter’s chest).


Make Sure They Don’t Guard Their Words Like Mother Hens (07:00)

Once you’ve found yourself satisfied with their explanation of why they chose the words they did, look over their test copy again and find one or two things you want to tweak – even if you actually really love their copy. Then, point out those changes and ask what they think about them.

This sounds simple, but you do not want to work with a copywriter who is precious about their words. If they won’t allow for some back and forth on potential tweaks, take some criticism every now and then, or ultimately work within the parameters given to them, then you are going to regret hiring them to begin with.

For example, you may need them to write some headlines or some subject lines for emails. If those get submitted to the CRM team and they tweak them to do some A/B testing and the copywriter is frustrated about it, then it’s gonna be…uncomfortable…in the office. So see what they say when you give them some feedback or suggestions. If they are willing to discuss, great. If they roll over without any thought or defend those words like their own children, then it may be a hard pass.

At the end of the day, a great copywriter that is willing to go out and kick some a** for you is going to be willing to help you convert, using whatever words convert best.


Check Their Passion for Their Research (16:03)

As you discuss these two pieces of their test copy, you are going to pay attention to how they talk about their decisions or your suggestions. Honestly, great copywriters are nerds at heart. They love their research and finding the best way to say something. 

This will come out more and more as they work with you, and you with them. They won’t feel salesy as they discuss their copy because they are going to be more interested in what they’ve learned along the way. 

If you want to know a hot tip for how to find a copywriter that kicks a**, see if they won’t shut up about what they are learning while researching – even when they are absolutely clueless about the topic at first (maybe even especially if they don’t know anything about the topic at first).

2. They Can Balance Personality With Great Marketing (09:46)

Regardless of your brand voice or their personal writing style, great copywriters know how to make words sell.

It’s kind of a superpower when you think about it. They find a way to throw some words together, sprinkle some valid research in, and stir it all together with some marketing strategy and – BAM – alchemical magic.

However, some important things you need to know for how to find a copywriter is their balance of entertainment and persuasion, the voices they listen to and learn from, and that they are driven by performance first and foremost.


Copy Needs to Entertain and Persuade (05:27)

Any copywriter worth their salt knows good copy needs to sell something. Even when they aren’t creating copy or content with a direct sale attached to it, they are always letting their copy lead to something.

The better copywriters out there understand that people are always asking themselves, “Why the hell do I care about this?”. They compensate accordingly and make it worth their time and energy. They entertain without sacrificing any kind of persuasion.


Who Are They Listening To For Your Brand Voice?  (12:50)

Another factor to consider when looking at a copywriter (beyond the test project), is asking where they are learning about the brand voice for your company. 

We are going to address that very specifically soon, don’t you worry.

As they are learning and experiencing what your brand voice is all about, though, you need to be pointing them in the right direction of certain influencers your business looks up to for inspiration.

To put it simply, who is your business trying to sound like? Are you trying to sound like the ecommerce store next door or are you trying to create a brand voice similar to Steve Jobs? Make sure your copywriter is listening to the same voices you are.


Aim for Performance Over Art (06:28)

Deep down, copywriters are still creative types.

They may have an uncontrollable urge to write copy that sounds really, really, really good. The absolute best copywriters, though, will always default to what is actually selling the best.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this post, sometimes the most boring, dry copy will sell the best. The copywriters willing to get out there and kick a** for you will acknowledge performance rather than the art of their craft.

If they can’t make that sacrifice for you and your brand, then they probably aren’t going to be one of the greats.

3. They Value Continuity and Consistency  (18:09)

This can be tricky depending on the size of the organization, but brand continuity is so important. When you’re trying to inject personality through a brand, continuity is one of the most important things. Most of your regular, everyday, wonderful humans have bullsh*t detectors that will fire on all cylinders when your copy and branding is all over the map. They will notice the tone and personality shift between ads and articles and emails. 

A great copywriter will help you navigate all that unpleasantness. In fact, if you don’t have a clearly defined brand voice before working with a great copywriter, then they can help you form, shape, and nail that down.


They Should Ask for a Brand Book (18:48)

Full stop. If a copywriter isn’t asking for some kind of branding or brand voice documentation, then they aren’t the type that is going to kick a** for you over and over again. While we are at it, if you don’t have a brand book, then you are going to want to work on one before hiring any copywriters.

The best outcomes will arise from a business with consistent tone, messaging, and diction across all channels. Read through all of your copy on your emails, product pages, landing pages, etc. and see what emerges – jot down some notes in a Google Drive. Anything is going to be a lot better than nothing.

Whatever you’ve got, hand it to your copywriter ASAP and stick to those parameters. Content and copywriting is an iterative process where you are going to have several rounds of edits and this brand book will guide both you and your copywriter to achieving the perfect brand voice that is consistent and continuous across all your marketing channels.


The Best Copywriters Will Help You Find Your Brand Voice (19:37)

If you don’t have a predetermined brand voice yet, then a kick a** copywriter is going to help you find and shape that brand voice.

To keep it simple, the best copywriters are going to do their homework and initiate several conversations with you about your brand voice. If they are passive or waiting for your lead, then they aren’t going to be a huge help later on. This type of thing should excite the hell out of most copywriters, really.

4. Are They Copy-Trendy?  (23:30)

Another great way to recognize how to find a copywriter that is insanely good is to see how copy-trendy they are. Are they paying attention to the newest regulations and changes to iOS or Google or the latest trends in email marketing?

If they aren’t, then they are only trying to cash in and move on. If they are invested in the industry and how that affects your brand, then you’ve found yourself one kick-a** copywriter!

That said, there are some obvious areas where copywriters can learn and use what they learn, even when things aren’t going as planned. Whether they are staying on trends and adjusting to them or actively choosing to fight poor trends that won’t play out in the long run, it is worthwhile to hold tight to a copy-trendy copywriter.

For example…


The Death of Third Party Cookies (27:16)

This is hot off the press. Businesses became transfixed with “the pixel” that could help them segment and understand their audience by tracking their every move. Creativity wasn’t needed because they knew so much information about the customer. Now, though, great copywriters understand the need to pivot back to creatively reaching their audience.

A copywriter who is on top of the trends has already started adjusting their strategy or never even bothered to hop on board that privacy train wreck to begin with. Either way, you know they are passionate about their industry and want to use it to build your brand, and that is truly the best you could ask for.


Great Copy > TikTok (24:36)

TikTok is a huge social media trend right now. Maybe it is here to stay, maybe it isn’t. That isn’t our place to say really, but it is our place to say that copy will always be around. 

It’s the facts of life. Video content might be easier to consume quickly, but copy is the way people primarily take in data in their day-to-day life. From traffic signs to forms to communications to advertisements and on and on – there is no end to the sheer amount of copy that is put before us every single day. Great copywriters know this and aren’t flustered by TikTok, for example, because they know that great copy never dies.

5. Companies Doing it Well, & Other Examples (33:00)

One of the final signs of a great copywriter who is going to kick a** for you is to see who they are learning from. We already mentioned that copywriters are nerds deep down. They are always trying to learn something new.

It’s what makes them f*cking awesome.

So the best ones are out there learning from someone. Check out who they are learning from and point them to people your brand is learning from, too. When you are both on the same path of alignment for your brand voice, then it is going to make things b-e-a-u-tiful.

Here are some of the brands we have seen doing brilliant copywriting work we think you and your copywriter should be paying attention to (and why we like them).


Sticker Mule (33:20)

“Custom stickers that kick a**” 

Sticker Mule is really fun. They have no issues being a quirky sticker brand and they make it work for them. They are teaching us how copy can be humorous and they don’t give a f*ck about the rules.

Let us explain.

Humour

In their emails, they keep everything super short. They use very few lines of copy and they make it funny. As an example, they once sent an email about the tastiest hot sauce you’ll ever buy from a sticker company. It makes no sense why they are selling hot sauce, but d— it if I don’t want some.

They are showcasing how humour can work in your favor. You can entertain and persuade at the same time without losing any of that special oomph we mentioned before.

Break the Rules When Appropriate

Another great lesson from Sticker Mule is to say “f*ck the rules” from time to time. They try to make a sale in every single email. Every one of them. This is a huge no-no in marketing and copywriting, but it works for them.

The reason why it works is because they are funny, their audience expects it, and they aren’t pushy about it. They just offer the sell, every time.

It’s okay to break the rules and try something new if it fits your brand voice and personality. So don’t be afraid to screw up and just be willing to try it first!


The Oodie (36:06)

Another great example right now is this brand called The Oodie. They sell these huge, oversized poncho blanket things that look comfy as hell. Their marketing and copywriting is so simple and they are so bold with their strategy.

They come on strong and they are a little bit no-nonsense. Again, breaking some norms a bit, but it is working beautifully for them.

Be Bold

A great lesson from The Oodie is to be bold. They don’t do anything super flashy and they don’t spend a couple thousand words trying to sell you on how comfortable their gigantic blanket-poncho is. They just tell you and move on, your turn to decide now.

They tell you why it’s the best and convince you it is the best and then you can deal with it and make the decision yourself. Bold A-F.


Baboon to the Moon (37:11)

Baboon to the Moon is an incredibly quirky brand that sells travel wear and accessories that have a specific and unique visual appeal. On the outside, it looks like your typical, run-of-the-mill travel gear. On the inside, though, they have a mind-blowing style of colors and patterns and design elements that set them apart from any similar brand or company. 

There is so much to learn about great copywriters by observing a brand like this with such a unique brand voice and merchandise personality.

Be Genuine, Be Unique

Baboon to the Moon is a great example of what it means to be unique in your space, showcase that in your copy, and still be incredibly genuine to your brand.

Their theme is the idea of the road less traveled, and all their copy points to that journey. Even selling a candle they use some copy that is brilliantly persuasive but also true to their brand and experience. They sold a candle called “space” with the question “what does space smell like?” in the copy. There is no way their readers would know what space smells like (and likely they don’t either), but then they make the case that they can’t describe the scent via copy so you’ll just have to buy one and try it.

Absolutely brilliant move. They have proven with their copy that you can be unique, you can be genuine, and you can still create copy that is highly entertaining and persuasive as hell.

 

Want More Bullsh*t Free Copy & Copywriter Commentary?

We sat down with a kicka** copywriter and chatted about all this and more. You can check out the full podcast interview with Eden Bidani here. If you want to delve deeper with ecommerce and enter our bullsh*t free zone, then check out our blog over at Talking Shop.

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