If your business does any kind of marketing or written communication with customers—and let’s face it, what business doesn’t—you need someone to help you communicate. In this competitive economic climate, few small or medium sized businesses can afford to have a full-time writing staff. Freelance copywriting services can be a wonderful option. You get writing services when you need them, and you do not have to pay overhead or other expenses that you would have with an employee.
But copywriting service providers are not created equal. Some writers are better than others, and some services are better than others. Here are 10 ways to spot an unprofessional copywriter before you spend any money.
1. Mistakes. If the writer cannot take the time to proofread and correct their work when they are marketing or writing for themselves, you cannot expect them to do it when they are writing or marketing for you. The best writers are either excellent proofreaders, or work with a team so a fresh set of eyes can proof the work. Personally, I would not reject a writer for one simple mistake, but a pattern of inattention to details will make itself evident.
2. Bad English. More than just bad grammar, bad English is choosing the wrong words, or using broken English, as sometimes happens with third-world speakers who do not have a strong command of the language.
3. Weird attention seeking behavior. Everyone has to market themselves, but a writer or company that resorts to weird attention seeking behavior—copy in all caps, l33t speak, multiple exclamation points at the end of every sentence, hard to read fonts, etc.–may be indicating that they do not have a good grasp of what really attracts customers.
4. Wrong country. If you’re marketing in the U.S., you want a person who speaks U.S. English, not British or Australian English. Same goes for the other countries as well: Mexican Spanish and South American Spanish are not the same.
5. Strange pricing. Be cautious if some has prices considerably higher or considerably lower than what you have been paying for the same work. Quality work will cost a bit more—you do get what you pay for, after all—but will be worth it. A person who is offering a price considerably under market is only a good deal if they can produce quality work on your time table.
6. Deadlines. Chances are, you are not the writer’s only client. Solo freelance writers have to have a good grasp of their schedules to be able to deliver work when promised. A writing team or commercial service will have more writers to share the work load. If you frequently need material with a really short turnaround (less than 24 hours, for example), you may be better off with a team of writers or a company that has writers working in different time zones or on different shifts.
7. Email address. A professional will have a professional email address, not something like . firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s no need to be concerned about an account from a free service, like Google mail, or Yahoo mail, but the person should be using their own name or a professional business name.
8. Website. Most professionals will have a website or blog they can refer you to. If they do, check it out.
9. Payment. A professional will accept different forms of payment, including PayPal or escrow accounts through various freelance sites. If someone asks for cash only, be wary. If someone asks for all the money up front, be cautious. Half payment up front with the remainder on delivery is usually a good rule of thumb.
10. References and samples. Most professionals are willing to supply references or samples of their work. Even a beginning writer should be able to supply you with a sample of their writing so you can evaluate their style. If they don’t have a sample of the type of work you need, ask if they would be willing to write a small bit for you in the style you need, say 100-200 words. Be expected to pay for a larger sample whether or not you can use it.
As you can, the process of picking out a quality copywriting professional is relatively straight forward. Bad writers will give themselves away, if not with their writing, with their business practices.
If you have complex or urgent needs, be sure to consider the option of choosing a copy writing service. That may give you access to a number of different writers, some of whom may be available at a moment’s notice.