It’s sad, but true…
Some copywriters burn their clients.
And later on, when I’m talking to these burned clients, I hear the stories.
Stories like the one about the copywriter who talked a big game, then slapped together some terrible copy that wasn’t even worth testing.
Or the copywriter who started off great, then started missing deadlines, giving one weird excuse after another.
Or the writer who ghosted the client … in the middle of launch week.
But here’s the thing…
There were probably signs that those copywriters weren’t going to work out … even before they were hired.
For example, over the years I’ve identified “red flags” when I talk to a prospective new client. These red flags are signs that we’re not going to be a good fit. And in the past, when I’ve ignored these signs, I always regretted it.
So now when I see the flags flying, I know it’s best to pass on the project.
You can do the same thing when you’re trying to hire a copywriter.
You just need to know what signs to look for. So from the other side of the situation, and based on the nightmare stories I’ve been privy to, here are seven red flags to watch for when you’re hiring a copywriter:
- Their online presence is sort of ridiculous. If someone’s Facebook page or other online profile is full of puffery, nonsensical videos filmed in their backyard, vague mentions of multibillion-dollar launches (where they seem to take full credit while not giving many specifics about their contribution or the numbers), rants about getting kicked out of online copy groups … just pass. If they market themselves this way, how will they market YOU?
- They don’t ask “big picture” questions. Your project might technically be to write a sequence of 10 emails. But a pro copywriter knows it’s part of something bigger. A pro will want to know about your market, funnel, traffic sources, current offers, past results, expectations, and more — because that’s the only way this 10-email project will be successful.
- They don’t have references. Or their testimonials are generic, and you suspect the photos of their “clients” are from iStockphoto.com.
- They can only share one “winner” with you. It’s okay to have one package you’re particularly proud of. But if a copywriter can only share one “win” with you, that’s a bad sign. It could have been a fluke. Or maybe they wrote it as part of a team, and their copy was significantly improved by a copy chief. You want to know that someone has consistently written winning copy.
- They’ve written non-compliant copy (and you’d rather not risk that). If a copywriter writes for the health market, for example, you can see if they’re making noncompliant disease claims in their work. While we copywriters aren’t attorneys (and you should definitely consult one for copy), a pro copywriter should at least have a basic knowledge of what’s compliant and what isn’t.
- They’re willing to do it all. Sometimes, a copywriter is NOT the right person for the job. For instance, you don’t need a copywriter to write your blog articles. We’re way too expensive for that. So a good copywriter will let you know that you could get the same goal accomplished by someone else … and for a lot less money.
- They want to jump into a long-term relationship with you. If a writer is trying to talk you into a retainer agreement on the first call, I’d be cautious. And that’s because most pro copywriters — just like many clients — have been burned before. Or if not burned, they’ve jumped into a project only to discover that the client or the market isn’t a good fit for them. So we want to be cautious. I always suggest a one-off project to start. Then after the project wraps, we can talk about if and how we’ll move forward. It’s just better for everyone to test the waters first.
Now, one thing to note: These red flags only apply if you’re hiring a senior copywriter, meaning you also have the budget to hire a senior copywriter.
If you don’t have that kind of budget, then you probably can’t hold your candidates to all seven of the standards I’ve outlined above. They may not have lots of wins yet. They may only have a few client testimonials. They might not ask all the right questions about the big picture, so you’ll need to guide them more.
And if you CAN hire a seasoned pro? Just know that there are lots of great copywriters out there doing good work for their clients. So use the list above and make sure you’re hiring one of them!