Advice on hiring and evaluating a copywriter?

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for years, I've always written my own web copy (landing pages, emails, about page, CTAs etc.). I'm no genius copywriter by any means. I know AIDA, read a copywriting book (and yes I've seen the new copywriting thread in BuSo!), but now that we have some more revenue, thought it might be worth it to get a professional to improve our copy. We will A/B test any new copy, of course, to check the results.

Sourcing great copywriters?
The best copywriters I've seen are making serious bank selling things or hired at companies making others serious bank.

I cannot afford that. Or at least, it wouldn't be profitable for me to make that hire.

Planning to look in online freelance sites for potential copywriters, but are there other good places to find copywriters who might have skills but not making serious bank yet.

Picking the best copywriter?
How do you actually evaluate? I can certainly rule out the most terrible ones, but if they're not absolutely terrible, it's hard for me to judge who's the BEST.

Anybody have any systems or strategies? Like giving them a test and being able to easily and systematically judge how they respond to the test?

Whoever I hire, I'll probably have them write multiple versions of each copy we need so that we can A/B test them and also compare to my original copy.
 

Ryuzaki

お前はもう死んでいる
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I don't think you can pick the best copywriter right off the bat. Moving from no professional copy to having it in place is a great first step.

But even the big companies can't split test everything. For instance, when some big marketing agency rolls out a set of themed TV commercials, billboards, radio ads, and full-page magazine ads, they can't split test all of that. Over time they can begin to understand regions, demographics, and what works and doesn't as the years roll by, but even then persuasion is an art form as much as it is a science.

Any company working with copy for the web should be providing case studies with data showing that they improve conversions by some percentage. And any company really worth their weight can write several versions of copy and set up a system to split test them for you, given you have the budget and/or traffic to hit statistical confidence.

I think doing that, and then running conversion rate optimization on the design, is where the money is at, if you can afford to do it and there will be a return on investment in a reasonable amount of time.

Based on what you've said about looking to get a freelance type and not the full shebang, I'd expect there to be not only proof of previous work but I'd want to see some data about the measured improvements they made.

There's always problems too, like I recently worked with a copywriter who provided design wireframes alongside the copy, and I designed the site around the wireframes. When the new site went live, how do you assign any improvement in conversions? Who gets the credit? The copywriter or the UX designer?
 
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Based on what you've said about looking to get a freelance type and not the full shebang, I'd expect there to be not only proof of previous work but I'd want to see some data about the measured improvements they made.
Definitely would definitely be looking at a freelance copywriter and not a full on agency for CRO.

I'll add past copy + data improvements from past copy to our process. Thanks!

For design + copy changes, you can always just (and probably should) A/B test the past copy with the new copy to really show that it worked right?
 
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Two things I do when hiring writers. Check references, and provide foundational web copy training.

I'll do all the standard things when hiring - give the writers all the same writing task and compare, ask for past examples etc.

But, with any hire, ask about their previous work experience. In the case of a content writer, yes that would be past clients, but also past employers even if it doesn't related to writing.

Once you know where they have worked, ask who their manager was - ie, their direct report. Get the contact details of those people.

Next step is to call or email those people and ask some questions
  1. In what context did you work with [writer]?
  2. What were [writer]'s biggest strengths?
  3. What were [writer]'s biggest areas for improvement back then?
  4. How would you rate their overall performance in that job on a scale of 1-10? What about their performance causes you to give that rating? (anything less that 7 usually means they are actually scoring them a 2, but are being polite)
You can also ask questions around anything specific the writer mentioned the might be relevant to the role.

Unfortunately, there are many people out there who are pros at the "interview" game. Instead of just accepting references at face value, ask for specific people to talk to.

The point of talking to references like this is you get a well rounded look at the person you are about to hire.

In regards to writers, I've dodged many potential disasters including writers who broke NDA's, writers who were cronically late with work, writers who just weren't team players and much more.

A great book I recommend to any one with staff or is looking to hire is Who: The A Method for Hiring by Geoff Smart.

I regards to hiring the best, I at least look a writer who has a solid foundation and a great attitude. Within their first month I will get them to read "Webcopy that sells" by Maria Veloso. Its awesome web copy book - I'll even buy the book for them and give them a bonus if they complete it within a month.

This book dramatically increases the quality of writing I get from all my writers.
 
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Try copywriting groups like Copy Accelerator and AWAI, plenty of copy cubs (mentored by A list copywriters) who are hungry to prove themselves, and I heard they're relatively cheap. There can also be gold from freelancing websites like UpWork, but you gotta be able to filter the shit.

As a freelance copywriter myself, the biggest mistake I see with my clients before they hire me is that they have no grasp of the fundamentals. I truly believe it's hard to be a good a marketer without understanding the core of cop. A GREAT way to learn how to filter the shit from the good is to know the fundamentals yourself.

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins is a mandatory book, no one should be allowed in marketing without reading it 2x minimum (some direct mail stuff inside may be outdated, but the rest is GOLD). I also recommend John Carlton's book "Kick-Ass Copywriting Secrets of a Marketing Rebel" (over the top title I know lmao, but if it works, it works). Those two books should be enough, friend of mine used the copy tactics inside those books to 3x his dry cleaning business.

If you to learn more, learn from the OGs, the GOATs like Gary Halbert, Gary Bencivenga, John Carlton, Doberman Dan (his book Just Sell The Damn Thing is pretty useful. Also has great newsletter for biz owners, pretty expensive though).

But the thing is, if you truly want the top of line copy, it's going to be expensive no matter what. It's RARE that an *actual* good copywriter doesn't ask for pretty high fees. Copy is as close to a money printing skill as it gets.