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How to choose a good copywriter

Written by Martin Sayers of MSCopy on 22 April 2013

Many web designers look to outsource copy requirements to professional copywriters, but what exactly makes a good copywriter? What should you look out for when looking for a wordsmith?

Here are my top five tips for finding a writing partner who can create copy that works.

Beware the ‘digital’ copywriter

A copywriter that describes him or herself as ‘digital’ should be perfect for a bit of web copywriting, right? Possibly – but anybody thinking about a digital copywriter should first think about what that term actually means. A digital copywriter presumably means one that specialises in web copy, but how does that set their skills apart from those of any other copywriter? You don’t need a specialist copywriter for press releases, or for sales letters, or for brochures - you just need a copywriter with good all round writing skills. So why should you need a digital specialist for web copy?

That’s not to say that someone describing themselves as a digital copywriter is a bad writer, but do ask some questions about what extra skills they actually offer. You should also look for experience outside the online sector as hiring a copywriter with a good track record across all forms of media, not just online, will lead to much better results.

Take a look at testimonials

Most copywriters' websites will feature a testimonials page but it is a good idea to look beyond these reviews, which don’t forget the writer has specifically chosen to share, to business directory sites such as Freeindex, Qype and Hotfrog. These testimonials will give you a better idea of what clients are saying – both good and bad.

Ask for a range of examples

What marketers call ‘Tone of voice’ is a very important copywriting skill. Many copywriters have a one track mind when it comes to writing and produce the same corporate style of copy, the sort that talks about ‘solutions’, ‘aims’ and ‘meeting business objectives’. This has its place – on corporate websites - but not if you need copy for a surf shop, for example, or a restaurant.

Make sure you look at a range of examples from your copywriter to assess their versatility and ability to adapt copy style to suit different sectors.

Find a copywriter you get on with

It’s important to have a good working relationship with your copywriter, so find one that you actually like. This will make things much easier when it comes to bouncing ideas around and ironing out the final drafts. You want someone you can happily talk to and who will respond well to criticism and suggestions.

Watch the cost

Anybody promising to do anything for a remarkably low cost should be treated with some caution. If a plumber offered to fix your boiler for £5 you would probably be a bit suspicious about the quality of the work. The same goes for copywriting – there are copywriters who will write a web page for £5 or less but the quality of that copy is likely to be very low. It won’t engage with the reader, it won’t convert visits into sales and will ultimately do more harm than good.

Author bio: Martin Sayers is owner of MSCopy, a Cambridge-based UK copywriting agency that produces web copy as well as marketing literature such as press releases, sales letters, brochures and blogs.

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