Is it better to hire a freelance copywriter who’s already an expert in your field?
This is a question you may ask yourself as you consider working with a freelance copywriter. And it’s a valid one, for sure.
Last month, I wrote about how you can work successfully and productively with a copywriter who isn’t an “industry insider.” I gave my rationale here, and used an example from my own experience.
As I explained, it is possible for a copywriter to get up to speed quickly and learn the essentials about your industry. A vast majority of copywriters already do this on a daily basis. After all, one can’t know everything about everything, right?
However, what if you’re selling a product that appeals to a niche market?
Let’s say you sell fly fishing equipment ...
Fly fishing is a sport that uses a significantly different method for casting a line compared to other types of fishing. This requires the fly fishing enthusiast to acquire a specialized skill, which develops through practice and experience.
It’s a good bet that your fly fishing customers are a keen bunch with a rabid affection for their sport. You’ll want your copy to resonate strongly with them. So a copywriter with a robust understanding of fly fishing consumers and what drives their passion may be your best choice.
A master angler can probably better express that passion in the copy, because he’s walked in your customers' boots (or rather in this case, their waders.)
Ultimately, whether you decide to hire an industry expert or not, remember one thing: The copywriter you choose must have the knowledge and skills to write copy that will achieve the results you’re aiming for.
A potential client asked me, “Do you have any experience writing about debt management?”
I must confess, I did not. But I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
“No,” I said, “but in the past, I’ve written for other clients whose business I initially knew nothing about.”
I was once hired to write blog articles for a paper company.
Their customer base was varied, ranging from professional printers, amateur scrapbookers, event planners, and brides-to-be. And their paper products were as varied as their customers, from plain-jane cardstock to specialty paper like vellum. Vellum?
And what did I know about the paper industry?
Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
But lack of industry knowledge didn’t stymie my production of weekly blog articles. Working with the company’s subject matter expert and performing my own research, I became a paper prodigy in no time at all.
However, even though my product knowledge initially was minimal, my copywriting knowledge wasn’t. And ultimately, that was why my client hired me, because I knew the marketing value of their blog.
With regular posting of articles that were educational, fun, and sprinkled with discount offers, the company grew their customer base and increased sales.
The same holds true for any other copywriting project, whether it be a landing page, a case study, or an email marketing campaign.
Knowledge of the industry is important, but, without a copywriter who’s familiar with the channel being used and how to write the copy to achieve specific results, you’re only solving half the problem.
When you’re looking to hire a freelance catalog copywriter, should you look for a person who is already knowledgeable in what you’re selling?
The short answer is, not necessarily.
While a copywriter well-versed in your product line is at definite advantage because she already understands who your customers are and why they would want to buy your products, this advantage is only useful if the writer is skillful in weaving this knowledge into the copy she writes.
The skilled writer would lay out in her copy the major benefit that the product provides.
She would know that prospects are self-serving (aren’t we all?) and that they buy stuff ultimately to fulfill a want or a need.
Within her copy, she’d pounce on that emotion with words that hit the mark with the targeted customers.
But could a copywriter with little understanding of the products do the same?
For the most part, yes, but it would require research by the copywriter concerning the products and the demographics of the people who buy them.
And any catalog copywriter worth her salt would not be a stranger to research. It just goes with the territory.
Research is the key that makes it possible for a catalog copywriter to write copy for pretty much any kind of product. Of course, there are always exceptions …
If the products you sell are highly technical or specialized, you might prefer a copywriter who’s worked in the industry, who holds a related degree, or has written about these products in the past.
The experience such an individual brings to the table will enable her to produce, most likely, outstanding copy because she understands the products and the customers. But as important as this is, just as important to consider is: does her copy sell?
As you consider your freelance copywriting professional, be sure to read copy samples the writer has written previously.
Are they well done, meaning, do they address benefits and features? Do they speak clearly and persuasively to the targeted market? Do they communicate the right emotion, nudging prospects to buy?
If the copywriter you’re considering is skillful at the craft, half of the battle is won.
And if the writer is eager to learn about a new product or service (and most good copywriters are), and time spent in the learning curve is not a problem, you may find this to be a suitable option.
Every person who’s ever chosen the freelance route had to earn his first client. Most are grateful for that first assignment, because getting a foothold as a freelancer doesn’t come easy.
If you hire a freelancer, realize that to that individual, especially the freelancer who’s just getting started, you’re not just a paycheck.
You represent the first success on what was most likely a long, angst-ridden, ups-and-downs, frustratingly-slow-to-fruition road.
You provide a tremendous shot in the arm to that freelancer!
For the freelancer, yes, the payment for work actually performed for a legitimate client is awesome; that uptick in the bank account that calms the anxiety, and the chance to proudly display the work that you created in your portfolio or on your web site.
But even better than those are the intangibles. That sense of tremendous accomplishment, the “I DID IT!” factor.
All the prospecting, all the networking, all those potentials who just weren’t ready to hire.
And then, finally, you get your first “yes”!
Once that first successful project is under your belt, going forward, the sky’s the limit.
The confidence level goes from zero to sixty, the belief in your own ability becomes real. No longer do you tell yourself, “I can do this,” while in your gut doubt your own words.
No, now you have a real client who’s confirmed what you’ve always believed but really needed to prove. A person who’s paid YOU for the work that YOU created.
Once that first assignment is landed and completed, the next time a potential client approaches you and asks, “Can you do this?”, you can assuredly respond, “Yes, I can.”
The road to that first client can be frustratingly long with lots of dead ends. There’ll be times that you’ll wonder why you’re even bothering. But just remember the words of poet Edgar A. Guest: “Rest if you must – but don’t you quit.”
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter