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.”
Some food for thought when you’re looking to hire a freelance catalog copywriter.
What’s most important to you: That the writer knows the products? That the writer writes well? That the writer is reliable and efficient? That the writer isn’t expensive? That the writer has experience?
These are probably just a few of the things that you consider when contemplating hiring a freelance copywriter.
Most likely, you’ll want to hire a copywriter who can meet the majority of your qualifications. But chances are that won’t always be the case and you’ll have to compromise a bit.
But the one qualification that you should never skimp on is the copywriter’s writing ability.
And I’m not talking about just having excellent grammar and punctuation skills. I’m talking about the ability to write precisely about the benefit of a product while using words that strike a chord in the prospect, prompting the prospect to buy.
In other words, a skillful copywriter knows how to transform the written word into a selling tool.
Because the purpose of copy in a print or online catalog is to make sales.
Product knowledge? Sure, it’s definitely helpful, but not an absolute necessity. Unless your product is extremely technical or complex, any copywriter worth his salt should be able to get himself up to speed fairly quickly with research.
I can’t imagine that there are many copywriters out there who at some point took on a project writing about a product that they weren’t an expert on.
Reliable and efficient? Yes, these are vital qualities, but not ones that should surpass the importance of superior, sales worthy copywriting. What does your catalog achieve with the timely receipt of dud-like copy?
Is the writer expensive? Hmmm, I guess that boils down to how you define expensive.
Is the writer experienced? Hiring an experienced freelance catalog copywriter is desirable for many reasons. But remember, weren’t we all novices at one point?
Newcomers who truly want to prove themselves should be willing to provide you, a potential client, with samples of free copy, just to get their feet in the door. This allows you to get a feel for what they might be capable of, at no expense to you.
So next time you need the help of a freelance catalog copywriter, most importantly, make sure that the freelancer writes benefit-rich, persuasive copy. Because you want your catalog to sell well.
Specifics sell, period.
When prospects are shopping, they don’t want to just read about a product’s features, they want to know why they should buy it. They want to be given an incentive - a reason to buy.
Using specifics makes the job of selling easier, because the copy contains no vagueness or ambiguity.
Here’s an example of a headline that I saw recently in The Vermont Country Store catalog. The item was combed-cotton pajamas and the headline read, “Featherweight Pajamas Won’t Cling or Stick to Your Body When Temperatures Rise.”
This headline alone could convince a woman looking for lightweight and cool pajamas to place an order. It is straight-forward and to-the-point and speaks directly to the important benefit to be gained from buying these PJs.
Another item in the same catalog used specificity to pitch the value of its Portuguese flannel sheet-blankets.
The copy began like this: “If you’re not familiar with old-fashioned sheet-blankets, you’ll find they’re just what you need to add another layer on bitter cold nights and have just enough heft on their own to keep you feeling “just right” on warmer nights.”
The copy continued with the sheet-blankets features, but that first sentence explained specifically why buying their sheet-blanket would be a smart move, which gives shoppers a reason to buy it.
So much selling power is lost when copy speaks in general terms. By focusing on specifics, your copy is much more persuasive and convincing, which ultimately produces sales.
Catalog copywriting skills reach far beyond the pages of a catalog…did you know that?
That’s right, the skills needed to write short catalog copy are easily transferable to other types of short descriptions, for example, a real estate property description.
Recently, I was asked by a realtor to rewrite a property description.
I was happy to oblige because like any other freelance copywriting professional, I’m always willing to demonstrate my abilities.
Without further ado, this is how it went:
The Original Version
WELCOME TO THE SHINING ROCK COMMUNITY, THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR AN EASIER LIFESTYLE... Start checking the boxes!!! *1*. More free time without giving up comforts of home. *2*. Light, bright, clean, freshly painted and move in ready * 3*. 1st floor Master Bedroom retreat with separate commode *4*. An open concept floor plan. suited for entertaining * 5. * 3 Bedrooms and 2/1/2 baths * 6. * Two car attached garage and full-size basement to finish, workshop space and storage *7. * Location This unit is at the end of a tree lined lane and walk to Award Winning Golf Course and Rockdale Grill., *8* Private deck and outdoor space. *9* Must allow Pets. Absolutely. *10*, Great commuter location. 495, 90, 146 Worcester, Providence, and Boston. ****** All year around or "lock it and leave it" snow birds, this is a comfortable attractive property to call home.
My Revised Version
HAD IT WITH THE HECTIC LIFESTYLE? 10 REASONS WHY LIFE’S SIMPLER AT SHINING ROCK…
1. No more time-consuming home and yard maintenance. More time for fun stuff!
2. Move-in ready; light, bright, freshly painted, and clean.
3. Open concept floor plan, if entertaining is your thing.
4. Your own retreat – 1st floor Master bedroom with separate commode.
5. 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ baths for visiting family or guests.
6. Two-car, attached garage and full-size, unfinished basement – that workshop or extra storage you’ve always dreamed of?
7. Peaceful location at end of tree-lined lane that’s walking distance to award-winning golf course and Rockdale Grill.
8. Private deck and outdoor space.
9. Pets are ALWAYS welcome.
10. Worcester, Providence, and Boston less than an hour’s commute away; 495, 146, and 90 close by.
Whether living year-round or ‘lock it and leave it’ snowbirds, this no-fuss, appealing property epitomizes what home should be.
Like catalog copy, property descriptions have restricted word capacity, so the less words you can use, the more specific your copy needs to be.
And specificity always outpulls generalities. Hmmm, sounds like another blog topic…
In any event, whether you’re writing 25 words to pitch a handbag or a house, the basic copy approach is the same.
Know your audience, know the item’s major selling points and their benefits, and then compose your copy so it speaks to your customers and promotes the benefits.
Suzanne Quigley - Copywriter