What does a freelance copywriter actually do?

If you’re thinking that your business might need to call in a professional wordsmith, are you sure you can answer the key question: what does a professional freelance copywriter actually do for you?

Or perhaps, to put it a slightly different way: what can a freelance copywriter do that you can’t do yourself?

(And by the way, there are loads of bad copywriters out there who, to be honest, can’t do much more than you can do yourself. You need to make sure you’re hiring the right person.)

Having posted that short health warning, here’s a quick heads up on what this particular copywriter thinks a good, experienced copywriter can bring to the party (amongst other things).

  1. Turn features into benefits

This is perhaps the most important thing that good copywriters do.

Before they even dream of writing something, they spend a lot of time learning all about your product or service, and learning all about your prospective customers.

Clients are great at describing how their product works, how it’s made and what it can do.

They’re often not so good at telling their customers the reasons why they should buy it.

By combining a deep understanding of the product with a deep insight into the customers’ needs and motivations, a good copywriter can turn product ‘features’ into customer ‘benefits’ — generating powerful reasons why they should buy or enquire.

Once we’ve identified the root of these messages, the words we use to write them are almost secondary.

Clients who are confused about what great copywriters do are often surprised when I say ‘what you say is much more important than how you say it.’

  1. Craft powerful headlines that increase readership

 Whole books have been written about how to write powerful headlines for advertising and selling. I’ve probably read them all. (You can read more about writing effective headlines here: Headlines blog number one

Headlines can instantly make or break your connection to your audience. That’s why we often spend what may seem like a disproportionate amount of time writing them.

But if your headline doesn’t instantly A) grab their attention and b) force them to read on, it’s utterly irrelevant that the rest of the copy is a masterpiece of persuasion.

  1. Drive response using tried and tested psychological persuasion techniques

If you not seeking some kind of response from your customer or prospect, why on earth are you talking to them?

This is what separates the real expert copywriters from the wannabees and amateurs (and people who work in advertising agencies). You need a writer that knows all the special written sales techniques that will persuade your customers to do what you want.

So if you’re thinking about hiring a freelance copywriter to drive response in some way, ask them to explain to you how they’ll use the following powerful writing techniques: (hint, most copywriters can just about explain social proof, if you’re lucky):

* Consistency

* Social proof

* Reciprocity

* Scarcity

* Authority

  1. Offer the customer’s perspective

This is so important. One of the things that you learn when you’ve been doing this job as long as I have, is to be able to flip flop your mind between the client’s point of view and the customer’s.

It’s all about being able to retain a degree of objectivity about everything you write. How will the reader read this? What does it mean to them? Have we used in-house or industry jargon they won’t understand? Do the words we use have the same meaning to the buyer as they do to the seller?

Practically every week, certainly every month, I find myself saying to a client “I’m not sure the customer will understand that. That’s your jargon.”

If you’re working with a single brand, product or service all day every day it’s really easy to forget you’re using jargon and shorthand that is, at best, annoying or confusing for your customer, at worst totally offputting and damaging to the sale.

A good copywriter can remain objective at all times.

  1. Have a strong input on design and layout

“But you’re words not pictures, surely?” Good copywriters will have a huge input on how your website is designed, how much copy you need to use, what words you should use for links and calls to action.

That’s why you’ll always get a much more responsive piece of work if you get your freelance copywriter involved as early in the process as possible. At the strategy stage, if possible.

The kings and queens of copywriters…

The best way to find someone with these skills in abundance is to look for an experienced direct response copywriter.

These are the crème de la crème of freelance copywriters.

They charge the highest fees. They are the most demanding to work with. But they bring in the business like no other freelancers out there.

They like to test alternatives. They thrive on beating the client’s ‘control’. They immerse themselves in every aspect of your product or service until they know more about it than you do yourself, sometimes.

They are motivated not by a desire to entertain or “to write”. They are motivated by a desire to sell your stuff.

Nothing else.

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