I sympathize with anyone who has to shop for copywriters. We come in such a wide variety of skill levels, prices, and personalities that it’s almost impossible to compare apples to apples.
You, as the customer, obviously want to get the most bang for your buck. You figure that the dirt cheap copywriters ($35 a page for example) are probably not that good. You can weed those out right away. But what about the zillion other writers and agencies that charge anywhere from $200/hour to 30 cents a word?
To complicate matters, writers and writing firms also have a bewildering array of quoting methods and terms of business. Some charge by the hour, others by the word; still others will give you a flat rate or a range. Copywriters may limit your number of edits or may grant limited rights to the final copy. When you line all of the factors up side by side, you can end up wanting to toss your proposals and write the darn thing yourself.
Take a deep breath. I’ve heard about every client question in the book, and here’s what you really DO need to ask to get the most copywriter for your money:
1. Do you have references? If the copywriter you’re talking to doesn’t have at least a half dozen raving fans they can send you to, they either have a history of unhappy clients or they’re new. New isn’t always bad, and a newbie can save you some cash if you have a limited budget; but the risk has to be worth the savings to you. On the other hand, an experienced writer with no references is almost always a ticket for disaster.
2. Can I see samples and testimonials? Any writer worth his salt should be able to provide these on demand. If you like what you see, chances are your writer can do something similar for you.
3. Under what circumstances would the price you quoted me change? Understand what the procedure is if the project exceeds its scope. You also need to know what the writer’s policy is if they go over hours on the project, and how a writer treats multiple rounds of edits.
4. Are expenses included? If you will be paying extra for tolls, gas, mileage, subscriptions, etc., make sure you understand what extra items may appear on your bill.
5. Can we get a lower rate if we give your firm name recognition? Some agencies value back-links or bylines.
6. Can we get a lower rate if we give you more work? Some firms will lower their prices if you negotiate a long-term contract with them. Instead of getting just one press release, for example, discuss what the company’s rates might be if you do one press release a month for the next year.
7. Can I get a flat quote? If you can clearly define the project scope, most writing agencies will be able to provide you with a flat quote. That way, you can line up your quotes side by side and find out what each writing option is really costing you.
8. Who owns the final copy? If you need to own your copy, be sure the writer doesn’t charge you each time you reprint the material.
9. Can I get it in writing? Your copywriter should have a contract. It’s not just for them — it protects you as well. Your contract should cover all of the financials you’ve discussed, as well as any discounts or long-term contract terms. Nothing ruins a good relationship like an unpleasant misunderstanding on the invoice. That’s about it. Is that really every question you could ask? Of course not. But by the end of the above nine questions, you’ll have a good feel for what kind of copywriter you are interviewing. You’ll know if they have experience, if you like their work, and if they have a proven track record. You’ll know if there is anything you can do to save on your creative copywriting bill, and you’ll have uncovered any hidden costs. Good luck and happy hunting!
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