Content Marketing

7 Common Freelance Copywriter Mishaps and How to Avoid Them

How do you weed out the less-than-stellar options, and ensure that the writers you work with are the real deal? We’ve compiled a list of all the things you need to be on the lookout for when hiring a freelance copywriter.

When looking for the perfect freelance copywriter for your company or project, keep in mind that, like other professionals out there, some are more talented and reliable than others.

So how do you weed out the less-than-stellar options, and ensure that the writers you work with are the real deal?

We’ve compiled a list of all the things you need to be on the lookout for when hiring a freelance copywriter.

Not seeing a portfolio or writing samples before commissioning

It may seem bizarre to someone who is not in the industry, but often, a project cannot be credited back to the copywriter who created it.

Several clients will in fact ask copywriters to sign NDAs and refrain from featuring said project on their portfolio upon completion.

This kind of ‘ghost writing’ can be a real problem when trying to build an impressive portfolio — imagine not being able to showcase some of your best work!

However, this shouldn’t translate to a copywriter claiming they “don’t have a portfolio” to show you.

Even if a writer has been super unlucky, and every one of their clients has insisted in full confidentiality, they should still have taken the time to create some texts specifically for portfolio-boosting purposes.      

Really keen to work with someone, who doesn’t have any previous work to share with you? That’s okay; you can ask them to flex their skills in a writing trial (preferably unpaid, if you can agree those terms).

Whilst there are some cracking copywriters out there, not everyone will live up to your standards; so to avoid disappointment make sure you try before you buy, in whatever way you can.                          

Judging a writer on their credentials, rather than their creativity

Covetable university degrees, such as Masters and PhDs, look great on a CV. Also, claims like “I took Neil Gaiman’s masterclass on writing” suggest some real dedication to their craft.

But, here’s the thing: these accolades don’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job.

Some of the best writers have either studied something completely irrelevant or did not complete any formal education at all.

Raw creative talent is about 60% of good copywriting — the other 40% is about polishing that talent through hard work and staying on top of theories and trends.

Found a promising copywriter, who seems to understand your business and has the body of work to back it up? Great! Who cares if they studied something wild like Mechatronic Engineering, or don’t have a Red Brick education?

Of course, if you find an experienced copywriter with an English Language degree, then that’s perfect too.

Assess your copywriters on the value of the work they deliver, not on their CV.

Confusion around project pricing

If you’ve been shopping around for a copywriting agency online, you may actually feel relieved to encounter one that is totally transparent about pricing. (After all, that’s why we offer our Scribly.io clients a simple, flat monthly fee!).

This works agency-side because they have enough writers on hand to be flexible with managing assignments, without having to flex their rates.

When it comes to freelance copywriters, the time-money equation is sometimes a bit trickier.

When you’re a one-man-band, time is your most precious commodity. And the size of a project (i.e., the length of a piece of content) is not an absolute indication of how difficult — and therefore time consuming — it is to write.

Writing a 1,000-word paper, which needs extensive research and planning, will definitely take a longer amount of time than writing a 1,000-word listicle on emojis. You can make the process of briefing and assigning a freelance copywriter smoother for both sides, if you are clear about what you’re looking to achieve.

Is your copywriter hesitant to quote for projects up-front? That’s nothing to worry about; they probably just need a bit more information from you, before they can give an accurate price.

Which brings us nicely to our next point...

Unequal interest in the project

For you, your business is your passion. Startups don’t reach success over night, so you’ve got every right to be proud of your growth so far.

And when you’re outsourcing work to other people, you want them to display equal gusto for their own venture and the project you’ll be partnering on. Right?

So, take note of how engaged and inquisitive a copywriter is when you approach them for work. Great writers will want to know all about your business: your background, your goals, your audience and the particularities of the project you are assigning them.

They’ll use this info to better inform the content they deliver.

Super fast turnaround times, which can’t always be met

This is another example of how a copywriting agency can differ from a freelance copywriter: agencies have many writers on their roster, so they can delegate as needed (that’s why when we promise a 24-hour turnaround at scribly.io, we can actually deliver!).

A freelance copywriter who’s riding solo is likely to be juggling a number of clients at the same time, so probe them on whether they genuinely have the time for you, if you need a fast turnaround.

Yes, they’ll have a plan or schedule they are working to — helping them manage projects across their client base — but when you run your own business, things happen: people and pets fall ill, unexpected emergencies creep up, or some days you sit at your laptop for hours and nothing worthwhile comes up.

It’s all part for the course for any creative profession; it simply cannot be helped!

As such, establishing an open and honest relationship with your freelance copywriter is key. You want to be the first to know if they think they’ll fall behind on a deadline.

And if a writer is consistently failing to deliver on time, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

Asking more than the agreed fee

In some cases, a freelance copywriter may need to charge you more because your assignment came very last minute and now they have to shuffle other clients around (or even lose them) to give you priority. Although that’s not ideal, it can be understandable.

But if they come back to you requesting a price change mid-project, because it’s more demanding than they imagined, you’d be forgiven for needing to think twice about meeting that request.

Like we said before, each project is different. Sometimes, the only way to know how long something will take or how difficult it will be, is to just do it.

To avoid any unexpected costs, establish an understanding that all projects will be completed for the agreed upon fee, and then be open to the opportunity for renegotiation, should any further work take place.

On the flipside, maintaining a positive relationship with your freelancers is key to having a great experience with them. So, as a client, it’s a really nice gesture to bump up an agreed fee with a bonus for any work that turned out to be more complex than you both expected.

Refusing to rework, revise or accept feedback

As a client, you are entitled to offer feedback and ask for revisions.

In fact, most freelance copywriters welcome it, because they want to understand exactly what it is you like (and be able to deliver it). A copywriter refusing to do any edits to their work is not an ideal partner.

Briefing well at the outset should avoid any misunderstanding on the content objectives, leading to time consuming revisions.

Refusing to do a test or a trial

Okay, you’ve done the research. You’ve looked at job boards to find freelance copywriters, posted on social media, even googled “copywriting agency UK” or “copywriting agency US” to see what comes up. You were presented with an impressive portfolio, reasonable working terms and a fee that makes you both happy.

Nice! You’re 80% there… but the only way to cross over to that 100% of a successful new partnership is to actually assign them a project.

Freelance copywriters don’t always have the luxury to do lower cost trials for clients. But, that shouldn’t be a deal breaker, if they are more than happy to make edits to your project as needed.

… on the other hand, this requires micromanagement on your end, and a time commitment you may not be able or willing to make.

At Scribly.io we offer all our new clients 35% off their first project. Then, if you’re happy — and we’d hope you would be! — you can progress to our flat, monthly fee, offering you as much quality content as you need: with no mishaps!

Sound good? Send us a message; we’d love to meet you.

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