12 Questions to Ask A Copywriter Before You Hire

So you’ve got a long list of possible candidates, but what next? How do you sort the good from the bad? Are they a hobbyist or a professional? So many questions, but which one to ask? It’s very important to ask the right questions when hiring someone. Here are 20 questions every quality copywriter can answer.

1. Do you use writing software?
Speech recognition, word processing, and other general software packages are fine. If the candidate mentions article writing software, run! You can tell when a computer churned out an article. It doesn’t flow, doesn’t make sense, and doesn’t keep human readers interested. Professional writers know creativity comes from humans, not a computer program.

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

2. Are you reliable?
They’ll say, “Yes!” but actions speak louder than words. When they make a promise, make sure they keep it. If your telephone appointment is 9am, they should call at 8:59am. If they promise a response in one day, expect a response within 24hrs. If they promise a first draft for Monday morning, expect one by late Sunday. Professionals go the extra mile. It’s not desperation, it’s good business.

3. Are you flexible?
Searching for reliable writers isn’t a quick process. Remember, time is money. Instead of hiring an expert for every job, get a flexible writer who can adapt. Now you’ll have the right skills for every job.

4. Do you write full-time?
A part-time writer doesn’t mean a bad writer. However, there’ll be times when you need help ASAP. Calling the writer at work might get them fired. Also, part-time writers squeeze in writing around their day job. This means you won’t be working on the same hours. When a project requires interviews, onsite work, etc, it’ll be difficult because the writer can’t come in.

5. Do you quadruple check information?
Have you read 3 Major Research Mistakes You’re Going To Make? Then you know bad research involves a lazy double check. If your writer doesn’t give every fact, figure, and foreign spelling the quadruple check, you’re in trouble. Readers can overlook a typo on a web page. Wacky statistics and dodgy graphs won’t go down well…

6. How much do you charge?
You shouldn’t hire based solely on price. You get what you pay for. Cheap work might need someone else to fix it. Expensive work doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy. Negotiation is possible, especially if you’re a small organisation like a charity, but don’t insult the writer. If their rates are far from your budget, look elsewhere.

7. Are your rates on your website (and why)?
It is impossible to post an exact project cost because each job varies. They require different levels of research, working at different locations, interviews, timescales, and word counts. Beware if a writer gives an exact quote without asking the necessary questions. A project range is more accurate, but be prepared to pay the top end.

8. How fast can you type?
They don’t have to type 100 wpm, but being too slow is a problem. Some writers take writing FAR too seriously. They sweat over a sentence for hours, days, even weeks, but slow writing doesn’t mean good writing.

9. What is your turnaround?
If you need an article in 24 hours, expect to pay extra. A busy writer isn’t so desperate to accept work at the last minute for the usual cost. They’re doing you a favour. Paying extra is a nice way to say thank you. If projected delivery is weeks away, you’ve got to use common sense. Large projects like white papers and several websites take time, but a press release or blog post wouldn’t.

10. Do you make mistakes?
Remember, writers are not editors or proofreaders. Still, writers who respect your content will edit what they’ve written. They should never send out the first draft. They should also proofread BUT ask you to do the final proofread. Writers don’t always see their own mistakes, so a fresh pair of eyes is necessary. Of course, mistakes on every page, in every paragraph, in every line is inexcusable.

11. Do you network?
Professionals network with others online and/or offline. This could involve joining professional associations, relevant groups on social networks, and getting in contact with other professionals via email. My first month freelance writing, I had good contacts with three web developers. Networking means you can contact one writer and have instant access to a team of professionals.

12. Do you work at an agency?
Agency workers, agency prices. You’re not just paying for the writer, but several others in the work chain. If the agency writer offers to ditch the agency and work on side, be cautious…Are they someone you can trust?

If the candidate can’t answer these simple questions, I’d strike them off the list. Many of these questions apply to professionals period, so there’s simply no excuse.