Freelance copywriters on the Internet: How
to tell the difference between heaven-sent and hack
If you’re hunting for a good freelance copywriter
and have never done it before, or if you have but find yourself needing
another for the first time in a while, I don’t envy you. This “brave
new” e-world has turned your once straightforward search of a neatly
stacked file of brochures and introductory letters into a bothersome wade
through a mucky world of half-baked online listings and search results
which only seem to list those freelance copywriters who are experts in
SEO, or at least know what the heck it means (search engine optimization).
You: “I just need a good freelance copywriter to write this product
launch brochure who’s not going leave me hanging or make me ask
for another round of financing.”
Google: “Results 1-10 of 44,700 for brochure copywriter (0.17 seconds).”
And that’s not even a very popular search term. Yet, with 44,700
doors (or thousands more depending on your search) to choose from, what
are the chances you’ll click the one that leads to:
• A freelance copywriter who plays nice with designers and doesn’t
charge a first-born child
• A freelance copywriter who knows when and where to offer their
expertise on how to communicate a message
• Creative, cliché-free, differentiating, success-enabling
copy that is turned in clean and on deadline
It’s probably better than a 1-in-44,700 chance, but you’re
still more likely to fall short than be wildly ecstatic about your freelance
copywriter decision unless you add a few points of structure to guide
you through the online chaos:
1. Look at freelance copywriters further down the list. Unless you’re
specifically looking for an SEO copywriter, how high a freelance copywriter
or a link to a freelance copywriter ranks in search results is not indicative
of how good that copywriter may be. Search engines rank web sites according
to formulas of keyword saturation in site copy, meta tags, links and other
places. Not how well a freelance copywriter’s work achieved his
client’s objectives. Spend some time at this. There is more to the
marketing, branding and advertising worlds than the Internet, and there
are many worthy and successful freelance copywriters who work in the offline
world, but have only a token presence on the Net. Go ahead and look at
the top-ranked freelance copywriters, but investigate the others as well.
Look at who their clients are, the work they do, the brands they’ve
worked on, what their site is like and testimonials from past and current
clients. That should give you a good gauge. Or if you like the advertising
a specific company do a search for “CompanyX AND copywriter.”
2. If you want quality, steer clear of “bidding” sites. There’s
too many of them already, and more seem to be popping up all the time.
The online auction is a great concept for your old fishing equipment or
clunker on cinder blocks, but not for a good freelance copywriter, designer,
photographer or any other “creative service” professional.
Sites like Elance.com, Guru.com and their many cousins allow service providers
to whore themselves out for projects in a reverse auction where the lowest
bid wins. Unfortunately, there really is no winner. The freelance copywriter
(or whoever) gets a fraction of the fair market value for their work and
the client, unless they’re extremely lucky, will be stuck with a
student, green amateur or someone who might not even speak English well—to
say nothing about the copy they’ll write.
3. Seek out freelance copywriters with online portfolios. Find freelance
copywriters who have some kind of online portfolio. Go through it in detail.
Try to get an idea of the communications problem the freelance copywriter
had to solve and get a grasp on the talent and thinking that went into
creating the finished copy. Then ask yourself, “If I was in the
market for something like this, would this make me more interested in
learning about this product or want to buy it?” The work of a good
copywriter will be obvious.
4. Judge by the work, not the product. You may have a great new product
that everyone’s going to want, or an old product that everyone already
has, but with a new feature or something. Now, your first instinct in
finding someone who’s going to write copy to sell this product is
to find someone who, if you’re selling underwater titanium door
hinges, has written copy for underwater steel or plastic door hinges.
Yes, too many marketers think if a freelance copywriter has only written
for X and not Y, that they can’t write for Y. This kind of thinking
is misguided. Again, go back to No. 3 and look at the portfolio. Gauge
the talent. If they did a great job communicating something about X, you
can bet they’ll be able to do the same for Y. A freelance copywriter
isn’t defined by the product. He is defined by how he writes about
These guidelines, along with a little “buyer beware” mentality,
will help you wield the Internet as the powerful information tool it’s
purported to be. You will find a good freelance copywriter.
|About the author
Adam Barone is a freelance copywriter from the Boston area, who writes
results-generating copy for such clients as The Timberland Company,
Bank One, TJ Maxx, and other clients and ad agencies. Visit him at
Subscribe his e-newsletter, CopyTHINK at http://adambarone.com/mailinglist/?p=subscribe.
©Adam Barone 2005. All rights reserved. Online-only reprint rights
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