What to Know Before Hiring a Copywriter – Or Deciding to DIY

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Over the years I’ve found many clients are sometimes on the fence when it comes to hiring a copywriter. But most of their hesitation stems from not fully understanding the role of a copywriter and the overall process itself. 

I decided what better way to get clarity on this topic than interviewing one of my favorite copywriters and content strategists, Erin Ollila.


Q: How does one know if they should DIY or hire out a copywriter?

Erin’s Response:

The key to knowing whether you’re ready to hire a copywriter or not is how well you know your own business. And that doesn’t necessarily mean what stage of the business you’re at. There are people that can come from a traditional corporate job or a different type of employment and know what they’re offering very clearly, know their pricing structure, know their ideal client. And they are ready to just jump right in, hire someone, and perfect their initial launch, right? 

But there are also people who have been in business for themselves for a while who might be in a transitional period and their offerings are changing and for them, if they’re not clear on what it is they want to say or who they want to speak with, sometimes I say it might be better to DIY at that period. 

Or at least do a little bit more clarity seeking on what the offer is or maybe how the ideal audience has changed in this time of transition because those key things need to be figured out when they’re working with a copywriter.

The key is how confident they are in their own message and their own offerings.

Q: But I’m a good writer, why would I need to hire a copywriter?

Erin’s Response:

This is something I hear a lot. It turns out when clients give me a draft or have me look at something that they’ve written, they are good writers. They’re able to clearly identify their message and they talk about themselves well and their business. 

But the key problem is that they don’t have a marketing background.

And I’ll be honest, writing is tough. I have two degrees in writing, I have done this for work forever, and I will be the first person to tell anyone writing is really hard.

I have clients who are able to write really well and get their message out, yet they don’t have the marketing background. They don’t know what type of writing will make a sale and push someone towards a sale.  They’re not willing to step back and realize that their strengths are one thing and to get the clearest message is really important to have someone be able to take what you give them, like the message that you want to give your audience, and then really shape that in a way that the audience needs to hear the message.

Sometimes I do think the reason people DIY is due to anxiety. They find themselves nervous about the whole process and they think, “Well, I graduated high school. I have degrees. I can, of course, write things. Why wouldn’t I write my own copy?” But then they sit down and do it and think to themself, “Oh, there’s really a lot of psychology that goes into this, there’s a lot of selling that goes into this.”

Q: What should we consider before hiring a copywriter?

Erin’s Response:

The first thing is getting to interview your copywriter. We don’t all have the same skills and we don’t all have the same processes and those are important to know.

Second, they should have certain types of experiences or interests that align with yours and you’re going to want to check their writing. 

Budget also needs to be considered. And timelines. Some people have very specific timelines that their copy needs to fit into or maybe they have more flexibility. 

Then once you find the person, learn more about their process.

Q: What’s the process like working with a copywriter?

Erin’s Response:

I will be the first person to say that all copywriters have different processes and what I do would be very foreign to another copywriter. We all have different ways that work. But I do think there’s a general standard, especially when you’re looking at an average website build. 

For my clients, once we’ve decided to work together it looks something like this:

  • Kickoff call. Lots of questions to get the conversation going.
  • Research. Clients sit back and relax and I do all of my research studying their competitions general brands. 
  • Draft the entire website copy.
  • Client review and collaboration begins.
  • Light touch-ups, refinements, and edits.
  • Hand-off and deliver to their web designer.

A lot of my clients only need one draft on their website because we do the heavy lifting and research in the early phase. Then the fun part is the hand off. At that point, the client can look at the website and conceptualize it for themself. And then I’m able to deliver the copy to you.

Q: How can a copywriter be sure to capture their client’s voice?

Erin’s Response:

Voice is important and the easiest way to tell whether or not the copywriter can “get” voice is looking at their samples and the variations they can provide of past work.

Q: As a professional copywriter, do you have any recommendations for those who do decide to DIY their website copy?

Erin’s Response:

If you are adamant about DIYing, I’d still recommend you potentially interview copywriters. Just having the ear of a copywriter can do two things for you. One, it can help you get a little bit clearer on your actual message or things you might want to consider that you weren’t thinking of. And two, it will help you decide if you are adamant or not. 

So someone might hire me for copy coaching and then sit down and be like, hands up, “This is really way too hard. I tried and I just can’t do it. It’s not coming out how I want.”

So I say that because even if they’re adamant that they want to DIY, they might decide it’s not the right decision for them after they talk to someone.

Now on the other hand, if they’re 100%, they’ve talked to the copywriters, done the homework, read the marketing blogs, and are jumping in. I want to remind them that when they think about every page, always put on a tour guide hat. You have to consider, “How am I directing my audience to take action? What’s important? And how can I get them to take that action?” So keep the tour guide hat on and remember the website is not about you at all, it is about showing how you can give that client a transformation, whether you’re offering a product or a service.

Connect with Erin at erinollila.com.

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2 Comments

  1. Ingrid Porter on September 24, 2020 at 7:13 AM

    Hi Katie!
    You know how much I love working with you and Erin Ollila. This interview was spectacular. You both are so good at what you do and I really enjoyed listening and learning all about what is important when thinking about copywriting for websites. The tips Erin gave are spot on, she is very good at explaining what’s important when hiring a copy writer and you are a great interviewer.

    • Katie O'Brien on September 24, 2020 at 8:39 AM

      Thank you, Ingrid! The feelings are mutual. You are such a joy to work with. We love supporting you and your business.



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