While I don't hire writers myself, I work with clients who do. And one of my clients asked me to share the following public service message with anyone who will ever need to hire a professional writer — freelance or in-house. The message is simple, but important.
All writers are not the same.
We have different specialties. Some will match your needs, some will not.
Our value to you is based on whether or not our expertise provides you with the end result you want. As with anything, cheaper isn't necessarily better if in the end you don't achieve your goal. Especially if your writer is responsible for helping you grow your business by generating leads and sales.
Start by defining what you want your writer to accomplish. Is this person responsible for writing a statistical report or a whitepaper as a fulfillment piece? Creating a YouTube video to stimulate buzz for your product? Ghost writing your biography? Assembling an instruction manual? Creating a slogan for branding? Or generating on-the-spot clicks, leads and sales?
I repeat; all writers are not the same. And I don't know a single writer who does all of the above equally well.
To guarantee you get the most bang for your writing investment, consider these differences:
- Journalists are trained to report news on politics, business, foreign affairs, sports, entertainment, crime and other topics of public interest. They use words to report facts, not sell products and services.
- Technical writers focus on technical and scientific writing including manuals, instructions and software documentation. The good ones provide a valuable service to both marketers and consumers. Just remember an instruction manual doesn't sell your product.
- Editorial writers use words to voice their opinions on newsworthy, often controversial topics. While they may have an opinion about your product or service, they probably can't sell it.
- Authors write fiction and non-fiction books that are informative and entertaining. They probably would flinch at being asked to sell anything, but you could give it a try if you want novel-length copy.
- Playwrights and poets are literary artists who create plays and poetry based on experience and imagination. While sales copy often includes poetic images, I'd ask to see a portfolio before hiring a poet or playwright to write my SEO, landing page or direct mail copy.
Which writers do produce copy that sells products and services? They are specialists called general, digital, or direct response advertising writers. And even they have their differences.
- General advertising writers create consumer awareness or brand advertising messages. Frequently, they specialize in writing TV, radio, space or collateral advertising. Often, they cite creative awards as a reflection of the quality of their work.
- Digital advertising writers write for digital media including websites, blogs, email, mobile and social media. These writers may or may not have experience or interest in writing for traditional media.
- Direct response/direct marketing writers create messages that generate measurable response that can be tracked to the individual level — regardless of the type of media used for delivery. They write for digital, broadcast, and print including, but not limited to, direct mail. They are measured by bottom line results generated through direct action whether it's a click, call, mail-in response or visit to a store.
One final piece of advice.
This is shared by another marketing colleague of mine who has learned the following from hiring many writers. Sheila told me to tell you not to choose a writer based on his or her hourly rate. Hourly rates are meaningless. Instead, think of what you are willing to invest in the end result you want to achieve.