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10 Attributes of an Effective Copywriter - by Barbara Howington

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Y
our project is a go and it’s time to bring in a copywriter. What are your criteria for finding the right person for the job? If you’re looking for the lowest estimate, beware: you really do get what you pay for.

And real value doesn’t usually equate to the lowest price tag. Here are 10 attributes to look for in a copywriter when you want quality work that will help you sell and motivate.

A great copywriter:

1. Has an excellent and well-rounded portfolio – Take a look at a copywriter’s past work. Is it professional? Do you see some good concepts? Are the projects high-caliber? You don’t necessarily have to see work that is specific to your particular industry. A broad spectrum of work demonstrates a copywriter’s talent and skill as well as the ability to adapt her knowledge to just about any market. A good portfolio will also show experience in a range of formats, such as print, web, outdoor, direct mail, press releases and corporate communications.

2. Has plenty of marketing and public relations savvy – Pretty words are, well, pretty. But they don’t necessarily do what you want them to do for you. Look for a copywriter who has a rich background in marketing and public relations. That person will have a quicker and deeper grasp of what the copy needs to do and how to make it do it.

3. Listens to you – When a copywriter listens to a client, wheels are turning. He’s making observations about the “who, what, when, where and why” of your company, product or service. Questions come to his mind. He will have things he wants to discuss and find out more about. But first, he listens carefully to what you have to say.

4. Asks the right questions – You don’t want an order taker; you want a copywriter who knows how to find out what she needs to in order to do the best job. What is your goal? Who do you need to sell to? Why should people care about your product or service? What sets you apart from your competition? What does your product or service does and how does it do it? How are you already reaching out to your audience with marketing and public relations?

5. Doesn’t always take your word for it – Sure, it’s important for a copywriter to understand the client’s take on the situation. But a thorough copywriter will do a little digging on his own to find out things like how the competition brands itself, what’s being said about your company, product or service and what is generally important to your customers’ buying decision.

6. Brings ideas to the table – You tell your copywriter you want content for your web site, just your basic About Us, Products & Services and How to Contact Us. A good copywriter will make suggestions, like “Have you thought about featuring some case studies?”, “Have you had a key word analysis yet?” or “How about doing a newsletter that will let you capture email information?”

7. Can develop concepts – The copywriter’s approach to a project is often determined by the client’s process. Sometimes a graphic designer has already created a look and feel, determined what the tone should be. Other times, the copywriter is called upon to help shape the message from the beginning. Find a copywriter who has experience developing concepts and you’ll have someone who can make a broader contribution to the project.

8. Is empathetic – Read something written by a good writer and you can tell that she truly becomes the customer, brings that person right into her head. When she writes about a new home, she imagines walking through her dream house. When the reader will be a business person who has been thinking seriously about going back to school for that MBA, the copywriter feels that person’s restlessness and desire to move up.

9. Offers flexibility – You need someone who will meet your time constraints and deadlines. Or maybe the copywriter will need to be proactive and persistent about getting information from some very busy, hard to reach people. Whether it’s patience or persistence you require in your copywriter, she should be someone who can deliver.

10. Is someone you enjoy working with – In the end, when you’ve determined that a copywriter has what it takes—talent, skill, experience, savvy—it comes down to whether or not she is someone you respect and enjoy working with. The work will thrive if you’re a good team.




Barbara Howington is a freelance copywriter and copyeditor based in San Diego, CA. . Visit Barbara Howington Copywriting at http://www.wordtoyourmarket.com to see her work.



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