How to work with a copywriter

Working with a copywriterI’ve recently become a member of The Professional Copywriters’ Network, an organisation set up to bring UK-based commercial copywriters together and promote professional standards within the industry. The PCN are championing realistic pricing for copywriting services and have been brave enough to include a recommended rates page that has stirred up a healthy (and useful) debate amongst copywriters.

In recent years, copywriting has become undervalued, with customers looking for large volumes of web content at low prices. Content mills supply this demand, and as with anything, you get what you pay for. In the case of content mills, the business model means that what the writer gets is the bare minimum – both in terms of pay and information. Having written briefly for a content mill, I must say there's a simplicity to the process that's appealing, but ultimately it leads to frustration.

Firstly, no direct contact with the client means information is open to interpretation. The briefs are just that, brief. As I’ve written in an earlier blog post, it’s like entering a short story competition. You’re given a theme, and each writer heads off in a different direction. The results can be diverse, creative and entertaining. Great for a collection of fictional short stories; not so impressive if you’re trying to explain the workings of a high-tech chainsaw.

Another problem with content mills is the constant tight deadlines, often only 24 hours. By the time you've researched the subject, scribbled a first draft, made a few cups of tea, pondered while you watch the birds on the feeders in the garden, your time's up. Forget reworking, editing and proofreading. Your work is submitted back to the client via an online portal and it's at this point they realise a) you aren’t clairvoyant, and b) you haven't produced a piece of flawless copy in record time that's perfect for their requirements.

Working with a copywriter

Back to PCN. As well as providing a venue for copywriters to interact with each other, the PCN contains a database of UK copywriters and showcases individual writers. It's a handy port of call for clients who want to find a copywriter and understand how copywriting works.

I'm all in favour of an organisation that can help clients to engage with copywriters and use them effectively. To get the best from a copywriter, try the following:

  • Treat them as a valued member of a wider team
  • Share your goals with them
  • Let them know what’s worked for you in the past and what hasn’t
  • Give them plenty of background information - they’re not usually experts in your field
  • Tell them about your competitors
  • Show them existing copy and examples of what you like and don't like

If possible, allow them enough time to do a decent job and indulge in a few mugs of tea and a good ponder as they stare out of the window at the birds.