If you’re in business right now, you want to have a web presence. Having a web presence maximizes the number of people you can reach for the money you spend. Especially if you know what you’re doing.
This is where web designers, social media gurus, and copywriters come in. Most people wouldn’t hesitate to hire a web designer. After all, building a web page is a specific skill that requires knowledge of programs. A social media guru? Sure. After all, it’s so new that not very many people know what they’re doing, and most people realize pretty quickly what a time-consuming task keeping up with it can be.
Copywriting, though, is one of those skills that often goes unappreciated. Why would you hire someone to write when you can do it yourself? But just like with the other skilled professions, there’s a big difference between good copy written by a professional and someone just putting their thoughts down.
But also just like with web designers, you have to be specific with your copywriter to get what you want out of them. If a web designer showed you something you didn’t like, hopefully you wouldn’t just say “It stinks.” Imagine trying to answer that note. Instead, you’d mention not liking the color, wanting a bigger font, or wishing the menus were dropdown instead of popup.
So, what does this mean in terms of guiding your writer toward the web copy you want?
Have a mission statement. A good mission statement will often say a lot about the nature of your business and even the tone you want to convey. If you don’t have one, a good copywriter may even be able to help you to draft it.
Answer their questions. If you’ve hired someone who knows what they are doing, one of the first things they will do is ask you questions about your business. What’s your goal? Who’s your audience? What do you do? What do you want to convey? Some of these things you might not have even thought about, but it’s important that you be as clear and specific as possible or you might not get what you want.
Have conversations. When people are unhappy with copy, one of the main reasons is often that it doesn’t sound like them or doesn’t get the specific wording right. You might not even know exactly what isn’t working, but it isn’t what you want. The best way to alleviate this problem is to actually speak with your writer. And this doesn’t necessarily have to involve giving them directions. Just talking about your vision for your company and how you feel about it can let them get a sense of your voice – and sometimes allow them to take the words right out of your mouth!
Don’t contradict yourself. When trying to give a writer direction, it’s not uncommon to suggest several sites and ask them to “match them.” Unfortunately, this can be quite confusing if those sites have tones and styles that don’t match. Think about what you’re actually giving them before you do it, and if one site reads like a sales pitch while the other is very dry, saying you want something in the middle will do a lot to alleviate their confusion.
Make your notes specific. Okay, you don’t like the draft you were given. Most copywriters are used to this being a process and willing to go through several rounds of notes, if necessary. Don’t just tell them you don’t like it, tell them why – this part was trying too hard to be funny. This section is dry, or long, or boring. Remember those websites you referenced? Maybe the writer “matched” the wrong parts. Look at them again and pull out specific sections you like and dislike as examples.
Once in a great while, you might find a copywriter who just “gets” you and requires no back and forth. If so, hang on to them! That situation, however, is not common – at least not at first. The more you work together to understand each other, the better the copy will be.