Need a Copywriter? Avoid These Three Deadly Mistakes
Jill Nagle
Jill Nagle is a widely published author, screenwriter, ghostwriter and former book coach who now works for a select number of copywriting clients. You can see her work at
By Jill Nagle
Published on January 19, 2009
A copywriter is different from other writers We don’t just describe, we excite, inspire and motivate people to find out more about your business, and ultimately, to hire you

A copywriter is different from other writers. We don’t just describe, we excite, inspire and motivate people to find out more about your business, and ultimately, to hire you. Whether you want a new website, revamped content, or a tagline for your business name, a copywriter can help you find the words to make your message sing. The right copywriter, that is.

Sometimes, in their eagerness to move forward with promoting their business, managers and entrepreneurs make predictable mistakes with hiring writers. Here three big ones and how to avoid them:

1) Signing on wholesale before you’ve tried someone out.

If you hire someone for a big job before you’ve had a chance to try them out on a small job, your whole project could go in a direction you don’t want.

Instead: Hire someone for a small job before you hire them for a big job. This way you can see whether you like their work, and whether you have enough of a connection where you could imagine working with them over the long haul.

2) Giving up after the first try.

Great copy usually takes multiple feedback loops. This means you say what you want, the writer cranks out a sample or several, you give feedback, and the writer begins again with your most recent feedback in mind. Repeat, and repeat again.

Through this process, you get clearer and clearer about what you want, and the writer gets closer and closer to giving it to you. At least, if you’ve got a good connection with a skilled writer. Rarely will even the best writer hit the nail on the head the first time. If you kick a writer to the curb because they didn’t get it right after one try, you could wind up missing out on some great writing for your business.

Instead: Give the process a chance. Agree ahead of time on the number of revisions you’ll build in (I usually recommend at least three). By the third revision, you should get a clear sense of whether you’re heading in a direction that makes sense to you. With a newer business or project, it could take many more iterations before you get it just right. Not only was Rome not built in a day, it took multiple drafts. So should your project.

3) Hiring just any writer

So your spouse’s coworker’s nephew just graduated from Princeton with an English degree and wants some work? Great! You decide, heck, it’s an Ivy League school, how bad could his copy be?

Seven pages of overwrought prose later, you start to think that writers having specialties might not be such a bad thing after all.

Here’s why: The kind of writing required in most arenas—universities, nonprofits, tech environments, etcetera—isn’t what you need for your business. You want a writer who knows how to take the essence of what you’re offering, distinguish you from the competition, and get your clients to call.

Instead: Find someone whose samples excite you. Though some writers are multitalented, don’t assume that the grant proposal writer, journalist or ghostwriter’s skills automatically translate into good copy. Most don’t.

Good luck!