Your company’s website is your 24/7 sales assistant. It’s your customer’s go-to source for all things Your Brand. So when you’re looking commission a copywriter for your website you want to make sure you’re hiring the best person or agency for the job.
The problem is that hiring a website copywriter isn’t an everyday business task. In fact, this may be the first time you’ve even looked into it. It’s not surprising you’re unsure about where to start, what you’re looking for, the process involved or how to sort the good from the bad.
It’s a good job you’ve found my Quite Big Guide on how to hire a copywriter for website projects. Read on and you’ll find out what a website copywriter is, tips for finding the right writer for you, how writers bring your website copy to life and even how much website copy is likely to cost.
The Quite Big Guide answers all your questions and confusions about website copywriting. But if you’re left wondering something I’ve not covered leave me a question at the end and we’ll turn it from “quite big” into “huge!”
What is a website copywriter?
A website copywriter is a professional writer. They write the words and messages you find on websites. Rather than calling it ‘writing’ or ‘the words’ we refer to it as ‘copy’. You may hire an independent, freelance website copywriter or website copywriting could be part of a package service you book through a digital marketing agency.
It’s a copywriter’s responsibility to research your business and target audience so the copy encourages conversions. A conversion might be a download, click, sign up, purchase, like or share. The effectiveness of website copywriting can also mean looking at website traffic numbers, bounce rates, time on page and user behaviour (how deep they go into your site).
Website copywriting is a balance between writing for the customer and making sure the copy is search engine friendly.
What does a website copywriter do?
This depends on their experience and the services they offer. At a minimum, you should expect a briefing session, which is your writer’s chance to ask you what you want (and what you don’t), your brand’s tone of voice and your audience.
Using the information from the briefing session, plus any extra research they do into your competitors and industry, gives your writer what they need when writing your copy.
A website copywriter might also complete some or all of the following tasks:
- Sitemap construction (and user journeys)
- Keyword research
- Tone of voice research
- House style guide documentation
- Audience and persona work
- User experience planning or evaluation
These are ‘nice to haves.’ They’re not essential services for website copywriters to offer, but including these skills can make the whole project flow more easily.
Six reasons for hiring a website copywriter
Curiosity often gets the better of me, so during an initial call or briefing session with a client I’ll ask, “Why are you hiring a copywriter?” I’m usually given one or more of the following reasons.
1. Frees up time
Running a business means having a lot of demands on your time and writing website copy isn’t a one-afternoon job. By outsourcing your website copy your time remains available for the business tasks you enjoy and that only you can do.
2. Takes away the pain of writing
Trying to write when you hate writing or don’t do it often can mean putting your sanity on the line. I’ve met the business owner who’s spent weeks redrafting a few hundred words and “it still doesn’t sound like me.” Working with a professional writer frees you from those feelings of pain and anxiety.
3. Offers fresh perspective
Looking at your business objectively is tough when you know all its fluffy lovely bits and pain in the arse qualities. A writer who is outside your company gives you a fresh pair of ears and eyes for tuning into what your customers want and need from your company.
4. Experienced at writing for digital
Writing website copy involves working out call to actions, user journeys, keywords, character counts and linking pages. Copy that performs well takes all of these digital intricacies into consideration.
5. Experienced at writing persuasively
Convincing people to do something you want them to do so they convert, isn’t easy. It takes more than a nice sounding sentence. Sales psychology, understanding people, predicting behaviour and knowing how to use persuasive writing techniques all come into play. And using these effectively takes time and practise. So just like you wouldn’t hire someone inexperienced or unqualified to do your job, it often makes more sense to hire someone who does this day-in, day-out.
6. Highlights gaps in your business
Copywriters need details about how your business works. Having to explain all of this to a writer is a great way to identify gaps in your processes and sets ups. If this happens, don’t freak out. It’s not a bad thing and there’s no judgement. It’s actually a valuable way to get some insight, which is especially useful if you’re a start-up without heaps of customer experience data.
How to hire the best copywriter
Getting pages of content that you hate is a real fear. It’s not a fun situation for either party. There are measures and steps to try and limit this happening. You can read my whole guide on how to hire a good content writer but in summary, there are five qualities you should look for.
- Check what they write. Do they specialise in website copy? Not every copywriter offers website copywriting as a service, so double check they write for this media.
- Do your research. Spend time reading the writer’s website or business page. You can find out a lot about the industries they have experience in, their processes, style and tone. Look in their portfolio for an overview of their past experience.
- Ask about their briefing process. Writers aren’t mind readers so a strong brief is at the heart of a successful project. If they don’t have a solid briefing process, it’s unlikely you’ll get what you need.
- Check the cost. Website copy isn’t cheap. Your website is a vital part of your marketing strategy and online presence. A service that delivers the quality you need — a service that means your website pulls its weight — won’t be a couple of hundred dollars.
- Do you connect? Website copywriting projects can last weeks. Sometimes months. It’s important you hire someone you can have a positive working relationship with. Pay attention to how you feel during and after any calls or email exchanges.
The website copywriting process
Every copywriter has their own process but there’s a general pattern most writers follow.
Step 1 – First contact
This is you filling out the copywriter’s contact form. Include a few details about who you are, the industry you’re in, they type of website you want to create (one page, multi-page, refresh, etc) and a ballpark budget figure. From this, the copywriter works out whether they’re willing and able to take on your commission.
Step 2 – Scoping the project
This is a short 15 to 30-minute call or short questionnaire. It’s a chance for you and your copywriter to get to know each other and flesh out the details of what you want. You’ll talk about cost, outcomes, what you do and don’t like about your current copy, and deadlines. It should be a lot of you talking and your writer listening. After the call, they’ll put together a quote or sales proposal outlining costs and deliverables. If you’re happy to move forward you’re sent a contract or statement of work.
Step 3 – Briefing and research
Thorough briefing sessions cover a lot of ground. Everything from how your business started to technical writing considerations such as SEO. Briefing can be done in person, over the phone or using a meeting platform like Zoom. Writers might record the session so they can watch and listen back. Having a record of how you talk about your business, industry and audience is useful when defining your tone of voice. These are the little personality traits and unique bits about you that I love to put into your copy. The brief plus anything you mention that they need to research a little deeper gives writers what they need to get going on the copy.
Step 4 – Writing, feedback and editing
There are three ways your writer might approach this part of the process. The first is for the writer to complete one or two ‘test pages’ which they send to you to review ASAP. This is handy if it’s a really big project because it’s a chance for both of you to identify what works and what you want changing. It should make writing and editing the remaining pages a much smoother process.
The second is to write all of the copy and present it to you in a single copy deck. This is OK for short website projects. Anything bigger and it can be a little overwhelming for clients. Being hit with a huge document that you’re expected to review while managing a business can feel intimidating.
The third method, and how I do it, is submitting page by page and establishing a continual cycle of submission, feedback and editing until everything is checked off. This allows work to continue even when pages are in client review. It does mean having a few pages zipping back and forth, so a robust version control system is important.
Step 5 – Sign off
Sign off is when both you and your writer agree the copy is finished. This means it’s fit for publishing. For many copywriters, sign off signals the end of the project. Wrapping a project involves sending over the final invoice which, when paid, transfers the copyright over to you.
The cost of hiring a website writer
Cost varies wildly and there is no standard industry pricing. Website copywriting can cost as little as $100 or as much as $30,000. It’s a huge gap that makes hiring a copywriter a confusing task for businesses. There are lots of factors that influence how a copywriter prices a job, which is why you see such a big difference in pricing.
- Writing experience. Junior copywriters charge less than those who have years of experience.
- Skills and services. Including strategy, SEO research and planning is a bigger investment than hiring someone to write the copy, and not every writer offers these services.
- As with any job in any industry, wages and payment take the cost of living and overheads into account.
- Type of website content. A long-form sales page for your website will cost more than a short team bio page.
- Subject complexity. Research and interview time to get the copy you need counts.
- Size of the project. Large websites that need lots of copy for products and services cost more, although some writers may offer a discount if booked for bulk work.
- Industry and company size. Quotes are often relative to company and industry size/profitability.
- Product or service value. Writers may consider the price of the product or service they’re selling on your behalf.
Parts of the freelance copywriting community are trying to better understand how copywriters set rates. This isn’t just for our benefit. It creates greater consistency so it’s easier for you, the client, to get an idea of what’s fair.
To read more about fair and current copywriting industry rates for independent and contracting freelancers check out:
Recommended rates for Australian copywriters, by The Clever Copywriting School.
UK copywriter survey 2019, by ProCopywriters.
Website writing FAQs
You’ve got extra questions, I have answers. And links to where you can find out more.
What is a website writing style guide?
It’s a document that outlines all of the technical rules for writing your website copy, such as spelling preference (UK or American English) and how everything from dates and numbers to bullet points and capitalisation should be used. Style guides ensure consistency.
How can I write good copy for my website?
Kudos to you for wanting to DIY your copy. And it’s brilliant that you’re looking for tips on best practise to do that. The content advice for businesses is a whole section of my blog that’s for folks like you. Dig in!
How long does it take to write copy for a website?
For a three-page website project, the whole process from initial call to sign off can take three to four weeks. A six week window is a comfortable and realistic turnaround time for copy on a website project that’s 5-10 pages.
What if I don’t like my website copy?
Copywriters minimise the risk of this by having full, in-depth briefing sessions and sending small amounts of copy to you at a time, so they can revise and review as they go. If you really don’t like your copy it’s important you carefully consider what you don’t like about it and are able to explain to your writer how it’s missing the mark. See point five in this article for more on this subject.
Do copywriters upload the copy?
Not usually. Layout and upload of copy is generally the role of a website developer or designer. If you’re not working with anyone else, then it’s up to you. Of course, you could always ask your copywriter if they’ll do it, but that would mean increasing the cost of your service and giving them access to the backend of your website.
When is the right time to hire a website copywriter?
You should be able to talk confidently about your business story, target audience, services and processes, and unique selling points. A copywriter needs this information to construct your copy. If you’re a little fuzzy on some of these areas, there may be work arounds. If you’re very unclear this information then it’s probably too early to hire a copywriter. Try working through some branding and positioning resources first.
The first step
Hiring a copywriting for your website takes time, thought and planning. Now you understand more about what a website copywriter can do for you, how they work, the sort of cost involved and how long website copy project can take, you may be ready to take the first step.
It’s an easy one.
Every project starts with an informal, no-ties conversation.