Search Fiverr, Google or your favorite marketing/business forum, and you’ll find countless copywriters. The web is crawling with them.
But the sad truth is… most of them aren’t that great.
Copywriting is really hard. One of the most difficult skills in the world to learn. Picture trying to learn the piano, but you can only get better if you pay every single time you sit down to practice.
That’s what it’s like to learn copywriting. Because you never know if what you’re doing is working, unless you pay the advertisements you write to run.
Then you find out.
In this day and age, very few people are willing to put in the work to truly develop ANY skill. When you put in the sky-high risk associated with copywriting, only a tiny handful of writers will ever pay their dues.
I’ve found a lot of articles that explain how to hire a copywriter. But personally, I didn’t find them all that great either (Carlton’s excluded, I guess). So today I’m revisiting this often discussed subject to give you the real answers. In this article I will teach you how to hire a copywriter who will make you more than you pay them.
And to me, that’s all that matters. Because you could hire J. K. freakin’ Rowling to write your copy. If you lose money on the advertisement… it’s a miserable failure and waste of money. You don’t want a writer, you want results. Here’s how to get them.
Step #1: Do You Even Need A Copywriter?
When I was starting off as a writer, copywriting confused me. I heard rumors and whispers of copywriters making millions of dollars every year. But I was surrounded by copywriters… and they were all dead broke.
Copywriters get a bad reputation. Because there are so many bad writers. And so many business owners have been totally burned. But the truth is… millionaire copywriters absolutely do exist. And hiring the right copywriter can be the best thing you ever do for your business. Maybe even your life. My client Zach LaBoube went on a world trip after I tripled his business. A good copywriter will do the same for you.
I’ve told you how hard it is to become a copywriter. So is it any wonder that 99% of all advertisements are, at best, mediocre? It’s good news, because when you get a good copywriter… all your ads will suddenly pull like crazy. And that’s when you see sales multiply.
But copywriters aren’t magicians. We need the right crowd to sell to. I could write you the best ad for beard oil you’ve ever seen. If you send the ad to only women, it probably isn’t going to pull.
So it’s very important to know when you truly need a copywriter. Have all the traffic sources, joint ventures and product design done for your latest launch? It’s probably time to hire a copywriter. Have a list you’re ready to send some direct mail to? That’s when you need a copywriter.
Now… maybe you don’t know what you need. But you DO want to multiply sales. A copywriter may be able to help. All great copywriters know a lot about marketing. We have to. So you can hire certain copywriters to go over your business and find the holes. We can find new opportunities that can turn into a goldmine for you. Then we’ll write all the copy and set it up for you.
A lot of us prefer to do things this way. Because we like to control how our work gets used. If I look through your business myself, find the opportunities, then set up the entire advertising campaign for it… it’s going to work. But if I just write the copy and you show it to a list who has no interest in your product—and never will—you’ll still blame me if it doesn’t work. That’s why I only take on clients I know I can do great work for.
So, this is a route you can go. But be prepared to pay a lot more for it. Although… not necessarily. Because some rising copywriters will actually offer this service for free, in return for your business. You’ll still probably pay them a small fortune, but it’ll be peanuts compared to what you bring in. It’s not easy to find these writers who can actually deliver, but more on that soon.
Step #2: Know What You Stand To Gain
This is THE most important part of hiring a copywriter. You need to understand what you have to gain. This is for two reasons:
With copywriters, you get what you pay for. It’s worth it to hire an expensive, proven writer, if you know that you stand to gain a lot more than what you pay out. But if you don’t know the real potential of your products or latest promotion, you will be totally in the dark, and end up underpaying or overpaying.
Any copywriter truly worth their salt can make decent educated guesses on what a promotion they write will bring in. So even if YOU don’t know what you stand to gain on a promotion, the copywriter will have a good idea. And they’ll use THAT to price your project. This puts you at a disadvantage at the negotiation table.
Remember— the cost of hiring a copywriter needs to be factored into your total cost for a promotion or ad campaign. You want to pay the least amount possible while getting the best results. This ensures ultimate profitability of your campaign.
So how can you know what you stand to gain? You need to use guestimation. Here’s an example.
Let’s say you’re launching a brand new product on Amazon. It’s in the health supplement space. One of the leading brands has just over 1,000 reviews. Since only .5%-2% of buyers leave reviews (if that), we can begin to make some estimates.
If we use a generous 2% of buyers leaving reviews, that’s 50,000 sales. If the supplement costs $25, that’s $1,250,000 in revenue. If we know it costs us $5 to produce our supplement, we can assume it’s similar to our competitors. So that’s a very rough estimate of $1,000,000 in profit for that particular product.
On Amazon in particular, copy makes a HUGE difference. So given this math, we can justify even paying $10,000 for a product description, if we KNOW it will be written by the absolute best in the business, and give us a huge leg over our competitors.
Now… if you did none of this math, and wanted to go cheap… you might pay $100 for the description. And it’d be written by a copywriter who doesn’t have a clue, and likely do absolutely nothing for your bottom line. If your product gets lost in the rankings of Amazon as a result, and no one ever sees it… you just lost $1,000,000 to save $9,900.
It IS worth it to hire the best copywriter you can afford. But you need to know what you stand to GAIN from the promotion, before you know what you can afford.
Step #3: Know The Three Types Of Copywriters (And Which Is Best For Your Job)
There are three types of copywriters:
- Up and comers
Type #1: Hacks
If you are looking for a writer who will make you more than you pay them, you will be hard pressed to find one in this lot.
These are not necessarily beginners. And they’re not necessarily the cheapest option either. You can find copywriters in this category ranging from $5 for a sales page to $10,000 (and potentially even beyond).
The vast majority of copywriters fall into this category. And they all have one thing in common: their writing doesn’t sell.
Doesn’t matter how good it looks. Doesn’t matter how grammatically correct it is. Hell, doesn’t even matter how well it’s written. When put to the ultimate test, up against the market, it simply does not sell.
Avoid hacks at all costs. If the content on your website does not grab attention, hold interest, stoke desire, and demand action… it’s useless.
You should always expect to pay a healthy sum for a great copywriter. But this is where a lot of business owners get into trouble. They know how important copywriters are. So they’re willing to pay the big bucks.
The problem is, in many cases, it’s easier to sell copywriting than it is to write a piece that seriously pulls. In fact there are many courses that teach exact sales scripts to use line by line. Someone can literally read a piece of paper to you over the phone and you end up paying $10k because of how well it works. Seriously.
There are a decent number of copywriters out there charging $5k+ for writing that doesn’t have a snowballs chance in hell at selling.
How To Avoid Hacks
- Ask the writer how many times they’ve read Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. I’m serious. Legendary copywriter David Ogilvy says no one should be in advertising until they’ve read it seven times. Jay Abraham, a marketer solely responsible for over $6 billion in sales, claims to have read it over 50 times. If the copywriter you’re speaking to is good, they will treat this book like the Bible, and will have read it multiple times.
- Don’t go in search of copywriters randomly. There is a lot of bad writing out there. Many times more than good. If you start posting jobs and randomly searching for a writer, you most likely will not find a good one. Instead, use the process I detail in the next few sections.
- Always request samples, and read them over. Ask for actual references of past clients you can call. Any successful copywriter will have plenty of references who will gladly vouch for them.
- Know what the most ripped off ads of all time look like—
When dealing with hacks, you have to be on the lookout for swiped ads. Now, every great copywriter has a huge swipe file. This is a collection of profitable ads. We use these as inspiration for our new ads.
Some copywriters take this a little too far. Instead of using the ad as inspiration, they practically copy the entire thing. Now this isn’t necessarily the end of the world. In fact some A-list copywriters like Harlan Kilstein have made names for themselves with their artful swipes. But… most copywriters are not Harlan Kilstein.
Here are five of the most ripped off ads of all time:
- Wall Street Journal Ad by Martin Conway
- Amazing Secret Of A One-Legged Golfer by John Carlton
- Arthritis Ad by John Carlton
- Rolls Royce Ad by David Ogilvy
- Coat Of Arms by Gary Halbert
(Just incase you’re curious, here’s a Kilstein swipe of ad #1. BTW— you can’t hire him for less than $30k.)
If the samples you see look anything like these… they’re probably swipes. Again, a great swipe can actually make you a lot of money. But most copywriters who are using swipes instead of writing their own copy, are not great copywriters.
Type #2: Up and Comers
This is my favorite category of copywriter. Partly because it’s what I categorize myself as. But also because I feel it can be the best possible match for a business owner. Let me explain.
Up and comers have the midas touch. They have the ability to write words that sell. And by the time they become up and comers, they’ve proven it multiple times (and have the references to vouch for them). That being said, the touch isn’t quite developed yet.
Up and comers are not beginners. To reach this level, a copywriter must have read at least a dozen classic works on advertisements. Multiple times. Books like Scientific Advertising, Ogilvy On Advertising, Tested Advertising Methods, Kick-ass Copywriting Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel, Breakthrough Advertising, etc.
Many of these books are out of print or far above normal book price. And they can only be found by the writers who truly want to find them. Most are not at Barnes & Noble.
Then the up and comer must then put these timeless principals into practice, over and over. I personally wrote over one million words of web content before I even thought about becoming a copywriter. And then I wrote hundreds of advertisements, tested them, then continually tweaked and modified them to improve results. Finally, after literally years of effort, and thousands of hours of actual writing, I’m starting to rack up some awesome testimonials and case studies.
The world of copywriting is hazy for business owners. There is so much noise. So the up and comer gets put in an interesting spot.
They know they have the midas touch. This is an incredibly rare gift, and is HUGELY VALUABLE to any business owner on the planet. However, they don’t have enough case studies and high-profile clients yet to have business owners coming to them 24/7.
And this is where you can really benefit if you manage to find one of these rare gems. Because you will get absolutely epic copy for a TINY FRACTION of what it would cost you to hire an A-list writer. This is copy that can literally multiply your sales overnight. Copy that can change your life. And in many cases, it’s actually less expensive than many of the hack writers!
But they’re damn hard to find.
How To Find Up And Comer Copywriters
You can find up and comers hidden in plain sight. But you need to take an active role. Really look hard for sharp copy. Writing that catches your eye and makes you feel real desire. Scour forums like the Warrior Forum, Wicked Fire and Black Hat World. Join copywriting Facebook groups like The Cult Of Copy, Copyhour and The Gary Halbert Copy Group. Read between the lines. Look for obscure recommendations.
Up and comers are not above hanging out on websites like Upwork.com. They’ll generally charge at least $100/hour, but this is much cheaper than you’ll ever even get on the phone with an A-lister for.
Up and comers are hustlers. They answer emails lightning fast. They deliver work on time, every time.
You can find them at top business conferences across the nation and world. They’re likely not going around telling everyone they’re a copywriter. That’s amateur shit and up and comers are far beyond that stage. However, they will get into friendly conversations with business owners. And after you tell them what you do… they’ll likely tell you that they’re a copywriter. Go with your gut. Talk to other notable conference attendees about the writer you found. See if you can get anyone who will vouch for their skills.
Above all… look for writers who truly know how to sell themselves. A mediocre copywriter can trick you into getting in touch with them. But the up and comers make you want to run to the ends of the earth just to pay them whatever they’re charging. When you feel that… that strong, undeniable desire… you’ve found a hell of a writer, no matter what they charge.
One last thing that’s great about up and comers, is that you actually keep a lot of the negotiating power as a business owner. When you speak to an A-lister, you won’t have any negotiating power at all. Because they already know they’re the best in the world.
But to an up and comer, your case study is just as valuable to them as their writing is to you. In some cases, you may even get the writer to write for free, in exchange for the right kind of case study, and some kind of commission. When you find an up and comer, negotiate hard. They may hold the key to multiplying your sales, but you hold a very valuable key to their future career.
Type #3: The A-List
Now we have the last group of copywriters, which is a group so small and underground that you’ll almost never hear their names outside of whispers.
These are the men and women who make the world turn. The writers who have caused all of us to buy something… even if we don’t know it. Outside of ultra top-selling novelists like J. K. Rowling and George R. R. Martin, A-listers are the highest paid writers in the world. And they’re worth every penny.
These guys work for the biggest companies in the world, and charge rates that would make most business owners pee their pants. Expect to pay$25,000 at the very least for an advertisement from these guys. And you’ll probably be expected to pay out a royalty for every sale that comes from their work, too.
The A-list is the equivalent of the NBA or the NFL. The best of the absolute best. If you can afford to pay at least $25,000 for an advertisement, you won’t go wrong with these writers.
BUT… one thing many A-list writers do is hire “copyhands”. These are up and comers who will do the writing for the A-lister. Then the A-lister will take a look at it and make any changes or corrections required. You’ll still get phenomenal copy with this approach. But, I’m not sure that I’d say it’s worth the cost of what it costs. After all it’s not easy to find A-listers. You’ll have to dig for them. And if you dig for them and then spend a fortune and they’re not even writing the ad… That doesn’t sit well for me. In my opinion, unless you personally know an A-lister, or get recommended to one by someone who’s really an insider, it’s risky business playing at this level.
So how do you actually find an A-lister?
Go to the same groups and forums I pointed out in the up and comers section. The A-listers hang out here… although they usually won’t make a show out of it.
You can know the A-listers by who everyone keeps referring back to. For example, there are several A-listers in “The Cult of Copy” Facebook group. But they’re not the one advertising their services. They’re the ones who everyone recommends, when a real player comes into the group and says they’re ready to spend $25k on an advertisement.
Some A-list copywriters are celebrities and thought leaders, like John Carlton. Others stick to the shadows, like Arthur Johnson. If you have the budget, and the true desire to find them, you can.
If you can truly afford an A-lister, get in touch with me and I’ll do what I can to get your pitch in front of one.
It’s not easy to find a great copywriter for your business. And, it’s not cheap either. That’s why you need to follow the steps I’ve outlined in this article. So you can find the copywriters who will truly be an INVESTMENT. They’ll make you far more than you’ll ever pay them… even if they charge a small fortune to write for you.
If finding a great copywriter was easy, everyone would be rich. The fact is there are just not that many money-printing copywriters out there. There are very, very few. But they do exist, and if you follow the steps outlined in this article, and use your head, you will find a good one. And then you’ll see your sales shoot through the roof. It is worth it to do this work.
If you need help finding a great copywriter, or if you’d like me to write your copy for you (although spots are very limited), please shoot me a message through my contact form. If I feel we’re a good fit, we’ll schedule a short introductory call and go from there.