2 Arguments for Hiring a Copywriter

Luke MysseHonestly, I’ve had this conversation with clients so many times that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record.

I end up working on a project that needs a better communication strategy, and after diving into the project, we end up in a place where I suggest that we hire a copywriter. Most of the time, it seems like I get one of three responses:

  1. That sounds great; let’s do it.
  2. No, I don’t want to spend the money. I’ll just write the content. or
  3. No, I understand my business better than anyone else. I should write it.

It’s these last two that frustrate me. First of all, they won’t get it done and, as a result, the project will stall out – fact! How many times has this happened to you?

It’s happened to me so many times that we’ve had to build in language to our proposals that covers what happens if a project goes stagnant for too long.

What it comes down to is that the copy doesn’t get written because our client doesn’t know how to write. If we graduated high school, we know how to write at a basic level. We draft emails every day. We write proposals and letters. What the client doesn’t realize is that they don’t have a writing issue; they have a communication issue.

They struggle to get the copy done because they simply don’t know how to communicate in written form all that passion about their business that lives inside of them and their company. And so, like all things uncomfortable, it gets put off.

To overcome those inevitable client writing-related delays, here are the ways that I address the common “no” responses. Hopefully, you will find this helpful, especially you copywriters out there …

No, I don’t want to spend the money. I will just write the content myself.

To dispel this “no,” I will first give them examples of other clients who went down this path and how they delayed the launch of their website or project, and as a result, how it cost them much more money in lost opportunity. I sort of dangle that new shiny designed object out in front of them and convince them that they will get the carrot earlier if they just trust me.

The second part of this conversation is to give them an overview of how the process works. We have this false expectation that our client understands design or photography or copywriting. As if it’s their job to do our job. I inform them that the copywriter will first get a full download from me about the project, that I will send things to the copywriter to read about the business and industry, that the copywriter will call the business owner and conduct an interview, and that the copywriter will send over an initial draft for review and that changes can be made before we launch. I then remind the business owner that during this whole process, when all this background work is going on, they will be freed up to bring in new customers, run their companies, sell more widgets, etc.

If you can get into the mind of the business owner and talk about things that are important to them, you will have a better chance of selling this ever-important part of a project. Design will make things look right, but if the messaging is off, the project won’t achieve it’s objective. Sorry, fellow designers, it’s the truth.

No, I understand my business better than anyone else, so I should write it.

This second “no” is the one I get most often. Convincing a business owner that he is too close to his business is sometimes the hardest challenge of them all. To combat this, I first respond by pointing out how understanding a business so well can be a negative when trying to communicate something to prospects. Your prospect doesn’t understand your business, and they shouldn’t have to in order to buy.

An outside writer is closer to your customer in mindset and therefore will create content that is simple and easy to grasp. One of my writers calls this “inside baseball.” Don’t talk about inside baseball to me as a prospect; those things about your widget or company are for you to know and do. What about me the prospect, the consumer? Do you care about my needs?

All I see in business writing is companies talking about themselves in the tone of their industry. I sort of love working in an industry where I don’t know anything. In most cases, I’m closer to the mind of the consumer and can easily find what the pain points are. Having a copywriter that doesn’t know your business, Mr. Owner, will make sure that we speak in terms your prospect will understand. Don’t look at your competitors and what they are saying; look at your prospects and decide what they are asking.

Having good copy is as important as having good design. It’s something that we as designers should bring to the table when we can because it shows we are more than just pixel pushers. We are helping the client grow their business and that makes us harder to replace than some online service.

And finally, just because someone can “write” doesn’t mean they can communicate well enough to get into the mind of the prospect. It’s almost like we need to get rid of the term “copywriter” and replace it with “communication specialist” or “prospect advocate.”

How have you sold writing services before or do you just let the client handle it? Have you faced other objections than the three I referenced above?

BTW: If you (as a designer) need copywriters as part of your network (or vice versa, or any other creative professional, for that matter), come mingle with other potential collaborators at the Creative Freelancer Conference. You can still sign up online and/or on site.

6 thoughts on “2 Arguments for Hiring a Copywriter

  1. Barbara

    “What the client doesn’t realize is that they don’t have a writing issue; they have a communication issue.”

    Nicely put. Most of my clients think and act exactly how you wrote it, but just because they can draft a great email doesn’t mean they can write effective copy. The way you’ve framed your arguments here will definitely help a designer’s case when dealing with these types of clients!

  2. heather parlato

    great article, luke! i’ve definitely run into this—which is fine when i’m working with writerly types, but even then, sometimes a fresh perspective really gets things going in a new direction.

    i like to point out that they’ll have every bit as much input, without having to do all the wordsmithing. copywriters can present a similar message in different tones, and they’re experts on the nuance of word combinations. let them present new ways of getting to the heart of the message so you [the client] can review and advise on the details of your business.

  3. Di

    You said it right, Luke. I run into this so often, both with writing and photography. They both have the potential to make or break the project.

    Let me paraphrase what a possible client said recently. She’s an attorney and a smart one at that. She said “Lawyers write for a living so you think we could write our own copy. But the way we write is communication to our peers. It’s not good communication to our clients.”

    I hope I get her for a client. She recognizes that not all writing is the same and just because you’re good at one style of writing doesn’t mean you’re good at another. Writing for advertising and communication is very defined, also very dependent on the audience it’s targeting.

  4. Alisa Bonsignore

    And this is why I get the call at the 11th hour.

    “Having good copy is as important as having good design. It’s something that we as designers should bring to the table when we can because it shows we are more than just pixel pushers. We are helping the client grow their business and that makes us harder to replace than some online service.”


  5. Alex Ball

    As a technical writer, the classic client line is, “Oh, the developers can write that. After all, they’re the ones who wrote the code.”

    And then, you get a call after their customers complain about the (missing, or poor-quality) docs. I write a lot of API documentation, and see this one a lot. The more experienced the developer, though, the more willing they are to hand off the writing.

    It’s like they’ve been there before, or something.

  6. Justine Clay

    Luke, I couldn’t agree more. I represent copywriters so I’m constantly speaking to clients about the power of the (well) written word. I present it as an opportunity to create a unique brand voice that will set them apart from their competitors and connect emotionally with their target audience. Another benefit is the bang for the buck that a client gets from their investment. By having a copywriter create the foundational elements of their communications e.g. about us statement, mission statement and brand manifesto, they have several tools that they can use to communicate their message consistently across a variety of platforms.
    I look forward to more of your posts!