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Choosing a freelance copywriter

So you’re looking for a freelance copywriter, but what are you really looking for? Do you need a word stuffer or a bit more?

Let’s be honest, copywriters, freelance or otherwise, are 10-a-penny. If they can string a sentence together, they’re a copywriter – sort of. If the words make sense and flow, they’re somewhere towards being a half-decent copywriter – probably. However, if their ideas sparkle and their words capture an audience’s imagination, then in my opinion, they’ve earned the right to call themselves a proper grown up copywriter.

What kind of copywriter do you need?
PR specialist, Journalist, Conceptual copywriter, Blogger, Content expert or Digital copywriter? As with all modern professions, a profusion of jargon has been cooked-up to add all manner of confusion. Whatever they call themselves, there are a few things that I think you should judge any copywriter by.

The ability to:
– Listen
– Get to the point of the brief
– Not get stuck on the first idea
– Get under the skin of the audience
– Write using an appropriate voice
– Be open to criticism
– Know when a concept is worth defending
– Not get lost in their own cleverness
– Think with visuals as well as words
– Know when enough is enough.

The above applies to any kind of copywriter, but there are a few special ingredients that you can add to the mix to make a particularly good freelance copywriter.

The ability to:
– Hit the ground running
– Fit in with the team
– Concentrate on the job in hand (switch off those social channels)
– Give the client lots of choice
– Be on time
– Be pretty-much unflappable.

Do you need a specialist?
If a writer has all or most of the above assets, plus the obvious basics – spelling, punctuation and grammar – then they should be able to tackle most kinds of media or industry sector. The areas where I would suggest previous experience are of particular benefit, would be writing for web or social media. Having an understanding of the basics of SEO or how to trim a story down to 280 characters will be invaluable.

The kind of jobs that really need proper in-depth specialist knowledge are writing technical manuals and lengthy scientific copy. Most other writing briefs can be approached by any talented copywriter, using their triple super powers of inquisitiveness, pragmatism and creative genius.

What should you pay for a freelance copywriter?
Have a trawl online and you will find that, depending on experience, you can expect to pay anywhere between £40-£100 per hour, or £300-£800 per day (apparently, some senior copywriters charge £2,000 a day, but we can all dream). As with most things, cheap doesn’t necessarily equate to value and expensive doesn’t always mean excellence. It ultimately boils down to what you think they are worth and what they are comfortable charging.

Other factors that could impact on a copywriter’s fee are experience, travel time/cost, the kind of work that’s up for grabs and the level of specialism required.

For an independent view, checkout ProCopywriter’s freelance copywriter rates guide.

How do you choose the ideal copywriter?
Just like any other tradesperson, the best way to find a writer is through personal recommendation. Failing that (and actually, in spite of that), make sure you see their portfolio and check out their CV or track record first. Don’t fall into the trap of insisting that they have already worked on the exact same kind of brand or project. Any copywriter worth their salt should be able to apply their skills to most kinds of brief.

Beyond that, before committing to spending £squillions, give them a small project to test the water. Having been on both sides of the fence, both commissioning freelancers and being a freelancer myself, I know how difficult it can be to find creatives that you can rely on. To really know, you’ll have to dip your toes in the water.

If you have a copywriting brief that you’d like to discuss, please get in touch, but make sure you have a look at my portfolio first.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a freelance Copywriter, Art Director and Creative Director.
You can drop me a line here, or email