Can you remember your last job interview? If you’re like me it was probably an exciting but also nerve-wracking experience. You had no idea the questions they will ask, apart from those classics like “What’s your greatest weakness?”
Well, sitting on the other side can feel the same. Excitement that you might have found the right person, but also trepidation over whether they are really the right person.
Interviewing a freelance copywriter before you hire someone is exactly the same.
You need to make sure you find out the right information, get proof of their skills, and make sure that you can work together.
This can be especially tricky if you are not a copywriter yourself.
That’s why I’ve prepared a short set of useful questions to ask candidates to identify if you can work with them.
1. What is your copywriting and marketing experience?
Unless you are truly strapped for cash, you shouldn’t hire a beginner or someone with no experience. In fact, you will almost certainly do a better job than they will as you will have a better understanding of your customers.
You don’t need a battle-scarred veteran of the copywriting world and it is worth weighing any experience they have for companies similar to yours more heavily than generic copywriting experience.
Follow up questions
- Have you worked for any companies like us before?
- Can I see some examples of your previous work?
2. What results have you delivered in the past?
This is a way to see if they can back up any claims with hard evidence. Is all well and good saying you are a good writer, but can they prove it? This evidence may also highlight what areas they have more experience in or are better at.
For example, if you are looking to hire someone to design a sales page but they tell you statistics about improving onboarding email open rates, that might suggest that they don’t have much experience with sales pages.
3. What is one problem you see with my copy at the moment?
If you are hiring a professional copywriter, they should be able to do your job better than you are currently doing it. If they can’t see a problem, then they may replicate what you already have with the same limitations.
This doesn’t mean that they should immediately tell you a problem they see.
In fact, it’s probably best if they don’t. They should ask questions to better understand who you are currently trying to attract, who your competitors are and generally try to understand your business and goals better.
Do they talk about the specifics or the big picture?
Both of these elements are important with your copy but the big picture is the most important. The big picture is the type of people you are for, the problems you are solving and the desires you are feeding.
Without the correct big picture, you can’t get the specific right. But if you have the big picture without all the specifics, you’ll do much better than random guesses.
Your big picture may be okay already, but if they don’t talk about it, then it suggests they don’t think about the big picture and that’s a problem.
4. What results do you believe you will be able to deliver for me?
Don’t ask this question too early on in your discussions as they will need some information to be able to give you an accurate answer. If they offer an answer to early on or too quickly, then it is unlikely to be accurate.
If you ask this question and they respond by asking for more information, that is not necessarily a bad sign. However, If they continuously dodge the question and talk about vague general statements, then that is a bad sign.
When you do come to give you an estimate, then they should relate it to the project and include realistic details.
For example, if the project is a product launch, they should give a final estimate based on the predicted number of sales, which should be based on a predicted conversion estimate from the amount of traffic they believe can be delivered to that source. This is why they may need to ask questions before they can answer your question, so they can accurately predict each part and not make crazy promises.
This is why they may need to ask questions before they can answer your question, so they can accurately predict each part and not make crazy promises.
5. What information will you need before you can start?
This will obviously vary depending on the work you want them to do (a sales email sequence will be very different to a sales page) but they should still ask for some information about thing such as
- exactly who this material will be used for,
- where it will appear,
- what other marketing materials the prospect will have seen
- general information about the company, service and/or products that can help them complete their copy.
If they do not ask for more information, then they might be egotistical and think they know everything. A bad sign for a good business relationship.
6. What are your preferred communication methods and schedule?
It’s important to establish good communication procedures and expectations. Some writers will want to go away into a cabin in the woods with no contact and then re-emerge later with a final product to discuss. Others will want to ask questions as they go. Some will prefer face-to-face chats (or skype) and others will prefer email.
You may have your own preferences so it is important to establish how this co-operation might look in advance.
If they want to ask you questions every five minutes over SMS, you should probably look for a more professional writer who doesn’t need so much hand-holding and can let you get on with your work.
7. What questions do you have for me?
If you’ve asked good questions during the discussion and they have responded with questions of their own, there is a chance that they won’t have any more questions. But it’s more likely that they will still want to find out more information so they are truly informed.
Good answers, often involve questions
You probably noticed that most of the good answers involve questions and not immediate responses. That’s for a good reason. A good copywriter should make sure they understand properly rather than give you a rushed answer. The better they understand, the better they can serve you.
It might seem like a waste of time or that they don’t know what they are doing, but in reality, the opposite is true. It will save you time and shows that they want to do the best job for you they can.
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