Maybe you’re thinking about hiring a freelance copywriter and you want to know what qualifications you should be looking for. Maybe you’re thinking about becoming a freelance copywriter yourself and wondering what qualifications you’ll need.
So, what qualifications do you need to be a freelance copywriter?
I could end there and this would be the shortest blog post I’ve ever written in my freelance writing career! But, of course, I won’t…
What Skills Should a Copywriter Have?
A copywriter needs to be able to write. You’d think that would go without saying but I assure you, it’s not always a given!
If you’re hiring a freelance copywriter, you want to feel confident that they have a wide vocabulary, good language skills and a decent grasp of spelling, punctuation and grammar in your chosen language.
A copywriter also needs to have:
Good time management skills
If you’ve got a deadline, you’re going to want to be certain that your freelance copywriter will meet it. A good copywriter will deliver on schedule every time, or on the rare occasions it isn’t possible, explain to you why with plenty of notice and offer an alternative such as a revised deadline, partial completion or in an absolute emergency, suggest passing the work on to another, trusted freelance writer who could complete the work for you.
Good communication skills
You’ll be working closely with your freelance copywriter for the duration of the project so you’ll need them to communicate well with you either via email, in-person or over the phone. You want someone who can listen and understand what your business needs and who isn’t afraid to ask questions or come back to you with ideas, suggestions or queries.
The ability to take feedback
Freelance copywriters have to be adept at taking on board feedback (both good and bad!) Ideally, any criticism should be constructive (rather than “I hate the blog you wrote!” think more along the lines of “The tone didn’t quite match our brand.”) so that your copywriter can actually put it to use either to amend the project or to do things differently moving forward.
This one’s vital. A freelance writer needs to be honest both with themselves and their clients. They have to know when to say “No” to work either because the project isn’t right for them or because they can’t meet the suggested deadline or they don’t believe they can deliver the results a business is looking for. Be wary of freelancers who promise the sun the moon and the stars! Most of us realise that the only things we can truly control are the words on the page.
Are Qualifications Important At All?
Just because you don’t technically need any qualifications in order to become a freelance copywriter, doesn’t mean that qualifications aren’t useful or important.
The short answer to whether or not qualifications are important is: it depends.
If you’re looking to hire a freelance copywriter and you’re trying to decide if their qualifications are important, you’re going to want to consider the following:
What is it that you want them to write?
What are their qualifications?
Have you read a sample of their work?
Does their writing style align with your brand?
If you need a freelance copywriter to write a highly technical long-form article aimed at other experts in your industry then their qualifications may be important to you but that doesn’t mean you necessarily need them to have a Masters in Creative Writing. What you’re probably looking for, instead, is some qualifications or work experience relevant to your field.
If they know what they’re talking about - and what you want to talk about - then they’re going to require less research time, they’re going to understand what it is that they’re researching and they’re going to be able to write about the subject matter in a way that displays that understanding and suggests a level of expertise.
That isn’t to say that someone outside of your industry can’t do the same. All freelance writers must become highly skilled at research in order to do their job properly but someone with a background or level of existing knowledge in your industry is going to have a head start.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for someone to write a 500-word blog about a recent event your business attended, you’re going to be more interested in their blog-writing background than whether or not they hold a degree in astrophysics.
If you want a freelance copywriter to write product copy, sales or marketing experience can be helpful. Ditto, for writing snappy, engaging captions for social media, where someone with a marketing qualification or experience in social media might stand out from the crowd.
More important than qualifications, however, is evidence.
How Do I Know If a Copywriter is Any Good?
The answer to this is simple: ask!
A qualification is proof that someone has studied at a certain level and passed the assessments required to be awarded that qualification. It isn’t necessarily proof that they’ve translated their knowledge into real-world skills that will benefit your business.
The only way to know if someone can really write is to look at the evidence. If you’re considering hiring a freelance copywriter, ask them for examples of their work. In particular, you can ask for examples that represent what you would be hiring them to do. So if you want them to write blogs for your business, ask for examples of blogs they’ve written previously.
Most freelance copywriters will have an online portfolio you can view or will be able to email example documents or links to live work that they’ve done for other clients. If you want to hire a freelance copywriter for social media, ask who else they’ve worked with or if they’re unable to say (which happens sometimes due to NDAs and confidentiality clauses) ask if they could provide some examples instead.
You can also look on their website or social media pages for reviews or testimonials from other clients, or if they don’t yet have any, ask if they can provide a reference or name any clients they’ve previously worked with.
How Do I Know If a Copywriter is Right for My Business/Brand?
Hopefully, after learning about their qualifications, background and areas of expertise, and seeing some examples of their previous work, you’ll be feeling confident about the abilities of your freelance copywriter.
But how do you know if they’re right for your business and your brand?
If you want to be absolutely certain that they’re a good fit, you can request a test sample. This is usually a short piece of work, such as a blog post, that you ask them to write specifically for your business as a ‘tester.’ This is a fairly standard procedure and providing you’re willing to pay the writer fairly for the work, not an unreasonable request.
(I hope it goes without saying that expecting someone to write a free blog that you could then use for your business without paying the writer at a fair rate is an unreasonable request! Please don’t do this!)
This gives you an opportunity to see how their qualifications, knowledge and skills translate into what your business needs. It enables you to see how their writing style adapts into something that aligns with your brand and it offers the writer the opportunity to showcase their writing skills and get a feel for what it is that you - their potential new client - is looking for.
Not every writer will get a piece ‘right’ first time. If the sample piece they complete is close to what you’re looking for but not exactly perfect, bear in mind that most freelance copywriters will offer one or two rounds of revisions as standard within their project fees, as we understand that sometimes a piece of work can be well-written but just shy of the mark. At the end of the day, any good copywriter is going to want a client to be happy with their work as that’s how we know we’ve done a good job!
If you’re still looking for a freelance copywriter to meet your requirements, Ink Spell can help. I have experience writing for a wide range of clients in various industries and sectors, covering areas such as healthcare, animal care, parenting, the environment, transport, digital marketing and much much more!
My nursing background makes me an excellent choice for clients who need a copywriter with an understanding of medical terminology and health and having studied at university level, I have excellent research skills to help me write about topics outside of my areas of expertise.
If you’d like a chat about what your business is looking for and how I might be able to help, get in touch on 07841116012 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.