We recently hired a copywriter and had it down to three. Josh, Mike and Jason.
Here’s the story of how Jason lost himself an easy $4,000 sale
We wanted to hire a copywriter to help rewrite our homepage and tour page. We had a reasonable budget and wanted to hire a professional to do the job properly.
It started with a simple Facebook post where I asked my network to recommend some copywriters. I’m going to walk you through our process for making our decision so you can learn what not to do.
Dismissing the Amateurs
The first thing we needed to do was get rid of the people trying to re-write our homepage copy for free. This was a particular job, it needed doing right and I wasn’t about to be a demo project for a 21 year old looking to practice.
I got 8 unsolicited messages asking for calls to do this. Every one of them was let down, some more gently than others. I’m all for getting your leg up and trying to get some experience but one thing very clear here was I wanted to pay a sensible amount of money to a professional to have this job done properly.
The second someone offered to do it for free or was a kid and clearly couldn’t possibly have the experience I believed was required then they were dismissed too, it was an instant turn off.
Choosing the shortlist
This mostly came down to recommendations from people I trusted or I believed had good judgment. There’s actually little logic to this I learned. People will recommend anyone on Facebook with better positioning than them.
Just because someone has a course, a buzzing Facebook profile or a fancy headshot really doesn’t mean anything. Take everything people say with a pinch of salt. Most people on Facebook talk a metric shit ton of nonsense.
I had to start somewhere so I chose the following people based on the following things:
Jason – He’s old, seemed at quick glance like he’d been working with SaaS businesses a while and several people recommended him. Good start.
Josh – Came recommended by several people and had worked with businesses like Hubspot on conversion copy and stated a positive result which was EXACTLY what we wanted. Definitely in.
Mike – Came recommended by one of our best partners so that counted for a lot. He instantly took it off Facebook and took it to email. That set him apart massively. He sent me a brilliant email and had a distinctive PS about Fight Club. He’s in too.
Now lets get em on the phone
I spoke with Josh first. I loved his approach of listening, understanding and explaining his process. He was also a Better Proposals customer which carried a lot of weight. He was clear about his schedule right from the beginning.
He told me he’d get me a proposal in the next 2-3 days.
Jason was next and was a little unfortunate in that I was waiting in A&E with a potentially broken foot. I spoke to him outside for about half hour. Told us our pricing was all wrong and suggested moving up market within 5 or 6 minutes of being on the phone.
He gave me an idea of pricing and said it was a $4,000 minimum with a 5 or 10% uplift based on performance. The percentage was based on difficulty.
No next steps decided.
Mike I forgot about and didn’t go back to him. He rolled with my fuck up and was accommodating with my timescales. Listened intently, made no judgments and clearly understood what we wanted to achieve.
He gave me a rough idea of budget, and told me he could meet our timeframes.
Josh sent his over in a matter of hours. Contained a clearly well written statement about what we were trying to do, explained timescales, his process, testimonials and the investment required. There was no ambiguity here. Communication is now 100% email.
Mike was similar. Sent the proposal almost immediately, detailed everything Josh did. Communication is now 100% email.
This is where Jason goes more downhill than Miley Cyrus in 2016. Proposals aren’t for everyone so I Facebook message him and ask him if he can explain this % uplift. He can’t remember what this is then says he can do the job for a flat $4,000. Okay.
Here are the things I have no idea about from Jason’s side:
1. How long it’s going to take
2. What his process is
3. What’s included
4. What happens if what we implement takes conversion rates down.
This is all info offered up by Josh and Mike. I ask him and I get an abrupt 21 second voice clip message huffing and puffing telling me it’s not a good fit, sarcastically responding to my 4th question.
Aaaaand we’re down to two…
This was a somewhat tough choice. Both speak well, have great examples and testimonials but Josh has commitments which meant not launching the new copy and subsequent new design until probably January.
We decided to go with Mike because he could meet our timeframe which was having the research component done in time for our team retreat in Prague. We emailed Josh to explain our decision making and that it’s likely we’d do something with him in the future when we can plan it in advance.
He was super cool about it and Mike was happy.
I signed his proposal and paid immediately. We will now wait to see how Mike performs.
What can we learn from Jason’s disaster
The first thing he did was assume he knew better. Maybe he did but his presentation of his ideas mid-way through me explaining what we’re trying to achieve with hiring a copywriter was a bit odd. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, part of making the sale is making the buyer feel heard.
He kept it on Facebook which not only seemed less serious for some reason but at no point was I directed to look at his website, introduced to any of his previous work or emailed. It was 100% on Facebook which for a (I guess) 55+ year old man, I would have expected him to try and get it off Facebook. It just seemed incredibly amateur.
There was a complete lack of proposal, or details of any description. There was no idea for me to know what I was getting for my money. All I’ve got is a conversation to go on in which he couldn’t even remember his own pricing structure – what hope was I supposed to have about him remembering the little details about our business?
Being rude and dismissive when someone’s trying to give you money is rarely a good solution. If you’re on Facebook talking about your craft every day in the hope that someone will offer you some money for your work, try not to be dismissive of this.
I hope this helps you understand what not to do.