Ahhhhh…website content. As if trying to connect with the kind of people who’ll open their wallets and tell all their friends about you isn’t hard enough, we’re told we must think of things like keywords. Search intent. And the flippin’ Google algorithm.
If you’re just now taking baby steps into the online realm with your small business, or maybe you’ve got a website that’s as exciting as watching paint dry, then this is for you. I’m here to help you answer that big, burning question: “Should I hire a professional copywriter?”
To be clear, we’re not talking about Hemingway or Dickinson here. Just someone who knows their way around a catchy headline and a compelling call-to-action. Ideally, a wordsmith who can transform your website from a deserted island into Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
So pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of your favorite brew (or a stiff drink if you’ve already tried writing your own website content, amiright?), and let’s get into it.
Can I write the content for my small business website myself, or is it better to hire a professional?
I get it. You are a maverick. A business owner who wears all the hats, from head honcho to janitor. That could be about budget, but it might also involve trust. So maybe you’re thinking about adding “copywriter” to your ever-growing job title list. You were pretty good at those five-paragraph essays back in the day, yeah?
Mmm…hold on a sec. Let’s think this through.
Could you write your own website content? After all, you know your business best, right?
I know my hair best, too. And that time I felt driven (thanks, COVID) to cut it myself? It was wonky and uneven, and I had to wait months for it to grow out enough for a professional to do anything with it.
It’s not about whether you could write your own copy, but if you should do it.
Writing for your small business website isn’t just about slapping words on a page. It’s about things like:
- Communicating your brand’s unique personality
- Convincing potential customers why they should choose you vs your competition
- Making search engines happy
Sound like a piece of cake? If you’re nodding along, I think you should give it a go. But if you’re feeling a tad overwhelmed, then maybe it’s time to consider hiring a pro.
Professional copywriters are masters at working with you to reimagine your ideas in a way that will bring you the most benefit. They know how to play the SEO game, they understand consumer psychology, and they’ve mastered the art of persuasion. It’s kind of their thing, you know?
Plus, let’s not forget time – that rarest of small business commodities. Do you really have time to sit down, research, write, edit, and optimize when you’ve got a business to run? A professional writer frees up your schedule so you can focus on what you do best: running and growing your business.
So, to answer your question – yes, you can write your own website content. But hiring a professional is the smarter move.
How can a copywriter help me target my ideal customers?
If only targeting your ideal customers was as simple as hitting a bullseye on a dartboard. Buuuut it’s more like trying to hit a moving target. On a roller coaster. In the dark. So unrealistic even AI can’t do it.
A professional copywriter, however, does this every day. Like it’s nothing. But it is magic for us mere mortals.
When you partner with a copywriter, combining your business expertise and their copywriting genius, the result is not unlike reading your ideal customers’ minds. Before they begin writing, a good copywriter will do a deep dive into the psyche of your ideal customers, understanding their wants, needs, and deepest, darkest desires. Only as it relates to your products or services, of course!
Can a professional copywriter help optimize my website for search engines?
You may already know that search engines like Google use complex and somewhat mysterious algorithms to decide which websites to show first when someone does a search. The right copywriter understands how to play along with Google, in ways that won’t alienate your human readers — unlike the lame SEO tactics mocked in the joke below.
So, how does a good copywriter help optimize your website for search engines? They add their expertise to your goals, and work in three key areas:
You’ve probably heard of keywords—they’re the terms people type into Google when they’re looking for something. Although the term keyword sounds like one word, it can refer to a single word or a multi-word phrase — whatever word or words people would use to search for a business or services like yours.
If you’re a dog trainer in Chattanooga, for example, your keywords might be “Chattanooga dog trainer,” “dog trainer in Chattanooga,” or “best dog trainer Chattanooga.” A good copywriter knows how to sprinkle your best keywords through your website like fairy dust, making it more likely that your site will shine like a diamond, near the top of search results pages.
Quality Content Creation
Google isn’t just looking for keywords. It wants high-quality content. That’s why you can’t just stuff your webpage full of your keywords if you want to be taken seriously by your ideal customers. You have to provide valuable, engaging content that people will actually read.
Know that you can and should add to your professionally-written website copy with high-quality blog posts. They don’t have to be professionally written to help your business. They just need to be on a topic that attracts and helps your ideal customer.
Meta Descriptions and Title Tags
In case you’re not familiar, the little snippets of text that appear in search results (underneath a linked page title) are meta descriptions. Like this:
Meta descriptions are yet another ace up a copywriter’s sleeve. A good meta description (and corresponding page title) can bump up your search ranking and lure in more visitors. It’s like a free ad from Google, Bing, etc. What can you say in that super-limited (only 150ish letters and spaces – yikes) space? A great copywriter will know.
The three items mentioned above are far and away the most important things to pay attention to, and where a copywriter will help the most. If you want a broader (but still basic, and not nerdy) understanding of SEO terms, our SEO Terms for Beginners will help.
So, can a professional copywriter help optimize your website for search engines? Heck yeah. Not only that, but they will do it while making your business sound like a million bucks. Or whatever the equivalent is these days. #inflation
What should I look for in a copywriter’s portfolio before hiring them to write copy for my website?
You’ve made the decision: You’re going to hire a professional copywriter for your small business website. Yay. But now you’re faced with a new dilemma — how to pick the right one? And what the heck are you supposed to look for in their portfolio? Fear not, I’ve got your back! Let’s break it down.
First things first, look for relevant experience. If your business sells handmade unicorn holiday sweaters, a copywriter who’s only done technical writing for an IT company might not be your best bet. You want to make sure they’ve got experience in your industry, or at least something closely related.
Next, check out their style. Every writer has a unique voice, and you want to make sure it jives with your brand. If your vibe is more corporate and formal, a writer who uses slang and humor might not be a good fit. On the flip side, if you’re all about a casual, quirky tone, a writer with a stiff, impersonal style might make your brand feel like it’s at a polo match instead of the music fest vibe you envisioned.
Response to Different Briefs
Consider how they respond to different briefs. A copywriting brief is a detailed roadmap for your writer, outlining your goals, your audience, and the vibe you want for your content. Ask a writer you’re considering if they can share a brief for a completed project.
Know that a good copywriter can adapt their style to suit the requirements of the project. Do they have examples where they’ve nailed a formal tone, knocked a persuasive piece out of the park, and also written an informative, easy-to-understand explainer? If so, you might have struck gold!
Testimonials and References
Finally, don’t rule out the importance of testimonials and references. What do their past clients have to say about their work? Are they recommended? If a writer’s portfolio is all sunshine and rainbows but their references are shaky or nonexistent, you might want to reconsider. Or, try them out for a smaller, less critical project first, like social media posts.
Hiring a copywriter is a little like choosing a new pair of shoes. You should walk around in them a while to make sure they’re a good fit. It might take a little time and patience to find the right one. But the more you work with a good copywriter, the better the collaborative process and end product become.
What are some common mistakes to avoid when hiring a copywriter for my website?
Of course there can be a downside to the process. Most of these pitfalls come from being new to hiring copywriting pros. It’s good to have a heads up on them — that’s what we’re shooting for. But like a lot of other business firsts, don’t expect to be able to know everything in advance. You’re going to make mistakes. Just aim for avoiding the big ones, and do the best you can. Deal?
Alright — let’s get to it. What big mistakes do other people make with copywriters, that you and I will not?
Thinking cheaper is better
Expensive isn’t necessarily better, but I guarantee that cheaper is never better when it comes to copywriting. The quality of a copywriter’s work mirrors their price, and these are people we’re counting on to help us put our best foot forward.
If budget is an issue, you’re better off reducing the scope of the project. Are you working with us on a new website? We can work in phases to free up budget for writing, including starting off with a super-simple one page website that’s a breeze for a pro copywriter to help with.
Ignoring the importance of a niche
It’s great when a copywriter is versatile, but many have niches areas they specialize in. If you’re running a culinary blog, a copywriter experienced in technology might not be the best fit. Know your niche and hire accordingly.
Not setting clear expectations
Imagine hiring a taxi and then not telling them where you want to go. Doesn’t make much sense, right? Although you’ll absolutely want to rely on your copywriter’s expertise and recommendations, you need to be clear about your goals and expectations. The more specific you are about your objectives, style, voice, and target audience, the better the outcome.
A good copywriter is great at researching what they can see. But, when it comes to your thoughts and goals around your business, they’re not mind readers. It’s best to lay it all out up front.
It’s also important that your copywriter understands exactly what you want them to deliver. If you’ve hired them to write your website, make sure it includes copy for the pages as well as meta descriptions and page titles. If you’re expecting anything beyond the website (e.g., social media posts, brainstorming, e-mail newsletters, etc.) make sure they know so they can plan and charge accordingly.
Underestimating the value of a good conversation
Communication is key to a successful relationship with your copywriter. Don’t just send an email and assume. Have a chat, ask about their ideas, give feedback.
The best copy comes from collaborative relationships with copywriters whose expertise and advice you trust and whose work you value. And, it should work both ways. They’re the expert writer, yes. But you are the expert on your business.
What I did
I’m a writer. I have been a writer before and since I began designing and caring for websites. My degree is in Communication, with an emphasis on speech and writing. I have written copy for Fortune 500 corporations, small non-profits and funky internal design firm projects.
My career in website design was a (mostly) happy accident of the late ’90s/early 2000s internet boom. To sum it up, I. can. write.
When I started my business, and again when I rebranded and launched A Fearless Venture, I wrote everything on every page. I did it in between projects. It took forever. But I eventually got it done. While I didn’t pay anybody for the initial writing, it was a huge time suck. And I wasn’t sure it positioned AFV as well as it might have if a pro had written it.
You and I are just not objective about our own stuff. We have blind spots. And, we know too much to act like our actual customers might.
A year or so after launching our rebranded, rewritten website, I hired Sarah Kuiken of Flourish Writing to go through the site with a fine tooth comb. She was very kind about our copy, and said it was much better than many sites she’s reviewed and edited. But make no mistake: She recommended a ridiculous number of changes. I want to say it was around 250.
It took me weeks to get through Sarah’s edits.
In the end, AFV was better for it. Do I wish I’d have hired Sarah in the first place? Heck yeah. At the time, though, revenue was down. I didn’t have much to invest in our site. I did what I felt I had to do then. But I was relieved after we finally arrived at a place where we could work with Sarah.
If hiring a copywriter gets you even a few more clients—and it will likely get you far more—don’t forget the exponential value in that. Having the right copy in place early on can make all the difference.— Sarah Kuiken / Flourish Writing
Let’s wrap up this post with a quick run through of what we’ve learned about the business of getting a pro copywriter for your small business website.
- First things first – a website is more than a brochure or a business card. It’s your 24/7 salesperson, your first impression, a handshake across cyberspace. Yes, professional copywriting costs money. But it’s an investment.
- Consider the value a pro copywriter brings. They’re not just there to make your website look pretty (that’s my job…lol). They’re there to craft the message of your brand, tell your story, and make sure that story sells. Kinda like the Spielberg of your small business universe 🙂
- Before you dash off to hire a copywriter, know what you need. Think about your business goals, your target audience, and the vibe you want for your brand before you start the hiring process.
- Finally, do a deep dive into your potential copywriter’s work. Check their samples, ask for references, talk with past clients, and make sure their style fits your brand.
Think of your website as your business’s digital twin – one that’s mingling and making impressions while you’re busy running the show. You wouldn’t show up to a business mixer in sweatpants (unless that’s your brand’s thing, in which case, rock on), right? So don’t ignore how your website is representing you in the digital realm. While it doesn’t have to look or sound fancy, it does need to show your business at its best.
Think of professionally written website copy like a custom tailored suit for your business. It’s timeless. It pairs well with other pieces in your repertoire. It costs you, for sure. But since top-notch craftsmanship went into it, you’ll get a lot of mileage out of it. Most important of all, it will make you — and your business — feel like a million bucks.