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How to Spot a Bad Copywriter

In our blog last week we discussed the increasing emphasis placed by Google on fresh and original content, and how this gave rise to the self-styled independent copywriter. We also looked at some simple ways to find out if your copywriter was up to scratch and, more importantly, suitable for your business.

It’s not always enough, however, to be able to spot the signs of a good copywriter; sometimes in order to avoid making the wrong choice you need to be able to recognise the warning signs early. The following article is designed to point out a few potential red flags, and prevent you from wasting money on uninteresting and inadequate content.

A Question of Content

A seemingly inane title, yes, but it draws attention to the need to finely pick apart any content you’re provided with in order to tell if it meets the standard that your business deserves. Obviously a good copywriter is only as good as their content, so it’s the best place to start to work out whether or not they’re worth your time and money. If they have provided you with a portfolio, the most important thing to look out for is range and variety; have they written for a lot of different industries? Do they understand how a blog differs in tone and pacing to a product description? If the answers to these questions are no, or you’re finding a lot of repetitive wording, then the chances are they’re not versatile enough to work with your company.

If you’re already in the drafting process, make sure you check the pieces you’ve been provided with against other sources of information on the web. It’s true that a lot of material is ultimately recycled, but a quick Google search should reveal just how much of the content you’ve paid for is actually original. If you consistently find phrases borrowed here and there, then it could be the case that your copywriter isn’t doing everything they’re being paid for. Content that is overly long or saturated with an overwhelming amount of industry jargon can also be an indicator of a poor service, as it suggests the writer is mindlessly ‘translating’ pieces that they’ve found online.

Mistakes in drafts are inevitable, and shouldn’t be held against the writer if they crop up every so often. The key is to work together to make sure all errors are corrected before the content goes live.

Pricing Problems

As a general rule, copywriters who operate by a ‘price per words’ system don’t tend to write the most compelling, engaging pieces. Whilst obviously there will be exceptions to this rule, it’s widely accepted that most reputable copywriters will charge by page or hour rather than words or sentences. This is because, quite simply, it makes for better content. Take a moment to consider it; would your content be comprehensively planned out and refined if your writer suddenly got to 400 words and just stopped typing? Whilst it’s a good idea to establish word limits, these should only be put in place to make sure the copy fits in with your site’s design, and should always be negotiable.

Apart from these specific points, the same rules apply with copywriters as with any other independent designers. Is your copywriter difficult to get hold of? Are they slow or unwilling to make changes to the content? Conversely, do you feel that they’re not significantly adding to the project? All of these things are strong signs that it’s time to move on, and consider taking your website’s content in a different direction. If you’d like to learn more about our copywriting services and rates, please see our Contact Us page for more details on how to get in touch today.

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