When people set up a new business, they want it to present professionally. They often outsource the more visible aspects first - hiring a designer or photographer or buying templates for social media or their website.

And that makes sense because first impressions count. We want new clients and customers to see us and think, “Wow, this business knows what they’re doing!”. 

But often, it's not until a fair few steps into your marketing that you realise you need help with the words (the copy).

So how do you know if you even need a copywriter, and when is the right time to find one?

First, I want to cover when it’s not the right time...

It's not the right time if:

Your business is brand new, and you’re still not sure exactly who you can help

A copywriter needs to know your business back to front (or at least aim to) so we can write about it clearly. And the way we get to that point is by asking you for a tonne of info! That’s why copywriting isn’t great for new businesses that still need to work out their core offers or target market.

The copy can only be as good as the information provided to us, and without knowing your audience, offer and unique approach, the final copy can end up sounding generic.

That’s not what I want for your copy! So I suggest holding off until you’ve worked with a few more people so you can make the most out of your copywriting experience.

It's not the right time if:

You have a template or pre-made design that cannot be modified

Image: Illustration 31129476 © Rizado | Dreamstime.com

Thankfully most websites can be easily customised these days. Because writing to fit a set design can be tricky and often leads to copy that doesn’t flow the way it should.

When I create copy, I format it as I write it. Throughout the entire process, I tweak and move things around. This process is often wild and intuitive, and I wouldn’t get even close to the same result if I tried to write within a premade template. I present the words the way I want them to be read, rather than where the template tells me to put words.

However, some copywriters offer copy editing and proofreading which doesn't always change the structure. They use the content you already have, tweak it and add to it, and then you can simply paste the new copy into the same structure. This is a great way to get professional eyes and input on your content without investing in a full copywriting project or needing to hire a designer and/or a developer.

It's not the right time if:

You’re hiring a copywriter just because someone said you should

I have been contacted multiple times by people wanting an email copywriter for a welcome email sequence just because they heard that every business needs to be emailing. But when I asked if they would continue email marketing once their sequence was set up, they said no. So my advice was this - Don’t spend money on something you don’t plan to have as a part of your marketing strategy.

This is precisely why I never judge (what I deem to be) poor websites or emails. Those businesses may get most of their clientele from in-person events, guest posting, or various other marketing techniques.

There is no one way to do marketing. And falling into the trap of “I need x, y and z for my business, even if I don’t use x, y or z” can be a quick way to drive up your costs and drain the business account.

Image: bongkarn thanyakij via Canva

So now we know when not to hire a copywriter, let’s get into when you should you hire one

Here are a few signs it may be time for you...

When you feel like you can't clearly articulate what makes your business unique

Being so close to our own work is a blessing and a curse! While it’s incredible to be so focused in one area, it’s often hard to step away enough to see the business the way new people do and also within the context of others in the space.

A copywriter will ask you lots (and lots and lots and lots) of questions to uncover all the special little bits that make your business exceptional. We will see your products, services and processes in a way you likely haven’t considered them.

Naturally, that gets you to think differently about your business as well. I love when my clients say, “Wow, this is something I’ve been doing forever. I’ve never thought to highlight it.”

And that’s exactly what a copywriter can do for you.

When you feel like you're just repeating yourself in your content

Being an expert in a field often means repeating yourself over and over and over again. Especially when you have 10, 15 or 20+ years’ worth of content in your head, it’s natural to keep defaulting to the same core topics and content. This can mean opening up a document to write a newsletter, blog or social post, and similar words just keep coming out.  

But here’s where it gets tricky – repetition is actually necessary in business. You need to keep educating people who are new to your business, but while also keeping long-term followers engaged with new content. 

By gaining a fresh perspective, new ideas and clarified wording, a copywriter can help you snap out of the monotony of content to articulate what you do in fresh and unique ways. This makes it more interesting for you and for your audience.

Image: AndreyPopov from Getty Images via Canva

When you’re hiring a designer

What comes first - the design or the copywriting?

And the answer is - copywriting! (That’s not just me saying that 😛 )

I’m yet to meet a designer that wants the copy to come after the design. In fact, the ones I’ve worked with won't design the layout until the copy is done (either by you providing your own copy or by hiring a copywriter).

Think of it this way: It’s like wrapping a gift.

When we buy a gift, we generally don’t decide on the size and shape of the gift wrap before we choose a gift. That’s because the wrapping is determined based on what’s inside. For example, a small box makes no sense for a big, fluffy teddy bear, and a paper bag makes no sense for a flower bouquet.

Likewise, the design wraps the words, so the designer needs to know what the words are to decide how they will wrap and present them.

That’s not to say that brand strategy and branding can’t come before copy – in fact, it’s easier for me if you have branding first, especially if you’re taking a new route with your brand personality. But the final design, especially for websites and sales pages, is often best done once the words have been completed.

When you want to create your own methodology

I absolutely love seeing people using a methodology or framework as the foundation for their service. And I believe that not having one to articulate the service to others is an opportunity missed. 

As a potential client, seeing a methodology shows me the person knows what they’re doing enough to have made an actual process out of their work. It provides me comfort because I know the process I will be led through, even before I reach out to them. It gives me confidence that I will likely be happy with the final result because my expectations are set and I’m clear on what’s happening from the very beginning.

I bet you already lead your clients through a specific process, even if you customise it for each person. Like with my work, my clients are unique, and the work I do varies based on their approach and industry. However, three core phases comprise my methodology, and they remain for all clients. With my methodology, I’m able to show potential clients what they can expect if we work together so they know there is a clear and calculated process to bring them the best possible result.

Image: Olya Kobruseva from Pexels via Canva

When you’re planning a rebrand

Rebranding is such an exciting time! But there are many moving parts. Unless you’re working with a marketing agency that can take care of the lot for you, there are a few people you will need to juggle and align.

My favourite way to work with clients is in between the brand strategy and brand design. I know some designers don't like breaking their process up this way, but I feel like it’s a really well-rounded approach.

When a client comes to me having already worked on the brand strategy and with an idea of their new brand image and personality (or even better – with their new photography!), it helps me picture the visual aspects so I can complement them with the words. I work with my client to create copy they love which we can pass back to the designer to complete.

From there, the designer may upload the content themselves, or you may need to hire a developer.  There are many specialists that can help no matter what stage you’re at. And of course, there is the cost that goes with that.

So when you’ve decided you want to rebrand at some point in the near future, start reaching out to people.  Get a general idea of costs, timeline and how they like to work with other service providers. Start mapping out how the rebrand would work within your timeline and, if possible, start before you’re desperate to get it done.

The best result always comes from excellent preparation and having the time and space to expand where needed.

Image: pixelshot via Canva

Still unsure about if and when the right time is for you?

Think of it this way: Most people don’t realise how early on they need a copywriter. If you’re an established business and know what your business is here to do in the world, start thinking about working with someone.

I see people leaving it until they’re desperate far more than I see people getting in too early. If you're hiring in a hurry, you may end up choosing someone you don’t feel aligned with and perhaps being disappointed.

Tell me, have you considered working with a copywriter before?

Is there anything else you’ve wondered about that I haven’t included? Let me know in the comments.

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