It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

Let’s look at copywriting from another perspective — the client’s…

It’s Mailbox Monday.  Which means today is the day for me to answer YOUR questions.  About marketing, selling, copywriting, business, life, whatever…

To have your question answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday, just submit it via the simple form right here.

Now on to today’s question…

Roy,

I’m hiring 2 new email copywriters for my business, how do you suggest I train them?

Thanks,

R

Ah, the struggle!

Let’s throw a frame around this — some context…

There are a TON of copywriters out there now.  Copywriting has pretty much become a commodity skill.  It’s easy to get for the lowest bid, and the writing you’ll get from these people tends to be a passable mediocre.

(If you’re a copywriter, I’m not saying YOU have to be a commodity — simply that THE ACT of putting words on paper in a marketing context is a commodity.  Just look at Fiverr and Upwork if you disagree.)

There’s now a huge range in price and quality.

So the advice you need to follow needs to, in some respects, adapt to this.  If you’re hiring cheap, you may have to work harder.  If you’re hiring inexperienced, you may have to work harder.  If you invest more in a more experienced copywriter, your work in managing them is probably less — but you pay for that.

I’m not just coming at this from the perspective of a copywriter, either.

I’ve primarily made my living since 2005 as “a copywriter.”  But I’ve also held full-time marketing and sales jobs.  I’ve hired full-time marketing people and writers.  I’ve been a copy chief, and hired freelancers as well as supervised staff copywriters.  I’m currently working with a junior copywriter on a client project.

In short, I’ve worked with copywriters and copywriting in most of the different common contexts.  So I know the struggle.

The dirty truth about copywriters…

Copywriters are human beings.  And as human beings, they’re subject to all the variability and quirks and shortcomings of other human beings.

Not only that, most of them are “creatives” — which in our culture brings an acceptance of traits such as disorganized and unpredictable.  Not all are that way, but it’s more likely when hiring copywriters than engineers that you’ll have to manage these traits as well as work output (or work hard to screen for them in hiring).

Copywriters definitely follow the 80/20 rule.  20% of copywriters are responsible for 80% of the success.  Of those top 20%, 20% still (4% of the total) account for 80% of the 80% of results (64%).

So really, if you’re looking for a pretty darn good copywriter that will take less work to get better results, you need to hire right.

That is, expect only 1 in 25 copywriters to be pretty good.  And you can screen out many in the hiring process, but still the only real way to know if they’ll be good or not (including both their results and how they are to work with) is to test their writing and let them succeed or fail on their own.

(Note though: Even the best copywriters don’t knock it out of the park every time.  This testimonial from Doug D’Anna about Gary Bencivenga is telling: “If a copywriter beats the control one out of four times, you’ve got a really good copywriter. If he beats it two out of four times, you’ve got a great copywriter. If he beats it seven out of eight times, you’ve got Gary Bencivenga.”  Beating the control 1 out of 4 times makes “a really good copywriter.”)

Hire slow, fire fast…

If there’s any hiring advice I wish I’d taken more, it’d be this.

Don’t just try to fill a spot.  Find the right person.  The way this question was asked, it may be too late.  But the reality is that they may churn pretty quickly if they’re not a good fit.  So hold onto this advice whether or not you’ve already hired.

My goal in hiring copywriters would be to look for someone who has experience in the field I’m looking to hire them for.  They don’t have to have a ton.  And yes, I recognize from the other side the challenge this creates.  But even a little bit of experience in a role and field goes a long way to weed out the bottom 80%.

You can also bring them in slowly.  Maybe even if you’re hiring full-time, you give them test projects.

Hire them for a few emails, freelance, as a way to test them for full-time work.

And even when you hire for full-time work, make it crystal-clear in your contract that you’re hiring them on a conditional basis for a set period of time, and at that point you will extend an offer for ongoing employment if the fit is right.

One of the best things you can do in any relationship is to have a clear exit strategy, if things don’t go well.  You hope you don’t have to use it.  But it’s there if you do.

What to do when the copywriters are in the door…

Your #1 rule is to set clear expectations.  You should hire them and give them the tools and freedom to succeed and fail on their own, but you need to define what success looks like.

This is critically important.  Because most people will work hard to live up to fair but challenging expectations.  But if you don’t give people clear expectations, they’ll do just what it takes to get by.

So you need to define success, give them criteria that you’re looking for them to meet, and let them meet it.

But what criteria?

Well, here’s an example.  Agora Financial, one of the most successful copywriting-driven businesses out there today, has three things copywriters need to do every day.

  1. Read a full promotion. That is, study what’s out there. Preferably what’s working.  (Although there can be value in studying what failed, despite the best expectations, too.)
  2. Write a page of copy every day. 500 to 1,000 words. Write, write, write.  More is better, but it has to be reasonable and realistic.
  3. Come up with one new marketing idea every day. That is, come up with an idea to attract and engage the attention of your market.

You have to decide what works here, for your business.  But this is a pretty good set of minimums, for any copywriter.

Study, write, and think.  Study, write, and think.  Every day.

If you have copywriters on staff who are consistently doing these three things, it’s pretty likely they’ll succeed to their fullest ability.

Hold them accountable to the process (not necessarily the results).  Have they done that, every day?  Did they do these tasks?

Then, it’s up to you to make sure they get their copy tested, and they get the feedback of knowing how it did or didn’t work.  With the expectation that they’ll write copy that gets results.

The hard part is that it isn’t pure science — there’s an art to copywriting, and to managing copywriters.  But that’s also what makes it fun, and rewarding when you succeed.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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