Yeah, I know. Pairing window washing and professional B2B writing seems odd.
But bear with me for a few minutes and you’ll find that the story behind that pairing could save you a ton of time, money and … aggravation.
I’m a professional industrial B2B copywriter.
But in my youth – well, when I was in my early- to mid-twenties – I washed store windows for a living.
You’ll soon find that what happened back then is important to you when hiring a copywriter.
I’ll finish with some tips on hiring a copywriter for your business.
Professional tools yield professional results
I started my cleaning service back in the 1980s. It had a cool name, or at least I thought so.
My one-man-band of a business was call ResiComm Cleaning, a hybrid of Residential and Commercial. While I did some residential cleaning, the real money was in commercial work. Businesses needed their windows cleaned on a regular schedule and were willing to pay decent prices for it.
I had a decent window route and was doing pretty good on just that service alone. And I could always count on steady work from businesses with large glass storefronts. Why?
Little kids with grimy, sticky fingers. Bless them, each and every one!
I got all my supplies from a janitorial supply service. Sure, I could have gotten it cheaper at the local discount store. But the results are better with professional tools.
And I was a professional.
Then came the amateurs
The economy slumped and there were a lot of layoffs. So, what did a lot of people do? They rushed on down to K-Mart, Walmart and other stores, and bought squeegees, buckets and mops. They decided it would be a good idea to go into the window cleaning business.
Easy money, right?
I lost several customers. Not because I did a bad job. I had excellent testimonials of my work. I used professional equipment and even trained with longtime pros. But these new, window-cleaning wannabes undercut my prices. Sometimes by a lot. They often did a poor job, but they did it cheaply.
They didn’t have the overhead I did. They were just trying to make a few bucks on the side until they got their jobs back.
But … this was what I did for a living.
As fast as they arrived, they disappeared
The economy went back up and folks returned to their jobs.
This left a lot of business owners with dirty windows. My phone began to ring off the hook as former clients called. When they asked me how much I would charge, I told them it was the same as before.
“But, Steve. We were getting it done for half that price by the last person. What’s up with that?”
“Well … why did you let him go?”
“We didn’t. He got his job back and … Oh.”
I would politely remind them that I was still here and always had been. I wasn’t doing this for extra cash … it was my business. It was how I made my living: helping them showcase their good reputation to their customers. I understood the importance of cleanliness to their business.
In 99% of the cases, I got the gig back at the same price as before.
It’s the same with B2B copywriting
It’s been a long time since those days.
Writing copy and content marketing for industrial B2B companies has been my business for several years. And while I still help companies showcase their reputation and product to their clients, it’s a little different.
I help them build a good reputation through words, not windows.
While I did windows back then, I also cleaned carpets, waxed floors and cleaned offices. And the majority work was done for commercial businesses. I didn’t mow lawns, fix cars or do any other non-cleaning related services.
I was a full service cleaning company. I had a niche that eventually focused entirely on commercial cleaning.
Those temporary window cleaners just did windows. They weren’t set up to do the other services a business might need. That would cost too much. That’s part of what separates the amateur from the professional, both in window cleaning and in copywriting.
My writing clients also have a one-stop shop for services they need. And I’ve spent the bucks to ensure they get top-notch copywriting.
As promised earlier, I’ll leave you with some tips on hiring a writer for your business.
Expense … or investment?
It’s more than just an attitude or feeling.
It’s a real concern. But when it comes to hiring a copywriter, some marketers forget. Their hiring goal is to get the most writing for the cheapest price. You can tell because one of their first questions is, “How much will this cost? What is your rate?”
Honestly, if that question comes up first in a discussion, I usually thank them politely for contacting me and wish them the best. And the call is over.
They would be better off going to one of those discount text brokers if all they’re worried about is cost, and not results.
Really, until I learn about their business, the main purpose of the project and who their typical customer or buyer is, how can I even start to quote a fee? Until I know who their competitors are and what is or isn’t working for them, there is no way I can submit a fair proposal.
A quote for copy by the word or by the hour should send up a red flag that the work would be an expense, not an investment.
What to look for and what to avoid
Check out their writer’s website.
They should have one. Reading it will give you a good feel for their writing style. It’s an online portfolio of sorts. You can tell a lot about writers from what they say about their own services and products. If their copy is poorly written, or it they don’t even have a website, you may have your answer already.
One other thing to check is how easy it is to contact them from their website. I include a contact form, email address, my office phone number and mailing address. If business owners can’t contact me, they just haven’t tried.
Are they familiar with your target audience?
I write in the business-to-business category. More specifically, industrial B2B manufacturing. I will write for other B2B companies from time to time. But only if I am familiar with their market or product. If not, I can usually point them to someone who is.
When a writer understands your market, the learning curve for your product or service shortens. If they’ll write about anything, their work may be mediocre at best.
How do they charge?
Notice I didn’t say how much. Charging by the word or hour is often a sign of an amateur. Honestly, there is no way to determine how many words it takes to make your case. Hourly rates aren’t fair to you either. I’m not saying that they’ll pad their hours. But it happens.
Professional writers will have a fee range for their services. There are many factors that go into quoting a project. The pro will explain why he quoted as he did. One of the factors is covering the inevitable revision process.
Avoid content mills like the plague.
These are the penny-a-word websites. They are filled with people who have no real copywriting experience. There may be some good writers, even great ones. But most of them have no idea about how to write marketing copy and content. That means you’ll have to train them.
Can you afford that? Do you have that kind of time to spend?
There are some job sites that do have trained copywriters. One that comes to mind is DirectResponseJobs.com. This site is sponsored by an actual training company, American Writers & Artists, Inc. The copywriters, graphic designers, photographers and other web professionals listed there have learned their craft with some of the best working professionals in the business.
So, will you spend money on words or invest in copywriting?
The choice is yours.
You can go the cheap route and hire an amateur from one of the myriad content mills. You won’t pay much for the copy. But that could cost you a lot of money and aggravation in the long run. You need more than just words to sell. You need effective copywriting.
In the end, you really only have two options for getting the results you need:
- Hiring a writer from a job site stocked with well-trained writers, or
- Hiring a copywriting professional who’s spent his or her own money in training, self-marketing and continuing education.
Anything else is just money down the drain.
Wishing you the very best of success,
Article written by Steve Maurer – Steve Maurer Freelance Writing