What’s a Good First Project For a Copywriter?

Soo… you’ve hit the stage in your business where you’re ready to hire a copywriter…

You just have no freakin’ idea where to start.

Because yeah, you’ve read about how the right strategic words can open up a firehose of cash straight into your bank account. 

But when it comes to actually hiring a copywriter, you feel unsure and overwhelmed. 

There are so many different things you can hire a copywriter to do. But some projects will be more profitable than others. When you start in a smart, strategic way, you’ll get the best results. 

What should you focus on first? What is the top priority? Which copy projects will have the greatest ROI?

Keep reading for helpful advice on hiring your first copywriter – and where they should focus their attention first. 

Always Start With One Small Thing

When you choose the first project for a copywriter, start with something small.

I know your head is spinning as you imagine all the gorgeous potential newsletters, case studies, e-books and email campaigns you could create together. But it’s so important not to get ahead of yourself. 

If this is the first time you’ve ever worked with this copywriter before, slow down and take it one step at a time. 

Baby steps, honey!

I never recommend leaping into a gigantic project, or committing to a large monthly retainer, until you’ve done at least one small-to-medium sized project with that copywriter. 

My advice, start with one clearly-defined small to medium sized project (such as a product page or a landing page) and get that done successfully first, then you can move onto the next thing. 

There are many reasons for this, including:

  • This small initial project will give you and the copywriter a chance to see how well you work together and iron out any issues in communication or process. 
  • You’ll be able to gauge the quality of the copywriter’s work without making a huge, long-term investment. 
  • There’s a chance that the finished product might not be a good fit for what you want. Better to have taken the risk on a small product, rather than a full marketing overhaul. 
  • You can start testing the results of their work sooner and find out if the copy actually performs. 
  • You can apply everything you learn from the first small project to a bigger and more substantial copywriter project later. 

A lot of copywriters like to work this way as well, because they are getting a feel for you as a client as much as you are getting a feel for them. They won’t be offended if you want to start small and go from there!

Before You Even START Writing – Think Strategy

A good first project for a copywriter always starts with strategy

The first step for ANY copywriting project should always be research and strategy. 

Your copywriter needs to take some time to learn about WHO they’re writing to, and HOW they’re going to connect with them – otherwise they’re just throwing wild guesses out into the abyss.

(I cover the research step in more depth in my post about my 4-Step Conversion Copywriting Process.)

There’s no getting around this step and it’s one of the most commonly overlooked and underrated parts of the process. 

If you haven’t figured out your niche, your target audience, your core values, your differentiators and the specific problem your product is solving for your customer, you’ll need to do that BEFORE the copywriter starts their first project. 

A good copywriter will talk to you about this upfront, either in a questionnaire or an intake call. They may be able to help you figure this out as part of their service, or they might refer you to a brand strategist to tackle this step first. 

But either way, a copywriter will NEED this information in order to write effective copy for you. 

NOTE: If the copywriter doesn’t mention or ask about this at all, it’s a red flag. 

How will they convince anyone to buy your product if they don’t know why a customer would be driven to seek out that product in the first place? It’s easy to invent copy off the top of your head that “sounds” right, but you’ll get a much better ROI if you work with a copywriter who actually takes the time to learn about your audience and connect with their specific needs, pain points and desires. 

Copy Should Always Come Before Design

What is the best first project for a copywriter? Should copy come before design or vice versa?

If you’ve hired a copywriter and a web designer or graphic designer at the same time, you might be wondering how they should work together. 

Should the designer make the website first, then the copywriter can add their copy?

Or should the copywriter get the words right, then the designer makes those words look awesome?

After 14 years in the game, I have a very strong opinion about this. 

It’s much better to design around copy, than to write copy around design. 

Now, I’m not just saying that because I have some sort of gargantuan copywriter ego! And I’m also not saying that design isn’t super important. 

But design should serve to breathe life into the story that the copy is telling. What we are saying to our customers is the most important thing. The job of design is to deliver that message in the most eye-catching, easy-to-digest, attractive and on-brand way. 

When you try to write copy around the design, you inevitably end up having to fill up spaces with fluff, or condense your well-thought-out copy into a specific word-count. This can compromise conversions. 

For a great data-backed example of why you should focus on copy first, then design second, check out this series of A/B tests from Hubspot. Ideally, you nail your copywriting message first. Then, the designer can figure out the best way to package that message and convey it to the customer. 

And of course, in order to do this effectively, your copywriter and designer need to be connected and working together. 

Start From The Point of Sale and Work Backwards

The best first project for a copywriter is usually at the point of conversion

So, now we’re getting to the real answer to this question – “Which copywriting project should I focus on first?” 

My answer? You should always start at the place where the conversion is being made

In other words, where does the customer actually click a button and purchase your product?

You can have a killer email sequence with a sky-high click-through rate, or an absolutely magnetic Facebook ad that drives a steady flow of traffic. 

But what happens when that traffic hits your landing page, which is outdated, badly-written and not optimised for conversions?

All those potential sales are going to fizzle out and you’ll have wasted a lot of time and money. 

It’s like printing out hundreds of flyers for a sale at your store, but all the cash registers are broken. No matter how many people the flyers attract, you won’t be able to enjoy the benefits. Instead, people will leave confused and frustrated. 

It makes sense to start at the point of sale and work backwards. 

Make sure your cash register (the page where people click a button and give you money) is converting correctly. Then, work outwards from there to create a sales funnel of copy and content that will attract people TO that cash register. 

That might include Facebook ads, blog posts, lead magnets, whitepapers or other content, depending on your niche. (Your copywriter will probably have suggestions on how best to attract your ideal customer to your page, depending on where your customer hangs out online.)

Start The First Project With Your Copywriter, Confidently

So, there you have it! Once you’ve found the right copywriter for your business, remember to:

  • Start with a small/medium sized project and go from there. 
  • Make sure research and strategy is part of their process. (Or completed beforehand.)
  • Get the copy done before the design, not vice versa. 
  • Start at the point where conversions are made, then work backwards.

Every copywriter you work with will have a slightly different process, so take the time to find someone who is a good fit for your business. With the right approach, this will be the first of many projects that will bring you hot leads, help you make more sales and grow your brand. 

P.S. If you’re looking for expert guidance you can take action on right now that will boost your conversions, I recommend a Copy Clarity Audit

I’ll analyse your existing copy and give you clear step-by-step instructions on how to improve it. It’s perfect for you if you’re a busy business owner and you need a quick win!

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