How to Work With Your B2B Copywriter
So, you’ve hired a freelance business-to-business copywriter. Admittedly, it’s a scary process. No matter how many testimonials your B2B copywriter may have or their relevant experience, you won’t know if they’re the right fit until you work with them.
And let’s face it: freelance copywriters for hire are, as they say, are a dime a dozen. And, to mix metaphors, it’s hard to find that doubloon out of all those dimes, the sort of freelance B2B copywriter who:
- Writes great (and relevant) B2B copy
- Makes their deadlines
- Is reliable
- Is easy (and dare I say, a joy?) to work with
In the long run, it is much less expensive to hold onto that golden B2B copywriter than having to troll for new ones every time you need a new piece of marketing content. But copywriters remember how a client treats them. Therefore, you want to make yourself the type of client they put at the top of their list.
This is especially important for those of you marketers in the high-tech or enterprise tech field, where your offerings aren’t easy to understand at a glance. While this guide is for everyone with B2B copywriting needs, it’s especially relevant to those of you who need to hire a freelance technology copywriter—because finding a tech-savvy writer who offers all those aforementioned bullet points, may be harder to find than your average gold coin.
So, I’ve compiled some tips for optimizing that relationship to ensure success for both you and the B2B copywriter you’ve just hired. For the record, these tips work whether you found an expert content writer with years of experience in your industry or someone you found on Fiverr, who promises to write a great blog post for $10.1 They also work with copywriters you’ve worked with for years because it’s never too late to improve your relationship with them!
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1. Choose a reasonable pilot project for your new B2B copywriter to work on.
The most sensible way to start with your new freelance B2B copywriter is to put them on a pilot project. Typically, that’s a small project where you put out relatively minimal funds for something that, if it doesn’t work out, hasn’t put you or them out too much financially. A good pilot project might be:
- a 1000-word blog post
- an 800-word bylined article
- a 1000-word case study
In addition, you might want to make that topic evergreen in nature. That way you don’t face the added risk of any complications preventing something time-sensitive from being published at the ideal moment.
2. Pay your freelance B2B copywriter a deposit for the pilot project.
Personally, I ask new clients to pay me a 50% deposit up front before I start on any project. It minimizes my risk because sadly, I’ve learned the hard way that some clients are dishonorable. But how would paying a deposit benefit your relationship with your B2B copywriter even if they don’t ask? It shows you have trust in them to do the work—and that faith goes a long way toward generating goodwill with your freelancer. Don’t be shocked to see them put in that extra effort or finish deliverables ahead of schedule to impress you because you’ve shown signs of being the type of client they want to keep!
3. Make sure you’ve expressed clear goals for your project.
You’re not doing your B2B copywriter any favors by failing to give them a clear idea of how you envision the finished content. Both you and your freelancer are better served when you can provide a clear overview of your topic and goals for this pilot deliverable.
I highly recommend writing a creative brief that delineates your expectations the final product. These may include:
- Its topic
- Your target audience
- Your goal (or at least primary goal) for publishing it
- Its tone
- Specific items that must be included in the deliverable (like boilerplate language, the use of a certain template or any notable editorial guidelines)
- People to be interviewed
- Background information to be provided
- Keywords to incorporate
You have several options in creating your creative brief, from a conventional Excel spreadsheet, such as this one created by Smartsheet, to a Kanban-style Trello board (I’m a huge fan of Trello, and it’s free to start using—and many people and companies never need more than the free version).
But a creative brief on its own isn’t enough. You must schedule a kickoff call so that your B2B copywriter has an opportunity to discuss the creative brief. This kickoff call benefits you because it gives you the opportunity to interact with your writer and get a feel for them.
Also, maybe you don’t have a clear idea of what you want produced. Maybe you have a topic you want to discuss on your blog, but you aren’t sure the right angle to take. That’s okay; an experienced freelance B2B copywriter can brainstorm with you on the kickoff call about specifics. Having said that, you need to have enough of an idea of your goals to give them something to go on.
4. Reiterate the scope of the project.
I could have included this in the previous tip. But this really bears mentioning if you want to work effectively with your B2B copywriter. Your contract should describe the parameters of the project. Here are a couple of examples:
- 1,200-word blog post due two weeks after contract has been signed
- 1,000-word bylined article due 30 days after the writer has interviewed the person to be attributed
And so forth.
But periodically, the final product may threaten to extend beyond the scope of the contracted project. Sometimes that isn’t a big deal, such as when a blog post ends up being 200 words longer than the originally agreed-upon rate. But if this hypothetical blog post starts to run 2,000 words or more (something SEO experts increasingly are recommending), particularly when this expansion is based on your edits or changes, you should express a willingness to revisit the project rate. To some degree, the onus is on your writer to speak up, if only because clients sometimes don’t realize the added work involved. But if you fail to do so (whether by ignorance or not), you need to listen when your writer does speak up. And whatever you do, do not pressure your writer to deliver it anyway. You will only create negative feelings over the long term.
5. Set clear milestones and due dates with your freelance copywriter.
An experienced B2B copywriter will bring up milestones and due dates to you if you don’t. But since this ultimately is your marketing project, you should take the lead in setting these dates. In some cases, you will need to negotiate these dates with your freelancer, but the milestones and due dates should be set no later than the kickoff call.
Also, be sure to commit to holding up those milestones on your end. You can’t very easily insist that your freelancer must turn in their final version on Thursday if your team fails to give them their edits until Wednesday night. Those internal issues are your problem, not theirs. Moreover, you put them in an awkward position when they have other clients to service. If you don’t follow up on your end, you may discover your freelance writer can’t slot you in again for another week. Their time is valuable, just like yours.
Bonus tip: Consider giving your B2B copywriter access to your project management system. If they can access your Workfront installation or a relevant Trello board, they can get automated reminders at each step of the process. Better, they can communicate with you directly, rather than via email, which limits the possibility of directives or other information getting lost or not seen.
6. Decide on reviewers before the freelance project starts.
This is especially important for longer projects, such as white papers and ebooks. Decide at the start of the project who will review your freelance copywriter’s content. This will prevent someone coming onto the project halfway through and changing the original objective for the project, as well as its scope, an unnecessary headache!
If for some reason change can’t be helped (because of the arrival of a new marketing director who has their own ideas of what the project must accomplish, for example), then revisit the scope of the project and clarify the new goals and revised payment for your writer as soon as possible.
7. Pay your freelance copywriter on time.
Don’t make your B2B copywriter chase you over a payment. If your agreement says you will pay NET30 on this pilot project, make sure the payment gets to them no later than 30 days after the final invoice. If you’re paying by check, make sure you mail it a week in advance. Or offer to pay by ACH or through some other method like Square, Stripe or PayPal. Many writers will even take credit cards! Consider checking into your writer’s preferred payment method when you send the initial deposit and stick to it.
Why am I harping on this? Two reasons:
- It’s the right thing to do, regardless of whether you’re happy with the work or not. If you don’t like the freelancer’s work, you don’t have to hire them again. But you don’t want to get a reputation of being the sort of company that forces writers to chase after you for money. It’s not a good look, and you never know when rumors will spread.
- If you do like the writer’s work, paying them on time makes them feel that you value their services. Again, you show that basic respect and decency because freelancers, whether they’re B2B copywriters or designers or anyone else, don’t get a regular paycheck. They have to pay self-employment taxes, pay significantly more for health insurance than you do, and have to market their services. In short, they are a business, just as you are. They need your payment. If you fail to show that understanding and respect, you risk losing them to a more reliable client.
Bonus tip: Found yourself a golden B2B copywriter? Pay them on time and offer them another project to get started on. Give them that much more reason to place you first on their client list.
8. Offer to write your B2B Copywriter a Testimonial
Freelance B2B copywriters, particularly in the technology space, gain much of their business through referrals and positive feedback. A quick three-sentence endorsement describing the quality of their work and how it benefitted your organization can make a huge difference to their bottom line. They can post it on their website or their LinkedIn page. And don’t be surprised if they offer to write a recommendation praising your top-notch management skills in return.
Bonus Tip 1: Don’t be shy about asking your B2B writer for a LinkedIn recommendation. They understand that positive feedback benefits you just as it does for them!
Bonus Tip 2: Consider recommending your freelancer to colleagues at other companies who have similar content writing needs. While it’s tempting to hoard a great writer to yourself, remember that unless you have enough work to keep them “in the manner to which they are accustomed,” freelancers need diversity in clientele much as investors need diversity in their financial portfolios. A wider portfolio of clients translates into more financial security and more opportunity for growth, things that every business strives for. And your B2B copywriter will appreciate your efforts and seek to help you out in any way they can!
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Conclusion: Building Your Relationship With Your B2B Copywriter
All these tips lead to my biggest tip of all for working with your B2B copywriter: Seek to establish a relationship with them. A strong relationship with a great B2B copywriter transcends companies and makes you stronger in the long run.
Quick suggestion: Don’t take that route. The time you waste with someone that inexperienced will cost you more in the long run. There’s a reason they can charge so little, and rarely is it because of a lack of confidence. ↩︎