There are more ‘writers’ out there than ever before, yet, it seems to be getting harder to find genuinely talented copywriters. Why? Because they are lost in a sea of sub-par writers.
There’s a theory about hammerhead sharks. Apparently, the females swim at the front of huge schools of hundreds of sharks, knowing that only the most determined and strongest males will reach them through the crowds.
I wish the world’s strongest writers would present themselves to me in this way, but that’s not going to happen, not yet anyway. So I’ve developed ways of finding them, but before you look for the right content writer, you need to establish what you’re looking for.
After managing a team of writers agency and client side, and spending a couple of years cherry picking writers for my content creation company (The Content Wolves), I know a thing or two about how to separate the wheat from the chaff. In my opinion, here are 12 qualities that all exceptional writers should have.
1. A unique style
I’ve read thousands of articles, both whilst researching content I’m writing myself, and when I’m on the hunt for writers to join my pack. There’s just so much content out there and so many people with a voice that want to be heard, but not everyone wants to read what’s they’ve got to say.
Perhaps the most important quality to look for a writer is a writing style that stands out. When you read their work it should resonate with you on a deeper level and make you stop and think, I’ve never read anything like this before.
It might just be down to certain words or phrases they use, or it could be their personality shining through the content that grabs you. But something about their writing style makes you take a second look. It’s not like every other bog standard article you’ve read, their writing should pack a punch.
2. The ability to write for the web
There are plenty of people that can write beautifully, but can they write for the web? Can they write an easy to digest, engaging blog post? You will probably come across writers who are trying to make it as digital copywriters, but they haven’t got a clue how to write for the web. You will notice this as soon as you read their material.
For example, some graduates still write in an essay type style that really doesn’t translate. Others write as though they are writing ad copy for a Mad Men type campaign on a billboard.
Whilst both these writing styles have their place, they need to be adapted for the online world. You want a writer who can deliver a share-worthy blog post or first class web copy from the get go.
3. The ability to generate an emotional response
When you read a writer’s work, you want to feel something. You want to absorb their words like a sponge. So, the next time you check out someone’s work, say to yourself, how does this copy make me feel?
It should make you happy, sad, envious, angry, enlightened or give you the urge to tell others about what you have seen. Keep in mind the content doesn’t have to do this on a grand scale. It might just be one particular sentence that resonates with you, and that’s enough to make you remember their writing.
4. A knowledge of SEO
Surprisingly, I’ve found that a lot of writers don’t have this skill. Although it’s not essential, it’s really handy. It means you don’t have to remind them to add a few internal or high authority links and relevant keywords into the copy.
I often end up having to do this myself if my writers don’t do it, and it takes more time than you would think, especially when you are editing 20 different articles. Those with an SEO background won’t need to be told what keyword to include, they will simply write their article with SEO in mind. Happy days.
5. Expertise in specialist areas
So many writers out there claim to be experts in things they haven’t got a clue about. Of course, thanks to the world wide web, you can research a topic. But there are some topics that require expert knowledge. There might be tons of articles about a particular topic, but you need a writer that knows which ones possess trustworthy information and up to date stats that can be used.
It’s much easier to work with a writer who is already an expert in your niche. They will most likely generate more accurate and useful copy for your audience. This is why I’ve put together my content wolf pack. I’ve selected writers who are experts in different areas, so I know I can provide my clients with exceptional copy.
I’ve come across certain writers who are quite difficult to work with. You want a writer who is easy to communicate with that doesn’t cause you any stress. It’s also handy to work with someone who can meet tight deadlines should you require a quick turnaround.
A lot of the busier writers won’t be able to do work without plenty of advanced notice. This is partly why I started to build a team of writers, because I was reaching full capacity and wanted to be able to meet my client’s needs.
7. The ability to meet deadlines
This may seem like a bit of an obvious one but it is so important. I get my writers to do a test piece so that I can not only check the quality of their writing, but also make sure they can meet deadlines.
It’s surprising how many people struggle with this, or think it’s fine to submit work a day late or the morning after a deadline with no advanced notice. I will only work with writers I know I can rely on, and after a few months of working with someone I know whether I can trust them or not.
8. The ability to take a brief and run with it
Some writers have a talent for taking a brief and getting on with it, others will need more guidance, which is fine, if you’re happy to put in the time. I like to help out other writers so sometimes, if someone shows promise, I will put in some extra work to get them to where I need them to be. But many business owners and content managers don’t have the time for this. They want a writer who knows their stuff and can follow a brief closely.
9. The ability to adapt to different writing styles
You don’t want a one trick pony. It’s hard to find writers that can change the way that they write depending on the topic. A lot of people will find it hard to stray from their normal writing style, which they feel comfortable with. Look for a writer than can write in a way that represents your brand accurately, and change their tone of voice to suit a range of different platforms and publications.
Some of my writers have a day job, which means they can only accept work at certain times. That’s fine if you are willing to be flexible and give them advance notice. However, if you need someone on hand for when a project comes in, then you may want to hire a writer who has enough capacity. Lots will say they have capacity because they don’t want to turn down work, but then they will end up failing to deliver or offering up work that has clearly been rushed.
It’s not just about the way they write. Writing copy for the web requires a little imagination. Writers need to be able to come up with punchy titles and creative content ideas, especially if they want to offer a complete service. If you want your content to stand out, keep your eyes peeled for a writer with a splash of creativity.
Too many articles just scratch the surface. In order to meet the word count, some writers will pad out their content. When you read an article, every sentence should serve a purpose, and if it doesn’t, cut it out. With millions of people publishing content every day, you need to make sure that the copy you get from your writer provides depth and value to the reader.