As a technical copywriter, I specialise in producing content that’s clear and simple. Whether I’m creating or editing text, my clients usually have a reasonable idea of what they’re going to get when they hire me to write or improve their documents.
But this doesn’t mean that I’m always the best fit for every job. So, to make sure I don’t waste your time, here are 5 reasons why I might not be the best person to help with your writing project.
- You want a cheap service
- You want it done yesterday
- You want to hand over everything
- You want to control everything
- You want something I don’t provide
- Pro tip: prioritise your most important content
- What if I do need to pay someone to write my content?
- Let’s wrap up
Put another way, my ideal client isn’t going to be put off by anything in this post.
Reason 1. You want a cheap service
We need some web content for our new sprockets and can offer £15 per page.
Many people will look at my day rates and think they’re just too expensive. I totally understand that.
Extreme honesty warning: if price is the main driving factor behind your decision to engage a technical writer, you’ll be able to find cheaper options elsewhere.
My day rates reflect my skills and experience, as well as the general interest in and demand for my services. A lot of people are scared to share their prices, because they think they’ll frighten people off. I’d rather be transparent and build trust by showing potential customers that I have nothing to hide. Pricing is a hot topic for a lot of service providers, so I’ve written about this here: Pricing: a question of trust.
The challenge for me and other copywriters is always to demonstrate the value that we can provide to a business. Once that value proposition is clear, the price of the service isn’t usually an issue. But there are cases where budgets simply won’t stretch to hiring a professional writer.
Sometimes the size of the project is too small or not of enough strategic importance to justify hiring professional help.
Did you know?
In the PCN’s 2017 survey of pay rates among copywriters, the average figure reported was £339 per day. In London, the figure was £392 per day.
Reason 2. You want it done yesterday
We need 500 words on sprockets by the close of play tomorrow.
I’m used to working to tight deadlines, but sometimes clients expect too much in too short a space of time.
To produce effective content for your business, a writer needs to spend time doing research. They need to understand the business, the audience and the aims of the content. Clients don’t often think about research when it comes to commissioning writing services, instead treating words as commodities that can be bought in bulk.
But words are not commodities, and research really matters when it comes to producing a quality result.
It’s tough for any writer to produce good-quality copy at short notice unless they already know your business and the audience really well. So, if you’re hiring someone for the first time, don’t expect miracles: it’s really tough to create great content with a fast turnaround time.
I take pride in my work and won’t risk my reputation by agreeing to an unrealistic deadline.
Reason 3. You want to hand over everything
We need a new manual for our sprockets. I'm off to Croatia for two months now. Best of luck.
It’s great when a client trusts me to get on with the job and return a solid piece of work.
What’s not great is when they want to hand over the whole thing and not be involved during the course of the project. When that happens, the end result is usually the client saying ‘that’s good, but …’ – and then I’m told something that I should have been told earlier.
I don’t want to take the risk of delivering something that the client isn’t happy with, so I keep the lines of communication open, checking that the client is happy with what I’m doing as I go along.
When I work on technical writing projects, I interview the client to understand the needs of the intended audience. Together, we create a pen portrait so we know exactly who we’re talking to.
Once the project is under way, I provide ongoing feedback and engage in discussions about processes and structure. (This is the sort of thing that’s best done at the beginning of a job, but in reality I always end up finding out about something that needs to be clarified as we go along.)
Reason 4. You want to control everything
We'll need a full status report on the sprocket documentation for each of this week's conference calls.
It’s good for clients to have a clear idea of what they want. But that doesn’t mean micromanaging hired help. Remember that freelance technical writers are used to fitting in with existing teams and understanding how the business runs. This sort of expertise is partly what the client is paying for when they engage an editorial pro.
One of the big issues I see with clients who want to retain full control of the work is that they’re rarely open to suggestions for improving processes.
I spent some time as a quality assurance manager for Virgin Media, and I enjoy looking at how processes can be improved. Often, this goes beyond the scope of just the documents I’ve been asked to work on. That’s because I don’t see the point in producing beautifully written documents that I can tell will be ineffective because of some other problem in your system. If I spot such problems, you can expect me to point them out and suggest changes.
My process-improvement approach adds a lot of value to my clients. They’re paying for someone who’s good with words, but I’m also throwing in a bit of business consultancy as part of the service.
It’s understandable that some clients will want a writer who works to rule and doesn’t try to think about the wider business. If you just want words on a page and nothing else, perhaps I’m not the right person for you.
You don’t buy a dog and then bark yourself
It can be difficult to let go, but if you’re going to hire a pro, you have to trust your copywriter.
Reason 5. You want something I don’t provide
Can you help us jiggle our sprockets and splice the mainbrace?
My core services are writing and editing content. But in the past I’ve been asked to create websites, produce technical illustrations, set up online examinations and manage mailing lists.
It’s good to push out of my comfort zone and learn new skills, but I’d rather be confident in providing a core service than chancing my arm by charging for something in which I have no deep expertise.
When I’m asked to handle a task that isn’t something I advertise, I’ll take one of these approaches:
- Referral to a colleague – if I can’t do the job, I’ll introduce my client to one of many colleagues who will be able to help. I know website designers, graphic designers, voiceover artists, technical illustrators, translators, virtual assistants and more besides.
- Project management – if the budget allows for it, I can engage and oversee the work of one or more skilled professional colleagues. That way, I handle the writing work while also being project manager for the job.
What I won’t do is pretend to have a skill just so that I can keep all the work for myself.
Pro tip: prioritise your most important content
A lot of copywriters might curse me for saying this, but your content doesn’t always need to be written or edited by an editorial professional. There are times when the text you have is good enough for its intended purpose, and you won’t benefit significantly from changing it.
Say the handle on your toilet is slightly loose. You might open up the cistern and try to fix it. But if the main outlet pipe is cracked and the floor’s getting wet, you’ll probably need help.
You don’t need a plumber for every issue with your bathroom. Neither do you need an editorial pro for every writing challenge. Sometimes, you can’t justify such expenditure – and that’s OK.
What if I do need to pay someone to write my content?
Before you hire a technical writer to work on any project for your business, check out my 12 things to look for when hiring a freelance technical writer.
Finding the right person will mean you’re best placed to work with someone who can add real value to your business. They’ll explain how your products and services work in clear and simple language that’s pitched just right for your target audience. That can mean you gain more new customers, retain existing subscribers, educate your employees and more besides.
Let’s wrap up
What has your experience been of working with a technical writer? If you’ve hired someone and it didn’t work out, what went wrong? (I’m not asking for names!) If you’ve had positive experiences when hiring writers, what made them stand out? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.