How to Hire the Right Marketing Pro, Consultant, or Copywriter

Photo by Freddy Marschall on Unsplash

7 min read

Finding a great marketing consultant, copywriter, or even designer might seem deceptively simple. I mean c’mon…just go over to Fiver and you’ll see how easy it is to hire someone (and on the cheap!).

But in this industry, the old adage “you pay for what you get” is truer than it’s ever been.

Here’s a list of 21 things you should be thinking about before you decide to hand over your hard-earned cash.

Make sure your chosen professional…

  1. Uses contracts, every time. Even with friends, and sometimes, even with family. Contracts outline expectations, deliverables, payment, timelines and everything else included in the project. Contracts are essential—they demonstrate respect for you as a client and the project at hand. Besides being legally binding and an absolute business must, they keep everyone psychologically safe. RUN AWAY IF YOUR MARKETING PRO DOES NOT USE CONTRACTS. Run. Fast.
  2. Doesn’t guarantee a specific ROI. Listen. I just went to the doctor the other day and had to sign something that said: “medicine is not an exact science.” And if medicine isn’t an exact science, you better believe that marketing isn’t. Yes, there is A/B testing and statistics and averages…but if someone is guaranteeing a figure that you’re going to walk away with…well it’s time to walk away from them. Copywriters, SEO experts, marketers…anyone who tells you that they will absolutely make you X amount is either mistaken or trying to rip you off. Plain and simple.
  3. Offers to test and tweak. If you’re working with a marketing pro on a long-term basis, then they should be testing, tweaking, and keeping an eye on the results of their work. This is what helps get you ROI and continue growing as a business.
  4. Proves their experience. Anyone can slap a label on their brand and claim they worked with anyone or any company. Demand proof in the form of their portfolio, or look at testimonials from real people (make sure you can find these supposed people on Linkedin to confirm that they are real).
  5. Stays within their wheelhouse. If you hire someone for copy and out of nowhere they start calling themselves an SEO expert… they’re either floundering for cash or they’re hiring out. Hiring out is fine, but make sure you’re not padding their overhead.
  6. Comes recommended. Make sure your pro has testimonials on their website or on LinkedIn.
  7. Never oversells you. A good consultant is willing to “lose” money by not overselling because they know that the integrity of their business and the quality of their client relationships are worth it in the long run. Always ask your pro WHY they are recommending something—if they don’t have a strategic answer, ask yourself if they’re really the one for you.
  8. Tells you when they can’t do something. As a consultant, I find great peace of mind in being honest about my skills and expertise. This is part of the proposal and pre-consulting process and it’s crucial to know if the client and the consultant are a good fit. In my business, usually that “something” I can’t do (or must outsource) is SEO or design-related. But sometimes…marketing pros will lie because they’re either afraid of looking dumb or they’re clamoring for money. If you suspect that your consultant is lying about their abilities, double check on their previous work experience, portfolio pieces, testimonials, and education.
  9. They know what they’re doing, and can prove their strategy. The best marketing pros can justify their work through logic that has your best interest (usually your bottom line) at its core. For creative pros, there should be intention and purpose behind everything they create.
  10. Has some interaction with the work. Sometimes your pro will be outsourcing or sub-contracting…and that’s totally fine, so long as the quality of the work doesn’t suffer. I know small agencies that do this, but the head writer/marketer/creative director always looks at work before it’s sent to the client. Not only does this ensure quality, it’s a mark of organization and pride in the work.
  11. Doesn’t use you or your business as a guinea pig. Unless you’re dying to try the latest marketing craze (and it’s been proven to work)—don’t let your marketing pro to talk you into something that has highly questionable ROI. I see this a lot with creatives too, who’ll use clients as a way to up-level their portfolio with stunning work that in the end, provided no “tangible” results for the client. Examples might include an incredible design that just doesn’t work for the industry’s tone or brand language that’s beautiful to read but doesn’t speak to the correct target audience.
  12. Encourages feedback and criticism. While your pro should be able to justify their reasoning behind their work or concepts, they should not become defensive. Ultimately, the client has to feel comfortable with the end result—you’re paying for it! If your pro doesn’t encourage feedback or constructive criticism, it could be because they’re a newbie or a diva…and in general, it’s good to steer clear of both types.
  13. Is pleasant and easy to deal with. The best pros keep it clear, confident, and drama-free. That doesn’t mean that they won’t have boundaries or requests, but the manner in which they speak must always be professional. If a pro allows their personal drama to seep into the conversation, or complains about the project you’re working on together, it’s time to reconsider. It’s simply not worth hiring someone who doesn’t value you as a client and the project at hand.
  14. Has established, clearly communicated boundaries. A good pro will let you know their preferred method of contact, hours of operation, and other important boundaries. If they don’t, they’re assuming you will know, and that’s a one-way track to misunderstanding and possibly resentment.
  15. Has at a firm grasp (at the very least) on business and sales fundamentals. Even junior designers and junior copywriters should know the basics—unless you’ve already got your business strategy down pat or have a director giving detailed instructions to the consultants—creatives and marketing pros will need to understand the end goal. And the end goal? It’s always to increase sales. As Don Draper says to Peggy in Madmen “We’re not artists…we solve problems.” Make sure you choose wisely whose helping you grow your business and your profit.
  16. Has a privacy clause in their contract. You can’t control who a consultant works with next, and that’s why you need a privacy clause in their project agreement. This ensures that they won’t slip up and tell the competition, the media, or any third party about your strategy, products, or future launches. And of course, any personal information they share with you stays private.
  17. Has cut their teeth elsewhere. Many pros are naturally gifted at what they do, but that doesn’t mean that they know best practice or have a thick skin. In-house experience, whether it’s an agency, corporation, small business or internship, demonstrates that they can operate successfully in other spaces. This is often the difference between a flakey online self-promoter who commits mistakes like overselling, overpromising or under-communication and a consultant who runs a seamless operation.
  18. Says X, Does X. Nobody’s perfect, but your consultant should strive for perfection in their integrity. That means they say what they’re going to do…and then they do the thing they said.
  19. Stays on deadline. Deadlines are important, and the most seasoned consultants know it. Worthwhile consultants will never miss an important deadline—especially if it puts a project’s success at risk.
  20. Communicates the process and keeps in touch! Sometimes you’ll be waiting on work for several weeks, and even though you know everything is fine, it can be a little nerve-wracking. A good pro keeps you in the loop about how everything is going. Similarly, an experienced pro will key you in when they’ve hit a hiccup. While juniors get scared of what they don’t know, seniors just ask. The difference is night and day. Another point on this—consultants should always follow up on the progression of your campaign, even if it launches months after you’ve hired them.
  21. Is genuinely passionate about their client’s success. Last but not least, if your consultant isn’t genuinely excited about your business growth, then you don’t want them on your team. And…they should probably start a different career.