Does my copywriter need a specialism?
For specialist businesses looking to outsource some or all of their copywriting, it might seem like a no-brainer to look for a freelance copywriter who specialises in their field. Comma Chameleon looks at why, in most cases, you’ll be just as well served by teaming up with someone who’s simply a bloody good writer…
Do I need a copywriter who is an expert in my industry?
The short answer is: Probably not.
As a freelance copywriter, I’m always slightly mystified when I see a business putting out a call for copywriters with a specific niche.
I get why businesses operating in specialist industries might think they need a copywriter who knows the industry inside-out. But I’m here to reassure you that’s simply not the case.
The chances are, if you’re looking to outsource your copywriting to a freelancer, it’s because you either:
- Don’t have the time to spend writing blog posts, social posts, brochures, LinkedIn articles, product descriptions, whatever
- Don’t have capacity in your in-house marketing team
- Haven’t written for a particular audience or format before, and you want a professional to help you out
- Would rather be running your business than writing about it
And in that case, you honestly don’t need a copywriter who shares your level of expertise.
You just need a copywriter who’s an expert at writing.
And that could just as easily be in the form of somebody who has never written about your industry before.
… You honestly don’t need a copywriter who shares your level of expertise. You just need a copywriter who’s an expert at writing.
Specialist Copywriter vs. Generalist Copywriter
The way I see it, there are loads of reasons why a generalist copywriter might be a much better bet when it comes to writing for your specialist business.
Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of hiring a specialist copywriter vs. a generalist one…
Pros and cons of hiring a specialist copywriter
If you can find a good copywriter with a specialism, then of course there are benefits to hiring someone who has experience in writing for your industry. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t.
For starters, a specialist copywriter will…
- Be able to hit the ground running, because they’ll already know your industry inside-out
- Know the jargon, technical phrases and industry-specific theories that your business trades on
- Be able to write with authority on potentially complex topics
- Understand the technicalities behind the customer-facing product
- Know why your company matters, and who it matters to
- Already speak the industry lingo
- Be able to turn copy around fairly quickly, because they’ll require less time for researching the topic
Sounds pretty attractive, right? And there will be plenty of times when you’ll outsource to a copywriter with a niche and get exactly the copy you were hoping for.
a good generalist copywriter will be a much better investment than a bad specialist one
But there are a few potential pitfalls to hiring a freelance copywriter who only writes about one industry, and it’s worth considering those too.
A copywriter with a niche may:
- Assume a level of knowledge your reader simply doesn’t have
- Use jargon and industry lingo that confuses and confounds your readers
- Forget to lay the groundwork before launching into complex topics
- Not be used to writing for different formats or audiences (ie. if they’ve previously only ever needed to write corporate brochures, they might not be the best bet for writing helpful blogs, email funnels, or for SEO)
- Be a bit jaded with the subject, or struggle to find different ways to say the same thing about the same product or service, over and over again
- Find it difficult to see your product or service from the perspective of a potential customer
- Be so entrenched in what you do that they forget about who you help
- Be working for your biggest competitors
- Miss the latest industry insights and articles because they’re writing from a place of knowledge rather than a place of thorough research
- Be more expensive, because they are ‘experts’
[A freelance copywriter who only writes about one industry may become] a bit jaded with the subject, or struggle to find different ways to say the same thing about the same product or service, over and over again
Obviously these are only potential drawbacks, and there are lots of niche copywriters out there who will do a cracking job on your copy, every time. But don’t limit your options by insisting your copywriter specialises in your industry – a good generalist copywriter will be a much better investment than a bad specialist one.
Pros and cons of hiring a generalist copywriter
A generalist copywriter who’s good at what they do will…
- Bring fresh perspectives, new insights and an open mind to what your business does
- Be more interested in writing good copy that serves the reader than good copy that sounds clever
- Do a huge amount of research into the topic before ever putting finger to keyboard
- Cut through the jargon and marketing spiel to get to the details the reader really wants to know
- Use language, terminology and examples the reader will relate to
- Be learning as they are reading, and teaching as they are writing
- Take a new approach to writing about well-trodden industry topics
- Apply creative techniques and knowledge from other industries to deliver copy that’s different to everything your competitors are producing
- Be able to adapt their writing style to any audience and any format
- See your product or service from your customers’ perspective, and put your USP front and centre
- Cite and link to the latest industry news and insights
- Charge less
[A good copywriter with no particular niche will] Bring fresh perspectives, new insights and an open mind to what your business does… [and] Take a new approach to writing about well-trodden industry topics
Not such a clear-cut decision anymore, is it?
And what about the cons of hiring a generalist freelance copywriter?
In all honesty, if the copywriter is a good copywriter, there aren’t many drawbacks to them not having a specialism.
- They might take longer to turn the copy around because of the additional research time required
- They may need a more detailed brief before getting started
But that’s about it.
Non-expert, or just a shit writer?
I stumbled across this blog post about why businesses should hire copywriters with specialisms, and was kinda pissed off by the reasoning.
According to the guys over at Express Writers, hiring a generalist copywriter will mean you get copy that:
- Is littered with mistakes: ‘If they’re not an expert in your industry, those errors are a lot more likely to plague your content.’
- Loses your audience’s trust: ‘Throw in a few jarring pieces of content – whether they’re poorly written, full of bad information, or just plain unhelpful or boring – and you’ll throw a huge wrench into your trust-building endeavour.’
The thing is, neither of these objections have anything to do with hiring a freelance copywriter without a specialism. They have everything to do with hiring a bad copywriter. Which is a completely different kettle of shit.
The idea that your copy will be plagued with errors just because you’ve hired somebody who’s not an expert in that area, is, quite simply, ridiculous.
What a load of old codswallop
The idea that your copy will be plagued with errors just because you’ve hired somebody who’s not an expert in that area, is, quite simply, ridiculous. A good generalist copywriter will be so keen to understand the topic they’re writing about that they’ll consult at least three (never less than five, for me) different sources before writing about something as ‘fact’. They’ll also be constantly questioning their own understanding of the topic, and won’t commit anything to paper that they haven’t double, triple, and quadruple checked.
And in terms of the second argument – the one about poor writing, bad information, unhelpful and boring: these are all markers of bad writing, not a lack of knowledge.
The proof is in the conclusion…
In fact, keep reading to the end of the article and it sounds to us like even Express Writers have reframed their own thinking. The ‘specialist copywriter’ vs ‘generalist copywriter’ debate suddenly becomes about ‘non-writer’ vs ‘professional writer’.
And that’s a no-brainer.
The point here is, you are already an expert in your specialism; your copywriter doesn’t need to be. The only thing your freelance copywriter needs to be an expert at is copywriting.
Looking for an expert copywriter who can handle any subject and format you want to throw at her? Just drop me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to help.