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The Foolproof Guide to Hiring Direct Response Copywriters Who’ll Make the Cash Registers Ring for Your DTC Brand (+ Our Curated List of Copywriters)

16th Jan 2023 – The Foolproof Guide to Hiring Direct Response Copywriters

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.

David Ogilvy

The “father of advertising” is right. Cutting out the middleman might be a good way to increase your profit margin but without good copy, your audience is unlikely to lighten their wallets.

And while good copy starts with hiring good direct response copywriters, it’s also the biggest stumbling block.

How can you tell if someone’s worth their salt? There’s no universally recognized board that certifies copywriters or a singular path to greatness. The low barrier to entry and the toxic hustle culture mindset means you’ll have to sift through copywriters with a range of experiences and pricing that’s all over the place.

Especially after the year DTC has had dealing with the pandemic, aggressive privacy laws, and VCs cutting off funding, it’s crucial to make wise decisions.

So, we invited DTC brands and freelance copywriters to share their two cents and hot takes on what it takes to hire direct response copywriters. By the time you’re done reading this in 15 minutes, you’ll know exactly what to look for so your cash register can go ka-ching.

What is Direct Response Copywriting? Examples from Legends and Modern Maestros

Direct response copywriting compels the reader to take action now.

example of direct response copywriting tagline

Here’s a primo example from Gary Halbert, a legendary direct response copywriter, who wrote this headline to sell the book “How to Rob a Bank without a Gun.” While the investment advice – put your money in a savings account – may not hold up any more, the copy is striking, bold and makes you jump up into action.

example of direct response copywriting David Ogilvy ad

And who can forget this classic ad for Rolls Royce from David Ogilvy? This headline made him the most sought after copywriter.

A master of soft-sell ads, David Ogilvy had once shared, “The headlines which work best are those which promise the reader a benefit.” You can see how he used this strategy in the example above.

the dark room (the world`s most unusual welcome email)
example of direct response copywriting Daniel Throssel email

This is just a small snippet from Daniel Throssel’s welcome email. Daniel’s engaging and persuasive style justify his self-proclaimed title of being Australia’s best copywriter.

Less stress lines. More headlines
example of direct response copywriting Dan Nelken

Another modern day great, Dan Nelken, has these headings on his landing page for his book “Writing Under Pressure.”

Car crashes, mallets and magic mice

Another crowd favorite, Dave Harland, writes emails that’ll have you in splits. Humor is Dave’s middle name. And if you need a pick me up, here’s a snippet from his recent emails:

example of direct response copywriting Dave Harland
Regular copywritingDirect response copywriting
For audiences that are looking for a trustworthy brandFor audiences that are ready to buy
Increases brand awarenessInspires audience to take action immediately
Playing the long gameSense of urgency
CTA leads the audience to discover more about the brandStrong CTA to make a purchase right away

The Role of Direct Response Copy in DTC Selling 

Hiring a direct response copywriter can actually make you millions. And no, this isn’t conjecture.

1 article generated $22 million in sales for BOOM! by Cindy Joseph. BOOM!’s advertising strategy is a masterclass in DTC selling.

Ezra Firestone, Co-founder and CEO of BOOM, broke down the exact strategy he used to do that.

First, he writes a pre-sell engagement article where he touches upon the experiences of his audience.

Take this post, 5 Tips For Embracing Natural Hair”, for instance.

The heading clearly mentions the benefits (tips to embrace natural hair) and why this article is worth reading (because it’s written by super model Cindy Joseph).

The tips presented are actionable, educational and inspirational. Then, the product is subtly introduced to the reader.

Ezra spends all the ad budget on driving audiences to such pre-sell engagement articles, resulting in colossal sales.

But what about a brand trying to disrupt the $38 billion soft drink industry in the US?

Olipop’s success from direct response influencer marketing leads audiences to a website that is primed to sell.

Their strategy resulted in 300% growth and cutting their Facebook budget in half.

Here’s what the landing page for their Cherry Vanilla flavor looks like:

The reader instantly knows how little sugar is in the soda – 5 g – which is a far cry from traditional soda. The page is replete with high-quality product photos and nutritional information.

But healthy or not, Olipop knows people don’t drink soda because it’s healthy—it’s for the taste.

So Olipop describes the flavor in great detail:

“We pinpointed the cherry pie flavor we were craving with a careful combination of tart cherries and sweet tang of rainer cherries, then rounded things out with the soft and sumptuous taste of vanilla bean.”

And you also get hit by hundreds of genuine reviews for that specific flavor of soda. Take a look at these:

But let’s not forget about the new trend in direct response marketing — livestreams aka the new infomercial. Real-time infotainment generates $11 billion/year for QVC. So, it’s no surprise DTC brands are following suit.

Dyson Live lets shoppers watch live demos of the product, chat with the experts and buy the products without leaving the live session.

Each of these shopping links leads to expertly crafted landing pages designed to persuade shoppers to buy while giving them all information they need.

example of direct response copywriting Dyson selling angle

The selling angle “Enhanced styling. Half the damage. Cord Free” is all benefits over traditional hair straighteners and stylers. Dyson wins over customers with its transparency by sharing that straighteners can cause damage and also how their product can reduce said harm.

It’s no wonder their annual revenue in 2021 was 5.2 billion GBP.

Seems like a piece of cake? Surely, no one knows your audience and your brand better than you do.

But before you try and wing it, remember the common denominator between these DTC brands (and others) that succeed is that they hire a direct response copywriter who can drive real outcomes for their campaigns.

How to Choose a Direct Response Copywriter Who’ll Multiply Your Store Revenue  (Advice from DTC Brands & Copywriters)

Hiring a good copywriter can feel like a painful root canal.

You’ve got to dig deep to find one that clicks with your brand and delivers results, not promises.

DTC brands that have been down this road before have some of the best advice. While some of this might seem obvious if you’ve worked with copywriters before, we hope you walk away with some helpful advice.

DTC BRANDS

Find Copywriters Who Can Speak to Your Audience

You want someone who can capture your voice and create an engaging message for your audience, but you also need someone who understands the mechanics of effective marketing.

Here’s one tip that I’ve found to be helpful: make sure they can adapt their writing style to engage your audience.

The best copywriters can adapt their tone and approach to fit the client’s needs, and they understand that not every audience is the same.

Antreas Koutis, Administrative Manager, Financer

Ask Them to “Sell” to You

Hiring a creative is partially a gamble. Vet these professionals using their portfolio and track record to assess if they are a good fit for your brand. Any direct-response writer has transferable skills from their prior experience that can benefit a business, but it may not be the right fit for your business.

Something I like to do is to ask direct-response writers to “sell me” in the interview. I outline a specific situation about a customer browsing our website and ask for the candidate to write a CTA appropriate for the context that gets them to click through.

If they think well on their feet and it aligns with our brand, it is potentially a match. If their experience and reflexes fit better for a different industry, it is worth finding that out as early as possible.

Guna Kakulapati, Co-Founder & CEO, CureSkin

Use a Quiz With Pairs of Similar Copy

I use a quiz to vet initial copywriting applicants. This quiz includes pairs of similar copy with subtle differences. One item in each pair is high converting, and the other is just average.

I ask copywriters to take this quiz, identifying which item is better in each pair. Since I have many examples, I can see which copywriters have a better eye for what will convert well.

I believe this quiz is effective because copywriting is not only about being able to generate new material, but also about being able to revise and improve the work of others. So far, this quiz has served me well, as I have been able to hire very skilled copywriters over the last few years.

Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Rephrasely

Proactively Reach Out When You See Great Copy

Here’s the little trick of the trade: get your hands on the top-performing ads, VSLs, or website copy in your industry—whatever you need from a copywriter.

Then reach out to the brand and ask them about the mastermind behind those written words. It will save you all the trouble of manually posting jobs, filtering applications, asking questions in the interview, and then negotiating.

You’ll get to talk with the best copywriters in your industry, so you can quickly hire the best fit for your specific offer.

Gerrid Smith, Chief Marketing Officer, Joy Organics

Test Their Instincts and Talent

One thing I love to do in interviews when hiring a direct-response copywriter is to propose a hypothetical situation. I give them a made-up scenario, such as a new campaign to collect more emails for our newsletter list and ask them to provide a CTA.

What would be their call to action on the page to get people to sign up for the newsletter? Here’s the thing though—the answer doesn’t matter. Whatever they come up with, so long as it isn’t asinine, is irrelevant. I want to see how quickly they respond.

How fast they can come up with something that is catchy and relevant speaks volumes about their instinct and talent. You can always A/B test different CTAs and experiment with campaigns, but instinct, speed, and natural talent are impossible to test after hiring someone.

John Ross, CEO, Test Prep Insight

Assess Their Critical Thinking Skills

Do they ask a lot of questions during the job interview stage? A good one will want to learn about your current copy and what you like or dislike about it. They would inquire about your business, the brand’s voice, markets, strengths, weaknesses, and initiatives.

A good direct-response copywriter will also share their insights about your promotion or offerings. You should rely on such talent besides their excellent resume and portfolio.

Abe Breuer, CEO, VIP To Go

Focus on the Outcomes, not Effort

Ultimately, you want to hire a copywriter based not merely on how well they string words together, but also on how well they deliver measurable results for your business. Depending on the project, these results could include click-through rates, social shares, and sales conversions.

For example, if you are planning to hire a copywriter to help you launch a Facebook Ad campaign, you could look at click-through rates, engagements, and shares. If you want a copywriter to write a landing page for your new product, look at conversation rates.

So when you’re vetting prospective copywriters for a specific project, ask them about specific numbers they have obtained on similar projects in the past.

David Aylor, CEO & Lawyer, David Aylor Law Offices

Don’t Get Taken by “Polished” Profiles

With hiring direct response copywriters, the only thing you need to see is ‘numbers’. Direct response copywriters are called “direct” for a reason. They pull off results instantly in numbers.

Whether you’re looking for emails, VSL, Facebook Ads, or for websites—always look at the previous “numbers” they brought in. Nowadays, anyone can make polished Instagram or LinkedIn profiles, calling themselves experts. Polished profiles look aesthetic, and can grab attention, but if they can’t provide numbers, run. I have found LinkedIn to be the best place where you can find reliable DR copywriters.

Joe Troyer, Chief Marketing Officer, ReviewGrower

Seek Copywriters With Niche Experience

When vetting and hiring a copywriter, it’s important to look for someone with experience in your niche. The copywriter should also have a proven track record of producing results through direct-response copywriting.

Ideally, you’ll want to find a writer with a lot of experience working with the type of product or service you offer. Copywriters who specialize in one particular area (like weight loss, for example) are likely to be more knowledgeable about the latest trends and how to write effective persuasive copy that converts browsers into buyers.

Gosia Hytry, Head of Content, Spacelift

Ask Your Network for Recommendations

If you’re currently on the lookout for copywriters, ask your friends, colleagues, fellow business owners, or even competitors. Most likely, you’ll find a reliable one instantly.

When I was a copywriter, a few years ago, my first biggest client was referred to me by one of my other clients. While there are absolutely platforms like LinkedIn, Upwork, or Fiverr, where you can find good copywriters, the thing is, it will take a lot of time in hiring; you’ll filter the right candidates, interview them, and then finally decide on someone. Often, even after the lengthy hiring process, it is still a hit or miss, but asking for recommendations is easy, fast, and reliable.

Kenny Kline, President & Financial Lead, BarBend

Hire Someone Who Stands Their Ground

It’s crucial direct response copywriters believe in their ideas. If a writer doesn’t have the conviction to follow their own creativity through to the end, then it’s highly unlikely that a consumer response will be much of an improvement.

Instead, identify copywriters who can research, gain inspiration from winning campaigns, and craft compelling content that will establish your brand’s identity and build trust.

Victor Mathieux, Co-Founder & CEO, Miracle Brand

Run a Paid Test Project

To vet a good direct-response copywriter for the e-commerce brands we work on, we usually like to ask potential candidates to do paid tests on real client projects, rather than spending too much time asking about their experience or portfolios. We find this to be the quickest way to see if someone has potential.

Our test projects are usually email marketing campaigns because the feedback loop is almost instant. You can tell within a few hours if an email promotion or newsletter campaign is going to do well. We have a good idea about the benchmarks for brands we work on, so it is easy to measure a new writer.

Giving someone one or two paid test projects like this has allowed us to find some great candidates from different platforms such as Upwork, various copywriter Facebook groups, and occasionally LinkedIn.

Ryan Turner, Founder, EcommerceIntelligence.com

Look for Individuals With a Swipe File

Many exceptional direct-response copywriters own swipe files, which indicates they’re serious about improving their writing and learning.

Swipe files are like vaults of effective pieces of copy that devoted copywriters maintain and reference for insight and inspiration. Every copywriter’s swipe file contains different content, such as powerful promotions, advertisements, and other marketing material they’ve observed and noted over the years.

These files help writers to overcome writer’s block, as they analyze the work of others to become more productive—it helps them better understand why certain promotions are a success.

To vet and hire a good direct response copywriter, consider those individuals who own a swipe file. They could help you recreate proven results in the long run.

Andrew Chen, Chief Product Officer, CommentSold

But if you want to hire brilliant talent, let’s hear some hot takes from expert copywriters who’ve been in the game for a long time. Here’s what you should take note of to avoid the copywriters who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

Are They Full of Sh**?” The BS Test

Oooh, how to hire expert copywriters. Always a fun game! The most important question you want to ask — and, honestly, this goes for hiring, dating, and making friends too — is “Are they full of sh**?”

A real copy expert will be able to talk about their specialties in simple terms, AND they’ll readily reveal the things they’re not so good at. (They’ll probably also be able to recommend other people to help.) Bullshitters, on the other hand, will say yes to any work on the table.

Lianna Patch, Punchline Copy

Stalk Them Their Work

In the DTC world, brand voice is key to standing out from competitors. Stalk their previous work to get a feel if it’s a good fit for your brand. Keep in mind, every business has its own tone of voice and the final copy may have been edited. That’s why I recommend asking for samples after the discovery call, so the copywriter can send you tailored pieces or even case studies relevant to what you need done.

Kaleena Stroud, DTC Copywriter & Brand Voice Strategist

DTC copywriters should not only know about conversion copy, but also how to be one with the brand. It’s easier to teach the nuances of your style (eg, capitalization preferences) than the ability to write in your brand voice.

Maria West, owner of DTC Mom

Start with a Discovery Call

If you want a strategic-thinking professional freelancer, a discovery call is the best place to start. These are actually much more laid back (for the company), as you can let the copywriter lead the call.

Kaleena Stroud, DTC Copywriter & Brand Voice Strategist

Get Crystal Clear About What You Want

When hiring copywriters for a DTC brand, one key element of a bullet-proof hiring process is to have a clear understanding of the specific skills and experience that you are looking for in a candidate.

Skills I’m looking for typically includes experience in writing for e-commerce or DTC brands, clear thinking, persuasive writing, etc.

Victor Ijidola, Content Marketer & Creator of Growth Baker

Questions You Need to Ask

  1. Do they have a background in ecommerce and/or ecommerce optimization?
  2. Have they written for similar brands?
  3. Do they “get” your brand voice and tone? (And, uh, do you? Or are you looking for someone who can establish a clear voice for you?)
  4. What’s their research approach like, and what can you expect from the process of working with them?
  5. What metrics will you use to measure the success of your work together?

Lianna Patch, Punchline Copy

If the writer doesn’t mention it, I recommend quizzing them about their strategy and process. What research do they conduct to get the words right? What’s their turnaround time? Are revisions included?

Kaleena Stroud, DTC Copywriter & Brand Voice Strategist

Generalist vs. Specialist: Who Wins?

A generalist will probably be able to do a lot of things fairly well. But a specialist (most often a senior copy person) would have deep experience in a particular type of work. So if you know that you want to revamp your email marketing from the ground up, or you are certain that PDPs are leaking money, you can hire someone who potentially charges more but will be able to take the lead in improving the performance of your assets.

Eden Bidani, GREEN LIGHT COPY

Autonomy or Handholding?

One of the first things you need to keep in mind when vetting a good direct response copywriter is the time you’re willing to invest and how much autonomy you wish to see in your hire. It goes without saying that professionals with less experience will need more nurturing and handholding.

But if you are looking for someone who can take the baton from you and consistently execute and produce great copy in line with a good brief, without needing much feedback, then you will have to increase your hiring budget in proportion.

Eden Bidani, GREEN LIGHT COPY

Always check samples and do test projects before committing to anything long term. Once they say “yes” to your test project, give them everything they need to kick off and get out of their way.

Victor Ijidola, Content Marketer & Creator of Growth Baker

Word of Mouth vs. Upwork

Where to find great ecommerce copywriters: as usual, word of mouth reigns supreme here. If you’re in any forums, like eCommerceFuel or Blue Ribbon Mastermind, ask around and you’ll get a few trusted names. (You’ll probably want to mostly stay away from Upwork, though there are some decent writers who, for reasons I will never understand, prefer to work through that platform.)

Lianna Patch, Punchline Copy

Ask around for referrals before turning to a job board or hiring just any type of writer. Some of my most successful (and fun!) relationships have come from referrals. Look for a “DTC direct response copywriter for X type of project (e.g., emails, website, product pages)” and that should garner some great names in your network!

Kaleena Stroud, DTC Copywriter & Brand Voice Strategist

Don’t Dismiss Writers without Niche Experience

I’m pro (paid) writing tests when a portfolio is lacking in breadth or industry experience. One or two paid assignments can give you a feel for how the writer works and handles deadlines, especially when hiring for contract/freelance roles.

Maria West, owner of DTC Mom

You Need to Breathe Your Brand

DTC brand founders should be one with their story. Make it part of your skin. Embrace your value props and mission in everything you touch—every marketing asset should scream your brand. Use your products ruthlessly and have an ear to how others do, too.

Make sure the writer can write like the best version of you, the founder (notice I didn’t say “exactly how you write,” because you might not write well or understand nuances to relate to the audience)—there’s a lot of “from founder” touchpoints you’ll want to trust someone with (e.g., welcome flows, customer experience, PR).

Maria West, owner of DTC Mom

Pro Tips from Convert:

  • You need to do your homework and define the scope of the project, and what success will look like (metrics and benchmarks).
  • Find someone with great research skills. Research leads to good copy – be it sleuthing on Reddit and Quora, or review mining.
  • Good direct response copywriters will take time to understand buyer pain points and your business model. They’ll use that to come up with a sales pitch that makes the most sense for your important business goals.

“Train” Your Dragon Copywriter (And Why It’s Important)

Hiring a copywriter is one part of the equation. You have to train your copywriter.

You can’t leave your writer to fend for themselves. It is crucial that you give them unfettered access to your brand’s history, legacy, tone of voice, past campaigns and clue them into your overall marketing strategy.

Don’t assume third party research will fill in the gaps here. You need to facilitate a 1:1 interaction between the CEO and the copywriter. And no, it is not a waste of time. We asked senior conversion specialist Rishi Rawat, and this is his take on onboarding your next copy ace:

Senior copywriters will have their own playbook. Juniors don’t have any playbook. The sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle.

Frictionless Commerce has created a questionnaire with 40+ questions that turn the brand owner into the de facto copywriter.

Also keep in mind that your brand story can do a lot of heavy lifting. So focus on it. Think of it this way — if your PDPs are movies, then they will get funded only if they have a chart-busting formula. The sales pitch is that formula. With it, even a mediocre director can churn out hits, consistently.

Top Direct Response Copywriters Who Caught Our Eye

If you don’t want to hunt for copywriters in the wild, here’s our list of recommendations:

  1. Eden Bidani, Conversion Copywriter + Acquisition Strategist, Green Light Copy


    Eden works with: fast-growing SaaS, tech, or IoT company

    Book a 20 minute discovery call with Eden
  2. Lianna Patch, Punchline Copy

    Portfolio: https://punchlinecopy.com/best-of/

    Lianna works with: ecommerce and SaaS businesses (+ any business interested in finding a voice that doesn’t put your audience to sleep). Find productized services and consulting at: https://punchlinecopy.com

    Pricing starts at $297: https://punchlinecopy.com/work-with-punchline-3/
  3. Lisa Pierson, FastCopy

    Lisa works with: busy people who need expert copywriting. Note: not for high-impact copy that requires extensive research.

    Services offered: https://fastcopynow.com/shop/

    Pricing ranges from $50-$2,500
  4. Jeremy Essers, direct response email marketer

    Jeremy works with: eCommerce brands

    Results + reviews: https://jeremyessers.com/#block-90ea5e3dd856426bbdfcbcb42714a492

    Work with Jeremy: https://portal.jeremyessers.com/public/form/view/6373d268699b66f66d1c08fa
  5. Reinis Krumins, Co-founder, AgencyJR

    AgencyJR works with: eCommerce brands to improve email marketing

    Note: They offer multi-language email copy

    Portfolio: https://www.agencyjr.com/

    Book a call: https://calendly.com/reinisofficial/discovery-call?month=2023-01

What Can you Expect to Pay for Copywriters?

Based on our research, direct response copywriters can cost you anywhere from $50-$400/hour. This number is based on the experience of the copywriter, research required, specialization, deadline, and additional skills your project needs.

Want Someone Cheap? All Aboard the Regret Train

Some of the biggest headaches (for both of us) have come from re-doing projects because they hired someone cheap or a content writer rather than copywriter.

Kaleena Stroud, DTC Copywriter & Brand Voice Strategist

To Spend or Not to Spend?

In terms of cost expectations, most folks I know charge between $200-$500 an hour — when they charge hourly, which is rare. Personally, most of my projects fit into productized services ranging from $700 to $3500.

Copy is almost always a huge conversion opportunity, but if spending a few thousand on an excellent writer is gonna take a giant chunk out of your operating budget, then maybe save it for the future.

Lianna Patch, Punchline Copy

Bonus: A free resource you can use to hire your next copywriter

CRO Master
CRO Master
Originally published January 16, 2023 - Updated January 26, 2023

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