I love all-in-one solutions. Soup AND sandwich, PLUS a cookie? I’m sold.
(Or as a friend used to order: A Bloody Mary loaded with bacon, celery, cheese, and a pickle—so he could eat a meal and drink at the same time. I still don’t know how I feel about this one.)
But when it comes to building a new website, combos become confusing. Should you hire that jack-of-all-trades who can build, write, and design your whole site for you? Should you go the agency route? Or should you hire a web designer, web developer, and copywriter separately?
(In other words, can a designer really offer good web copy?)
The short answer: Sure. Sometimes.
But before you can make the decision on who to hire, you need information. So when your web designer or design agency is also offering to write your copy, here’s what to ask about:
Is the person writing the copy a copywriter? Or a designer who knows how to write well?
There’s a difference!
Copywriting is the craft of persuasive writing. It’s a branch of advertising. Professional copywriters typically have gone through some kind of training—whether formally under another copywriter, or they’ve read a lot of copywriting books and studied the copywriting greats.
Now, there’s no real mark of a “true” copywriter. But you can somewhat gauge someone’s skill by what kind of training they’ve gone through, how much they focus on copywriting, and what kind of copy-related results they’ve gotten for their clients.
If your designer is also the person who’s going to write your copy, you may want to do a little digging to find out exactly what their skills are. Pay attention to their website, their testimonials, and their process:
- Do they talk about any copywriting trainings they’ve completed, OR copywriting-focused projects they’ve done for clients?
- Does their website talk about copy independently, or is it considered secondary to design?
- Have their past clients loved their copy?
- How will they learn about your business before they start writing? (A good writer will ask you about your business, and put that into words. A good copywriter will ask you about your business, audience pain points, audience desires, and common objections before they start writing. They may even want to do customer research to make sure they nail the message.)
The difference is this: A good writer can make you sound good. A good copywriter can help you sell more.
With that in mind, there ARE surely some folks who are both strong copywriters and strong designers. But most professionals specialize.
But wait—do you need a separate copywriter?
Okay, so your web designer is a good writer, but not necessarily a copywriter. Should you take a hard pass?
Not necessarily! In fact, they might be exactly what you need.
It’s true that paying for a separate copywriter and designer is going to yield the best results. Especially if they’re on the same team or used to working together. You’ve got two specialists collaborating on your site—of course it’s going to be better.
But that can also be pricey. Real pricey. And not everyone needs that level of specialized support.
So before you rush off to hire the best of the best, you need to take a closer look at your actual business needs. First:
How many clients have you had?
Here’s the thing. Your first year or two of business, your business changes a LOT.
You’re trying out new offerings, new ways of working, new ways of selling. And your website should be flexible enough to follow suit.
But once you’ve had a good number of clients under your belt, you start to get a better idea of how you really want to structure your business.
A lot of new business owners throw in the big bucks on a sexy site, thinking they need to have a professional site to launch their business. But just a few months later, they’re kicking themselves because the website they paid so much for no longer makes sense for them.
…Want to know a secret?
You don’t need a great website to have a great business.
I know! And I’m saying this as a copywriter!
Don’t get me wrong—I strongly believe that a website can make you look like a pro, support your marketing efforts, and ultimately help you close more sales.
But you can build a thriving business with a one-page “contact me” site. Heck, there’ve been a few wizards who’ve built $100K+ businesses with no site at all. Because businesses, even online ones, are primarily built through relationships. This is especially true if you’re a one-to-one service provider.
My hot take? If you’re in your first year-or-so of business, don’t hire anyone at all for your website if you can help it. Build your site on Wix or Squarespace, or WordPress if you’re willing to learn how to set that up. Stay flexible. Learn the ropes yourself.
Once you’re solid on your direction and your offerings (which only comes from doing the actual work), you can start considering investing in a more professional setup. You’ll have a much better idea of what you need.
But, okay, back to the original question. You know you want someone to build a site for you. Should you hire a designer/writer, or find someone to write your copy separately?
That depends on one more thing for you to consider:
What’s your average monthly revenue?
I’m not just talking budget. You could be making $0 and decide you have a budget of $10K.
How much are you actually making?
A great website helps you close sales. But it doesn’t make customers magically walk through the door (unless it’s a sales page attached to ads).
So be realistic: How much of your income should you be putting toward this right now?
My personal, unscientific breakdown is this:
The cliff notes ?
If you’re making under $1K/month, you need to focus on building relationships and serving the clients you do have well—not on a fancy website.
If you’re making $1K-2K/month, you should spend no more than half an average month’s income on a site. That means you take the lead on the site creation process, and if you need to, get some support to fill in the areas you’re struggling with. That might include:
- Hiring a designer-who’s-also-a-writer to help you set up your site and teach you how to use it (Psst—if tech freaks you out, I highly recommend Squarespace.)
- Buying a copywriting course
- Hiring a designer to make your DIY’d website look a bit nicer
- Hiring a copywriter to punch up what you’ve already written
(And remember—start small! Keep it flexible!)
If you’re making over $2K/month, do what makes sense:
If you like operating mostly through referrals and relationships, you probably don’t need a super high-converting site. Your goal is just to look professional. A designer-who’s-also-a-writer might be a good option for you, or maybe you’ll want to find a copywriter who can help you clarify your messaging and brand voice.
If you want to scale and get more clients through online marketing, investing in a professional copywriter in addition to your designer is going to be the best option. They’ll be able to help you structure your website’s messaging and flow for more conversions. You can do this by hiring either…
- A designer and copywriter separately (Tip: Hire the copywriter first! It’s much more effective to create a design based on the content, rather than the other way around.)
- A designer who subcontracts a copywriter, or vise versa (A great option, since they’re already used to working together, and you only have to pay once person.)
- An agency (Ideally, find a small agency that specializes in websites. Or even better—that specializes in online service providers.)
So, can a web design company offer good copywriting?
Sure, it’s very possible. But the more important question is, what level of writing skill do you actually need? Answer that, and your decision will become much clearer.