Confused about hiring a freelance copywriter?
The process doesn’t have to be confusing, but if you’re new to hiring writers it can seem overwhelming.
Could it really be possible that some freelance writers would lie to you, saying whatever it takes to snag your business, justify their exorbitant fees, and turn you into a submissive client who does whatever they tell you?
It’s sad, but in the years I’ve been in the business, I’ve seen companies burned, stung, robbed, and strung out by unethical copywriters who couldn’t care less about them.
To them, you’re just a walking ATM machine, and they lay awake at night, figuring out how to press all your buttons.
I know because my clients have told me. Sometimes, they tell me because the lie worked, and they’re thinking about taking their business away from my firm, but lots of times, it’s the opposite.
They know it’s a lie, but they just can’t figure out how.
As much as some freelance copywriters would like to believe it, business owners aren’t stupid. You know when someone isn’t being straight with you.
Maybe you just need someone to verify it, and so that’s what I’d like to do.
Because I have worked with tons of freelance copywriters over the years, it makes sense I share my experiences with the lies I have been told by those pitching me their services.
And here’s why: they make the honest ones look bad.
There are plenty of copywriters with full integrity. We do great work and charge a fair price. But when we have to struggle with a reputation given us by less ethical writers… well, it’s time to fight back.
Here are 10 of the most common lies copywriters like to tell. Take a look, so you’ll be ready.
1. “Just tell me how long the copy is, and I’ll get you a quote!”
Hiring a copywriter isn’t like buying carpet. There’s no such thing as “industry standard pricing” for copywriting.
Some projects might need long copy, others might need short copy. But both require special skills, and length has nothing to do with it.
If a 10,000-word sales letter from a great copywriter costs $10,000—does that mean a three-word slogan should only cost $3? Of course not.
Nobody thinks McDonald’s only spent a few bucks on the strategic and creative team behind “I’m lovin’ it.”
You could buy a t-shirt and jeans out of a bin at Walmart, or get someone on Fiverr to design a site. You could also have a tailor craft a bespoke suit, and hire one of the world’s top designers to design a new site.
You could say they’re just clothes and websites—what’s the difference? But anyone knows they’re not the same.
It’s the same with copywriting. No honest copywriter will provide a quote without a detailed understanding of the project.
One of the highest-paid copywriters of all time, Clayton Makepeace, asks dozens of questions about a project before even taking on a client.
Anyone who claims they don’t need information like that isn’t worth your money.
2. “I charge the same rate for every client.”
It’s impossible to charge the same rate for two different clients. Why? Because projects are different and require different skills sets, different time investments, and different amounts of research.
Selling a candy bar and a million-dollar home require very different skills, and a good copywriter knows that. If a copywriter claims to charge the rate for every project, beware.
3. “I’m qualified because I have a degree in English literature.”
While having a degree is nice, those English lit degrees aren’t any measure of quality copywriting.
They’re actually pretty useless where copywriting is concerned because the field has far more to do with sales and marketing than with literature.
Truth be told, most top copywriters don’t even have degrees.
Degrees don’t matter. Results do. The good copywriters aren’t going to show you their credentials.
Instead, they’re going to show you what they’ve achieved for other clients, and they’ll tell you about the results they can get for your business.
4. “I can whip it together as fast as you need it.”
Want to know a dirty little secret?
Top copywriters produce copy in minutes. The actual writing doesn’t take much time at all, and no copywriter worth his or her salt charges on an hourly basis.
But there’s something beyond just hours to produce good copy. It’s like the difference between a last-minute school assignment you scribbled up the night before, compared to a report that took you weeks to complete.
Sure, the minutes spent typing were probably the same. But the results were completely different.
Great copywriters are usually fast typists, and the writing part might only take a few hours. But the research, brainstorming, editing, and revising add up quickly.
Expect for a high-quality copywriter to take weeks for an assignment. They want to deliver a great result, and they’re willing to put in the time to make it work.
Any copywriter who can finish a project in a few hours or days isn’t putting in the time to make something worthwhile.
5. “Your email hit my spam folder.”
This time-stalling trick isn’t just used by copywriters—it’s the perfect excuse for anyone who wants to avoid dealing with you, for whatever reason.
Maybe they’re running behind and can’t deliver on time. Maybe they don’t feel like making the changes you’ve requested.
Whatever the reason for wanting to stall, the spam folder provides an easy excuse.
Your communication disappears as if it never existed, and by the time the copywriter says, “Oops, I’m sorry,” it’s just too late.
The good copywriters? They know business, and they know that regular spam checkups are just part of the routine—no one’s email gets lost.
6. “I’m booked, so I can only squeeze you in if you pay a rush fee.”
This is pure psychological manipulation, and it works very nicely. A perception of being in demand makes you want the copywriter more, thanks to the magic of social proof.
The really in-demand copywriters don’t play these games. They don’t squeeze anyone, because they don’t need to.
They have plenty of work, they’re not interested in filling up their plate, and they can afford to tell you that you have to wait your turn.
Now, the story changes if you have a rush project. The best writers are booked months out, and if you need a fast turnaround time, they’ll ask you to compensate them fairly for the extra effort.
7. “I’m not allowed to share my portfolio.”
Sure, sometimes a writer does a secretive project and isn’t allowed to share it. No copywriter would break a non-disclosure agreement just to impress a prospect.
But every good copywriter has a great portfolio.
If they don’t have published projects they can share, they’ll have some unpublished examples they wrote just for that reason.
Scammy copywriters, or those just starting out, will often claim you don’t need to see a portfolio.
But real copywriters? They simply point you to substantial work and testimonials that prove they’re worth every penny.
They don’t need or want you to “just trust them,” because their results speak for themselves.
8. “All you need to make sales is great copy.”
That’s just silly. If great copy was all we needed to make sales, we could do away with good products, websites, marketing campaigns, driving traffic, providing good customer service—there’s just no need!
The best copy in the world won’t do anything for your sales if you don’t have a clear plan, tools, resources, tactics, and strategies in place.
Quality copywriting works with your existing strategies to draw in potential customers, convey trust and credibility, and get customers’ eyes on the page so they start to read.
It’s just one piece of a successful business.
9. “This copy will sell anyone.”
Any copywriter worth his QWERTY knows this is a crock.
You can’t write copy targeting “anyone”—good copy is crafted to reach specific people with specific problems. It’s laser-focused on the ideal customer, and it often repels anyone else.
Unscrupulous writers won’t ask questions about your target market, and the result is that they won’t sell much to anyone at all, including your ideal customer.
They’ll miss all the crucial elements of good copy, like hitting the right pain point, addressing concerns, providing convincing benefits and drawing in your ideal customer to a sale.
10. “I know what I’m doing, and if you’re smart, you’ll trust me.”
This is meant to position them as an authority. But as anyone knows, people who must point out they know what they’re doing usually don’t.
And frankly, if you weren’t worried before, the statement “trust me” certainly raises an important question in your head: “Can I?”
The answer is… probably not.
Self-confidence in skills and knowledge is something that’s easily communicated and nearly tangible.
You don’t have to be told—you can clearly see the copywriter knows exactly what he or she is doing without that person even saying a word.
Does a copywriter saying one of these lies guarantee they are shady?
No, but it’s another red flag. None of the lies we’ve covered here are enough by themselves to condemn anyone but put several of them together, and it should set off warning bells.
The slimiest copywriters use each of these lies intentionally, and having a collection to watch for, it should be easy for you to spot them.
When it comes to hiring copywriters, it’s a good idea to “trust, but verify.”
Just like hiring any professional, look at his or her portfolio and talk to previous clients. Even better, get a referral from someone who worked with them before.
At the end of the day, copywriting is like any business—there are plenty of unscrupulous liars ready to say whatever they need to cheat you out of a few bucks.
But in general, we’re a friendly bunch. Most of the copywriters you talk to will be upfront and honest and give you great copy at a fair price.
Look out for these lies and it won’t take much work at all to find the honest ones.
What strategies will you use to find a great copywriter?