Hiring writers: 5 quick ways to avoid headaches and lawsuits
With all the talk about content being king in website marketing, many businesses are hiring writers for web content to drive traffic, and ultimately sales, to their website. If your business is in this position, you have an opportunity to make a smart partnership -- or cause yourself a lot of grief. When hiring a writer, it pays to do a little due diligence.
Hiring writers: An illustration of the risks
Plagiarism is rampant on the web, and this can mean danger when hiring writers. Unethical “freelancers” turn big profits copying text from existing websites and selling it to new clients, sometimes over and over again.
If your website becomes host to plagiarized text, you’re at risk for some big problems. First, your site might be flagged in the search engines for a “duplicate content penalty,” which will make it harder for your customers to find you when they search. Second are the legal ramifications when the victim of the plagiarism finds your company using their marketing language -- anything from a strongly worded letter to a lawsuit.
In most cases, when we speak to business owners whose websites feature plagiarized text, they’re shocked.
“I hired a freelancer to write it,” they say. “I had no idea it wasn’t original work.”
5 steps to hiring writers that won’t get you in trouble
We understand -- you’re busy. But if you’re hiring a writer to create original, compelling copy to drive sales on your website, you should get what you pay for. A little up-front checking can go a long way. Here’s 5 ways to make sure that hiring a writer doesn’t turn into a headache for you.
- Ask for samples. Any copywriter should be pleased to provide samples of copy presented to previous clients. Make sure the samples are professional, and that you like the style of the writing.
- Get references. For the samples that the writer provided, ask if you can contact the client directly to talk about the work. In some cases, confidentiality agreements or subcontracting arrangements might prevent such a contact, but you should be able to be connected with a couple of clients as references. You’ll want to verify that the copy met the client’s expectations, and that the writer actually did the work for them. A scam artist could easily provide a dozen URLs that they claim to have written.
- Run your own duplicate content check. From the samples provided, select a 6-8 word excerpt and type it into a search engine. The search results will show you any other pages that use the same words. A little cross-referencing will show you if someone has copied the samples in question. It’s up to you to determine if the copywriter is the victim or the perpetrator. If you have more than one instance of copied copy, the answer should be fairly clear.
- Ask them about their process. Good copywriting is more than just slapping some words on a web page. A good copywriter will want to learn a bit about your company, how you want the finished pieces to sound, and why you’re undertaking the project in the first place. If the writer doesn’t seem engaged in learning more about your company and your goals, or is vague on how the process will work for you, ask follow up questions until you’re satisfied with the answer.
- Check out their social media profile. Almost every web copywriter today will have a social media footprint. They’ll have a blog, a LinkedIn page or a Twitter account that you can look at. Does their personal writing sound like their professional writing? Does what you see support what they’ve told you?
You can put the web to work for you too, by doing a little bit of research on the person or company providing your web copy. But all the research in the world can’t substitute for your gut feeling. If you’re hiring a writer and something seems just not right, it may be best to walk away. BolderImage provides a wide array of web services, from web design to web content and copywriting that is guaranteed 100% original and custom crafted for you. To learn more about how BolderImage can help you create the polished, professional and completely unique web presence your company needs, contact us today.