As a busy nonprofit communicator, your to-do list is mountain-high and you can’t imagine finding the time to write the content you need. Is it time to bring in the help of a freelance copywriter? Have you done so before? Once you’ve secured the budget, hiring a writer should be a simple process, but to be efficient, choose the right supplier and start the project off right, it’s important to be prepared.

Follow these steps to ensure you bring in the right person and get the copywriting help – and content – you need.

Prepare a project brief

Before you approach a potential writer, think through the details of your projects. What help do you require? Clarify the project in your own mind and be prepared to communicate the details including:

  • Project type (e.g. web copy, speech, media release, annual report, direct mail, executive bios, etc.)
  • Project goal/communications objective
  • Audience
  • Main message
  • Research required
  • Approximate word count
  • Timelines and deadline
  • Number of revisions and sign-offs

A formal brief is always very helpful, but for simpler writing projects, it’s just a matter of being prepared to answer questions about the details above. While you might want to fine-tune some of these details with the guidance of the writer you hire, being as clear as possible from the outset will help you to establish a good understanding with a copywriter whose work meets all of your expectations.

Find a copywriter through your network

I believe that the best way to connect with someone you can both trust and enjoy working with is to ask your respected colleagues and contacts to refer you to someone they have used successfully. This also increases the likelihood that you’ll find a copywriter with experience in and knowledge of nonprofit communications.

An efficient alternative is to search for a copywriter through your LinkedIn network, then work backward to ask for feedback from connections you have in common. Google searches can also help you to find a nonprofit specialist, at which point LinkedIn can help you to unearth any personal connections and recommendations.

Research your short list of copywriters

Do a little investigation into your top choices. A full-time professional copywriter should have their own website showcasing their approach, portfolio, specialty, testimonials and perhaps, pricing; even copywriters without a website should have this information available on their LinkedIn profiles.

When you look at work samples, use them to evaluate both writing style and the types of projects with which your prospective copywriter has experience.

Determine fit

After you’ve done your preliminary research, contact writers directly to assess how well you’ll work together. Establish fit by asking questions that will reveal insights about a writer’s style and personality, knowledge of your subject matter or sub-sector, their experience, availability, terms and pricing.

During your preliminary conversations, evaluate not only the copywriter’s responses to your questions, but the questions they ask you. A good copywriter should make both basic and meaningful inquiries about your work and your project that demonstrate a desire to fully understand your needs and a desire to achieve success for you.

Assign the project

Once you’ve selected your writer, confirm all of the project details listed above in writing. Some copywriters, myself included, present all of the details and terms in their quotations to be clear from the outset and to make this step easier for clients. This way, once you have agreed to proceed and have fine-tuned any details, it’s simply a matter of accepting the quotation/agreement.

Provide a more comprehensive briefing

For many copywriting projects, your preliminary conversation will need to be enhanced by a more in-depth briefing. Make yourself available to answer any additional questions that will help your copywriter get oriented. Be prepared to send over all necessary background materials as well as names and contact information for additional experts or others who can provide useful information.

As your project gets underway, there are small things you can do to manage the project well and get the most from your freelance professional. Keeping that in mind, now that you’ve selected your copywriter, assigned the project and provided a full briefing, enjoy the benefits of hiring a specialist to take one item off of your plate and deliver great content for you!


Marlene Oliveira

Marlene Oliveira

Communications advisor and copywriter at moflow
Marlene Oliveira is communications consultant and copywriter at moflow and founder of the Nonprofit MarCommunity blog. Having worked in the nonprofit sector since 1999, Marlene specializes in working with capacity building and grant-making organizations, advising on communications strategy, and writing stories and other content.
Marlene Oliveira
Marlene Oliveira