Why are good B2B copywriters so damned hard to find?
If you’re one of the many firms currently struggling to hire B2B writing talent, you’re not alone. David McGuire has some advice.
There’s no doubt about it; B2B writing is a sought-after skill right now. Like, desperately sought-after.
Alongside all the brands looking to strengthen their in-house teams, most of the top B2B agencies are on a constant hunt for writers and editors to develop their clients’ next content.
So if you’re struggling to fill a copywriting post, I feel your pain. As director of an agency that does nothing but B2B copywriting, my livelihood depends on building a talented writing team. And it’s not easy.
Which gives us two questions. Why are there so many more jobs than writers, and (most importantly) what can we all do about it?
The war for writing talent
The demand side of this equation is easy enough to understand. Almost every kind of B2B marketing needs writing at one time or another. And when your content goes head-to-head with a competitor, a writer who can capture your reader’s attention gives you a big edge.
Meanwhile, for organisations that have the workload, there are obvious upsides to having a copywriter in house. Whether you’re an agency or a client-side marketer, having capacity on tap – without waiting for a gap in a freelancer’s diary – is pretty attractive.
There are also cost benefits. ProCopywriters’ annual writers’ survey found an average copywriter charges a day rate of £342. (Senior and sector-specialist copywriters can command much more.) That’s roughly double the average earnings for an in-house B2B content professional in this year’s B2B Marketing Salary Survey.
So where are all the writers?
There are plenty of great content jobs available, with top B2B agencies and brands. So why aren’t the best writers lining up?
There are two main issues.
- B2B copywriting is hard
There’s a perception that B2C scoops up the most creative writers, and B2B gets everyone else. But that’s baloney. The reason so many copywriters gravitate to B2C is simply that B2B is incredibly demanding. You basically have to be a polymath – able to understand the subject, appreciate the business context, and a good enough writer to get someone interested in pensions software, forklift hydraulics, or IP law. Where a B2B copywriter needs a hierarchy of five skills, the truth is many can’t cut it.
- Why would they want a job anyway?
Right now, a good freelancer is earning at least double what you’re offering. And they’re doing it at home, at hours to suit them, in their pyjamas. (Honestly, when I host the national Copywriting Conference, I’m just relieved if the audience is dressed.) For someone who’s probably an introvert, that’s a job from heaven. Why would they want to take off their bunny slippers and work in your office – or mine, for that matter? As a rule, writers who are successful have a great lifestyle. The ones who aren’t successful aren’t the ones you’d want anyway.
If you can’t hire them, make your own
At Radix, we’ve hired a few B2B copywriters (when our new hire starts next week, our in-house writing team will be eleven strong).
Based on our experience, I have one key piece of advice.
If you’re waiting for a talented B2B copywriter to fall, ready-made, into your lap, you’ll usually be disappointed. And once you realise that, your options become much clearer:
- Continue working with freelancers.
- Partner with a copywriting agency.
- Hire trainee writers, and invest in them.
- Upskill your existing marketing team.
Truthfully, we’ve found the best way to build a team of great copywriters is to grow our own. We find talented people with curiosity, character, and an interest in tech or business, and we invest time training and mentoring them to reach the standards our clients expect.
Then we try to reward them so well that they never want to leave (at least, none of our writers ever have).
It can work, but it takes patience. In our experience, your fledgling writer will need coaching and in-depth feedback – so while you’re building long-term capacity, the short-term gains might not be so great. We don’t make much profit on a writer for the first two years.
Similarly, if you’re lucky enough to have a marketing team member with some flair, you could develop them, and invest in copywriting training to enable them to gradually take on more of your writing workload. There’s B2B Marketing training for just this purpose – and a bonus, it will usually make them a better reviewer of your outsourced content too.
One way or another, you need writing skills
There’s no one perfect way to get the writing capacity you need.
- Hiring a fully-fledged B2B copywriter is almost impossible.
- Freelancers are often very skilled but can be tricky to manage.
- Developing your own talent is great, but takes time, commitment and support.
If you need reliable results quickly, a specialist copywriting agency like ours might help – but I won’t pretend we’re the only answer (and you wouldn’t trust me if I did). For example, if budget is an issue, you should know the infrastructure and project support does come at a slight price premium.
But I will tell you one thing I know is true.
Ultimately, B2B marketing demands the best copywriters. Because it’s hard to do right. And all the data, automation, technology and personalisation in the world can’t save you if you’re sending something nobody wants to read.
So whoever’s writing your content, make sure they write it well.
Do you want to become the Shakespeare of B2B copywriting? Or perhaps you just want a few more tips and tricks to perfect your content?
Join David on 23 October, where he'll guide you and fellow marketers through a full day of learning.