There are secret powers us decent copywriters rely on everyday when we write convincing words for our clients’ marketing campaigns.

No, it’s not our lightening-fast ability to use pencils or keyboards. It’s more nebulous than that.

We’ve nurtured some important traits that make the whole writing process smoother and more productive. So here I’ve tried to corral them into three neat little indicators. You can use these if you’re looking for a reliable freelance copywriter, or to give yourself peace-of-mind that you’re about to hire a capable one.

I recommend you invite your freelancer over for a coffee (ideally plus cake) and a friendly chat. Be honest about what you’re up to – you’re making sure they’re the right person for the job, after all (and that the job’s right for them).

Be inquisitive about their art, probe their experience then keep an ear out for any indications of the following.

1. Is your copywriter quick on the uptake?

Copywriters should be able to quickly grasp how things work; like complex processes and patterns buried in detailed information. That usually involves sifting through clients’ documents, collating nuggets of information and deciding what’s important and why. Like the kind you’ll find in white-papers or sales brochures.

The should soak stuff up like a sponge. Not everything will seem relevant to them at the time, when your copywriter’s researching and planning your copy, but may be invaluable later.

And this isn’t just about information . A lot of the important stuff – your culture and your values go unspoken, yet still have a role to play in your marketing. That demands emotional intelligence and a knack for reading between the lines. How people say things is as important as the way they say them.

Ultimately, when clients like you have urgent deadlines to meet, your copywriter can’t slow momentum down with a sluggish approach to research. You need them to be quick of the mark.

Almost 10 years as a copywriter has taught me that it’s better to approach research and planning with an objective, yet ruthless attitude.

Why ruthless? Well, you can’t possibly cram everything into your copy – only the best bits which clearly communicate a point. Maybe it comes with age, but when you’ve read up on and spoken about as many projects as I have, you get a sixth-sense for knowing what might come in handy, and what can safely be ignored.

2. Is your freelance copywriter worldly, widely-read and well-travelled or experienced?

Insatiable curiosity is what compels me to take on new work and practice my art. I’m motivated by the rewards of working out why things are the way they are, and what make them tick. And any decent copywriter will say the same.

That’s good for clients. Why? Because what a copywriter lacks in knowledge (of your specific business), they can make up for in experience and imagination. And travel, exploration or being mindful of your day-to-day experiences is a classic way to stay open your mind, and hone your senses.

A recent example writing about mattresses springs to mind (pun intended). I’ve never sold or built them, but it helped having bought one not long ago and being a bit of a geek in researching how to get better sleep. I also like my kip – so it came in handy being able to describe the sensations of good sleep and what it feels like to endure poor night’s worth of zzzs.

An open-mind also brings balance to your copy. Worldly copywriters bring new and different perspectives to how products or services can be presented. That avoids making assumptions about customers – the kind everyone risks making, when you’ve been immersed in your business for a long time.

3. Can your copywriter put themselves in someone else’s shoes?

The ability to see things through a reader’s eyes is probably the most important of all three points here.

Understanding readers’ priorities is everything. They’re the most important person you need to connect with – not stakeholders, investors or suppliers. They’re the people you need to convince that something is worth doing, whether that’s buying, booking or enquiring.

That same knack for empathy also applies to a copywriter ‘getting you’. It helps them craft copy that you’re willing to nail your reputation to.

Empathy creates plausible copy too.

Smart people don’t fall for false sentiment. They have to believe that whoever wrote the copy has touched, tasted and smelled what they’re about to invest in themselves. That means treading a careful balance between truth, projection and a strong sense of conviction in the products or services your copywriter is writing about.

Of course, I’m not advocating lies here. If a copywriter, based on truthful and accurate information, can imagine an ideal world involving your product or service, then they’re well-placed to reverse engineer that process, and recreate it with copy. That’s because they too have lived and breathed the very same process of informed decision-making and persuasion that customers experience.

That’s all for now. The more boxes above your copywriter ticks, the better. And if things don’t go so well – you know where to come…