I'm currently building my startup, and I see other companies having great copywriting, for instance basecamp, Dropbox etc.. Who does their copywriting? How do I find a good one? I have tried a few copywriters but it seems that I know it better then them. I like copywriting to be 'transparent', a little 'funky', with slight humor.
Kudos to you for seeing the value in great copy. I love that you mentioned 37signals, which is an organization that's made copywriting part of almost everyone's jobs (or so they've shared on their blog). MailChimp and Zendesk are two others that people often point to re: great copy that builds a brand and differentiates; Groupon is another awesome example of really, really tonal copy that people actually read (which is more than half the battle).
MailChimp has in-house copywriters, including Kate Kiefer (https://twitter.com/katekiefer), and so does Groupon. I'm not sure who writes for Dropbox or Zendesk, though searching companies on LinkedIn can often reveal little-known in-house geniuses.
The startups you mention have a certain style and tone that I have to say is different from what you'll normally get with a "direct response" copywriter, though by all means check out the link David Berman submitted to you because you never know. I recommend that, to achieve the slightly funky, funny-ish copy you're looking for, you seek out a conversion-focused copywriter with a creative and UX background. You need someone who's totally at ease adopting a new voice / tone and using it appropriately across your site and in your emails; less experienced copywriters might be heavy-handed with the tone, which often gets in the way of the user experience (e.g., button copy that's tonal can lead to confusion). Be careful, of course, not to push your writer to be exceptionally creative -- because a little touch of tone goes a loooong way for busy, scanning eyes.
Here are some great freelance copywriters you could consider: http://copyhackers.com/freelance-copywriters-for-hire/
The link to Neville's Kopywriting peeps is also great.
Before hiring, ask to see a portfolio or get a) links to websites they've written and b) a zip of emails they've written; if a writer is accepting clients, they'll usually showcase their work on their website. Check out their blog and tweets to see if their voice comes through in their own writing. Don't hire bloggers or content creators for a job a copywriter should do. Don't hire print copywriters for web work unless they do both. And when you find a great copywriter, trust them... and don't let them go - because 10 bucks says, they're in demand or about to be.
1. Determine your budget based on the cost of acquisition of a customer
2. Determine your venue (i.e. web based copy for a landing page; direct response mailing; email autoresponder series; etc)
3. Determine your desired outcome (i.e. metrics you will use to monitor your ROI)
Then either ask for references in your network or try posting an ad here: http://www.directresponsejobs.com/
The more specific you are about what you are looking for - the better your chances of finding it. Hiring a copywriter is just like hiring for any other position.
And remember the wise advice of "Hire slow, fire quickly."
Best of luck!
Create a "small copy-test".
"Our company is creating a new home page. Our goal is to optimize conversions. Write 'above-the-fold' copy you believe will optimize 'Start Trial' button click-throughs. Please complete within 96 hours."
Give this "small copy-test" to anyone you're considering to hire. Some agencies/freelancers/people will be offended Forget them. The people that know copy 'better than you' will not mind proving it if you have a good opportunity.
The key to a great copy-test is to keep it small and relevant.
Have you tried asking Basecamp or Dropbox who does their copywriting?
While they might not be open to telling you directly, perhaps you could ask them if they would recommend copywriters to you.
If you want to find a good copywriter, start asking around. Posting a question here is a start, but there are lots of other places you could go. Go to where copywriters hang out at, like Facebook Groups, online communities and forums, and blogs.
Where have you tried to hire your copywriters from? And do you know what exactly you'd like from a copywriter once you find one? Are you looking to hire him or her full-time? Do you have the budget for that? Or do you want help on a project-by-project basis?
If I was building a startup and looking for a copywriter, I would...
1. Figure out exactly what I'd want. This way, once I found my copywriter I could have a list of things that need to be done.
2. Figure out what I do and do not know. You mentioned you know more than most copywriters you hire. Do you know what you don't know?
3. Figure out a budget. A good copywriter will work with your budget to help you grow your business. The right copywriter sees the potential in your startup, and wants to help you grow it (so you can keep coming back to him or her for more work). Your budget is your base -- figure it out, so you can use it to attract the right copywriter.
4. Figure out what kind of copywriter you are looking for. There are several types. Direct response copywriters. SEO Copywriters. Financial Copywriters.
If you're willing to share what kind of market your startup is for, I may be able to refer you to a copywriter or two.
You're already nearly home if you know what you like. For process, I'd recommend running your posting wherever you want (Craigslist, freelancewriting.com, indeed.com) and soliciting test copy *in a contest.* I've done this quite successfully with designers. You will feel better about offering something in exchange for the work and you'll get a greater range of talent, since seasoned oldsters and brand newbies both like contests. I have used Submittable.com for contest submissions. Call me if you want me to lay out further or if you would like help with submissions.