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I’m working on a couple of jobs right now.

Job one is a giant 90 page monster website for a new brand. It’s complicated, fiddly, full of specifications and difficult to ‘get’ concepts it’s and just huge. It’s running smoothly and beautifully.

Job two is a 200 word company description and it’s a bit of a nightmare.

The difference between the two jobs?

The client for job one completed my brief. The client for job two didn’t.

Now this is 215% my fault. The company description job looked easy. They sent examples. They didn’t have the time to complete the brief. So I thought; ‘Ah, I’ll pass on a brief this time.’

School girl error.

Luckily they loved the first draft. Sadly they hated the second draft. And without a formal brief, I have nothing to go back to and say, ‘But you said…’

We will, of course, work through it and the end result will be smashing, but both the client and myself will invest (waste) extra time trying to figure stuff out. Stuff that could have been easily understood if we’d both taken time to complete (them) and read (me) the brief.

How to avoid copywriting headaches

If you want your copywriting project to be smooth sailing, it’s best to prepare and invest the time needed to complete a brief. Here’s what your average copywriter needs to know before they write your copy:

  1. Contact details
    Your name, email, phone number, Skype ID and website address (if you have one).
  2. Project overview: What are we creating?
    A brief breakdown of what the project involves, e.g. website copy, flyer, sales brochure, TVC script.
  3. Background:
    Information about your company, why you started, how you started.
  4. Objectives: What do we want customers to do?
    What are the objectives of your project? For example: call up for an appointment? Request a brochure? Purchase? Ideally you should list just one primary objective (and as many secondary objectives as required).learn-copywriting-courses
  5. Target market: Who are we speaking to?
    Who are your target markets? What demographic? For example: women, 30-50, with kids, living in metro areas, who like cheese.
  6. Tone of voice: How do you want your brand to be perceived
    What tone would you like your copy to have? For example: fun, authoritative, chatty, or formal.
  7. Proposition: What is your marketing proposition?
    What makes you unique? For example: Kate Toon is the most awesome copywriter in Sydney.
  8. Proof: Why should the audience believe you?
    Can you back up your proposition? For example: Kate Toon has won awards, has many happy clients and has achieved top rankings on Google.
  9. Competitors: Who are we up against?
    Provide URLs for competitor sites. Do you like what they’re doing? How are they similar to you? What mistakes can we learn from. TOON TIP: Competitor sites are a great place to start for copywriters.
  10. Mandatory information:
    Are there any elements that must be used? Have you registered your URL already? Do you have special product names? Is your brand trademarked? Anything else?
  11. Support information:
    Anything else that you feel may help me to gain an understanding of the project. This can include links to other websites or additional documents.
  12. SEO keywords (if website)|
    Now we all know that playing the ranking game isn’t everything when it comes to SEO, but by nominating a few keyword phrases you’d like your website to rank for – you will help your writet focus the content. TOON TIP: Remember, the longer the keyword phrase, the more chance we have of ranking – so go for ‘Website Copywriter Sydney’, rather than just ‘copywriter’.
  13. Final deliverables:
    This is where you get to the nitty gritty. How many web pages am I writing? How many pages does your brochure have? What length are the pages?

The B word: BUDGET

Often, when I ask clients what their budget is, they’re not sure. And that’s fair enough, I mean, how are they supposed to know the going rate of copywriting?

Most copywriters are more than happy to provide a ball park if you give them some basic details.

(I’m actually 100% upfront with my pricing for Small Business Copywriting and features packages on my site.)

But seriously, even though you’re not sure how much copywriting will cost, I bet you have a pretty good idea of how much you’re willing to spend.

I recommend cutting to the chase and telling your copywriter your budget upfront. You’ll save yourself a lot of time.


Now we all know that content should come before design, but equally once the site structure or layout is agreed, most website developers and designers can work with lorem ipsum while you’re finessing the copy.

Be very clear on your deadline and what’s driving it. Obviously if you have a TV commercial going live then the copy needs to get done, but if you can be flexible on timings, all the better. Remember, most great copywriters are booked up several weeks in advance.

Too much trouble

Now if all this sounds a little time consuming and a bit too much like hard work, stop and think if you really have the time to brief a copywriter. Just because you’re getting someone else to do the writing it’s important to note that there will still be a lot of involvement required from you.

There will need to be a briefing for starters – which usually lasts around an hour.

I produce four decks in my copywriting process, so that’s four reviews, and four rounds of amends.

how to brief your copywriterI might have more questions, I might need more info. And while obviously your copywriter will try to make the process as easy as possible – you, as the client, need to be committed and available.

But believe me, the more time and care you taken when completing the brief, the easier your project will be.
No copywriting brief usually means heaps more confusion and revisions.

Without a brief, your copywriting project is likely to end up in a big fat mess.


Over to you

Did your copywriter use a brief? Have you run into issues when working with a copywriter? Share below;

P.S.  if you need a copywriting brief, you can buy mine here (with some other good copywriting templates).

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