You approached a freelancer (or agency) over a newly conceived copywriting project, and you sat across the table from them. After a while, the inevitable question came.
“So what exactly is it you need?”
And after a much ‘Umming’ and ‘Ahhing’, some form of agreement was reached. The project had started.
A few weeks later, a draft came in.
And worse, since you weren’t really sure what you wanted in the first place, you couldn’t really argue with it. You couldn’t see how the work you’d been sent was going to help your company, but you also didn’t know how to salvage it.
Plus or minus a few minor amendments, you were stuck with it.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. With a bit of pre-planning, you can make sure you get exactly what you want.
Don’t Suffer in Silence
First things first.
It is (or should be) the duty of any freelancer or agency worth their salt to help you plan your copywriting project. You absolutely should ask their advice, as they may well have valuable insight into how the project can best achieve the results you desire.
Personally, I ask every client the same set of questions at the start of a project, designed to help me understand them, their company, and their specific needs. From there, I take a more tailored approach to follow-up questioning, but I always start from the same point.
But does that mean you shouldn’t prepare in advance?
(Don’t) Start at the Beginning
The most common mistake when planning a copywriting project is starting in the wrong place.
After all, isn’t it logical to start by deciding what you want?
The very first thing you need to ask yourself is who you want.
Who will take responsibility for the project? Who will work with the freelancer or agency to outline the project, agree terms, and review the result?
Ultimately, this person is going to have a huge impact on the project. They’ll be responsible for everything the outsider sees and hears from your company, and their ability to coordinate resources, people and communications will be directly reflected in the final result.
Ideally, this person should also be responsible for reviewing the submitted project, and requesting amendments.
“But wait, shouldn’t we have a team to proof the project and decide on alterations?”
Hang on, that wasn’t clear enough.
Have you ever been asked to write a report or business plan as a group? How did that work out for you? I’m guessing it turned out the same way most of these exercises do.
A bland pile of compromises and limp platitudes.
Well, mob-rule editing works precisely the same way: Not at all.
By all means have a small group to proof the project and provide feedback, but ultimate responsibility should be given to a single person. This allows for sensible amendments to be requested, without robbing the piece of style, tone, and entertainment value.
Who Do You Think You Are?
There’s one question I always ask my clients, and they often seem surprised by it.
“What can you tell me about your company?”
I’ve every conceivable answer to this question, including suggestions that I should have spent more time researching them.
Now obviously I do research my clients before I accept work from them, but I’m what really asking is a whole series of questions to which only they have the answers.
- What is your core business function?
- What problem(s) do you solve?
- Who are your competitors? How are you different?
- What are you most proud of?
- What words would you use to describe your values?
And it’s not only you I want to know about. I also need to know who your audience are.
- Who is the intended audience for this project?
- What do you know about them? Have you done any market research?
- What are their problems/pain points?
- How will this project help them?
In order for your copywriting project to yield valuable, engaging results, the person or people you’re working with will need this information. By better understanding your business, your values, and your audience, a copywriter can create a style, tone and format specifically designed to yield the results you’re hoping for.
And by putting it together in advance, you’re getting well ahead of the game.
NOW Start at the Beginning
Remember all those things you wanted to do at the start? Now is the time.
It’s important to crystalize in your mind exactly what you want from your copywriting project. The more clearly you understand and define the project, the more accurately you can assess the first draft and request amendments.
- What result are you aiming for? Persuasion? Education? Social Proof?
- What format do you want the project to take?
- How will the project fit into your wider content plan?
Answering these questions will enable you to discuss the project more thoroughly with a freelancer or agency. They’ll no doubt ask you variations of these questions anyway, and putting time into answering them properly in advance will enable a much more in-depth conversation.
Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can start to formulate an action plan.
- When will you be ready to start?
- What is the deadline?
- What is your budget?
- Will the project include a design component? Can you accommodate that in-house?
Again, this is a case of preparation. All of these questions will need to be answered before the project can progress, and deciding in advance will enable the freelancer or agency to get underway more quickly, and with a better understanding of your needs.
What are YOUR Terms?
It’s a given that whoever you choose to work with will have a set of terms. Payment, timescales, amendments… the list goes on.
But it’s also important to decide what your terms are.
Will the project require a degree of privacy? Will you need a non-disclosure? Do you want sole use of a freelancer’s time? Are you hoping to get them on retainer? Will they need to agree not to work with your competitors for the duration of the project?
It’s best not to assume anything when it comes to these sorts of terms. You don’t want to go through the whole process of providing information to an agency, only to discover they can’t start work for six weeks.
Equally, as a freelancer, there’s nothing worse than finding out right at the end of a copywriting project that the client doesn’t want it included in your portfolio.
Decide exactly what your terms are, and explain them clearly at the outset of the project.
Once you’ve answered all of these questions, and decided exactly what you want, get the project started straight away. You’ve put quite a bit of effort into this project now, and some of your answers may well be time sensitive.
For instance, if your copywriting project needs to fit into a wider content plan, it will need to be completed promptly. Equally, the people, products and audience you have in mind can (and probably will) change.
So whoever you’re working with, if you’ve got a project in the making I hope you’ll find these steps useful. By all means let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment.
And if you’re not yet working with anyone, why not drop me a line. I’d love to help.
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