How to write a great copywriter brief

“Just write me something for my landing page,” he says.

Hmm ok.

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that. A freelancer’s work is only as good as the brief she’s been given, so the instruction to ‘write something…’ is likely to result in a piece of work that is vague at best, and total pants at worst.

Back when I was starting out as a copywriter, I had copywriting jobs that dragged on for months, at a cost to the client, simply because he didn’t take the 10 minutes needed to write a brief.

If you have expectations for the piece of writing that you’re commissioning, then a clear brief is going to get you closer to meeting those expectations than some nebulous instruction – the copywriter cannot read your mind, no matter how experienced she is.

It’s essential to explain the objectives for the job, the requirements, the audience, at the VERY LEAST. Otherwise you’ll be disappointed, and the copywriter will tell everyone they meet just how difficult you are (just kidding, but they won’t think too highly of you).

If the copywriter knows exactly what she’s doing because you’ve given her a comprehensive brief, then you’ll both come out of the experience getting what you want.

Over the years that I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter, I’ve learned many lessons. Not least is that, if I get a transparent brief, then the job goes much more smoothly and the customer is much happier with the outcome.

So, cover the following topics in your briefing form, and you can’t go far wrong. At the very least it serves as a useful prompt to ensure all the main things are covered.

The copywriting brief – what to include

First things first, what do you need? Is it a blog post, a corporate brochure, website copy, e-newsletter, sales literature, letter, form, press release, white paper, article or something else?

What is its purpose? Do you want to generate leads, inform your clients or something else – if you can offer as much information as possible as the what you want to achieve, your copywriter can write to that instruction and will thank you for it.

Who is your target market? B2B or B2C? What are their particular characteristics? Giving info about the target’s position in the company, the demographic or any other relevant information helps give the copywriter a better idea of who the copy is aimed at and how it should be written.

What, (and why) is the most important benefit that will appeal to your target market? Summarise the main benefit of your product or service to your target market. Don’t forget to include why they should believe you.

What kind of Response are you looking for? Is there an immediate action required: to email, telephone or respond in some other way?

The tone of voice is important. It has to reflect your business. If your usual style of blog post (or whatever it is) is serious and formal, then you don’t want to publish something that is peppered with humour as it won’t necessarily sit well with your audience. So make sure your copywriter knows what type of language they should use: be it casual, formal, authoritative, friendly, humorous, serious.

It helps enormously to give your copywriter existing material, and style guidelines too if you have them. Indicate key phrases/terms relevant to the business. For websites, provide any information you have on keywords.

How this job relates to your broader business strategy? Is there anything else you have done, or are planning to do, that is relevant, such as advertising, exhibitions, posters or brochures?

Does the copywriter know your business? Have they worked with you before? If not supply as much information as possible so that she gets a good idea of your brand and how you operate.

Do you have draft content you can share, or perhaps you have some back-of-a-fag-packet ideas? Share these too.

You’re nearly done – explain when you need the copy. If necessary, agree a schedule to show stages and dates for each stage.

That’s it! Not too scary?

Ultimately, the more precise you are about your requirements, the more accurately the copywriter’s work will align to your expectations, and most importantly, the more accurate the copywriter can be about the fee.

You might be thinking that by the time you’ve written the brief, you may as well have done the work yourself. But then, if that were the case, you’d be the copywriter. And the reasons why you should use a copywriter rather than do it yourself is the topic for another blog.

Remember, the copywriter’s work is only as good as the brief you’ve given them so make it a good one.


Image courtesy of Pixabay