The copywriting briefing process

What to expect when you work with a copywriter

You’ve decided you need a copywriter. You’ve done some research, shortlisted some writers and sent off some enquiries. Great! Now it’s time to get started on the copywriting briefing process.

Getting ready to quote

A recent discussion in my copywriting community was about at what point in the customer engagement you ask a client to complete a written briefing form. Some copywriters will ask you to complete a comprehensive briefing questionnaire before they quote – they feel that it shows commitment on your part, and allows them to gain a solid understanding of the job.

I prefer to do an initial briefing about the project over the phone or with a few quick questions over email to determine what we are creating and its intended purpose. For example, a 5 page website, or a bundle of 5 x 800 word blog posts. I’ll ask you what kind of research and materials you already have available and get a feel for the project.

From this initial briefing, I’m then able to prepare a proposal for you outlining a scope of work and a project fee.


You’ve decided to hit go – now for the full brief

Once you’ve decided I’m the copywriter for you (aww, thanks!) and accepted my proposal, it’s time for the full briefing questionnaire. Now it’s time for you to sit down and really think about things.

I’ll ask you about:

  • About your company, how long you’ve been in business, why you started?
  • What’s the goal for the communication – eg buying the product, calling for an appointment, signing up for updates etc
  • Who your target audience is. How old are they? What do they like to do? What are their beliefs, desires, fears about your product or service? Why or why aren’t they buying from you?
  • Who are your competitors? What do you think they are doing well? What do you think their weaknesses are?
  • What kind of tone do you want? Do you want to come across as authoritative, playful, quirky, serious? Can you provide examples of other copy that you do and don’t like?
  • What information must be included on particular pages?
  • What makes your business stand out?
  • What kind of proof do you have for your awesomeness? Eg awards, customer testimonials, positive reviews?

Wondering what’s involved in working with a copywriter?

I can’t write all this – that’s what I need you for!

Maybe you’re looking at the briefing questionnaire and feeling overwhelmed. Hey, that’s ok!

I don’t need you to write a 3000 word essay in response to the questions. I do however need you to have thought about these questions. And if you don’t know the answers at all, copywriting might not be the service your business needs right now.

Jot down some initial responses, provide as much detail and supporting links as you can, and then we’ll get together over the phone or email to clarify any points and fill in any gaps.

The copywriting proposal typically allows for at least one briefing call, as well as research time to look into your industry, competitors and target audiences. For most web copy jobs, there’s also an allowance for keyword research so that I can make sure whatever I write for you will work hard to bring you online traffic and enquiries.


Can’t we chat face-to-face?

Ah, so you’re a people-person… I get it, lots of communication is expressed non-verbally, so I understand why you might feel uneasy about never meeting me. Let me reassure you that I don’t meet the vast majority of my clients and they’re all really happy not to meet me. (I’m a bit of a disappointment in real life, snort.)

In most instances, I don’t allow for face-to-face meetings. This is simply because with limited childcare hours, time is precious. Travelling to face-to-face meetings is either wasted time for me, or an unnecessary expense for you, paying for my time to sit in traffic, when that budget could go towards me writing for you.

But hey, I’m human, and I don’t mind the occasional chat over coffee. So if your business is based within 10 or 15 minutes of my northern beaches home, we can meet in person. And I’ll even pay for the coffee. I’ll still ask you to fill in the briefing questionnaire first though, so don’t think you’re getting out of that!

Over to you

Do you have any other questions about the copywriting briefing process? Or are there questions you’re not being asked that you think your copywriter should be asking? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!