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Your secret weapon: ten ways to get the best results from your copywriter

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

In business, having a smart copywriter at your disposal can be like owning a secret weapon.

Follow my ten-step guide and you’ll not only save money and worry but you may even spark up a great working relationship with someone who:

* Comes to know your organisation inside out
* Gets in an instant what you’re trying to convey and …
* Is mentally whipping it into customer-friendly copy before you’ve even put the phone down.

Here goes:

1. Don’t worry if your initial brief is hazy

Often a client will phone me with a vague notion that they’d like “some kind of leaflet” and we end up working together on a direct mailshot or maybe a press release. A good copywriter should know which medium will best achieve your aims and won’t mess around writing something you don’t actually need.

If they’re hazy themselves, walk away and find someone else.

2. Think carefully about what you want to achieve

I’ve created easy, fun (I hope) briefing templates that I always use with clients before we start a new project. For me, nailing the brief at the outset is essential; it means I get to share my client’s vision for the work (and gently guide them in a different direction if I think that would be more effective). It also helps me get the first draft as near to perfect as it can be.

In case your copywriter isn’t clued up on briefing, it’s a good idea to approach them having asked yourself the following questions …

* What do I want the outcome of this campaign to be? (For example: more traffic to my website; phonecalls from potential customers; general brand awareness.)
* What do I want people to do / think / believe as a result of reading it?
* Who is my target audience? How old are they and what do they do for a living?
* What is the ‘personality’ of my brand or business? How do I want my copy to sound?
* Are there examples of copy and branding I like or dislike?

3. Confirm the costs

Copywriters have different ways of charging: some will go on word count, others on a day or hourly rate. Ask yours how their fees work and check whether they include amendments, VAT and final proofing. Ask about their invoicing system.

Remember that a short word count doesn’t necessarily mean an assignment is easier: often writing pithy, catchy copy is much harder than producing reams of text.

A tip: The more information you can give me at the start, the quicker I can work and the cheaper I will be. If my clients are on a tight budget, I get them to scribble out what they want to say and spend just an hour or two working it into lean, mean copy. Your copywriter may offer a similar service.

4. Set a deadline

I always ask for a deadline - it helps me manage my time and prioritise my workload. Tell your copywriter when you’ll need your copy by and see whether they can accommodate you.

5. Trust them

Once you’ve agreed the turnaround time, leave your copywriter to get on with the first draft. Contacting them every few hours or even days for a progress report may interrupt their thinking and slow things down. It could even send out the message that you’re twitchy about the project or unsure about their capabilities.

Most copywriters - especially those from journalistic backgrounds - are disciplined, conscientious people who would never dream of missing a deadline.

6. Respond quickly to requests for information

Occasionally, your copywriter may need a few more details before they can complete their work. It’s a good idea to respond to these requests promptly so you don’t let the project go stale.

7. Speak up!

If you change your mind about anything halfway through, tell your copywriter as quickly as you can. The beauty of copy is that it can easily be unpicked, rewritten, revised and revamped.

It’s reasonable to accept that wildly changing the scope of the brief may incur extra charges.

8. Give feedback promptly

When you have the first draft, read it through swiftly and jot down your initial thoughts. Then read it again, taking time to digest it. Make a note of any phrases or words you don’t really like (and ones you definitely do) and then phone or email your copywriter with feedback.

If you need more time to think it over, or you have other people to consult, let your copywriter know when you intend to get back to them. Chances are they will have put love and care into your work and will be keen to know your thoughts.

9. Ask for a final once-over

Once you’ve signed off the last draft and the copy has been pasted into your website or worked up into an advertising campaign, don’t be afraid to ask your copywriter if they’ll run their eyes over it again. Chunks of text can get missed out or replicated during the design process and carefully formatted headings can turn into Eighteenth-century-esque Curiosities.

If they take pride in their work - which most copywriters do - they’ll be delighted to see it through to publication or launch.

10. Keep in touch

It goes without saying that you should pay your copywriter on time. If you enjoyed working with them, tell them: give them a testimonial and let them know later on how your marketing campaign performs.

Ask them what else they could help you with. I now have clients for whom I’m happy to write a difficult email or finish a report they’ve been dreading - little jobs they could never outsource to a stranger.

Nurture your working relationship with your copywriter; they could be worth their weight in gold to you.

marie@goodasgoldws.co.uk

An extra cog in your machine: find a good copywriter and keep them!

An efficient cog in your machine: find a good copywriter and keep them!

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