Working with a copywriter

Your Incredibly Useful Guide to Working with a Copywriter

Thinking of working with a copywriter but don’t know what to expect? Here’s an explanation of how I like to work with my clients, and some advice to help you make sure your copy gets the results you want.

Many of my clients tell me that the prospect of working with a copywriter is daunting. Of course, once we get stuck into their project, they soon change their minds and even start to have fun. After all, creating amazing writing is always fun, right? Especially if you feel part of an imaginative, expressive partnership

But I also realise you’re not doing this for fun – that’s just a bonus. You’re investing in well written words which will represent your business, brand or venture. However, fine words butter no parsnips, as my granny liked to say. When you hire a copywriter, you do so because you want copy which not only reads well, but also performs brilliantly.

This is a guide to my copywriting process. It’s how I make sure every last one of my clients starts happy and stays happy. And in the very last paragraph I explain how you can get the most from your copy, too. Even if I didn’t write it.

1. Working with a Copywriter – the Very Beginning

Everything starts with your brief. That’s why, whether you’re buying one of my off-the-shelf or bespoke copywriting packages, I’ll spend some time emailing or talking with you to make sure I know exactly what you want. Then, once we’ve agreed on the scope of your project, I’ll set it all down in writing, just so we both have something to refer back to.

Don’t know what you want? No problem. We’ll keep talking until things become clearer. It helps if you can at least identify what you hope to achieve with your project.

Then, I’ll schedule your work. I’ll tell you the date I intend to begin working on your project, and give you an estimate of how long it should take me to produce the first draft. Of course, research and writing sometimes take longer than anticipated, so we will need to be somewhat flexible about deadlines.

Next, I’ll ask you to digitally sign a contract, and I’ll sign it, too. This is to protect both of our interests. Our contract is a great way to make sure we all know exactly what to expect, and what to do if problems arise. I’d say that signing the contract is the single most important step in establishing a satisfying creative collaboration. For this reason, it needs to be signed before I’m scheduled to start working on your project.

Another important step which must be completed before I begin work is the payment of a 50% deposit. This only applies if you’ve ordered one of my web copy packages. Otherwise, I’ll invoice you either at the end of every calendar month, or when I’ve completed your project (whichever comes sooner).

2. Working with a Copywriter – the Drafting Process

Here’s where things start to get exciting, and it’s also where our collaboration really comes into its own. I’ll present you with an initial draft, and invite you to give feedback on how you’d like to see the work evolve. This is an absolutely crucial part of the creative process, and your engagement at this point is essential.

Don’t be surprised if your project needs to go through two separate iterations before you’re happy with it. I do occasionally hit the nail on the head first time, but it’s far more usual to go through a bit of back-and-forth before it’s time to declare the project a success. That’s why I include two revision cycles per page as standard in all of my web copy packages. If your project is bespoke and fairly complex, be prepared for a more protracted process. Don’t forget: it’s normal and even desirable to go through several revisions. That’s how truly outstanding work is done.

3. Working with a Copywriter – Approving Your Work

After as many rounds of the revision process as necessary, we’ll reach a point where the writing phase of the project is complete. That’s when I’ll ask you to indicate your approval in writing. It’s incredibly important that you give your project one last read-through before signing off on it, because any further changes will mean a new contract and additional cost.

Believe it or not, I have worked with some clients who didn’t read what I’d written before approving it. Don’t be like those people, even if reading isn’t your thing. It’s the sure and certain road to discontent.

Finally, I’ll invoice you for the balancing payment of my fee. When you settle this invoice, intellectual property rights for the project will be transferred to you, unless we have a different agreement in place. But that’s not quite the end.

4. Beyond the Copywriting Process – A Word about A/B Testing

Although we’re now at the point where my work is done, it would be remiss of me not to mention the importance of A/B testing. Otherwise known as split testing, this is a method which helps you judge how well two alternative versions of your web page, brochure, sales email or other copy are performing. Or, in other words, how well each one fulfils its purpose (remember right back at the beginning when I advised you to work out what you wanted your project to achieve? Yes, we’ve come back to that point).

Essentially, you ask me to create two versions of everything, and you test these versions to see how well they perform. You then go with the best. Cynics among you might say that this is a great way for the unscrupulous copywriter to double their business, and of course that’s not entirely untrue. But I’m convinced A/B testing has real value, and if you’re not doing it, you’re missing out. As ever, I don’t want you to take my word for it. Here’s an article which provides all the information you need to judge for yourself.

It sounds trite, but it’s true: you are your copywriter’s best resource. Don’t just chuck them a brief and forget all about it. Make sure you fully engage with their process—and don’t forget A/B testing–to get the best possible results.

Lynn is the founder and quality-maven-in-chief of Lexis Writing, a collective of expert writers creating high quality content and copy for businesses in the UK and beyond.

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