Back to the topic of briefing a copywriter…

Many clients have such a compelling message that, as their copywriter, I instantly know what the hook for (e.g.) a sales letter will be. Indeed I get so excited about their products or services that, if I were in their sector, I’d buy them myself. Sometimes I have bought the product or service. I once opened a new bank account because I was so impressed with what I was writing. I have taken out insurance in this way, too. My mother purchased her handmade bedroom furniture from one of my clients on the strength of my recommendation. Also, I have been known to recommend clients’ products or services to other clients, too, when I am confident that here we have a fabulous business selling great products with fantastic benefits to the customer.

When the client is the founder of a business, they know their products and services inside out. They know what makes them better than competitive products and what makes them unique. And if there isn’t anything unique about a product or service, then why not dig deep and create something that is?

But what about when a client expects you to write compelling copywriting based on very little information at all – a written brief that is either incomprehensible because it comprises solely of corporate jargon or a brief that you could write on the back of a matchbox?

Just as bad is when a client comes back after reading a first draft and hands you a load of additional material which he or she should have given you in the first place. It’s as if the copywriting has jogged his or her mind and, sorry they forgot, but actually the product or service does all this extra stuff for the customer as well…

It’s difficult to predict whether, as a copywriter, you have all the information you need before you embark on a copywriting job. But I’m always careful to check before I go ahead with a project. In my Terms and Conditons it states that if, in effect, the goalposts are moved part-way through a project, then it’s going to cost the client more.

And then there’s the client who gives you next to no information and says: “You’re the copywriter, so you should know…” Sorry, no. I am a copywriter, not a clairvoyant.

25 years’ experience as a freelance copywriter has taught me to refuse to take on any copywriting project until I have all the facts and benefits… until I’ve squeezed out a great USP (Unique Selling Point) along with a string of supporting benefits. If possible, I’ll suggest adding an incentive – but only the kind of incentive that will encourage repeat business. It’s no use offering your products at a discount only to attract one-off purchases.

And if for whatever reason I fail to gather all the information I need, I will turn down the copywriting project.

Likewise if a client insists on using corporate jargon in a bid to make his or her service sound more professional and thus attract customers.

It doesn’t.

If I am in any doubt whatsoever that a copywriting brief won’t achieve the desired result, for whatever reason, then I won’t take it on.


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