Over the Christmas break, a post on Twitter highlighted the strange conversations creatives have with their clients, many of them hilarious. Judging by the stream of reactions that followed, these scenarios are being encountered every day by freelancers all over the world. Common topics included late payment, last minute changes to the brief and requests for free work in exchange for exposure.
When I asked my community of freelancers about the issues they faced in their work a number of themes popped up. Here are just three of the things that every copywriter needs you to know.
The cost of copywriting is about so much more than the final word count
Steps will differ depending on who you work with and what you need, but every copywriter has a process they follow in order to provide you with effective, well-written copy. My heart sinks every time I hear a potential client utter the fatal sentence ‘It’s only 450 words or so, it won’t take you long.’
To be able to do my job properly I must understand your aims for the copy, who you are speaking to (your ideal clients), and gauge less tangible aspects such as brand language and tone of voice. Add on time spent researching industry competitors, emails with your web developer or marketing team, drafting, redrafting and then potentially meeting with you for final feedback before the last stage of edits…you get the idea.
Whether the project requires 400 words or 4000, the process usually remains the same. And while we are on the topic of word count, please don’t underestimate the skill that goes into succinctly communicating a message in as few words as possible.
Your dad/wife/best friend may know you intimately but that doesn’t mean that they know what is best for your business
As a freelancer, I understand the isolation that comes with running a business on your own. I get that it can be scary making a final decision on something that represents your business and is costing you a chunk of your marketing budget. I know that your dad has only your best interests at heart and you trust him implicitly, whereas I am a near stranger. I really do get it.
Scenarios usually go something like this – I meet a client and we agree to work together. We go through the process of identifying the right approach (as identified above) and I begin drafting the copy. At first, everything seems to be going well and then the client starts to waver.
Client “I showed the copy to my (insert name here) and they’re not sure it’s quite right.”
Here’s the thing. If you choose to pay a copywriter and then ignore their professional advice you are wasting your money. A family member may know you but that doesn’t mean that they know what is best for your business, the marketing approach required to reach your ideal audience or how your brand should sound online. The only proviso would be if the person you go to for advice fits the buyer profile, then their input is invaluable.
If you are unsure about the direction of the copy please tell your copywriter. Be honest with them and consider their advice. We are used to getting feedback on changes that need to be made, it’s all part of getting it right.
You need to play a role in crafting a message that will work for you – I can’t just copy your competitor’s site
On the subject of wasting money – this has to be the least effective way to use a copywriter. If I had a pound for every time a potential client gave me a list of competitor websites and told me to “just go and have a look and copy that” I would be one very rich lady. Let’s have a look at why this is a terrible idea.
Firstly, it’s intellectual property theft.
Secondly, you are not your competitor. If you are to stand out in the marketplace then you must show what makes you different, not just repeat what everybody else is saying.
Thirdly, why would you pay my professional fee for me to simply copy and paste someone else’s words?
Lastly, and most importantly – it’s intellectual property theft.
Hiring a professional and then asking them not to do their job properly doesn’t do anyone any favours, least of all you. If you can’t invest a bit of time as well as money in working with a copywriter to get the best result, I recommend putting the project to one side until you can make the space in your diary.
Give me some examples of the kind of issues that come up in your industry with the comments section below.