Do you have a blog post, homepage content or a series of product descriptions you need writing? Before your freelance writer can put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard – you’re going to need to create a brief. Thankfully, we’ve put together some simple tips on how to write the perfect copywriting brief.
What is a good copywriting brief?
In a nutshell, a good brief tells your writer everything they need to know about:
• Your company
• Your product or service
• Your audience and how you talk to them
• What you need producing
Signs of a good copywriting brief are:
• Lots of detail
• Examples, such as links to your website or product photos
• The agreement of certain contractual aspects
The benefits of a good copywriting brief
Some freelance writers charge by the hour, others by each round of amends, so it saves you money (and time) if you can get your finished piece spot on the first time around. That’s where the perfect copywriting brief comes in.
As copywriter Emma Cownley states, “Even if not all the information ends up in the final piece, the more we know, the better our creative response will be.”
In essence: when your writer knows exactly what you want to communicate to your reader, they’re well equipped to provide you with the content that engages, informs and above all converts.
Ultimately, according to Forbes, “the test of a good creative brief: if the editor, client, or company leader looks at the finished piece and says, ‘This is exactly what we wanted!’ the creative brief is a smashing success.”
Tips and template for a perfect copywriting brief
If you came here looking for a copywriting brief template, you’re in luck. Below we speed through what to include in your freelance writing brief:
Type of content
First things first, tell the writer what you want to be written. Is it an article, a blog post, a piece of web content, or a bunch of product or category page descriptions for your e-commerce site?
You may have a strict 500-word limit or be willing to let a copywriter run with it. Always state whether this will impact payment.
Now, what is it about? Perhaps the subject is fashion if you need to promote your new range of womenswear, or health if you want to add insight to a medical surgery blog. If you need a piece of content to pitch higher than general readership, mention if you’d prefer a copywriter with industry-specific knowledge.
Is this part of a larger project – have you already produced similar content in-house or using other writers? Your writer won’t know, so state how this copywriting job fits into your overall content marketing campaign and provide examples where necessary. Also, don’t forget to tell them where this piece of content will appear.
Getting your company ethos and tone of voice right comes down to the writer understanding as much as they can about you. Let them know if you’re a start-up, if you’re rebranding in a particular area or if you have a niche. How do you communicate with your customers? Are you humorous, personal and friendly, or professional and formal?
Any information you can supply about your customer demographic will help. This includes data you’ve pulled or customer profiles you might have produced as part of your business or marketing plan.
Call to action
Don’t forget the reason you want a piece of content written! Should the call to action be to link to your contact page, push customers towards taking advantage of an offer, or sign up to your newsletter?
In the age of Google, search engine optimisation (SEO) can be the difference between making it onto page one and being lost to the recesses of the internet. Let the writer know what search terms (including any localisation or variables) you want to be included, such as ‘plumbers in Croydon’.
Be aware, not all freelance copywriters offer a service for providing images of other multimedia content. Include details about what kind of image as well as quality, size and orientation you’re looking for.
Here you can flesh out your concept. If you want a writer to plug a certain event, you need to provide them with the information or links to sources that can help them. Got a specific layout you want? Provide a style guide for them to follow.
This is where you can get really specific. Any phrases you think sound awful and really don’t want your copywriter to use? Mention them here. You could also detail required formatting such as HTML, or the number of words or characters in a section (relevant if you need a meta description writing or have limited space). What about where you wish keywords to appear and keyword density? Should they include any external links?
This is the bit most copywriters are interested in: how much does this project pay? They will also want to know how they will be paid and when.
State the time frame you need the work to be delivered by. You also need to agree with the copywriter what the situation will be regarding amends. Will you be entitled to any ‘free’ edits? Will you pay more per amend?
All contracts need to be signed off. Include the following at the end of your brief:
• Date of writing the brief
• Name and signature of hiring company/client
• Name and signature of copywriter
• Date of agreement
Who will supply the brief?
If you’re approaching a freelance copywriter, you may find they already have a copywriting brief template on their website for you to download and fill in. However, not all copywriters are prepared for this and you may need to produce your own. That’s not to say you should jump in at the deep end with a super detailed brief. Start with a speculative email and see if the writer is interested in your project before you commit to getting the details down on paper.
Doesn’t writing a copywriting brief take too much time?
When you need some content writing, you’re always going to need to provide a writer with a copywriting brief. It’s the only way to ensure you receive the end product you need while safeguarding both yourself and the writer in the process.
Australian marketing analytics company Digital Balance states that you should “make it your goal to put as much effort into writing your brief as you expect to get back from your writer.”
At the same time, use your judgement. Copywriter Liz Ernst writes about the fine line between providing enough detail to help your copywriter and writing so much that you overburden your writer – and yourself in the process. Your brief should be comprehensive but streamlined; remember, you’re hiring a writer to make your life easier, so don’t fall into the trap of practically creating the content yourself!
Of course, one way to get around the pitfalls of sourcing a freelance copywriter and having to remember all of the above is to use a copywriting agency with a set copywriting brief that you can customise. This can save you time, money and a lot of hassle.