How to brief a copywriter


So you've been working away at your big business idea for some months now, and your new business baby is just about ready to pop. It's an exciting time, and you're so overwhelmed by the excitement of it all that you're speechless. Literally. People are asking you where you've been hiding the past couple of months, and a smile begins to form on your face. "Well, I've been starting a new project/expanding my product mix/launching a new website, and gobbledegook fap fap meow purple monkey dishwasher".

Before you know it, you're left there holding the chip bowl as the other person slowly retreats and edges towards slightly more coherent company. It's not your fault - building buzz about who you are and what you do is hard. The words make sense inside your head, but when you sit down to write that press release, or that landing page, or that blog post, your prose sounds more like a recap of LOST. It's mega confusing, with waaaay too many ideas snaking their way through.

This is where a copywriter comes in. It's our job to flesh out your story and tell it to the masses. It's our job to make you sound so fan-freakin-tastic, we actually convince ourselves to use your services or buy from you.

Copy is more than just words on a screen or a page. They're carefully crafted sentences that combine all of your ideas, your purpose and your very own brand of sizzling panache. So before you hire a copywriter, there's a few key things you should think about before you even make that first phone call, and write a copywriting brief for your chosen one.

How to brief a copywriter

1.  Decide who your target market is

Who is your ideal customer or client? Are they single, female, time-starved with little financial knowledge? Or are they male, 35-50-years-old, with a high amount of disposable income and little pop culture knowledge? It's really important to think about who your people are and how you serve them, because a copywriter will be able to use an appropriate tone of voice that will appeal to them. Also, it's a real shame when Beyonce references go over peoples' heads.

2. Define the purpose of the copywriting - to educate, or to increase sales

To put it simply - what do you want and what are your goals? I know you're probably sitting at your computer thinking, "I'm a business owner, and I want some copy for my press release and I would like for it to sound good so people will read it. Duh.". But copywriting goes deeper than the simple act of typing. It serves a purpose, and part of its success lies in its foundational strategy. Is it for a landing page that people are sent to from an email and then used to capture leads for your personal training services? Is it instructional information that will help people perform a task better? Is it a spell-binding 'About Us' page that tells the world exactly why your business is the best in its industry? Knowing exactly what you want this copy to do is vital to giving your copywriter direction.

3. Be clear on your Ultimate Selling Point (USP)

Seth Godin calls this your Purple Cow: "Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable." Now, you might not even know what exactly it is that makes your business so unique. Or, you might have a vague idea, but you're not quite sure how to articulate it. In my honest opinion, if you're not yet sure of your USP, it's part of a copywriter's job to help you find this out with you. If your writer of choice doesn't get you on a Skype call and probe you for the 411 about your business, they're not doing their job right. But before you begin your business discovery call with your copywriter, it's useful for both parties if you can summarise your wow-factor in a few, short sentences. Are you a solopreneur who's entirely responsible for all of your services? It's rare not to outsource, and that is very purple of you. High-five! Are you a fourth-generation yogi overflowing with almost a century of knowledge? That's insanely special (can I please steal your productivity secrets?). Maybe you're a close-knit family business who just want to share your wares with the world? That's a very warm and fuzzy story right there.

4. Pick a deadline

A copywriter will work with you to organise a time frame that benefits both parties, but having an absolute no-excuses deadline is also very useful. Before you even ask for a quote, work out a due-by date and let your copywriter of choice known in the first communication. That way, no one wastes time anticipating goal-kicking only to have to part ways to due conflicting schedules. As a rule of thumb, if you need a super-speedy turn-around, you're looking at an extra surcharge.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.