Why defining the brief should be your first copywriting milestone

Solid Foundation

Where does a copywriting project start? What comes first? A test page? Tone of voice? Key messages? Brand guidelines? Keywords?

When a client comes to me, particularly if they’re a new client, I usually insist that we build the brief first.

My clients are often in a hurry. Many clients arrive after struggling to produce their own copy. They’re usually close to their deadline and eager to start NOW. And while my accommodating nature inclines me to acquiesce, I’ve been a copywriter for long enough to know that it pays to slow down and build the foundation. Instead of jumping in and writing stuff, I know it’s better to step back and think about the big picture.

By taking a little time to write a brief you can ensure that both client and copywriter have the same vision of the project. Writing a brief can prevent delays, snags and miscommunication. Writing a brief can ensure that the client gets what they want – which means the copywriter gets paid and everyone stays happy.

Briefs often evolve, or they may take the form of a flurry of emails from the client. It can be fruitful to adapt these rough notes and additions into a proper brief, especially if you begin to feel that some of the pointers or direction is conflicting.

So what should go into your copywriting brief? That’s a subject for another blog post. Adieu!

Meetup for Creative and Digital Professionals in Bournemouth and Poole

A funny thing happened on the way to our first DotDorset meetup back in May…

While waiting for people to arrive I overhead a woman asking the bar staff about a meetup group. Thinking she might be looking for DotDorset I introduced myself. Turns out it was Danielle Rose, and she was talking about her own meetup group. Curious! Two meetups in the same pub on the same night at the same time. Curious indeed. And what might the meetup be about? Creative and Digital Professionals? Now THAT is an amusing coincidence.

 

Turns out that Creative & Digital Professionals (Bournemouth & Poole) has pretty much the same plan that we did:

“The intention of this group is to provide informal social gatherings for local creatives to meet each other and hang out, whilst hopefully having a lot of fun in the process.”

So I recommend you check out the group and pop along to the next meetup. They meet monthly, usually in Bournemouth.

How freelance copywriters should (not) contact clients

As a freelancer copywriter, making contact with potential clients is easy to screw up. It’s also easy to get a little bit wrong. And it’s very easy to waste your time, and the time of the business you’re approaching.

I have experienced both sides of this equation: I’ve sent emails that get ignored and I also get query emails from fellow copywriters.

So here are a few tips to help you start positive relationships with potential clients and maybe even find work:

1. Address your emails to people individually

I frequently receive emails from copywriters addressed to ‘Sir’ – or they just say ‘Hi’. That’s fine. But it tells me you haven’t bothered to learn my name. If you don’t have the time (or the sense) to find out my name, I don’t have the time to reply.

2. Email one potential client at a time

I’ve had emails from aspiring copywriters that are copied to other agencies. This is a very quick way to besmirch your good name.

3. Tell the client how you can help them

Copywriters sometimes write telling me they want to “expand their client base” or “develop their client portfolio”, and that sounds just wonderful for them, but why would I give two shits about their business goals? Your potential clients are only interested if you can help them achieve their goals. So keep yourself out of it.

4. Send a link to your portfolio

Your potential clients don’t really want an inbox full of your files. Send them a link to your website/portfolio so they can browse your work in their own time. And if you don’t have a portfolio or a website you should really get one.

5. Be friendly and don’t make demands

Emailing people is fine and dandy, but remember that it doesn’t entitle you to a response. Your email is probably unsolicited anyway, so be patient and remember that the recipient doesn’t owe you anything. It’s good to be friendly and conversational in your email, but mind that you don’t become over-familiar, cocky or demanding.

6. Networking is about more than one-off emails

Instead of just sending an email to a potential client, why not follow them on Twitter? Or read their blog posts? If you can make your name pop up in front of them, you have a better chance of being recalled when you’re needed.

7. Remember that direct marketing is okay but it’s even better if they come to you

In my limited experience, contacting potential clients can be effective, but it’s a fairly painful way to make a living. Far better to make yourself discoverable so that the best clients can come looking for you.

You may also like: Finding work as a freelance copywriter (Kendall Copywriting, September 2012)

DotDorset – the new monthly meetup

DotDorset is a new meetup group that’s open to everyone.

The focus is on digital media, technology and arts, but the group’s main purpose is to hang out in pubs, so we’re pretty flexible.

What can you expect from DotDorset?

  • A place to meet other web workers and tech professionals
  • An informal, friendly, welcoming group
  • A group that can offer support, ideas and partners.

 

Details:

Wednesday 20 May 2015 from 19:30

The Goat & Tricycle, Bournemouth

How should a freelance copywriter submit work to their clients?

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The short answer is: probably in Word format.

The longer answer: however they want it. And that’s something you should check, just in case they’re expecting you to submit HTML, Pages files or post-it notes.

This question falls within the realm of ‘assumptions’. There are certain things that you might assume about an agreement with a client, such as:

  • file formats
  • delivery dates
  • review process
  • sign-off process.

Instead of assuming that your 100th client will be like the other 99, define the specifics of your project so there are no unexpressed assumptions and no nasty surprises.

WriteClub is 5!

WriteClub, the informal networking group for all kinds of writers, turns 5 today!

If you would like to meet other writers and talk about all kinds of stuff, such as:

  • writing fiction
  • freelancing
  • poetry
  • books
  • publishing
  • copy writing
  • journalism

– and much more, then you should head along to a WriteClub. Absolutely everyone is welcome at WriteClub. We’re all people who either write stuff or think about writing stuff, but there’s no limit on who comes along. For a long while two of our most dedicated members were artists!

WriteClub meets in London and Brighton. Find all the details on WriteClub.net

 

 

Kendall Copywriting is 6!

I’m another year older and a tiny bit wiser. Kendall Copywriting has now been trading for six years.

It’s been another good year packed full of copywriting. I’ve written web pages, brochures, tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts, presentations, posters and white papers for:

  • PowerVote
  • Acas
  • WWF
  • Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres
  • GS1
  • Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
  • MBA & Company
  • TBSCG
  • Allianz
  • Mercedes Benz
  • smart (cars)

– and many more!

 

It’s official: hype is a turn off

I’ve always encouraged my clients to use copy that is positive without being hyperbolic and promotional without being desperate.

To me, it seems intuitive that audiences are turned off by companies that over-sell themselves or litter their copy with bombastic language. Hype and superlatives might sound great to you, but to many of your potential customers those words sound like empty promises. Instead of inviting a reader into your world, those empty words create a barrier that your business can hide behind, leaving readers to wonder what else you’re hiding.

A recent study of branded content found that a significant majority of people trusted branded content, but their trust evaporates in the face of blatant self-promotion.

Factors which are guaranteed to turn off your readers include:

* Not being honest about the brand behind the content.

* Talking down to readers.

* Ignoring other arguments or viewpoints.

Thanks to Contently for writing the original article which inspired this post.

So you’ve got a website. Now the work starts.

Building (or buying) a website is really just the first step. The work doesn’t end there.

Assuming that you want to be found online, you have a lot of work to do.

So, what should you be doing to ensure that your website is found by your potential customers?

1: Update your content. Look at your website regularly. Is it up-to-date and accurate?

2: Blog. If you have a blog, make sure you have a plan for updating it. Who is in charge of creating your blog content?

3: Be sociable. Share your blog posts online and join discussions with your professional community.

4: Plan for future content. What kind of information do you want to share online? How does this content support your brand or your business objectives?

5: Review and remix. Websites are easy to change, so if you discover that you need a portfolio, or case studies, or staff bios, don’t hesitate to add them. Your website can do an amazing job of reassuring your potential customers, but only if you add the right content in the right places.

Leif Kendall / Kendall Copywriting does not use Elance…

My name has been used to defraud freelance writers on Elance, and I would like to make it clear that I do not use Elance and anyone receiving a message purporting to be me (on Elance) should report the activity to the Elance administrators.

On Friday evening (30 May 2014) I received an email from a freelance writer based somewhere in the USA who was angrily demanding money from me. I’d never heard of her, her project (descriptions for fancy dress costumes) or the intermediary she was engaged through.

Following this email I received messages on my blog, on Twitter, on a scam website and via a freelance group that I belong to (The Farm), all from people claiming that I was refusing to pay them.

Gradually it became clear that someone was claiming to be me and recruiting a variety of freelance writers (all on Elance) to do various projects. So now there are 3 or 4 writers who believe that I have defrauded them.

The truth is that I know nothing about any of this, and have never even used Elance (I may have registered once…).

I have since referred this matter to the police in the UK via their Action Fraud service. I have a crime reference number which anyone affected by this matter should also use.

I do not use Elance, or any other online freelance marketplace. If you receive a message via any site other than this domain, please ignore it or report it to your authorities.

I’m currently speaking to Elance about this matter and am hoping that they can bar anyone from using my name on their website again.

 

You should divide your web budget between design, development and content

When you plan your website, how much of your budget do you assign to the content?

Too many organisations spend thousands of pounds on the design and development of their website, but fail to budget for content creation and management.

But what is the point of having a great-looking and easily-navigable website if the content is weak, or wrong, or off-message?

It’s hard to attribute a value to quality content, but it’s easy to see that while great design can impress potential customers, the design can’t tell people what you do, or what makes you unique. Nor can great design answer the questions that your potential customer have.

Great design is an essential component of a successful website, but without well-planned and well-executed content you have a pretty brochure that says nothing about your business.

If you want a website that is more than a costly but beautiful artefact, spinning in space, you need to think carefully about your content. 

And if your budget is tight, why not consider spending less on the design and functionality, and spending more on the content?

Highlight the benefits (How to be your own copywriter)

be-your-own-copywriter

When you write about your products or services, tell people how your offerings can change their life, or improve their business.

Remember that when someone buys your fridge they are really buying food and drinks that are cold, fresh and free from bacteria. They are buying convenience. Nobody wants a big white box, but everybody wants food that’s free from mould and safe to eat.

So if you’re telling someone about your new iPhone app, tell them what it does AND why it’s functions are so great. How does the app improve or alter the user’s day-to-day existence?

You can highlight benefits in different ways. You can talk explicitly about the benefits, like this:

Benefits of Dave’s Fridges:

–  Your food stays fresher for longer 

–  Efficient freezer function saves energy and cuts your costs 

–   Easy-clean anti-bacterial coating

Or you can blend benefits into a more general discussion of the product, like this:

Dave’s Fridges offer rapid-cooling and an anti-bacterial coating to keep your food healthy and free from bacteria.

However you do it, make sure you get beyond product features and tell people exactly how they will benefit by buying your product or service. Don’t expect your reader to be able to guess the benefits.

 

Accepting criticism and feedback as a copywriter

I always tell my clients, “I’m not really writing for you; I’m writing for your customers, or your supporters. They are the most important audience.”

But recently I’ve been thinking about how a copywriter has to juggle the needs of a client’s audience with the need to appease and satisfy client-side stakeholders.

For example, I can’t get away with just writing copy that will work for my clients – I also have to please them sufficiently so that they accept my suggestions and use my words to represent their business. If my clients don’t like the copy I provide, they won’t use it. My clients might have bad taste in copy, but to a certain extent I have to please them in order to help them.

Of course, no self-respecting copywriter is going to submit weak copy just because it’s what the client wants; the challenge is to lead your client towards a middle-ground where they get what they want while you also get to deliver copy you can be proud of.

So here are my tips for accepting client feedback and moving towards a result that pleases everyone.

1: Try your damnedest to see their point of view

This is difficult to achieve, but you must try. Even if you think their feedback is wrong or ignorant or misguided, you must try to understand their point of view. Why do they have wrong-headed views about the copy? What informs their opinion? Where did they get their ideas from?

2: Try to agree with their comments

Play devil’s advocate. Imagine that your client is entirely right and you are completely wrong.  Consider the feedback from every angle – but start from a point where you assume they are completely right. Will them to be right. Pray for them. It’s much easier to roll with a client’s punches than to fight back.

3: Be gracious in your communications

Remember that the copy you wrote is now a business tool. It’s not poetry. So even if you do feel hurt by a client’s criticism, take a few deep breaths and let those feelings fly out of your body.

4: Focus on the things you can accept and agree with

Instead of responding to feedback with justifications and combative comments, start softly and positively by talking about the points you completely agree with and understand.

5: Discuss contentious points carefully

It’s entirely right and proper to  resist any changes that diminish the copy, but do be careful how you argue. Be gentle, give evidence for your arguments and remember that your client knows their business and their customers better than you.

6: Remember that, after all, it’s their copy

If push comes to shove, the client won’t use any words that they don’t believe in. You can nudge a client towards the copy you think they need, but you can’t force it on them.

 

Do you have any tips for handling criticism and getting your client’s approval?

Writing for WWF International – new case study

I was thrilled to get a chance to write for WWF International last year.

WWF were busy with a number of global campaigns and their in-house team needed a little support. I think they also valued having some fresh ideas from someone not immersed in the world of conservation – which I hope I was able to provide.

I wrote blog posts and social media content for two WWF campaigns. I loved the complexity of their material – and it was great to get involved with such a worthwhile cause.

I do offer a discount to charities – so get in touch if you need help with campaigns, web copy – or anything else!

Read my WWF International case study

 

 

Make sure your copy supports your organisation’s goals (How to be your own copywriter)

be-your-own-copywriter

Your copy needs to address your audience’s questions, but it also needs to serve your organisation.

Your copy is there to communicate what you do and who you are, so consider how well the copy supports your goals.

Your goals might be:

  • Drive more enquiries online (and get fewer phone calls)
  • Change the perception of your organisation
  • Reach a new type of customer
  • Communicate new services / product ranges
  • Recruit recent graduates

By simply listing your organisation’s goals, you can evaluate your copy against these criteria.

This way, you’re more likely to have copy that does more than simply describe what you do.

Let’s chat about your projectContact us