Eek! You knew building your business was going to be challenging but now you’re working 60 hours a week when all you wanted in the first place was to create more balance in your life.
Something’s gotta give. It might just be time to outsource…
It’s a big decision though.
One the one hand it’s incredibly exciting — just think of what you’ll be able to do with all of the spare time you’ll be freeing up!
But it’s daunting too. Your business is your baby and you’re about to hand over a little bit of control to someone else. Will they understand you and your goals? Will they be a nightmare to work with? Will you get your money’s worth?
Outsourcing your business writing can be especially scary. What if the writer’s a total primadonna, who’ll fight to the death over the use of a comma or insist on using words that you can’t stand? Will your website, your email sequence, or your blog post even sound like you?
And how does the copywriting process even work?
Will your writer hit you with a bunch of jargon you don’t understand? Will they demand you answer unanswerable questions? Will the bill slowly creep up as the project unfolds so you end up paying way more than you were expecting?
Naturally, I can’t speak for all copywriters. We’re a diverse bunch and we all run our businesses in different ways.
What I can tell you is how I work…
Step 1: it’s a match!
This is the bit where we both decide whether we’ll work well together.
To begin, I ask potential clients to drop me an email to let me know what they need help with. I need to know: what they need (i.e website copy, text for a three-page marketing brochure etc), the industry they work in, and any deadlines I’ll have to follow. If they already have some text written down, it’s also really helpful if that’s included that in the message. It might be that what they have just needs a tweak or two to make it shine.
If we’ve worked together before, I’ll be able to provide a quote at this point. And as long as the scope of the project doesn’t change, that’s the price the client will pay. Any changes to the quote (for example, if it turns out that the client needs an extra page) will be agreed in advance so there are no nasty surprises when I send my invoice.
If we haven’t worked together before I’ll get them booked in for a free Zoom call (like Skype, but better!) where we can get to know each other a bit and decide whether we’re a good fit for working together. Once they’ve found a copywriter that really ‘gets’ their business, clients tend to stick around for years so it’s important to find someone that you can gel with.
Step 2: the money bit.
Once I’ve established exactly what the client needs, it’s quote time. This is also the point where we sort out the project deadline. This comes down to a combination of what the client needs and what I can fit into my schedule. I do have a waiting list, as do most decent copywriters, so I don’t recommend that you wait until two weeks before a massive conference to ask about having a marketing brochure written! Unless you’re extremely lucky and I’m having a quiet week, it just ain’t going to happen…
If the client is happy with the quote, I bill them for a 50% deposit to secure their spot in my schedule.
Step 3: the research begins.
Deposit is in, work can begin!
I’ll already know a bit about the client’s business from the previous Zoom chat but to write something that really nails what the business is about, I’m going to need to dig a lot deeper. I do this in two ways. The first is a questionnaire for the client to complete. It includes lots of juicy details about the business, the client’s goals, motivation, services, and target market. It’ll take a little time to complete but I promise it’s going to be worth every second spent on it. The second is another Zoom call (this is why it’s so important that I get on well with my clients).
These are important steps because they help me develop a thorough brief, clue me into the client’s ‘voice’, and help me understand what the client needs their copy to achieve.
Some of the questions I ask might be tricky (if you haven’t figured out your target market, for example, or are struggling to identify your place in your industry) but many clients actually find that this part of the process gives them new clarity about how to define their business. The benefits of which go way beyond copywriting.
Step 4: yep, more research…
The client can more or less sit back at this point and get on with running their business — I’ll only be in touch if any questions crop up that we haven’t already covered. I’ll be scurrying away behind the scenes doing my own research, looking at their competitors, getting into the head of their ideal customer, figuring out their industry, and such like.
Ideas may or may not come to me at this point so if you ever see me out walking the dog, suddenly stop in my tracks and start taking notes on my phone, you can be fairly confident that I’m deep in this part of a client project.
Step 5: Brainstorming.
Ah, step 5 and I still haven’t really written anything. Don’t let the job title fool you, actually writing the copy is only one small part of the copywriting process!
This is the part where I play around with ideas, concepts, imagery, and any cool phrases that might pop into my head and start leading me down interesting routes. I’ll end up with what looks like a bunch of disjointed notes but the final text is usually hidden in there somewhere, just waiting for me to draw it out.
At this stage, the client can still be merrily getting on with doing their own thing, safe in the knowledge that I’m doing the same…
Step 6: the writing, the resting, and the revising.
And now I write.
Then I let it sit for at least 24 hours if I can. Mistakes are notoriously hard to spot in a freshly written text and I know that if I still think it’s decent after a day or two, it probably is. If it isn’t, I go back to work.
Step 7: feedback.
This is where the client gets to come back into the game.
I’ll send the first draft (first official draft, at least) to the client in a Word document, along with the invoice for the remainder of the fee, and then try not to cry/bite my nails/question my career choices while I’m waiting for feedback.
As a client, sometimes it’s best to let the text sit for a while after you first read it through. Whether you love or hate your new copy, you are too close to the project to trust kneejerk reactions. If time allows, leave it for another 24 hours before reading it again.
I always turn on the ‘track changes’ facility when I send the first draft and this is the client’s chance to give me their feedback. ‘Track changes’ is super easy-to-use and allows the client to write comments beside chosen parts of the text.
When writing the feedback it’s best to be as specific as possible. If you don’t like something, can you say why? If I don’t know what’s wrong with it, I don’t know how to fix it! Equally, if you think a specific phrase or section is fabulous, let me know. Sure it’s a boost to the ego, but knowing which bits the client really loves ensures that I can do more of the same in the final edit and in any future projects too.
Step 8: editing.
We’re nearly done! I’ll go through the feedback and use it to create the final draft. The client can mostly chill out again at this point — I’ll only be in touch if there are any elements of the feedback that need further clarification.
Then I’ll send over the shiny final draft and it’s job done.
At least for now…
I see working with clients as a long-term partnership so it’s always lovely if we can check in with each other now and again after we’ve completed the project. Nothing makes me happier than hearing about how their businesses are growing!
If you’re considering outsourcing your business writing, let’s find out if we’re a match. Get in touch, let me know what you need, and we’ll take it from there.