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A creative brief gives you insight into your client's needs and desires

A creative brief gives you insight into your client’s needs and desires

If you don’t have a good creative brief to work from and inspire you, you’ll struggle to satisfy your client and fail to deliver what they want and need.

For those who follow this blog, you’ll know that I’m now doing more copywriting than proofreading. It isn’t a hard transition; I love both proofreading and writing copy. However, my biggest help has been Belinda Weaver of Copywrite Matters.

Belinda gives me overflow copywriting work and writes an awesome creative brief. She spends time getting to know the client, the business and the business environment so we don’t have any surprises down the track.

Once I’ve read through one of her works of art, I’m fully prepared and can pretty much sit down and start writing. Of course, I do my own research to make sure I’m not going to parrot someone else’s words, but the brief is enough. The brief gives me the information I need, but also, it inspires me.

This means that I write copy that the client wants and expects, and we tick all the SEO and marketing boxes. The tone of voice is right for the client…and we get great testimonials.

No creative copywriting brief
Last year, I had a client – a smallish graphic design studio – who’d hired me to write some marketing collateral for their client, Brand X. I’d met the ‘marketing’ people from Brand X and, well, they didn’t really have a clue. Business plan? “Make more money, ha ha!” Marketing plan? Any indication that they were aware of the best times to target new business? Nothing.

I asked the studio people to ask their client to fill out my creative brief and it duly came back, sparsely populated. Well, you work with what you’ve got. I wrote copy that addressed the brief and sent it off. A few days later, the studio got back to me.

Studio: “They hated the copy. They said you should have known it wasn’t what they wanted.”
Me: “The copy addressed the brief.”
Studio: “I know, but we didn’t get them to fill it out. They were too busy so we did it.”

Great. My reputation with Brand X is in tatters and my primary client isn’t happy because their client isn’t. I didn’t get a chance to rewrite the copy and didn’t get paid for the work I’d done*.

Stop! Unless you have a great copywriting brief
Now I won’t go ahead with a project unless I have a comprehensive copywriting brief, signed off by the end client. The creative brief is your opportunity to build a relationship with a client, to learn a bit more about how they think and what their real goals are – overall, and for a particular project. It not only helps me to fulfil their desires, but also, it weeds out the undesirables.

Thanks to some great copywriting briefs, I’ve worked on jobs that were a doddle – Classic Blinds and Shutters, Groundtruth, Matryx Solutions in Security, Overflow Café and Bar, Clancy’s and Maroba Caring Communities, to name a few. They’re all happy clients, all due to Belinda’s professional approach from the start and the attendant good client-supplier relationships.

How do you manage the briefing process? Any horror stories? Let me know.

* I’d done work for this client before and satisfied their needs and goals…because I had good creative copywriting briefs.

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I’m sitting at my laptop on Saturday morning wondering whether or not I should refuse a potential client.

‘Why?’ I hear you ask. Well, it’s like this.

Understand your business
A few days ago, this potential client contacted me for help with her new business. When I asked for further information (such as ‘What do you need me to write for you? An A4 2-page flyer? Presentation?’), she was unable to specify exactly what she wanted.

A couple of phone calls later, I got worried. This potential client appears to have little or no knowledge of her market, no real business plan and, even after a 20-minute discussion, was unable to specify what she wants me to do. We’ve gone through the creative brief, and I’ve explained the information I need to estimate the job, but still I’m none the wiser.

‘I can get it cheaper’
Then it came to rates. I quoted my rate – very reasonable considering my experience and knowledge – and a rough estimate of the cost (around $250, based on a guess as to the actual job and how long it’s going to take me) and heard:

‘I didn’t expect it to be so much. I can get it cheaper from overseas.’

The conversation continued something like this:

Me: ‘Yes, you could. If you’re not really sure what you want, then it’s probably a better idea for you to get your work done through one of the freelance sites.’

Client: ‘Yes, but I want my job done professionally. I’m not going to get that from someone in India who charges $1 an hour.’

Me: ‘Yes, but even if you don’t get what you expected, you haven’t committed to too much money.’

Freelance writers
A colleague recommended me to this client so I don’t want to lose her. At the end of the call, I went online to check out the work of some freelance copywriters on Elance and guru. It was a gratifying exercise for me: so many typos, grammatical errors and just plain bad layouts.

One of the Australian contingent advertises himself thus: ‘I’m wondering if your able to imagine the difference this will make…’

Another: Let me right your copy. And yet another: Quality Copywriting Services Gauranteed

Hmmm…maybe not.

Use a professional Australian copywriter
A professional copywriter:

  • Is on the other end of the phone (or Skype) and easily contactable by email.
  • Will have a detailed discussion with you to tease out elements of your business that perhaps you hadn’t considered.
  • Has usually worked on your kind of product or service before.
  • Can help you with marketing tips, advice on markets to target and SEO.
  • Has knowledge of relevant Australian laws; for example: Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), Therapeutic Goods Act. (This knowledge could save you thousands in legal fees and fines. I update my knowledge of both Privacy and CCA acts with formal training every two years so I’m aware of current legislation and amendments.)
  • Understands the local market and conditions.

Where to from here?
If you want a stay-at-home mum or semi-literate neuro-linguistic-programming ‘expert’ to handle your business, then head for the freelance sites. If you’d prefer that your copy is targeted, is appropriate for the local market, won’t cost you a bomb in legal fees, and uses the tone of voice that you feel suits your business personality, then give me (or another professional copywriter) a call.

Have you used a freelance writer from one of the freelance sites? What was your experience?

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