Time can fly when you’re working on a copy project. So much so, in fact, that you can look up and realize a few hours have passed. But is that a good thing? A bad thing? Just how long should it take you to write, anyway? Let’s dig into that topic today. Read on…
Today’s question comes from Elycia L. who asks, “I get really nervous when I get a copy project. I know what the project’s deadline is, but how long should I take to write it before getting it to the designer?”
When you’re first starting out, it will never feel like you have enough time. A client could give you a month for a paragraph of copy, and you’d still agonize over it. The good news is that this will, eventually, go away.
But it is true that you can’t take forever to write a piece of copy. After all, your design partner has to have time to add it into the layout and the two of you have to have time to tweak and revise it before your first creative review. (And if you want to tick off a designer reeeeally fast, try not leaving them enough time to add copy to their design.)
So, first, you need to agree with your designer about when you’ll deliver the copy. That will give you your hard deadline. But I know that there could be days in between when you brainstorm and when you need to deliver that copy and you want to know how many of those hours is the right amount to spend on the project.
Well, as you could probably guess, there’s no clear answer to this question. I’d never be able to say “two and a half hours, no more, no less” since every project is different and some are easier or more challenging than others. In fact, I’m going to challenge you to shift your way of thinking, though, and consider the question less in terms of amount of time and more in terms of when you’ve solved the problem.
You need to be thinking (and worrying) less about the time you put into a project and more about the quality of the copy solution you provide. Presumably, you and your design partner will have spent time together to concept the project and come up with an idea that meets the needs of the creative brief.
But after that, when you’re back on your own, it’s up to you to organize the messaging. And, again, that creative brief is going to be your best friend—be sure to check back regularly to make sure you’re meeting the objectives and conveying all of the important points.
As you craft your copy, you need to make sure you:
- Communicate the key messages
- Write the benefits clearly and effectively
- Evaluate the messaging hierarchy to make sure it makes sense
- Take a look at the copy from a brand perspective to make sure it’s in the right voice
- Take a look at the copy from a reader perspective to make sure it resonates with them
- Craft a strong and clear call to action
- Check that it meets the business objectives
- Craft copy that it has a fresh, original feel to it
Not easy, right? But that’s why you’re a pro.
It’s only when you’ve done all of these things that you’re done with your copy. That might take you twenty minutes or it might take you two hours. But you can’t cheat the process; if you’re missing any of these elements, your copy just won’t be very good.
As you progress in your career, you’ll find that you’re able to hit on all of these points a little quicker. But don’t misunderstand me: Speed isn’t a goal or even necessarily an expected outcome from experience. Some projects need time to be puzzled through—even top copywriting professionals get challenging projects and need lots of time to solve them.
The most important thing is that you respect this writing time and don’t start beating yourself up for what you perceive as “taking too long.” (That’s probably only going to make you take longer, anyway.) Don’t focus on getting it done in the “right amount of time,” instead, focus on the project and writing it to the very best of your ability.
Your turn! Has fear of taking too long on a project plagued you? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on December 9, 2022
Hi Nicole. Thank you for writing this. I received an email from a client after submitting an invoice for 62 hours over the span of over 3 weeks. The email essential asked me to account for everything I produced and asked and the tone indicated that I had overcharged them and they didn’t understand how I had taken this long or what exactly I had been doing. I’m super frustrated because I know I’ve been working very hard and I hate being made to feel like I’m just trying to get over or billing for hours that I didn’t work or something. Super frustrated and sad. Any feedback about how to respond would be greatly appreciated. They clearly do not understand what a process of copywriting is and everything it entails.
The Filthy Rich Writer Team says
That’s a tough position to be in. Is your invoice close to the estimate you gave before starting work? Here are links to two posts by Nicki that cover invoicing and pricing –