For people who are just starting out as copywriters, there’s an element to the copywriting process that’s often kind of a mystery. Namely, well, pretty much the whole process. How does a project get started? How when do you work with a designer? How does your work get seen? Where does the writing fit in?
Believe me: what seems confusing and intimidating now will eventually seem completely natural, even routine. It’s just matter of learning how it works. So…here’s how it works!
Step 1: Nailing Down the Project
Any project comes about because a company has a problem to solve. They need more sales or more subscriptions or they need to increase brand awareness—any of these goals or one of a dozen others. Based on the problem the company needs solved, a project manager will come up with a project to address it.
Let’s assume, for the purposes of this scenario, that you’ve already sent a value-packed pitch to your client and they responded. Your first step is to set up a discovery call. During the call, you’ll go over your ideas with your client. Be prepared for your client to have ideas, too!
If you and your client decide to move forward (remember, it’s got to be a good fit for you, too), then you need to send a detailed scope of work, outlining everything you agreed to deliver. This will also include the project price and timeline for the work.
Step 2: The Creative Brief
The number one reason projects go off the rails? They didn’t start with a creative brief. The creative brief includes all the information you need to deliver your work. It’s a document you’ll want to reference throughout the project to make sure your copy solves the brief.
The brief will include the audience, the benefit, the main call to action, and the tone, among other essentials.
Once the project is identified, the project manager needs to communicate it to the people who will help to solve it—you and your design partner. They way they do this is through the creative brief, a document that breaks down all of the objectives, the information about benefits and the target audience, and all of the other important details.
You need to fill out a creative brief for every project. The only difference as a freelancer? You may not be working with a project manager. Or the project manager may not use a creative brief. That doesn’t mean you skip it. That means you write the creative brief. You do not make the client fill it out. Your client is hiring you to take work off their plate, not add work to it.
To make sure you’re on the same page as the client, you can send the creative brief to them, asking them for any additional feedback.
Step 3: The Project Kickoff
This step can often overlap with step 2. Particularly for freelancers, you’ll generally cover all the information you need to write the creative brief in the kick-off call. You may have a rough idea from your discovery call, but the kickoff is essential for asking—and getting answers to—your questions.
This is the meeting in which the project manager presents the creative brief to the designer, copywriter, and anyone else who holds a stake in the project—and this could be anywhere from a handful to a dozen people, depending on the project. This is the opportunity for you and your designer to ask any questions and to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to objectives and expectations.
Much like the creative brief, this step in the project process may be on you to organize. If you’re working with a client that doesn’t work with creatives often or simply doesn’t have a nailed-down project process, then you need to step in and make sure you get the information you need to deliver the work you agreed to!
- Who is their target audience?
- What’s the tone?
- What’s the drop-dead date they need the deliverables?
- What’s the business goal of your project?
- What’s the one main action you want the audience to take?
These are just some questions you want to get answered. You’ll likely come up with more!
Step 4: Concepting
Concepting is one of the most important pre-writing steps. And guess what? Too many copywriters skip it and deliver sub-par work. Don’t be one of those copywriters. Here’s how to do it.
Typically in an agency or in-house agency, you’ll be working on many projects with a designer. Together, you and your designer will think through the project and brainstorm (or “concept”) possible solutions. When you hit on ones you feel meet the mark, you’ll take note of those. Depending on how many iterations the project manager wants to see, you may leave the concepting session with anywhere from one to a handful of concepts to flesh out.
If you’re freelancing, you may still be working with a designer. Take control of the project process by recommending you meet with your designer. Whether via Zoom or Google Meet or in person (if you’re able), take time to hash out ideas with your designer. Just like an in-house agency or ad agency, you’ll come up with one to a handful of ideas to work on.
If you’re working by yourself, you still want to set aside time for concepting. This will ensure when you do go to write, your ideas are more cohesive and you’ll deliver a stronger end product.
Step 5: You Write. Your Design Partner Designs.
Agencies/In-House and Freelancing
This step is largely the same no matter how you’re working.
After you and your designer have come up with concepts, you’ll split up to do your own work.
You need to start with an outline of what needs to go on the page. And then you’ll write.
You’ll put together some copy in a copy doc (knowing that you’ll probably make some changes in layout) and your designer will start the layout.
Then, before you show it to anyone, you need to edit your work.
Step 6: You and Your Designer Get Back Together
Agencies/In House and Freelancing
You’ll send your copy doc to your design partner and, after he/she has had a chance to put it into the design, you’ll both get back together in front of the computer (or via screen share over Zoom or Google Meet) and make sure the design and copy work well together. Y
You’ll both have to make tweaks to your contributions but, in the end, it will be for the best of the piece as a whole.
Step 7: You Present Your Work in a Creative Review
Agencies/In House and Freelancing
Once your work is in the best possible place, you’ll present what you have in a creative review meeting. All of the original stakeholders from the first meeting will be there, and everyone will be offering feedback on your work. You’ll explain your reasoning for choices and discuss the issues that need to be addressed in the current iteration.
Be prepared: The vast majority of the time, 99% of the time, you project won’t be approved in the first creative review. This is perfectly fine and completely natural—everyone’s feedback will just help you to revise your project and make it even better.
If you’ve worked with your client before, you may send the project via email. But if it’s a new client or it’s a large project with a recurring client, you’ll want to have a creative review. If you’re remote, you can schedule a Zoom or Google Meet where you can share your screen and walk through the work.
Step 8: You Revise Your Work
Agencies/In-House and Freelancing
You and your design partner will go back and incorporate any feedback you’ve received from the stakeholders. You’ll have some problems to work through and may have to change major portions of what you’ve created, but it’s important to keep your stakeholders’ needs—and, very crucially—the creative brief in mind.
You may have to communicate with your clients for how best to send feedback.
Repeat Steps 7 and 8 as Often as Necessary
You may have to present and revise a couple of times. You’ll want to put your best foot forward, of course, but sometimes changes just need to be made. The most important thing is to do your best work, every time and all the time.
If the revisions go beyond the scope of work you originally agreed to, you may need to send a new scope of work (and new quote).
And then, of course, when the project is wrapped, send your invoice! And celebrate a job well done.
Want even more detail about the project process? Watch this episode of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast to hear more about the project process. Even if you have a project process, you may find new tips for improving it even further.
What do you think about the creative process?Did anything surprise you? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on September 23, 2023