“People will never forget how you made them feel” — Maya Angelou.
People buy people. They also buy experiences. And there is a way you can deliver an exquisite impression of yourself, your writing and the copywriting experience, to your clients, every time.
While we regularly revisit our process, tweak it here and there, and adjust it for certain situations, we think this checklist ensures we deliver a service and experience people remember and want to relive.
It’s modelled on an article but can be applied to anything. It’s split into three areas: before you write, while you’re writing and after you’ve submitted the article.
Before You Begin Writing
This is about taking a firm brief. And it’s also about managing expectations and managing out assumptions. Make sure all grey areas have been bleached white and your client will know exactly what to expect and what they need to do.
Ask for the brief basics:
- brand guidelines
- tone of voice
- audience personas
- marketing campaign objectives
- additional marketing activity you should be aware of
- funnel stage for the article
- call to action for the article
If some of this information is not available, help them define as much as possible. Ask questions and interrogate the brief.
It’s your responsibility to ensure you know exactly what you’re delivering. Ask, ask, ask, even if it feels uncomfortable.
Confirm what’s involved
Will you be:
- talking to in-house experts or associates?
- carrying out desk-based research?
With interviews, it’s often easier for your client to liaise between you and the interviewee (who probably won’t have a clue who you are). Give your client your availability if this is the case.
If you’ll be doing desk-based research, confirm what information is available from the client. Ask them to send it to you, briefly review it and then agree a number of hours you’ll need to read, digest and potentially search for additional information.
Agree deadlines and duties
- Agree a deadline for the first draft
- Understand the publication deadline, so you can manage the review process
- Ask for a feedback commitment
Ask your client to commit to a time when they will get back to you with revisions. This helps you manage your time, demonstrates huge professionalism and helps the client prioritise the importance of this work.
Top tip — it’s a good idea to get this date into your contract. If they don’t get back to you within this set time period, you’ll presume they’re happy and bill for the work.
Agree how documents will be shared
- Google Docs?
- Something else?
Some clients hate Google Docs and find the learning curve utterly unproductive. Others adore it.
Ask your client what’s best for them. If they travel often, getting online may be a bother. In this case, a Word document is always the best option so they can review it on the move.
Help your client give feedback
Ensure your client is aware that you are the copywriter. You don’t expect them to edit the document but leaving comments is great. And picking up the phone is great too.
Explain that you have thick skin and that their honest opinion (no matter how clumsy and confused they think it is) is vital. Without it, you can’t improve.
It might also be worth explaining that there’s always a learning curve when writing for a client for the first time.
Of course, you’ll be doing your best to nail it in one go, but it’s common for more tweaks and changes to be made at first. Talking this through reassures your client. We think conversations like this are essential to build trust.
Agree the fee
- Agree the fee
- Agree the number of revisions included in the fee
- Make your client aware of the fee for additional revisions, interviews and research
- Confirm payment terms (on receipt, upfront, 50% upfront, within 7, 14, or 30 days…)
- Ensure your client is aware of the consequences for late payment
- If there are consequences for late feedback, let your client know what they are
You might like to agree that a document will be signed off if no feedback is received within two weeks. You might like to agree that you’ll chase them twice, but no more.
Some of this might feel alien and hard-nosed to our friendly, creative environment. The truth is, these conversations help everyone understand exactly what’s going on.
They also help your work to be valued, your time respected and you to be financially rewarded. Your client will be grateful too. Trust us, we’ve been there. They’ll look at this work with new eyes when you get clear about the agreement.
Sign the contracts
- Send your contract
- Take receipt of the signed contract
- Sign and return your client’s NDA if they provide one
While You’re Writing
You’ll no doubt be familiar with this process, but we’ve added a little handy housekeeping to keep everything in order.
- Complete desk-based research
- Complete interviews as required
- Outline your article
- Draft your article
- Let it rest
- Proof your article (or have this done by a professional)
- Finalise your article
- Name your document
We include the date, our business name, the client’s business name, the document type (e.g. article, email, landing page) and draft number (or version e.g. v1.0).
Yep, it’s a lot of information but we know exactly, at a glance, what’s in each document. This little nod to consistency is another flutter of professionalism your client will appreciate.
Share or send the document
Write a short, warm email sharing the article. Include that deadline the client committed to for feedback. Let them know your availability to discuss and turn around amends, keeping in mind the publication deadline.
Receive feedback and revise
- Amend the article as per the feedback
- Deliver a marked-up and clean document for their final approval
- If you’re using Google Docs this is the same thing, as ‘document history’ provides a view of changes made. It also has the ‘suggesting’ function which mirrors Word’s tracked changes.
- Confirm sign-off via email (i.e. in writing)
- And send a final, clean document, with the file name changed to ‘approved’ or ‘final’
Send your invoice
- With the work completed briefly listed
- And the payment terms clear
- If you add a fee for late payment, you might like to include a note on your invoice. The accounts department may not be aware of it.
Now You’re Done
This is the moment your client is most content. Throughout this process, you’ve positioned yourself as a professional, supportive expert. You’ve been of service and can continue to be by asking, ‘is there anything else I can help you with?’
Let your client know what’s available
You might have noticed some copy in their wider marketing mix (on their website perhaps) that is missing or could be improved. Mentioning this, now you’re a trusted partner, will be seen as supportive, not salesy.
A friendly, ‘if you need us, this is what we can do’ conversation could be fitting.
Ask for a testimonial, referral or simply, if they’re happy
The ultimate litmus test in terms of contentment is a person’s willingness to recommend you to others. Ask for a testimonial on LinkedIn or to think of you for future projects. We regularly ask our clients if they’re happy. It helps build a relationship of openness and reinforces that trust.
Is this the ultimate checklist?
Or is there something we’ve left out? Let us know. We love learning from the copywriting community.