If working with your copywriter was a breeze, you just wasted your money

July 20, 2015 •
Easy copywriter means wasted money

When you pay someone to mow your lawn, you expect them to take the entire job off your hands. They turn up, they mow, you pay them, they leave. No input required from you at all.

Likewise, when you eat at a restaurant, all the work’s done for you. Or when you pay to get a tree cut down, or have your office cleaned or your car washed. You don’t have to help at all.

There are so many ‘set and forget’ services in our lives that it’s temping to think all services work that way.

But they don’t.

A copywriter, for instance, will always need to ask you a lot of questions. Always. If they don’t, there’s no way they can know what really sets you apart from your competitors. Or what drives your customers. Or what you’re really trying to say.

Here’s an example…

I’m writing copy for a laser hair removal clinic at the moment. 4 web pages, a 1-minute video script and an ad concept. Before I started, I sent the client an 11-page questionnaire with 65 questions:

Copywriter questionnaire table of contents

I do this for almost every job. And it’s usually just the starting point. I tell my clients the questionnaire will probably be enough for me to start their copy, but not enough for me to finish.

“But how could you possibly need to ask more than 65 questions to write a few pages of copy?!” That’s what you’re thinking, right?

Well, sometimes I think the client’s answers are wrong. Or incomplete. Like this morning…

In her questionnaire, my laser hair removal client said the video script should be about their professionalism and male customer base:

Video script copywriting questionnaire answers

That looks reasonable from a distance, but when you try to write a script based on that, you quickly discover it’s not enough. Professionalism, commitment, safety and customer breakdown are all features of their service. What are the benefits?

Plus, based on some of her other answers, I thought she might have overlooked something.

So I asked for clarification:

Clarification email

Sure, I could have made some assumptions here (and sometimes I do, then highlight my assumptions in the copy deck so they pay close attention to that section of the copy during review). But I have to be very careful doing that. If I’m wrong, it tends to derail the review process a bit, and the client may be annoyed that I’ve ignored their instructions.

Or I could have simply written exactly what she asked for. Focused on features. That would certainly have been faster and easier for both of us. And she may not have even noticed. The copy would have read well, and because it would have said exactly what she asked for, she might have approved it instantly and paid me with a smile.

But a month later, when the video was failing to convert, she wouldn’t be smiling.

No. The truth is, if your copywriter gives you a ‘set and forget’ experience, and you get your copy without lifting a finger, you’ve probably just wasted your money.

Feel free to comment...
comment avatar
Tanja @ Crystal Clarity wrote on July 20th, 2015

YES! My questionnaire for each major component of a project is a little less in-depth than yours (4 pages with around 20 questions), but with the process I use, it's a starting point, and my client and I discuss and go into more depth about their answers in the strategy session for that component. I've had the odd person come back to me and say "But if I answer all those questions, I might as well have written it myself!" Once I get past the irritation, it's actually kind of a relief to hear something like that. It tells me very clearly, up front, before I've invested any time or effort into their project that they're going to be a BAD fit to work with me, and we can go our separate ways, each to find a copywriter/client that works better for us!

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on July 21st, 2015

Yes, I agree completely, it's a big red flag when the client doesn't want to invest the time to answer questions properly. That suggests they don't value the copy much. I know they might just be surprised to see so many questions, but you'd think, having read the questions, they'd see the value in asking them...

comment avatar
James wrote on July 26th, 2015

Not long ago I served a short sentence at one of the country's larger web marketing agencies. The vast majority of work in their copywriting work queue was handled by rewriting the client's existing marketing materials into new words. If working with your copywriter was a breeze then I'd say there's a high chance they've done exactly that.

comment avatar
Glenn Murray wrote on July 27th, 2015

Exactly. No consideration given to whether what's being said is what NEEDS to be said... :-\

comment avatar
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