How to Brief a Copywriter

Working with freelance content writers can be a challenge. But I’m going to show you how to brief a copywriter and give you a free briefing template.

Often what seems like a simple, straightforward writing project can be mired down in delays and revisions, and it can take forever to get the finished piece you’re looking for.

In many cases, these delays and miscommunications can be avoided by the use of a great brief at the project launch and for each article, to help ensure that you and your writer are on the same page and working with the same assumptions. 

What Makes a Good Copywriting Brief?

A basic copywriting brief gives a writer all the information they need to complete the project. A good copywriting brief tells them everything they need to know to write exactly what you are looking for.

The difference between a basic brief and a good brief is the difference between multiple rounds of comments and changes, edits and revisions, and hours of time wasted on both sides.

Writing a good brief may seem time-consuming, and, in the case of a short piece, it may seem like it takes longer to write the brief than it does to just write the copy yourself. However, spending the time to write a good brief pays off in several ways:

  1. Makes the writing process more efficient. An incomplete brief may prompt the writer to reply with a long list of questions, requesting information that would have been included in a more thorough brief.
  2. Reduces revisions. A good brief helps the writer produce the copy you want with fewer edits and changes.
  3. Clarifies your goals. Completing the brief often helps you clarify the project in your own mind, identifying your goals and objectives, and ensuring you know what your desired outcomes are.
  4. Aligns your team. If you work for a larger organization, a brief is a great way to clarify your internal expectations and align your team before the writing even begins.
  5. Saves time in the long run. Writing a brief is the first step to creating your own copywriting brief template, which you can then use over and over again on future projects.

In other words, writing a thorough and detailed copywriting brief is an investment in the long term success of a specific writing project, and of all your future copywriting projects. And it isn’t actually that hard to do.

Here’s how to get started: 

Copywriting Brief Contents

Not all of this information applies to every single copywriting project, but it’s a good idea to include them in your template, so you can specifically consider every factor and communicate with the writer. For example, if you don’t have any relevant references or competitors, that can be good information for the writer.

Here’s what your brief should include:

  • Introduce yourself. Introduce yourself, the company, and any relevant team members. Include the company website and relevant links, team members’ job titles and contact information, and state who the primary point of contact will be.
  • Introduce the project. Explain what kind of copy you need and what it will be used for. Is it ad copy? A blog post? A press release? Is it regarding a new product launch or company initiative? Will it be posted to an existing company blog or social feed? Does it need to fit into an existing web or print layout? Will it accompany graphics?

    Whenever possible, give the writer links or visual reference so they understand where and how the copy will be used.
  • Introduce the audience. Who is your existing audience, or your target audience? Provide relevant demographic data, and include information like what challenges they face, or what their goals or values are.

    A good writer will want to connect with and motivate your audience, so provide as much information as possible.
  • Project objectives/CTA. What action do you want the reader to take after reading the piece? What are your goals for the copy, and how will you measure success?
  • Key points to be included. Your key messaging can vary widely depending on the type of copy and your objectives. Try to distill your message down to 2-4 crucial points, and state them as simply as possible. Some examples might be:
    • For a product, indicate key features or differentiators
    • For an event, indicate time and place
    • For advertising, indicate the primary offer and CTA
  • Relevant details. Relevant details can expand on your key message and may include competitors or differentiators, special offers or incentives, or background information that may assist the writer.
  • Outline, format, headers. Not every copywriting project requires an outline, headline, or subheaders. If you create them, indicate to the writer whether you expect them to follow your formatting exactly, or whether they can depart from the provided structure.
  • Keywords and search terms. Not every copywriting project requires relevant keywords or search terms, but make sure to include them if necessary.
  • Tone of voice. Every piece of writing has a tone, and it’s best to communicate your desired tone to your copywriter. Some factors of tone include:
    • Person.  Always indicate your preferences regarding the use of first, second, or third person. 
    • Formality. Do you prefer informal or formal writing?
    • Style. If you want the copy to be compliant with an existing style guide, like AP, make sure you include that information.
  • Brand voice. If you have an existing brand voice, provide the writer with examples. 

Copywriter Brief Template

As you can see, if you complete a copywriting brief one time, much of that information will be relevant to all your copywriting briefs. Future briefs to your freelance copywriters can simply be reviewed and updated with new, relevant information. Creating a copywriting brief template is a great way to make good, thorough briefs in a short amount of time.

Our Copywriter Brief Template

Download our free copywriter brief template which is geared toward blog posts. Create your own version in Word, Google Docs or whatever and adapt it to fit your specific requirements.

The brief covers; tone of voice, target customer, formatting, an SEO checklist as well as all the other elements you and your freelance writer need.

Copywriting Brief FAQs

Do you always need to use a copywriting brief?

It’s best practice to always use a copywriting brief. Even short and fast projects benefit from being based in a common understanding and shared information.
If you have an ongoing relationship with a writer who has completed similar work for you in the past, the brief can be minimal.

Doesn’t creating a copywriting brief take too much time?

Creating your first copywriting brief may take some time, especially if you need to share it with a team or department and ensure everyone is aligned. However, for many copywriting projects, it doesn’t take very much time to create a good brief, and then you can re-use it as a template.

How much information do you need to provide a copywriter?

The more information, the better. A thorough brief helps the copywriter avoid asking too many questions, or, worse yet, making incorrect assumptions as they write.

Keep in mind that your writer may know nothing about your company, your industry, or your products, and yet you want them to connect with your reader and motivate them toward your CTA. Information is the key to getting the most effective copy from a writer.

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About Rebekah Villon

Rebekah Villon is a professional writer and marketing consultant who specialises in strategic content for B2B communications. In her personal life, she enjoys the freedom of remote digital work while travelling, pursuing hobbies, and continuous learning.

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