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The one thing every ‘good’ website copywriter does. Except me.

If you’ve ever engaged a copywriter, you’ll be familiar with the steps involved to ensure a smooth experience and positive outcome.

Agreed fee and payment terms.
A strong, clear brief.
Defined review process.
Prompt sign off.

When both parties are clear about their expectations and responsibilities, things are less likely to go pear-shaped. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up with the best possible content for your website.

Sure, it will probably be okay. But don’t you want better than… okay?

I am sure most copywriters will tell you that the website briefing process is super-duper important. And I agree. It is.

But I suspect my briefing process is different to most.

Confession time.

I have been writing for businesses for over a decade…

Without a briefing template for my clients to complete.
Without outlining my ‘understanding’ of the brief in writing.
Without emailing clients sample pages before I complete all the others.

I know what you’re thinking. Vikki doesn’t even have a briefing process.

But that’s not the case.

I just don’t believe that structured templates and forms are an effective tool for extracting meaningful briefs.

Of course it is extremely helpful when my clients can send me existing written materials to draw from, such as:

  • old website content
  • printed brochures
  • sales proposals
  • first drafts they might have already attempted.

(And occasionally, I am blessed with an actual brief that my client has written of their own accord, though I never count on it.)

But like templates and forms, these materials are useful for factual business information (such as products and services, team profiles and company backgrounds). I don’t believe they can capture the true psychology of a brand or the essence of a business.

If I were to get my clients to fill out a template that asks them:

What’s unique about your business?
What’s your competitive advantage?
What’s your brand’s point of difference?

I would get rubbish like:

Superior customer service
We really care about our customers
We go the ‘extra mile’

Guess what? Superior customer service is not a competitive advantage. And it certainly won’t set your business apart online.

It’s also a vague, disingenuous claim – and as unoriginal as the cliché iStock photo you’ve probably plastered next to it.

The truth is: every business has a unique point of difference. But very few know what that is or how to articulate it.

By asking you to simply complete a template about your business and expecting value in return, I’d be making the (very dangerous) assumption that your brand positioning is strong, clear and understood.

I am not suggesting you spend thousands of dollars on a fancy-pants branding strategy before you hire a website copywriter. (Brilliant if you can justify it, though very few businesses can.)

But perhaps you don’t need a fancy-pants branding strategy if your copywriter takes the time to ask you the right questions.

And that means talking. Ideally, face-to-face. Casually. With a soy latte in hand.

By giving you the opportunity to talk about your business without the agony of having to write something down, I know you’ll ultimately give me what I need. Often, without even realising it.

You see, it’s typically an off-the-cuff line that gets my attention. Something seemingly trivial that tells me exactly what sets your business apart.

Then once I’ve got what I need, I don’t need to waste my time (or my clients’ time) by sending written confirmations of the brief or sample text. We both know I understand what needs to be communicated.

(A word of warning to any budding copywriters reading this: I’m not suggesting you forget briefing templates for your own business – particularly if you’re just starting out. But be careful not to ‘systematise’ your approach too much at the expense of insightful human conversation.)

Admittedly, it is getting harder to find the time to meet new clients face-to-face as my business grows.

But I inevitably come back to the same conclusion.

It’s worth it critical.