Got this “best practices” article from web copywriter, Katie Daggett of KD Copy & Content.
Things are good. You’re designing a site for a new client. And they’re loving everything you’ve done… so far.
But, the time has come to plug in the copy. So, you send the email or make the call to your client asking them to send the copy over.
And you’re met with silence. Or, you get a pile of old brochures and some scribbled notes that would take you hours to make into usable content.
Or even worse, you get a response along the lines of, “But, we thought that was something you would do.”
The project stalls.
Finally, in a desperate attempt to get the project moving (so that you can get paid), you give in and spend hours piecing together their piecemeal copy yourself.
Hours that weren’t in the budget, and hours you likely won’t be paid for.
If you’re “lucky,” the client does have content to give you. It works. But, you know that it isn’t all it could be. You have a sinking feeling that the copy you’re plugging in won’t attract the audience, or drive the sales, that your client is expecting from their website. These are recurring problems in freelance web design.
So, what’s a self-respecting web developer to do?
1. Set Expectations
If you don’t have a copywriter on staff, or don’t offer copywriting as a part of your freelance web design services, make sure that your client knows that up front. During your initial conversations, be sure they understand that they will be responsible for creating the copy, and ask how they are planning to provide it to you. Discuss content deadlines early on, so that the client knows when they will need to send final copy to you in order to launch their site on time.
2. Give them Guidance
To help your clients along, be sure to discuss in detail what content they will need to provide for each page of their website. Give them an outline, noting where headlines, subheads, sidebars, calls to action, and other components of each page will be needed. Ask them to send content to you as a single Word document (or whatever format you prefer), to avoid getting disorganized bits and pieces from several company authors, or in the form of various brochures and other marketing pieces that you are required to sort through and pull from. The more detailed the content outline you provide, the easier it will be for you to plug in the copy when the time comes. If the client is clueless, and you’re concerned about quality, you may also want to give them a copywriting guide or checklist.
3. Include Copywriting in Your Proposal
If, as often happens, the client hasn’t given a thought to copy and isn’t sure how they’re going to handle it, it’s helpful to have a network of copywriters to recommend. You can either pass your best recommendations on to the client, or, gather an estimate from a trusted copywriter and include it as part of your bid. If the cost of copywriting puts the project over budget, your client can always strike it out – but at least they are aware that the burden of providing copy is theirs.
4. Build Your Copywriter Network
Even if you don’t have a project right now, it’s never too early to start building a copywriter network. For a professional, experienced copywriter, I’d recommend starting your search on LinkedIn. Or, do a Google search for copywriters in your area, or writers of a certain specialty. Look for copywriters with a range of specialties, skill and fee levels, so that when the time comes, you can easily find the right fit for a particular client.
And don’t just connect with copywriters on LinkedIn. Arrange a phone call or in-person meeting, if appropriate. Ask all the questions you need until you feel certain that the copywriter is professional, reliable, and someone you would feel comfortable working with. Request a rate sheet and writing samples. Finally, when working with a new copywriter, you may want to serve as the middleman at first, before having them work directly with your clients.
5. Offer Alternatives
If your client can’t afford full copywriting services and you’re worried the project will stall or suffer as a result, you might want to provide them with Option B – hiring a copyeditor to help polish the content they write. While this still leaves the burden of writing in the client’s hands, it will save them money, and help get the copy into shape if their writing skills are somewhat lacking.
6. Successful Clients are Happy Clients
Great design is wonderful, but great content is essential to creating a website that gets found by the search engines and successfully converts website visitors into paying customers.
If need be, take some time to educate your clients up front about the importance of well-written copy to the success of their website. In the end, it will make your clients happier with their final result, provide a better final piece for your portfolio, and ultimately, more referrals from those happy clients.
About the Author
After more than a decade of working as an ad agency copywriter, Katie Daggett struck out to start her own copywriting firm, KD Copy & Content, which specializes in creating website content and marketing copy for ad agencies, web developers and small business owners. After talking with several frustrated web designers, she developed this Copywriting Cheat Sheet, to help get their clients on track with content.