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How to Write the Perfect Copywriting Brief: A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Mar 27, 2023



Copywriting is a skilled and professional approach to writing that persuades people to take a specific action.


That action whether it's buying a product, signing up for a service, or donating to a cause is the main purpose of any copywriting assignment.


In order to have the best chance of attaining that goal, it's important to write a copywriting brief before starting work. This copywriting brief is a detailed outline that serves as an instruction manual for writing the piece, whether it be a landing page, an eBook, a copywriting newsletter, blog post, or another type of assignment.


With a copywriting brief in hand, the writer will have more clarity of the goals and expectations the client has and what the end result should be. It also helps establish realistic expectations for the project, while helping the writer determine a fair rate for the project.


So, where to start? This post will cover:



What is a Copywriting Brief?


A copywriting brief is a document that outlines the goals and target audience of the copywriting piece, while providing guidelines on messaging, tone, and other important details that should be included or omitted from the piece. It can be seen as a blueprint for the copywriter to follow, ensuring that their work aligns with the client's expectations and objectives when all is said and done.


*If the client is unable to write the copywriting brief themselves, it can be written by the writer depending on the circumstances. But, the goal of this post is to help you draft your own copywriting brief, hopefully reducing extra time and money spent on the entire project.


Why is a Copywriting Brief Important?


Most good copywriters won't feel comfortable taking on a copywriting project without some sort of brief to use as a starting point and reference guide. No matter what the brief ends up looking like and, even if the writer helps you put one together having one is important for several reasons:


  • Clarifies goals and objectives: A copywriting brief helps the client and the copywriter get on the same page about what the project is trying to achieve. Without a clear understanding of the goals and objectives, the copywriter may miss the mark and deliver copy that doesn't meet the client's expectations.


  • A copywriting brief defines the target audience: A copywriting brief outlines the target audience for the copy, but it can also help better understand who your audience is and who you want to attract. In either case, this information is essential for the copywriter to craft messaging that resonates with the intended audience, especially if that audience is different than who you normally target.


  • It sets the branding language: A copywriting brief specifies the tone and voice that the copy should take. This ensures that the copy is consistent with the brand's personality and messaging, usually with the support of a style guide that the writer can reference, alongside any points that are unique to the copywriting piece.


  • A copywriting brief establishes accountability: By providing a copywriting brief to a writer, you're doing your part to give the writer as much information as possible. It is the writer's responsibility to check the brief and let you know if they have any questions before getting started. This helps the project run smoothly from start to finish.


  • It can save time and money: By providing all the necessary information with details upfront, the copywriter can spend more time writing and less time clarifying details back-and-forth with the client. In general, giving the writer a thorough copywriting brief may meas that the rate you pay for the project will be less. This is because the copywriter won't have to spend time doing research or charge hours on time discussing the scope back-and-forth.


  • You'll be able to produce more copywriting projects faster: Creating a copywriting brief from a template will make it easier to assign copywriting projects in the future.




How to Create a Copywriting Brief in 6 Easy Steps


As we copywriters are the professionals, we don't expect a copywriting brief to be perfect. But, it is true that the more detailed it is, the more the writer can be successful in producing solid copy that aims to reach the goals you have for the piece.


The good news is that creating a copywriting brief is a straightforward process. The level of detail in the brief will vary depending on the complexity of the project, your own preferences, and the writer's unique process.


These 6 steps will help you to write a copywriting brief in no time!


Before You Get Started: Do Your Research


Before you get started writing a copywriting brief, you'll want to do some preliminary research. Ask yourself:

  • What type of copywriting projects are likely to work best for the goals you're trying to accomplish? A landing page? Email marketing? Web copy? Social media ad copy? These are just some examples.


  • If you want to do multiple copywriting projects, what can and should be prioritized, first? Sometimes, you can create a large pillar piece and pull from there for smaller projects. This should be outlined in the brief.


  • Can you look at your performance data to see where you need to make improvements? What has worked/hasn't worked before in terms of copywriting before?


  • Do you already have a set budget in mind that can be allocated to copywriting projects? If so, what can be done on your budget? Or, are you more flexible? Creating a copywriting brief is sometimes the first step in understanding what the project will cost.


  • What copywriting projects — or, portions of the copywriting projects — can be performed in-house with your team and what's best to outsource?


  • What's realistic in terms of managing your expectations for results, based on all the above?


Note: If you're not sure where to start, a professional can help you determine which copywriting projects make sense for you based on your budget, your goals, and your audience. This can also be helpful even if you have writers in-house, but not sure how to lead them in this manner. Sign up for a consulting call to get started!


Step 1: Create or Borrow a Copywriting Brief Template


Even if you know what information you want to give to the writer, it can be difficult to know where to start. That's why creating your own template or borrowing one, can help you organize yourself in a way that's clear to everyone participating in the project.


If you plan to create your own template, you can do so by following the steps below. To start, we recommend using a Google Doc. Be sure to make it easy-to-read, by selecting reader-friendly fonts, and sticking to a format/design that's consistent and would make sense to anyone. You can choose to use the tips below as guidelines for writing your own template, or copy-and-paste the actual examples as you see fit.


Otherwise, download our copywriting brief template to get started right away.


Step 2: Outline Clear Project Objectives


Once you have your template open and ready to go, the next step determine your specific project objectives. Perhaps you've already done this; after all, that's why you're already at the point where you need to put the brief together so you can get the ball rolling.


No matter the copywriting assignment, you'll need to get clear on your goals before allocating the task.


Think...


What is the point of this copywriting assignment?


Is it to get the audience to subscribe? To buy something? To share something on social media?


In the actual copywriting brief template, this should be positioned at the beginning of the doc as a very clear and measurable project objective. Note that the "measure" part like any copywriting project is not always be guaranteed. But, it's important to know what you're aiming for.


Project Overview Example for Copywriting Brief:


"The purpose of this (copywriting project type[s] is to (actionable goal for the audience with CTA) in order to help us (goal for the business).


For example...


"The purpose of this lannding page is to motivate leads to sign up for our free webinar in order to help us convert them into future paying customers."


Or...


"The purpose of this long-form blog post is to provide educational value for readers in order to help us drive more traffic to our website."


Tip: Be sure to use actionable verbs when possible. For instance, words like "inform," "educate," "tell," "interest them in," "educate," etc.


You can also create a longer objective if your writer/team will be tackling a larger copywriting assignment. Just be sure to outline all of this in the overview clearly, separate unique objectives when applicable, and make it obvious to the writer what's what by organizing the doc nicely.



Step 3: Define the Target Audience


Your copywriting brief and/or the information you give to your writer should always include specific details regarding the target audience. This may be obvious to you, but it may not be so obvious to the writer (though, they should get to know your brand a bit before getting started).


All this said, if your audience is very niche, then this shouldn't be too complicated. But if you're targeting someone new or you are focusing on a specific sub-audience, then this is the time to indicate that.Think about how they came to find this page and/or how you got their information (i.e., SEO, they're a recurring customer, they're on a subscriber list, etc). If possible, go into as much detail as possible. The writer will need to use this information to put themselves in the audiences' shoes.


Hint: If you already have subscriber lists or email lists organized by audience type, you can use that as a guide for determining your specified audience. Why do more work?


Target Audience Example for Copywriting Brief:


Below is a template sentence you can use along with examples of how to write/include information regarding your target audience in the brief. This information can be added to the project overview section, or can be listed separately right underneath it.


"The target audience is/are (demographics/other details) and they came to this (copywriting piece) because they (have/bought/signed-up for...).


For example...


"The target audience is/are prospective university student applicants and they came to this landing page because they searched for "best medical schools in California".


Or...


There's always a chance they came to your page because they clicked on an ad another form of copywriting in which case the ad itself would be the copywriting piece. In this case, your target audience descriptor would be something like:


"The target audience is/are senior citizens and they came to this Facebook ad because they are in our target age-range from our ads.


Step 4: Provide Additional Details


The next step in filling out your copywriting brief template is to provide any additional details you want the writer to know. (Without providing so much detail that you end up accidentally writing the piece yourself!)


This part can also be an important factor in determining the rate for the project. For instance, if you want several rounds of edits and milestones, this may cost more versus assigning the piece and having it delivered and done at all at once.


Don't leave the writer guessing.


Writers aren't mind-readers. If you have information and details can be helpful in us doing our job, then hand it over! This is also the time to share your unique preferences, so the writer can customize the piece to sound like you/your company as much as possible, while still getting the point across.


  • Milestones and deadline: Include any deadlines or milestones for the project. Also, specify the budget for the project (if you have), including any payment terms or milestones. Mention if you want several rounds of input/edits.


  • Company brand guidelines: Specify any brand guidelines that the copy should adhere to. This includes the brand's personality, messaging, and tone of voice. Here you can share excerpts from your company's mission. Ask yourself, if your company was a person, how would your personality be described? Are you more conversational, like a friend, or more authoritative, like a teacher/mentor?


This is a good place to include a link to a style guide that's already openly shared (if your writer doesn't have permission to view it, this adds extra time!). A style guide is a living reference document that outlines what writing style you prefer, and guidelines about grammar, punctuation, how numbers and quotes should be written, whether or not you want use of the Oxford comma, etc.


Note: An experienced copywriter and/or content strategist can help you put together a style guide, too, which helps create brand consistency across your entire content production.


  • Format and length: Specify the format and length of the copy. Your writer can guide you on this if need-be. They should have some general knowledge of the ideal word count, say, for a landing page or for emails in an email marketing campaign, but if you have a preference, let them know.

Here, you'll also want to add a document outline you'd want the writer to follow, if any. This would make sense for longer copywriting pieces, like a long-form blog post:


For instance, what should the H2 subheadings be? Where should those keywords be placed? How long do you want paragraphs or sentences to be?


Don't worry if you haven't thought about it; your writer should also have this knowledge if you're looking for support with that! Just let them know.

  • Key messaging: You'll also want to outline the key messages that the copy should convey. These should align with the project goals and objectives and be tailored to the target audience. When determining messaging, ask yourself, "What sets your company apart from the competition?" It's also a good place to mention things like, "Don't make the piece self-aware" or "Don't talk to the audience as if they don't know anything, in using words like 'should'."


  • SEO keywords: If done right, SEO can go a LONG way in copywriting. There are writers that offer this as an additional service to ensure that your copywriting piece has the POTENTIAL to be found by a larger audience. But, if you've already done your own research prior, you'll want to share that with the writer for best results.


  • Directives (pet peeves): Remember, this part of the copywriting brief is all about providing extra information and preferences. So, don't shy away from telling your writer anything extremely specific you want them to include or stay away from. Don't like the word "passion"? Yes, your writer should know not to use cliches, but some instances call for them.


  • Useful Links/Examples: If there's anything that can support the writer in creating the piece like web pages, other copywriting assignments, something you like from a competitor, or something you want to avoid from a competitor definitely mention that in your brief.


  • Miscellaneous: If there are any images, links, design formatting, videos, orpeople that the writer should touch-base with for a quote that need to be included in the copy, let them know in the copywriting brief!


  • Call-to-action: This is one of the most important parts of a copywriting brief: specifying the desired call-to-action (CTA) for the copy. This could be anything from "buy now" to "sign up for our newsletter." Usually, the writer can be trusted to do this on their own.


Additional Details Example for Copywriting Brief:


After writing your project overview and information about the target audience, be sure to include in the most organized way possible all these additional details. Try to group similar instructions together in the brief, so that the writer can reference them as they work. Here's how it might look in your copywriting brief template:


  • Due date: "Please deliver the first draft of the landing page by (estimated date). We will then take one week to review the draft, and re-submit for a final look over. We estimate the final delivery date to be (final deadline)."


  • Brand messaging: "In this piece, we'd like to sound knowledgeable about the subject. But, we don't want to come off as a know-it-all; more like a mentor who you trust for support."


  • Style guide and formatting guidelines: "Please reference the attached style guide when writing the piece. This landing page should be around (word count), and should be visually appealing. Avoid using large bodies of text."


  • Relevant examples: "Review our (example of page with similar messaging) and check out these links (other company landing page examples you want to emulate)."


  • CTA: "The goal is to get the reader (what you want the reader to do)"


  • Links, keywords, and images we'd like you to include: "Be sure to include (what relevant links you want the writer to include, like links to other web pages or sources). Our design team will input the images."


  • Additional Notes: "Do not, under any circumstances include (pet peeve you'd like them to avoid) when writing this piece. If you have any questions about the project, be sure to contact (person in charge of project)."




Step 5: Fill Out the Copywriting Brief Template and Review Draft


Now that you understand the main components of a copywriting brief, it's time to put yours all together in the template. We recommend saving this template and making copies whenever you need to put together a new brief.


Want to save time? Remember, we have a copywriting brief template you can use! Read the instructions and edit accordingly.


Step 6: Finalize With Writer and Manage Realistic Expectations


It's always advisable to have some correspondence with the writer before providing the brief or asking them to put one together for you. At the very least, once the copywriting brief is given to your writer (or, if you ask your writer to create it based on a content strategy call), you both should go over it and finalize it together. This gives the opportunity for the writer to ask any clarification questions before beginning work and for you to make sure that the directions are crystal clear.


For example...


Scenario 1: You already are very clear on your copywriting needs and you already have a writer or team.


Then go ahead, write your copywriting brief and hand it over. Discuss any details or concerns with the writer, establish the rate, deadline and milestones, and allow the work to commence!


Scenario 2: You already are very clear on your copywriting needs, but you DON'T have a writer yet.


No worries! By providing the brief to the writer, you can get an idea of different rates and also thereby learn whether or not your brief was clear enough. When you interview writers, pass on the brief to them and see if they have the bandwidth to take it on, as well as the knowledge and expertise to do so. Ask for their previous work samples. If you have a budget, let them know, otherwise, be open-minded to hearing their rates and process.


Scenario 3: You know you need a copywriting project done, but you're not sure where to start.


See if you can fill out the brief on your own, using this guide or our template. If you're finding this challenging, book a call with a writer where you can go over the components of the copywriting brief, and ask if they can help you fill it out for review before starting on the project. This way, you're trusting them to do the work you hired them for, but you at least have a clear understanding of what you're paying for.


Time to Start Your Copywriting Project


Copywriting is a form of writing that blends together creativity and marketing in order to get the audience to complete an action. Unlike content writing, copywriting is used by businesses of all sizes and from all industries in order to help achieve specific goals: whether that's driving traffic to the site, selling a product, getting the audience to sign up for something, etc.


There's really no limit as to what you can do with copywriting, but it does take a skilled professional or, support from one to do it successfully.


In either case, a copywriting brief is the first step into setting up the project for success, by building a strong foundation and reference guide to get it done. It also helps to keep you and the writer on the same page throughout the lifecycle of the project.


Once you've taken the step to write the brief, it may be time to book copywriting services. Learn more or get a quote now!

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