How to work with clients

Your website is in dire need of a revamp.

The new design is ready and now you’ve turned your attention to the content.

The thought of writing it sends shivers down your spine, so you decide to commission a professional copywriter instead.

After sending out a brief to your shortlist, all the quotes are in.

OK, you hadn’t realised how much high quality copy cost, but you know it’s a worthwhile investment for the future of your business, so you give the green light to one of them.

What happens next?


Some clients like to be very hands-on.

The brief they provide is incredibly detailed. Many have even done their competitor analysis and have identified the tone/brand voice they want to convey.

Although the copywriter will still do a fair amount of research, much of the legwork has already been done, giving the writer some solid foundations on which to develop the content.

The client then sits back and waits for the first draft. Thanks for their initial involvement, its pretty much spot on, with only a few minor amends needed.

The whole process runs smoothly and the project is completed well within the deadline.

The micromanager

Again the client is pretty much hands-on from the start.

Their brief is detailed, but perhaps a little too prescriptive.

It dictates to the writer how many words are required, the type of language needed and informs the writer that the audience is highly educated and therefore the vocabulary should reflect that.

The copywriter tries to explain that it’s very difficult to write within an imposed word limit and that, even if the audience is educated, the best copy is written in simple language.

Rather than taking on board the professional writer’s comments, the client dismisses them, reminds them who is paying the bill, and insists the copy is written their way.

The writer does a pretty good job considering, but the initial draft comes back with loads of amendments – the majority completely unnecessary. Phrases and headings that took hours to craft into strong, commanding sentences have been hacked and altered into something wishy-washy and bland.

Despite the writer’s best efforts, the client insists their version is to stand.

The distant client

A very vague brief is handed across with the stipulation that this is really urgent and they need the content within 14 days. The copywriter arranges a phone interview to go through it and comes away non the wiser. The client has no idea about the tone they want to use (they’ll leave that to the writer), but they want to be like Apple.

The writer goes away, does hours of research and develops a concept that has an Apple-esq feel.

The initial draft goes to the client. Nothing is heard for a week so the writer chases. Eventually, after two more chasers an email is received apologising for the delay but ‘they haven’t had time to look at it.’

Eventually, the feedback is received. They think it’s all right, but they’re not really sure.

After much toing and froing it’s finally signed off.

The go-between

This scenario is a bit like the one above, but the client uses a middleman, usually an external marketing consultant. The consultant doesn’t really know the company, but they are tasked with briefing the writer and driving the project.

The issue here is that rather than getting a first-hand brief, the writer is given the consultant’s interpretation of what the client wants.

The result?

The client rejects the cracking first draft that ticks all the consultant’s boxes, out of hand.

Back to square one.

The writer asks for more information and there’s a delay in getting it because they have to go through the consultant.

The whole process is slow, painful and very stressful. Not ideal.

Eventually, the copywriter gets the content signed off, but it’s put them off working in this way ever again.

Get involved, but trust your copywriter

The ideal client is the hands on one that trusts their writer’s judgement.

It’s important to remember that you hired a copywriter because you wanted a professional, who understands marketing and is capable of producing content your company can be proud of.

In any collaboration like this, communication is key. When asked for information, provide it clearly without being prescriptive. When asked for feedback, respond as quickly as you can to keep the project flowing. The same goes for sign off.

It’s also a good idea to arrange to meet with your writer six months after the project’s completion to review how the content is performing to see if any tweaks are needed.