How to deal with a copywriting project that goes wrong


This post is for all the copywriters out there.

Regardless of your experience, perfectionist nature and expertise, at some point a copywriting project is going to go wrong.

Why does it happen?

No one knows, it just does.

Even though you’ve been writing stonkingly great copy for clients for over a decade or more, now and then you get a smack in the face, and it hurts.

What do you do when that happens?

Cry, give up, or carry on?

I am a great believer in the fact that mistakes make for stronger business relationships.

A cock-up isn’t likely to lose you a client (because they know you’re just human and they’ve made plenty of blunders in the past too), but how you deal with it will.

  1. Throwing your toys out of your pram

Never the best way to deal with things – reacting like this and blaming your client for a weak brief is not going to help matters. After all, their comeback will be that if the brief was so terrible why didn’t you say anything?

Tight deadlines or rapidly shrinking ones are a pain and can lead to the creation of something you’re less than happy with, but again speaking up earlier may have resolved this and so isn’t a valid reason for getting uppity with them.

In this situation, I would acknowledge with the client that these were contributing factors, but mistakes were made on both sides and come up with a plan to put things right.

More often than not this happens on a first assignment with a new client. You’re so desperate to create a great impression you go overboard which bizarrely results in a glitch in your usually impeccable work. Often this is caused by the initial learning curve you have to go through. Your client knows their business inside out whereas you are starting at level one and trying to learn their business as you write. As a result, they expect you to know everything instantly, which is never going to happen.

Plus, being a new relationship, you’re both still getting to know one another, so there are bound to be a few stumbles now and then.

The best thing to do is keep your cool and work with the client to rectify things.

  1. Run and hide

If you’re not particularly confident in dealing with awkward situations, you may be tempted to run and hide.

Not answering calls or emails will obviously not go down well and I’m sure that you would never consider this course of action. But, because I want to explore all avenues in this post I thought I’d best add it to the list.

The worst thing you can do is bury your head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening.

It’s time to man up; a mistake was made (either a blaring typo missed or an article that didn’t gel), and now you have to put it right.

It’s going to be painful, and you’ll probably feel very down and nauseous for a day or two, but believe it or not, the experience will make you a better writer.

  1. Cry and walk away

Now and then you will have to walk away from a project. Hopefully not because of an error, but because of the inability to gel with your client, after all, you’re never going to get on with everyone you meet or work with.

But if something’s gone wrong, don’t immediately take all the blame, cry, and walk away from the project because you think it’s unsalvageable. It’s very rare that a situation is going to be that bad.

Acknowledge something went wrong and talk to your client. Work with them to create a solution they’re happy with. Your candour will be well received and may well turn around a difficult situation.

  1. Take it on the chin

Balls. Something’s gone wrong, and you’re left feeling devastated.

If you’re open and honest with your client, they will see this and understand that you’re not about to run away and leave them with a mess to sort out.

Have a conversation with them and recognise what happened and come up with a plan to put it right. Take ownership of the situation and do everything in your power to rectify it.

One word of warning though, never say: “it’ll never happen again.” If you do the Gods of fate will be listening, and I guarantee it will recur.


No one likes getting things wrong, especially when you know it shouldn’t happen, but part of being human means now and then we drop a clanger.

Even though there’s blame to be had on both sides, never pile it all onto your client. Acknowledge there’s an issue and come up with a way of resolving it. If necessary, show your client you’ve put steps in place to minimise the risk of it happening again.

If you want to develop and strengthen your relationships with your clients, especially when things go wrong, be open, honest and try harder next time.


Sally Ormond is an experienced international copywriter who will never leave you in the lurch, even if things go a bit pear-shaped. For a safe pair of hands for your copywriting project call her on 01449 7796056 or email her