In search of a professional services vendor for an upcoming project? From audio engineering to wedding planning, LinkedIn has a handy Profinder service where you can post your job specs and receive proposals from experienced providers.
A great many of these fall into the creative services category — copywriting, lead gen, graphic design, social media marketing.
As a company that’s often on the receiving end of these RFPs for copywriting, we’ll let you in on a dirty little secret: the information they ask you to provide about your project needs is woefully inadequate. Time and again, we’ll gleefully open an email notification (because really, who doesn’t like inbound leads?) only to mutter to ourselves, “How in holy hell can we be expected to quote this?”
So if you’re one of the people expecting an on-target proposal, this is why you’re getting crappy off-base responses or barraged with requests for additional information.
What copywriters really need to know to ballpark a price
Like every service provider, time is our currency — we estimate projects based on how long we expect the assignment to complete. So that means the volume and quality of existing source material are critical.
Here are three questions we ask prior to preparing an estimate so it’s as detailed and accurate as possible:
Does written source material exist, such as product spec sheets, web content, presentation decks or other relevant content? Or will we be interviewing your management team, product engineers, clients or other stakeholders for the majority of the information we need?
Does your company have existing brand voice guidelines and a style guide? This helps us “get into character” and write copy that’s consistent in tone with any existing content, while also adhering to stylistic preferences such as abbreviations (US vs U.S.), capitalization (sentence or title case in headlines and subheads), use of serial commas and other mechanics.
How do you prefer to provide feedback? Some clients love the “track changes” feature in Microsoft Word, while others prefer marking up a hard copy old-school and sending us a scan of it. A third group finds it more productive to talk through their feedback via Zoom or phone. Copywriting is a collaborative process, so we like to understand how you work most productively from the start of the project.
Other considerations for a successful copywriting outcome
Timing for feedback — When we build out a production schedule, we want to make sure we’re building in sufficient review time for the client in order to meet their project deadline. It’s helpful to know how many people will be reviewing copy drafts, and how long they’ll need to provide input. In addition, let your copywriter know if reviewers will be submitting feedback individually or whether someone on your team will consolidate suggested edits into a single document for us.
Copy samples — If you’ve completed a similar project in the past, samples are always helpful to a copywriter. For example, “keep the email copy short” is very subjective direction, so samples of what you consider short are extremely helpful. In addition, if your company doesn’t have established brand voice guidelines, consider providing the writer with links to copy that represents the tone you’re looking to achieve.
Candor — Copywriters by nature ask LOTS of questions. We’re not probing to be nosy or uncover scandals for TMZ; we just want to deliver kick-ass content that performs for you. So don’t hesitate to discuss product limitations, operational challenges or other perceived negatives. We may be able to help you get out ahead of an issue, better control the narrative or find a creative hook to turn an issue into a competitive advantage.
Honesty is the best policy in any relationship, and your copywriting relationship is no exception
Experienced copywriters are used to signing NDAs, so don’t hesitate to ask. By being upfront about timing, feedback and source materials, you’ll get more accurate project estimates and a smoother creative process.