You’ve decided your business messaging needs a refresh. Whether that’s on your website, in your email marketing, blogs, or non-digital marketing, you feel the time has come to get a copywriter on board and spring clean the fuck out of your copy.
But this is your first time working with a writer. What, apart from ‘I don’t like my website/email/brochure’ copy (or I need website/email/brochure copy), do you need to let the writer know when you get in touch?
The good news is that your initial message to a copywriter doesn’t need to be an essay. You don’t even need to have all of the details of your project set in stone. To book the copywriter you want, you need to make sure you:
- start on the right note with your prospective copywriter
- give what detail you can (which will save both you and the writer some time down the line)
- understand what’s likely to happen after you’ve sent your enquiry.
Simple, right? I promise by the time you’ve finished reading this you’ll realise how easy it is to get a writer on board to start crafting bloody brilliant copy for your business.
First though, are you ready to work with a copywriter?
It’s wise to prepare the following things before sending your project enquiry.
- Make sure you understand what you’re selling and what makes it appealing to clients.
- Any notes or documents you have on brand and tone of voice. Or if you don’t have formal documents for these, be able to articulate what you might want these to sound like.
- Have a very clear understanding of your ideal client/target audience and you’re able to describe them in detail.
- Have some idea of your marketing aim or goal, and an understanding of what you want your copy to do/achieve.
I realise this sounds like a lot but these are the business, customer and project details a copywriter will ask you about. If not in their reply to your first email, certainly during your full briefing session. Get wise on these things ahead of hiring a writer and you’ll find that getting the copy your business needs (and that you’re happy with) is much easier. Or, if you can’t do this at least be willing to say “you’re not sure” and open to extra work to get the answers to these questions.
The importance of an initial enquiry
Copywriting is a collaborative process. While you may lean on your writer for their marketing experience and expertise, they will still need your approval on the copy as well as your feedback. It’s a close working relationship during the project. Your first email or call with a writer is your chance to introduce yourself and for each of you to get a feel for whether the collaboration will work out.
I’ve written a whole article about finding the right writer, but as you’ll be working closely together both you and the writer want to make sure the process will be a smooth and pleasurable one. Believe me when I say that the copywriting community has a list of client red flags. And if you come in waving any of them as part of your first message, there’s every chance you’ll get knocked back.
But let’s not be cynical about this. You’re here because you want to make sure you say what you need to say, while providing the right information so you can crack on with taking over the world.
What to tell the copywriter in your first message
Many of the copywriters I know include a contact form on their website. This is an easy way to make sure we get the first look information we need so a judgement can be made on whether we can take the job on or not. Filling in each field they’ve asked for is the easiest way to progress your enquiry.
Not a form filler-inner? Or know the project you have in mind won’t fit neatly into the categorised boxes provided? Then it’s time to go freehand my friend. All you need to do is tick off each of the following in your message the writer gets the information they need to:
- decide if they’re a good fit for your project
- have the time and availability they need to complete it
- can provide you with a price (or explain what they can do for you that’s within your budget).
Right, let’s write.
Start by introducing yourself
Sounds simple enough, but I get so many enquiries where the person leaves off their name and/or the name of their company. Don’t forget this simple detail. The copywriter doesn’t know you at all, give them the context they want by providing:
- your name and job title
- the name of the company you work for
- your company’s website or social media accounts.
If you’re sending your request to several copywriters for consideration, personalise your message. It really doesn’t take much to type, ‘Hi Rose’ or ‘Hi Sam.’
Outline what you need
You might not have all of the details about your project sorted out. That’s OK. Tell the writer as much as you can at this stage. Try to include details about:
- what you want writing (website copy, how many pages, a short re-engagement email, newsletters etc)
- who the writer might need to work with or report to during this project
- why your business needs this copy and how it’ll be used.
If there’s anything you’re not sure about, say as much. I can’t repeat this enough, but getting copy for your business is a collaborative project. More ideas may surface as your dialogue continues.
Give a timeframe
Available time is a big factor when it comes to a copywriter being able to accept a job or not. We need to feel confident we have the capacity to complete what you need. This includes time for any back and forth, ongoing project admin, and last little tweaks to that final draft.
Help a writer out by letting them know when, ideally, you want your project completed. Tell them if you have any deadlines and, if possible, what’s driving those deadlines. For example, if you’ve booked your dream designer and they’re only available on X date so you have to have the copy completed before then. Or you’ve got an event or product launch and the copy is part of that campaign. Give them this context so they can better understand any urgency or time pressures attached to the job.
Bring up budget
Money talk. 🤮 Blurgh. Writers are notoriously bad at talking about money and always wait until later to discuss it. Almost like it’s an afterthought. (Please be especially sensitive to this if you find you’re working with a new writer who’s still figuring out their prices.)
Take the time to look through the writer’s site. If they have their prices listed on their copywriting services page this will give you some indication as to whether your budget and their costs are going to work out.
Some writers don’t disclose their prices. If this is the case, tell them what your budget it. Or give a ballpark figure. This is helpful for three reasons.
- The writer can assess whether the scope of your project is achievable for the budget you have.
- If they don’t feel it is, it allows space for negotiation. The writer can respond by saying what they can do for that budget, which is a much more positive response and experience for both you and the writer.
- If that writer feels the budget really isn’t workable for them, they can either:
a) give you a ballpark quote for the work you want done so you can make the final call
b) refer you to someone in their network who is in a better position to help you out. (Handy, as you won’t have to trawl the internet trying to find another writer.)
Don’t forget your contact details
With your message written, all that’s left is to specify how you’d like the copywriter to contact you. Let them know if you want them to call, email or text you and then provide the relevant contact detail so they can get hold of you.
What to expect after you’ve sent your message
Give the writer the chance to digest your request and reply. Current client commitments, being on deadline, or being away from their desk means it may take a day or two for them to get back to you. (I checked with my copywriting colleagues and yes, 24-48 hours is the consensus for when you can expect a response.)
What happens next depends on their availability and the complexity of the job. You might find that the writer can accept your project right away and they’ll confirm this in their reply. But what’s more likely is that you’ll be invited to join them on a discovery call.
In my case, I send prospective clients a link to my calendar so they can book in a free 20-minute Zoom call. I like to call this the ‘nice to meet you’ chat because, yes it’s a chance for me to ask any questions I have. But mostly it’s an opportunity to shoot the breeze a bit, get a feel for each other and chat about your aims and outcomes for the project.
One thing you should be sure of when on this sort of intro call with a writer, is that you can expect to do most of the talking. We’ll be on the other end scribbling down notes that will help us put together a sales proposal. At the end of the call you’ll have any next steps explained to you.
And that’s it. Wanna test your new enquiry skills?
If you’ve got a copywriting project looming on the horizon and you think I might be the right writer for you, drop me a line. You know what to include in your message, so don’t hold back. Start the conversation.