A client’s guide to keeping your copywriter motivated

May 17, 2020

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You’ve got an awesome freelance copywriter working on the really wordy project your business needs. Part of what you heart most about them is their bubbly energy. They’re usually full of beans and all about the ‘can dos!’ rather than the ‘Ooh, I’m not sures?’

Recently though, you’ve noticed that your once motivated copywriter is coming off a little flat. They’ve lost some of their bubble. You’re worried that the passion they had is fading.

 

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It’s not that they don’t love you anymore. It’s just that everyone has days where no matter how strong the will to work is, finding the get up and go that’s needed is bloody tough. But, as a caring and concerned client, how can you help relight that spark?

Extending workplace motivation to freelancers and contractors

First up, kudos to you for noticing that your copywriter may need an extra hand getting motivated. And extra props that you’re searching for ways to help. Managing the motivation levels of a non-employee isn’t technically your responsibility, so it shows that you’re an awesome, caring and kind person to want to help.

What many freelancers miss most about office work is the shared energy you get from working in a team. There’s a lot to be said for workplace motivation. And a lot has been said, and researched, when it comes to uncovering what works and what doesn’t.

For example, a 2013 study by Glassdoor study discovered that 81% of employees feel motivated to work harder when their boss shows them appreciation.

Meanwhile a Gallup analysis found that employees who don’t feel like their best efforts are recognised are twice as likely to quit in the next year.

And I really liked this passage on workplace motivation and small wins from the Harvard Business Review:

“The power of progress is fundamental to human nature, but few managers understand it or know how to leverage progress to boost motivation. In fact, work motivation has been a subject of long-standing debate. In a survey asking about the keys to motivating workers, we found that some managers ranked recognition for good work as most important, while others put more stock in tangible incentives. Some focused on the value of interpersonal support, while still others thought clear goals were the answer. Interestingly, very few of our surveyed managers ranked progress first.” 

Different motivational tactics work for different people and teams and you may even be familiar with putting some of these in place for your own employees.

For copywriters such as myself who work alone, we often have to pat ourselves on the back which isn’t easy. Writers (creatives in general, I think) have an in-built self-deprecation mode that’s tough to switch off. A tight community of peers helps, but there’s nothing quite like the support of our clients to keep our motivation levels high.

5 Nice ideas to help keep your copywriter motivated

If you’re looking for some ideas on how to give your freelance copywriter a little pick me up, which we all need from time to time, then here’s what works for me and some of my copywriting buddies.

 

1. Keep in touch

Working on a huge project as the only writer can be a long, lonely process. Those feelings are stark when a client goes quiet, which can lead to confusion.

“I’ve had clients that haven’t responded to work that’s been sent through because they thought they should only get in touch if they thought the writing was off track. Having all of my emails met with silence was pretty demotivating,” admits copywriter Caitlin Wright. And remember, copywriters are a weird bunch. Our imaginations often run wild. We have a tendency to panic and think the worst.

A quick call or email asking how we’re doing or to give some response to material that’s been sent to you makes a huge difference to our day. This is what Caitlin eventually got, and it’s this ongoing communication that made a big project easier to handle for copywriter Kate Crocker.

“Over a three month period, I worked on a huge legal website. It ended up being around 90,000 words. I was the sole writer, working with a website development team and the client.

“The motivator was so basic for me. It was the client responding to my emails, phone calls and getting revisions back to me promptly. That way, we could all see that progress was being made.”

 

2. Set manageable goals

Kate’s last point leads me perfectly onto the next carrot: setting manageable goals and seeing progress. Getting stuck in a hamster wheel of routine that leads to a motivational funk is so easy to do when writing for a big project. Setting realistic goals and benchmarks that lets your copywriter see things being crossed off the to-do list is a great way for helping them keep up the energy needed to get the work done.

 

3. Vary the work

This next one comes from copywriter Cal Chikwendu and sits nicely next to the idea of dividing a big task into blocks.

“The biggest copy job I did lasted nearly 10 months. What kept me motivated was the client giving me different types of copy to work on so it always felt fresh and new(ish). For example, they’d brief me for six web pages to start with, then they’d ask for six blogs, then video scripts, then we might go back to the web pages.”

I love this idea. Especially for ma-hoo-sive projects. Not just because it’s a good way to keep motivation levels up, but writing a similar style of copy day in, day out, brings dangers of repeating yourself. Giving a writer a break and switching up how they need to think creatively is a great way to keep them fresh.

 

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4. Inclusivity and treats

Gestures like sharing a pack of biscuits, getting in on the tea round or having a chance to chat and catch up in morning stand ups are what build team camaraderie during a project. But as a freelance copywriter contracted in to work on a project, it’s easy to miss out on that team feeling. Clients can address those in some really simple ways.

Emma from Emma McMillan Copy is working on a huge project that’s lasted nine months already. For her, being treated as ‘one of the team’ is a huge motivator.

“Weekly check-in calls at a regular time help me feel like an incredibly worthy member of the team and give me the chance to ask questions, clarify feedback and direction. As the only freelancer involved in the project, having the project lead carve out this time each week means a lot,” says Emma.

Regular calls aren’t the only thing this client has done to integrate Emma into the team. “I was invited to Sydney (from Melbourne) by the client to present on a tone of voice guide I developed in preparation for writing the website. They felt the guide had so much value they wanted it shared with the broader team. And when I dinged my car and had to let them know as it coincided with a retainer day, the team sent me a bunch of flowers.”

Hearing Emma’s story reminded me of my own similar experience when contracting for Asahi. I was invited to the Melbourne offices for a few days, meeting everyone I’d be working with, see the processes they set up for the project and, when I returned to Brisbane, I was included in the big weekly stand up call. It really kept me going, especially during the drier, less creative copy moments of the project.

 

5. Offer thoughtful feedback

Writing is subjective. And good copywriters understand that collaboration makes the copy stronger. Thoughtful, constrictive feedback is really helpful. “Getting revisions with tracked changes, my questions answered in the comments and feedback that explains how someone wants something changes (with examples if possible) is what keeps me motivated,” explains copywriter Josh Rose.

Giving feedback might not strike you as an obvious motivational tool, but as Josh rightly says, “Constructive feedback keeps me motivated because updates can be done quicker and I end up getting a better result for my client.” Makes sense.

If you’re new to giving feedback on copy, I suggest following these three golden rules.

  1. Explain why you want the change. Can you justify it more than just ‘I don’t like it’ or ‘make it better’?
  2. Spend time with your copy. Read it more than once, let it sit for a while and don’t freak out if your writer doesn’t get it bang on in the first draft.
  3. Highlight what you like, as well as what you don’t. If you can pick out examples (in your copy or other businesses you like), even better.

What’s keeping you motivated?

A working relationship is a two-way street. Giving back is just as important as receiving. So, if there are times during the project you need pepping up or you’re not feeling enthused about your copy, let you writer know. Maybe there’s something they can talk you through to help recapture that passion?

Let me (and my fellow copywriters who read this) know what motivational techniques keep you energised and excited about a project?

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