Briefing your content writer: 5 things they need to know
Let’s say you run your own business – large, small, micro, it doesn’t matter. Now let’s assume that you want to attract more clients, or you want to stay in touch with the ones you have. As a business owner, you barely have time to post on social media let alone write new web copy or a blog post. You’re busy running the company! And if even if you do find the time, maybe you feel your writing skills are not up to the task.
Enter your hero: the freelance writer. They can do it for you, but now you have to tell them what you need. Oh dear, more writing? If the thought of briefing your content writer is enough to put you off, help is at hand.
Use this simple guide to the 5 things the writer needs to know to get the job done. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It need not be a thousand-word essay. Fill in some information using these 5 headings, and you can sit back while they do the heavy lifting – er, writing!
Your writer needs to know what you do and what the background to the piece is. What is your business about? Maybe send a link to your website if there is one, or to any social media accounts. If you are starting out and don’t have those yet, let your writer know a little about what you do. Then point them in the direction of similar companies – i.e. your competitors – to provide some context.
They will also need to understand more about your brand voice. Again, if that is still new or being developed, give them some examples of companies with similar brand voices. You want to give them enough information to be able to put themselves in your shoes without overwhelming them.
What is the purpose of the new piece? Do you need them to write fresh website copy, a single blog article or a new brochure? From this, a few other details will start to become clearer. Let them know about:
- Target audience. This is about who you are trying to attract or engage with. It could be existing customers, potential new ones, or a specific customer segment.
- Length. How long should the piece be, or what is the approximate word count?
- Title of the piece. If you don’t have a specific title in mind and would like them to come up with ideas, offer some broad parameters they can work from.
- Tone of voice. This will depend on your brand and who your audience is, as well as where it is to be used, so it is an important detail for your brief.
Not all articles published online will be written with SEO (search engine optimisation) at the top of the agenda. All the same, you will probably want to use certain keywords that will distinguish you from the crowd or which represent your business. When there are specific keywords you would like your writer to use, let them know.
If SEO is crucial, give them as much information as you can on primary and secondary keywords, density and placement. Do they need to appear in headings or subheadings? What, if any, links do you want them to include – either internal or external? This will help them to structure the piece from the start for greatest effect.
Your writer will do some of their own research before they put fingers to keyboard. However, if you have any marketing materials, reports, related blog posts, studies etc., they can provide a strong starting point.
Your writer will thank you for narrowing down their research and avoiding hours of unnecessary research (it will save you money, too). Crucially, it prevents a writer going in the wrong direction, resulting in a piece that isn’t quite what you had in mind.
Knowing the deadline will help a writer to determine whether they can do the work. They will have other jobs on the go and while they may be able to be flexible if you have a short deadline, it might not always be the case. If you have a short turnaround time, let them know early on so neither of you is wasting time.
If the writer does take it on, they will know how to fit it into their schedule. When I write for clients, I make sure that my first draft is ready days before it is due. I can then sleep on it and review with a fresh mind. It will help me pick up typos and improve the flow of the piece. I also have time to go back and review the brief, making sure that my draft meets all the criteria set out by the client.
Writer for hire
This writer is always open to new job enquiries! Joking aside, do get in touch if you have any questions on hiring or briefing a content writer or want to know more about the writing process. And yes, I am taking new bookings…
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Christina Petrides is a writer and editor who works with small businesses and academics, helping develop and create copy and content and editing documents for publication. She works across most industries, and has a particular love for the environmental and travel sectors. She is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) and Full Member of the Institution of Environmental Sciences (IES). Connect with her on LinkedIn or sign up for the Last Glance monthly newsletter.