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As a writer, I’ve had people tell me, “Work your magic,” as if I could wave a wand at my laptop to make the content appear instantly. In truth, there’s nothing magical about writing. It takes patience, research, and the dogged pursuit of the information your customer may not think to tell you.
If you’re thinking of hiring a writer, you should know how we conjure up the content you need. Here’s the inevitable list format that is so fashionable these days:
- We ask tons of questions.It’s pretty tough to create content out of thin air, unless you’re a novelist. As a copywriter, my job is to listen to the customer and ask questions to fill in any gaps of information. We rely on what’s called a creative brief, where the customer answers questions about key differentiators, ideal audience, benefits of their services, etc., that will help guide the content, but that’s rarely enough.
- We know who the audience is and what the message is. This is part of the questions part, but it’s worth mentioning. A copywriter wants to get it right on the first or second draft, and we need to know who we’re writing to and what the primary message is regarding the product or service.
- We know the context and the format of the piece. Writing a brochure is different from writing a website, which is different from writing a case study, which is different from writing a bio. Each piece has its own constraints. And each piece might have several options. A bio for LinkedIn isn’t the same as a bio for your website. And that brochure – is it for customers who have never heard of you, or is it a take-away after an initial meeting? A good copywriter will ask you about that.
- We understand your expectations. There are many ways to figure this out, but the best way is in writing, by way of a contract. A contract will spell out deadlines, milestones, forms of payment, and the deliverables. And it will help us avoid murkiness and lack of direction.
- We aren’t writing all the time. I often think the “Work your magic” expression indicates someone may not understand the writing process. Writing is a part of it, but not all of it. The rest is researching, prepping for interviews, interviewing, transcribing, organizing the information, WRITING, and polishing, all while juggling customer emails or phone conversations. Then we incorporate customer feedback by rewriting. Whatever a writer charges you per hour isn’t spent on pure writing. It’s a lot of other stuff, too.
- We’re the kind of writer you need. When someone says, “I need a writer,” my question is, “What kind of writer? A copywriter? A journalist? A public relations specialist to write a press release?” And even asking for a copywriter isn’t enough. Some of us specialize in ad copy (not me), while others love case studies (that would be me).If you’re looking for a writer, be clear about what type of content you want, so you get the right person for the job. If you get the wrong person – someone who doesn’t understand your industry or the type of content you need — it won’t feel like magic at all. It will feel like a curse.
Note: This blog post first appeared on LinkedIn.