Online copywriting – Different strokes for different folks

Freelance online copywriters like me have to be pretty flexible dealing with customers. It’s a case of feeling your way. How do you like to work with the person who writes your content?

Online copywriting project management styles

I work with three kinds of people, although there are probably hundreds of shades of grey in between.

1. Hands-off

I imagine some website content writers prefer hands-off, others hands on. It’s horses for courses. I enjoy both. My hands-off clients email me a rough bullet list or sentence covering what they want. Sometimes they’ll even kick the process off with a question.
In some cases it’s my job to use my marketing experience to advise the best course of action, which I transmit straight back to them. Other times they know their stuff. Either way, being natural hands-off types, once we’ve agreed the parameters they let me get on with it. We hammer out issues at draft 2 and that’s usually that. Job done.
My digital marketing agency customers tend to be hands-off. Once they know you always make the grade they simply give you a sturdy brief, point you in the right direction and light the blue touch paper. It’s all very efficient.

2. Novices

When you don’t really know what you need, it helps to have a tame web copy writer who knows their marketing onions. I work with a lot of start-ups and small companies, many of whom don’t have a clue about the ins and outs of marketing in general or digital marketing in particular. In cases like this I propose what they need back to them and explain the reasons behind my thinking, because it’s good Karma and it makes my copywriting life easier next time we work together.
Once we’ve agreed the best course of action I take the copy to first draft. Because I’ve made all sorts of assumptions on their behalf we sometimes have some tinkering to do, which is included in the price. But just as often they’re perfectly happy with the first draft. I love it when that happens.

3. Hands on

Occasionally I get a control freak – in the nicest possible way! I get a thorough, detailed brief pinning down the tone of voice, audience, USPs, message, language, calls to action, you name it. For a website content provider, it’s the diametric opposite of roaming free range. I only have to apply my marketing mind to the copy itself because the contextual marketing thinking has been done for me. It’s lovely to dive right into the copy and follow a series of well-considered, precise instructions.
I’m probably not the only freelance website content provider to enjoy the variety. It adds extra spice to the already piquant collection of sectors, products and services I write about.
Today, for example, I wrote a daily blog post for the most hands-off client on earth who leaves me to blog about anything I want as long as it’s relevant. Then I wrote four long posts about industrial machine maintenance, working to a brief so brief it contained less material than a particularly skimpy thong. And finished off with a press release for someone who prefers writing everything out at length, in fine detail, then getting me to transform it into something beautiful… which brings me to editing.

Online copy editing adds flavour

Editing brings even more variety to my writing life. It’s another ballgame entirely, using different mental muscles and eating up large amounts of short term memory because you’re constantly on the lookout for consistency of tone, style, format and content. Plus grammar, spelling and the all-important flow, the instinctual and emotional side of writing life.
I edit all sorts of things, from ebooks to articles, press releases to blog posts and web pages. It’s thrilling turning something OK but dull, or badly expressed, or in the wrong order, or weak, or lumpy in some way, into something really special: tight, concise, logical, consistent, expressive and intelligent.
Sometimes I get a one-line editing brief, other times the full Monty. Either is fine by me.

What information do you need to give your online content writer?

What do I need from you? Easy. I’ll work with whatever you have the energy, expertise or inclination to provide. A few bullets? Fine. An all-singing, all-dancing brief? Cool. A lengthy email? Excellent. A load of disorganised bumph for editing? Heavenly. A grubby sheet of crumpled A4 paper covered in scribbles? If you must!

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