First draft to final edit: A copywriter’s tale…

13th May, 2021Copywriting

Do you ever wonder what really happens when you hand over your existing piece of copy for a copywriter to work their magic on?

What are the processes involved? What does it take for a copywriter to turn your marketing message from bog average to bloody amazing?

Well today I’m peeling back the curtain and revealing how it’s all done. So without wasting any further time, let’s get to it, shall we?

#1: The Briefing

When a new client hands their existing copy over to me, I’ve almost always got clarity on at least one thing: what outcome they’re looking for as a result of any work we do. Without understanding this objective, I see no point even taking a client on to begin with. In fact, there have been times past where I refunded a would-be client in full as (through further discussions) it became apparent that they needed to speak with a web designer to achieve their desired outcomes rather than a copywriter like me.

In short: I’m not going to proceed with a project unless I’m certain I can help a client to achieve their goal.

So with the ‘Why’ understood, I then discuss the ‘How’ with the client: what would they like to change about the existing copy? Because I can look over what they’ve got and make my own analysis, but it’s far more important for the client to know that I understand them and the solution they’re looking for. Do they want to make the document less wordy? Do they think it’s too dry, too lacking in vibrant or emotive language? Is there a whole bunch of information that’s outdated and no longer relevant? Do they have some basic information they want repurposed for their website that leads into a call to action?

When I understand that ‘Why’ PLUS the ‘How’ then it’s on to Step #2…

#2: Time For Action!

This is now the time where I sit down, look at the client’s project in front of me, stretch my fingers and then work myself into the ‘zone’ as I cut, write, slash entire paragraphs, edit, create and use the client’s big ‘Why’ as the light house guiding me to shore, with the ‘How’ as my trusty compass. Depending upon the scope of the project at hand, this mission can be completed in a single afternoon or it can take weeks. But the goal is to have that 1st Draft completed and ready to send to the client for a look. This is where it gets interesting, and here’s why…

#3: The Moment Of Truth

When I send the 1st Draft of a repurposed piece of copy through to a client, chances are I am going to get one of three responses and (in my experience) predicting which response I get is always a game of wait and see. It’s the moment of truth because this is the first point where you say to a client “After our conversations and the notes you’ve shared with me, THIS is what I’ve created for you”.

As I said, while I don’t know exactly what response I’m going to get, I can predict it’s one of these three:

a) Fantastic, I love it. Thank you!

b) Ok, can we change or ad these things to the copy…

c) I thought there would be more of a difference between what I sent you initially and what you’ve got in this 1st draft?

While a) feels great and b) is fairly standard, c) represents the greatest gulf between what a client understands about copywriting and how a copywriter works. So let me explain this now…

#4: Copy Editing & Cutting Hair

To explain c) in the above scenario, think of going in to get your hair cut. You tell the hairdresser (or the barber) that you want a trim. Nothing radical, just a tidy up. So the hair stylist gets to work snipping and clipping away. Then comes the point where they stop and they ask you:

“What do you think?”

Quite often, they haven’t done anything too drastic, have they? And this is because if you look in the mirror and tell them to go with a #1 clip instead of a #2, or to trim a bit more off the top/ bottom, it’s not such a big deal, is it? A little extra work, a couple of minutes more and presto. What would be a big problem is if they clipped your hair too short, cut it too fine and you went “No- this is too much!”

What happens then? It takes far, far longer to grow your hair back to the length you intended when you sat in the chair, than it does to cut it further to your liking.

Same principle applies with editing or repurposing copy: if you heavily re-write the clients’ copy first go and they feel it’s too drastic, it takes far more time (and effort) to bring it back closer to the clients’ vision than it does to start with smaller, more subtle edits and then tinker away at it until the client looks at it and is happy that your work has matched their vision.

Far better (and more time-effective) to start small and keep chipping away, than to blow it away first shot and then do all the cleaning up for the second draft!

#5: If at first you don’t succeed

So if (for whatever reason) the client isn’t 100% satisfied with the first edit, then I get their feedback and combining their preferences with my professional opinion on what their copy needs, I get to work on the next draft.

The best part for clients is that, provided they get back to me in reasonable time, there is no extra cost for the additional edits. In fact, one of the 5 Service Guarantees I offer to every client is that from the date that 1st draft is submitted, they have an entire month of additional edits at no extra cost, to get their final piece to their liking.

This has proven to be an effective way of sorting the action takers from the time-wasters. Thankfully, the vast majority of clients I work with are quick to offer their feedback and in a fairly short space of time we’ve worked together to deliver repurposed copy that matches their initial vision and I’m happy to sign off on.

To find out more about how I work with clients, and what guarantees you can enjoy from getting me on board to give your copy the magic touch, click here