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Big copywriting projects – 5 things to ask your copywriter

Many events prompt a big copywriting project. It may be a website redevelopment, a branding exercise, or even a new product launch. In any case, you suddenly find yourself faced with a mountain of content which needs to be reviewed, refined, and (most likely) re-written.

Thankfully the powers that be have given you a budget to hire an external copywriter to help with the work.

Now from a copywriter’s perspective, big projects are a completely different kettle of fish than a quick-turnaround brochure or web page update. They require far more planning and often a different approach. You really need to understand how a project works, and how your component (the writing) fits in with everything else.

Often, you need to do far more non-writing activities like content audits, schedules, and stakeholder interviews than you’d otherwise allow for.

So from your point of view, when it comes to selecting the copywriter for your big project, make sure you ask them these questions to see if they’re going to be the best fit for your project.

Have you worked on a big copywriting project before?

A copywriter who understands the basics of project management will be easier to manage than one who doesn’t. This includes things like stakeholder engagement, scope changes, and risk management.

Do you have a day rate?

Personally I find it easier to work on a day rate for big projects because you have to be more fluid with the timing of deliverables. Allocating which days you’ll be working makes it easier for the project manager to schedule meetings and allocate tasks.

When quoting for big projects I break the project up into a number of core deliverables, each with an estimated amount of days. I then identify key milestones to re-assess if the days are still realistic.

Have you allowed enough time for feedback?

This is an important one. From my experience, the best-planned content project can still be de-railed by rounds and rounds of feedback. Even if you stipulate your hours only cover two rounds of feedback, some organisations simply don’t work like that (no matter what they say). So you have to be flexible and adapt along the way, and that’s why I use milestones to re-assess how much work can be done in the time allocated (see the question above).

What happens if the scope changes and there’s additional work to be done?

Find out if your copywriter has other copywriters who can be called on, or if they have the capacity themselves to take on the additional work.

What’s your availability after the project is scheduled to finish?

Delays are common. Don’t get trapped by having your project run over time and then losing your copywriter because they are already booked immediately after your project finishes.

What’s your experience with big copywriting projects? Have they gone to plan?

Share your thoughts below.


I can help you with the content strategy and copywriting components of your next content project. Send me an email to get in touch.


Bullet blunders

Bullet points are the best friend of the web writer.

They break up pages into neat, bite-sized chunks – making content easier to scan and read. But unfortunately, they are also often incorrectly punctuated.

Here’s a cheat sheet:

  • If the bullet points are complete sentences (like these), punctuate them as you would a sentence with a capital at the start and a full stop at the end.
  • It doesn’t matter if there is a lead-in sentences or not (with a colon), as long as each bullet point makes sense as a stand alone statement.

But, if the bullet points are a carry on from the lead-in sentence:

  • you use a colon at the end of the lead-in sentence
  • you don’t capitalise the first letter
  • there is no need for a full stop until the final point.

I hope this helps!

Consistency plays an important role in getting your message across

One of the important things that I’ve learned over the years is that you can write the most wonderful, engaging, intelligent, and snazzy piece of copy – only for it to be let down by something trivial. Have you ever read a brochure or web page and instead of taking in what the site/company is trying to tell/sell you, you can only see the mismatch of style, punctuation and layout?

OK, some of these things should be taken care of by a graphic designer (maybe) or a style sheet (again maybe), but it’s also up to the content writer to maintain a consistent approach. As there is often no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do things, pick a style that suits and stick with it. If you work in a large organisation, or one where there are multiple authors or contributors, go to the effort and document your choices in a style guide.

Use the same punctuation style for your bullets. It helps readers scan (a must for web), but it also keeps the flow of the page.

Sentence and title case
Personally, I’m a stickler for sentence case in headings (only the first letter of the first word capitalised, as in a sentence), but many writers – especially if they are from a print background – don’t feel complete unless they use title case (first letter in each word) for headings. If you search the web you’ll find a huge debate about which is better, but in the end it’s up to you. Just make sure you do it consistently.

Style and formatting
On a website, this really should be locked down by the style sheet. However, as a style sheet is quite often developed by someone without a content background, double check that it meets your needs.

Addressees and phone numbers
Again, there are so many ways that you can format addresses and phone numbers. Make sure you document how you want to do it – and make sure everyone else knows as well.

Made-up words and jargon
We all know that we need to speak to our readers in a language they understand – so no bamboozling jargon. But if there is a product you have to write about, or some sort of industry terminology that must be included – make sure you spell and punctuate it the same way each time. For instance (a name of an intranet): StaffInfo, staffinfo, Staff info, Staffinfo. You get the picture.

Of course, if all else fails contact Snappy sentences and we’ll be happy to write you a web content style guide to suit your business.

Looking forward to Usability week 2008

I am looking forward to this week as I’ll be flying to Melbourne to attend one of the full day tutorials that will be held as part of Usability week 2008. Some of my colleagues have been to previous NNG events over the years, but this will be my first. I’ll report back soon!