SmileIt will come as no surprise to learn that we copywriters are a tiny bit obsessed with words. Not only the ones we write, but also the ones we read.

This enquiry popped into my inbox recently recently, and it made me smile.

“This website is so secret I’m actually writing this blindfolded in a cave from an unknown location.”

I can’t wait to dig out my trusty old Secret Squirrel typewriter and get started on that project.

In a recent LinkedIn conversation, I enjoyed this exchange with a stranger who wanted to connect with me:

Me: “Some people are too close to their own business to be able to write clearly about it.”

Stranger: “Dead right. Here’s an expression that explains this problem: ‘you can’t read the label from inside the jar.'”

That’s a lovely turn of phrase that I haven’t heard before.

And later in the same conversation…

Me: “There is a desperate need for recruiters to realise that the ad and the job description are not the same.”

Stranger: “Exactly! It’s like the difference between the picture of the cake on the cake box, and the recipe.”

After this, I accepted the stranger’s request to connect and now he’s a contact. He does LinkedIn training – clearly, he knows what he’s doing*.

Things that make your copywriter sad

Unfortunately, these ‘things that make your copywriter sad’ are adapted from real conversations:

“I want you to stuff the copy with a series of unrealistic short-tail keywords and phrases for SEO purposes.”

“I will remove every piece of creativity from your copy until I’ve sucked all the life out of it.”

“I expect my website to get 7 million hits on day 1 after it goes live.”

“I want my website to appear on page 1 of Google – but I don’t want to invest any money, energy or time to get it there.”

“Obviously, I want you to do your usual superlative copywriting – but I don’t have much budget to pay you.”


Another thing that upsets copywriters is when apostrophes’ appear in all the wrong place’s [sic].

A few years ago, I even set up a website to address this. For a bit of fun, see As you may notice, the URL is an apostrophe in-joke all by itself. I confess I haven’t updated the site recently due to paid work commitments. Also, because the Bristol Apostrophiser is now doing the same job in real life.

To get the best out of your copywriter

You don’t need to write well (that’s why you need a copywriter). But to get the best out of your copywriter, you do need to give us a good brief.

Here are some of the things we need to know:

About you and your business

  • Your name
  • Your business name
  • Postal address
  • Your phone number/s
  • Email address
  • Number of employees
  • Date business founded
  • Annual turnover

About the project

  • Description of project
  • Objective of project (Your most wanted response might turn into the call to action.)
  • Measure/s of success (How will we know whether we’ve achieved the goal?)
  • Budget
  • Timescale

About the context

  • What do you sell?
  • Who are your clients?
  • Who are your competitors?

About the content

  • Why should anyone buy from you? (This is the killer question that only a tiny percentage of people can answer quickly and usefully)
  • Why should anyone believe your claims? (Supporting evidence is often in the form of numbers, not words)
  • What are your frequently asked questions? (Addressing these upfront can save them being asked in the first place)

About your brand

  • What tone of voice should be used? (Most clients just want Plain English, but the brave ones allow us to express maximum personality in the language we choose)

That’s just a starting point.

I send prospective clients a set of 20 standard ‘discovery’ questions to complete, followed by a face-to-face, phone or Skype meeting to fill in any gaps and ask supplementary questions. People tell me they find it a useful thought process and their answers give me all the information I need to quote and do a good job.

And when I do a good job, it makes my clients smile.

*In case you’re wondering, it was Anthony English







1 Comment

Janice B Gordon · October 19, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Thank you Jackie this is very useful and practical. You have a happy habit of making your articles fun and full of practical advice. I love reading your content. I have to go now as I have you checklist to go through.

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