How to Work With a Copywriter
The 5-Step Process Copywriters Use
Maybe you're getting ready to hire a copywriter and want to know how it works. Or maybe you're looking into becoming a copywriter and want to learn more about it.
If you haven’t already, be sure the articles that prelude this one:
While a copywriter’s process may slightly vary from company to company, the overall process stays the same. The 5-step process of working with a copywriter is:
Research and Preparation, Organize, Write, Edit & Review, and Optimize.
Research + Discovery
Copywriters need to have deep and thorough knowledge of their client, the subject matter, their product and the audience they need to sell it to. To do this, copywriters spend quite a bit of their time on research and preparation. Copywriters spend anywhere from 25%-70% depending on their existing knowledge of the market, topic, and offer.
During the research + discovery stage, the copywriter is gathering information and conducting research that will enable them to write transformational and conversion-worthy copy. This may include voice of customer research, conducting interviews of your current and past customers, reading reviews and testimonials of your service and conducting, organizing and reviewing surveys of your customers.
She’ll be reading into and experiencing your service offerings or otherwise experiencing the product that you offer. She’ll be gathering information about the specific offer that you may be trying to optimize or sell such as the history of it, how it was made, and the why behind its creation.
Some of the questions a copywriter might ask at this point include:
- What is the product or service you are selling?
- What does this product or service do for the customer? And how does it work?
- What is the suggested cost? What are you asking for it? What are the payment options for this service (credit card, payment plans, etc.)
- What are the most important facts and specifications about this product or service?
- What makes your service unique from other people who may provide a similar service?
- From the customer’s point of view, why is this product or service better than what the competitor is offering?
- What are the features of this product? What benefits do these features specifically provide to the customer?
- Does your business or service offering have a special history? Why was it created? Were you once in this position? How did that feel?
- Who is the prospect you are trying to attract? Who was this created for?
- What are some of their concerns or fears about buying your service? What are they most attracted to about your service?
- Are there testimonials and transformational stories that she can read/see?
- Is there a special deal we are promoting? Lower price for limited time? Last day to enroll? Gifts and bonuses?
- Are there any guarantees that we can use to back up the service? Refund policies that should be explained?
- She’ll be auditing your competition’s products and services and reading their pages, experiencing their sales funnels and corresponding assets. She may also be reading reviews about your competitors.
While some of this may seem unneeded, redundant or even time-wasting, this information is critical to understanding where you stand as a service provider/coach and the words your customers are using to describe your services and their experiences with you. This process helps a copywriter truly and deeply understand their topic and allow them to explain it in laymen’s terms.
After your copywriter understands your subject, the product/service, and your customers, they will need to see analytical data as well. This includes site traffic, conversions and survey data.
Once she has all of this information, the copywriter can then begin to organize the research and start writing.
Organizing the research and preparation they’ve done up to this point will help your copywriter write faster copy.
My favorite tool to organize my research is Airstory. This tool, introduced to me by Copyhackers, allows you to copy snippets directly within Chrome from articles you are reading and save them all into one document with the URL from where they derived. You can then lay these notes out onto your page and shuffle them around without having to copy and paste. Once you’re happy with the layout, you can then input the text so its ready to edit and add to.
Finding a copywriter that has honed in their research organization process can truly help you (and them) save more time prior to writing.
The research is organized onto the paper using a multitude of copywriting formulas like AIDA and PASO.
These formulas help prioritize the copy in a way that moves through the different touchpoints your reader needs to feel and understand in order to be primed and ready to make a purchase decision. It’s these formulas that make or break your conversions and connections that you form with your prospects.
Once the copywriter has the overall layout of the research organized, they can begin writing.
Writing + Editing + Wireframing
Write. Sounds simple enough right?
But this is the part of the process you actually hired the copywriter to do, so let’s agree to get out of their way and let them work!
This is the part of the process where the copywriter is taking the research and information they’ve found and putting it into a compelling way for your readers to digest.
Some of the things a copywriter may do when writing include:
- Writing 35-50 headlines for each headline and sub-headline that goes on the page.
- They may start by writing the sales page of your project, if that’s included, and then use the bits of the sales page to write the remaining parts such as emails and social media posts.
- They may start by writing the introducing section of the sales page…the part that actually tells about the product. For a lot of copywriters, this is the easiest part since it’s telling facts – about the product, what’s included, how it will benefit the reader. This will help the copywriter gain momentum. Then, they can continue by writing the top of the sales page- the problem & agitation sections.
After they get the meat of the writing done, the copywriter may go back in to sprinkle in the call-to-actions (call-to-values) or buttons throughout, as needed to compel the reader to click.
Once they get the writing done, the copywriter will go into EDIT mode.
At this point, they have been writing for quite a few hours (whether it was straight through or over a period of days), they’ll need to take a break from the work. To allow yourself to step away from your work for 24-48 hours is great to give your brain some time to STOP thinking about the project. Doing this allows your brain to rest, allows the creative juices to rejuvenate, and allows some time for self-care. This enables the copywriter to come back to “edit mode” with a fresh pair of eyes, and a well-relaxed brain.
During edit mode, they will likely do some of the following:
- Pair down the content by at least 25%. Deleting words. Deleting sentences. Saving this stuff for later use or for other uses such as emails and social media posts. This is the hardest part of a copywriter’s job. They’ve just spent weeks researching and writing on the topic. They’ve spent hours behind the computer putting the words together coherently and persuasively only to taking a clean knife and cut off all the excess.
In the words of Stephen King…
Once they pair down the content to the bare essentials of what’s needed to get the point across straight to the reader in a convincingly concise way, they’ll go back and probably do some additional sweeps of the work.
“Sweeps” are quicks scans of copy. They set out to accomplish one task. Taking a cue from Copyhackers, the copywriter will use these sweeps to pinpoint and focus on one thing. They may include:
Just know that each of these are accomplishing a specific task to make your written copy more compelling, more precise and ensuring that your reader is CLEAR on what they should do…BUY. 🙂
Another compelling editing phase is having a copy chief review their copy. A copy chief is an experienced copywriter that can take a look at the work for them and provide them with edit suggestions. The added expense of hiring a copy chief comes with many benefits for that copywriter and is likely built into the project rate of working with that copywriter.
Once they’ve completed the editing phase of the writing, most copywriters will wireframe (or mock-up) the work in a semi-completed format before they present it to you. Now, depending on the preference of your copywriter, they’ll use their software of preference to accomplish this. Some copywriters like to mock-up directly into a word processor like word or google docs. While others like to wire-frame in a design software like Whimsical or Canva.
Wireframing your website or emails will help you see the copy on the page as it’s meant to be. This will help you visualize where on the page the copy goes, suggested pictures of what should be included and colors that are corresponding to your brand aesthetic.
Before hiring a copywriter to work with, it’s important that you understand how they will deliver the final work to you and whether it will be in a format that is easy for you to understand and comprehend.
After that’s done, the copywriter will move onto Revising.
Once the research, writing, editing, and wireframing are complete, the copywriter will hand over the copywriting for revisions. Revisions refer to making minor edits to the content. The main structure of the page stays the same. If you, as the client, find yourself wanting to change A LOT on the page, you may end up needing to re-do the scope of the project which would change the price.
Typically, the entire project (or at least the portion you are working on if it’s a funnel) is handed over to you at once and you may be allotted anywhere from 1-2 weeks for revisions to be returned in a timely manner.
Now, speaking from the view point of a copywriter, please don’t feel like you HAVE to provide changes or revisions on the work.
When the copywriters sends you the work to review, be sure it is agreed upon beforehand how you will provide those changes.
- Are you to write them in a different color?
- Are you to use “suggesting” mode in Google Docs?
- Are you okay to send over a video verbalizing your requests?
The number of revisions and the amount of time allotted for revisions should be clearly stated and reviewed in your contract with that copywriter.
When providing revisions to the copywriter, there’s generally an acceptable and not acceptable method to providing revisions.
During the revision phase, you should be checking for these things:
- Does the copy fit in with your brand tone and personality?
- Is it accurate?
- Does it correctly portray your product and services in an ethical way?
- Are there any inconsistencies throughout the work? Or perhaps inconsistencies with any existing content?
- Is it presented in a legal manner? Does it cover legalities of your local, state, or federal laws regarding sales and marketing?
Once your copy is edited and revised, it’s time to hand that document/wireframe over to the designer and/or email service provider implementer!
But the copywriter’s job may not be completed just yet – at least mine isn’t. I prefer to build testing and validation into my copywriting to be sure that my client is getting their money’s worth! Testing & Validation also helps me create case studies about my work to further showcase it to future clients.
Testing + Optimization
Testing & Validation is key to understanding the performance of your copywriting – and honestly where a lot of entrepreneurs just don’t like to look. I’ve come across quite a few coaches that don’t like to look at analytics. Perhaps its because they don’t understand where to find the analytics or what to do with the data once they have the information.
That’s exactly where a copywriter’s job comes in. We have a bird’s eye view of your business. A non-biased view. We can help you take a look at the analytics from your lead generations and conversions. This will help us see where a change might be needed and how that change has affected the message coming across clearly to the prospect and any lift (or decline) in conversions.
A few ways of testing and validation include:
- User heat maps: Hotjar.com is a great site to help capture user heat maps. A heat map is essentially a mapping of where your reader’s mouse landed on the page as they were scrolling the page. Where they stopped to read more. And how long they made it through the page before exiting.
User heat maps help you understand what users want, care about and do on your site by visually representing their clicks, taps and scrolling behavior – which are the strongest indicators of user motivation and desire.1 Through hotjar, you are able to obtain session recordings. These are real user behaviors on your site. You can visually see your user’s clicks, taps, and mouse movements and use that to identify usability issues on the ﬂy.2
- Beta-user feedback: Usertesting.com is a fantastic site to quickly gather perspectives from customers before a project is complete. By putting together a survey for your prospective client to take, you are able to efficiently identify areas for improvement even before your website, page, or email is ready to deliver live.
This information helps you:
- Validate product-market fit.
- This also helps you test the usability of your website and ensure customers find it intuitive and easy to use.
- Ensure your website’s look and feel evokes the intended emotion from your customers3
- Validate that customers understand how to use your website and navigate the information within it4
- The 5-second test: Fivesecondtest.com is a method of user research that help you measure what information users take away and what impression they get within the first five seconds of viewing a design. They’re commonly used to test whether web pages are effectively communicating their intended message.5
- A/B Testing or split testing: The process of creating two or more versions of your webpage or email to determine validate and test the user experience. Some ways of doing this include
- email copy
- email design
- email subject lines
- website headlines
- website copy
- website button copy
Testing can be a challenge, but once you figure it out and commit to doing it, the opportunities are endless and the rewards boundless.6
By understanding the process of working with a copywriter, you’ll be well equipped to hire a copywriter of your own.
To recap, the 5-step process copywriters use is:
- Research & Discovery
- Writing, Editing, and Wireframing
- Testing & Optimization
If you are interested in working with Virtual Amilia for your next project, you may book a free 15-minute discovery call here.
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