This is the Copywriting Workflow that will Blow the Hair off your Client’s Head
I’m a big fan of surrounding yourself with people who are good at stuff that you suck at, which is probably why I married an engineer.
Numbers, graphs, charts and project management are his Branston & Pickles and it eventually rubbed off on me.
Thanks to his number crunching, “wait, you’re doing this all wrong,” and show-me-the-data influence I eventually developed a love of efficient project management.
It’s had a big impact not only on my sanity (knowing what needs to be done and when), but also on my clients’ experience.
And nope, I don’t use a CRM like Dubsado or Honeybooks to create that smooth experience.
Clients don’t need fancy CRMs like Dubsado or gift baskets or whatever other bells and whistles you think they might need.
You’re doing them a service, not courting them.
What they really need is reliability.
They need to know what happens next and when.
They need to know what’s going on with their investment.
And that’s where mapping out your copywriting workflow and building a reliable system to guide your clients through that will truly change your career.
This is the workflow that I’ve been using for the past two years.
But there’s a whole lot of baby steps and assets needed to complete those phases.
I’ll be covering each one in-depth in this article.
See you at the bottom of this page 😉
*But before that real quick…. I want to introduce you to my newsletter Copy Comrades! It’s basically free therapy for copywriters who want to feel less alone in this wild ride of freelancing. The great thing about the problems you’re facing every single day? They’re not new. We’ve all been there. And in Copy Comrades we show you how we’ve dealt with them.*
What is a Copywriting Workflow and How do you Build One?
A workflow is essentially the repeatable steps in a process to complete a project.
I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside professionals in the operations space and they’ve taught me a lot about how to build out a repeatable and reliable workflow.
First, document every step you need to take to complete a client project.
Like every single step, even the emails you need to send your client.
Next, I’d take a look at what assets you need.
Assets are basically “things” you need to send or create to complete your project like;
- Emails you need to send
- Copybrief document (more on that later…)
- Document for your actual copy (Google doc or Word Doc)
- Some type of form to collect testimonials
- Excel or Sheets for any data like keyword research data
After that, I’d make a list of your tech stack: this is the software you use to support both the steps in your workflow and the assets you need to complete your projects.
Here’s my techstack for client copywriting projects:
- ClickUp: my project management tool
- Google Drive: to host my client’s documents
- Google Forms: for my copybrief form
- Stripe: to invoice my international clients
- Loom: to create video walkthroughs of my copy
- Frase.io: the tool I use to do content marketing research and optimize my content
- SEMrush: an SEO tool I use for more strategic SEO client work
- Keywords Everywhere: a keyword research tool
- Google Analytics: for tracking website and content performance for my clients
- Google Search Console: tracking search performance
- Zoom and Google Meet: for client calls and market research interviews
- Calendly: so my client can book calls for us at times that suit us both (and reduce back and forth)
- Otter.ai: to create transcripts from our meetings and my customer interviews
The idea of writing out your tech stack is to help you decide what types of automations or assets you can create with this tech stack to speed up your workflow. It can also help you identify any double handling, maybe you have two software that essentially do the same thing meaning you can cut one.
Finally, you need some type of system especially a project management software that will basically log all those steps and spit them back out to you when you need them. As I mentioned above, I use ClickUp to create project templates so I can get my whole workflow outlined as tasks in the click of a button.
You can also use this template in your project management software to remind you of what assets you need to send and when.
The worst thing you can do is not document your processes and try to recreate all the steps from memory every time you start a new project.
This will lead to a mountain of time wasted and you’ll probably forget important steps in your workflow and spend more time in back-and-forth with your client.
Now, if you’re frantically trying to retrace all the steps you need to take for your client projects put your pen down! I’m going to outline my entire copywriting workflow in the rest of this article so you at least have a very solid template to create your own from.
Let’s Start with the Project Phases of your Copywriting Projects
- Onboarding: this is kicking off your project with a new client
- Research: probably where I spend the most time during my projects
- Revision Process: editing the copy after my client has provided feedback
- Offboarding: ending the project and making sure all loose ends are tied up
Let’s look at each phase in a little more detail.
Phase 1: Onboarding
The purpose of a great onboarding process is to gather all the information you need to do your work, to set the stage for a great working relationship and to help your client understand what to expect.
Get it wrong and you’re going to end up in a lot of annoying back-and-forth which can sour your budding relationship with the client.
Here’s an overview of all the steps involved in my onboarding process
- Client accepts proposal via email
- Create shared Google Drive Folders (Main client folder > “Important Docs”, “Research” and “Your Copy is Inside!”
- Add contract to “Important Docs” folder and copy of invoice (if not using Stripe)
- Add “Start here” doc with link to contract, copybrief document and link to book our copybrief call
- Add client to Google Drive folder
- Send invoice (50% commencement invoice to lock project in or full fee depending on the client)
- Send intro email with links to Google Drive folder
- Client fills out copybrief document
- Client books copybrief call
- We have our copybrief call & we agree on project scope and deadlines
- Client adds me to any important software like Google Analytics or their Email Service Provider
- Research can officially begin
Here’s what assets you need for a great onboarding process:
- A templated and branded contract that outlines your rights, the client’s rights, how payment works, how revisions work and anything else that’s important to your project. This will be different for retainers compared to single projects so you need templates for each
- A place for your shared documents to live: I use Google Drive for this
- A copybrief document: this is a form that your client fills out all about their business, their goals and audience to help you better understand their needs and business. I use Google forms for this
- An intro email
- An invoice: I use Stripe for international clients and have a custom macro on excel that creates a PDF invoice for local EU clients which I send via email
- “Read me first” document outlining what they need to do and send me
Top Tip: Create a “Templates” folder in your Google Drive where you can house all your document templates. Then for each new project make a new copy of these docs
Phase 2: Research
Your research phase will require some input from your client so having a smooth process for that is really important so you don’t take up too much of their time.
You’ll need to do research on their target market and on their company/niche.
During this phase you’ll want to set up customer interviews, send out surveys and do voice-of-customer data mining activities like reviewing Reddit threads etc.
I have two questions in my copybrief that help me get any existing market research they’ve already conducted and any other collateral that will help me better understand their brand voice, values and industry.
Two important questions to ask during the copybrief process:
- What marketing collateral do you have right now? (ICA profiles, survey data, testimonials, case studies, white papers, brand voice guide etc?)
- Have you, or anyone on your team, appeared on any podcasts, written industry articles, been featured in any industry publications? If so, can you provide links to these?
I can’t emphasize how much that second question will help you when embodying the values and viewpoint of your client.
Depending on what collateral they already have and what stage their business is at you’ll want to start setting up customer interviews and/or surveys to start gathering voice-of-customer data to help you nail your copy.
I gather all these golden nuggets into my own spreadsheet where I organize it to help me pull out relevant quotes etc when writing the copy.
If you’re doing customer interviews then having a transcription service will be a huge help and save you a lot of time when reviewing the interviews.
Currently I’m using Otter.ai to do this and I upload the transcripts for my clients as well as the recordings from my interviews so they can have it for their own marketing.
I also spend time digging into the brand itself and doing a brand voice analysis. If they already have a brand voice guide this will help you a lot (if not you can offer to create one!), as will listening to any podcast interviews the founder has given.
Finally, if you’re an SEO copywriter like me then keyword research and competitor analysis is a big part of your research process. I like to get buy-in from my clients on the keywords I choose before writing the copy or content to make sure we’re on the same page about what we’re targeting.
PS: I have a whole free email course on how to nail your keyword research process which you can check out below.
To summarize: this is what’s involved in the research phase of your copywriting project;
- Customer interviews and creating transcripts of these
- Creating market research surveys
- Voice of customer data mining (reviewing open sources on the internet like Reddit or Amazon reviews)
- Brand voice analysis
- Keyword Research
Phase 3: Writing
This phase is pretty self-explanatory so I won’t go into too much detail.
Once you’ve done the painstaking work of getting all the juicy research and organizing it all, writing gets much, much easier.
I’ve repurposed so much of one of my client’s existing collateral because, naturally, he knows his business better than me and his passion and purpose always shines through. It’s incredible how much of your copy can basically be repurposed from this type of material.
That’s why it’s so important to find out what your client already has and find those golden nuggets to get as much mileage out of them as humanly possible.
Then when you pair it with the right VOC data…you’re flying, man.
Leonardo DiCaprio on Titanic shouting “I’m king of the world.”
Phase 4: Editing
Understanding our own downfalls as writers is a great place to start with editing.
Hi, my name is Kerry and I’m a word vomiter who loves a run-on sentence.
I know this about myself so that means my first port-of-call is usually ruthlessly cutting down sentences and eliminating fluff words (see: adverbs).
Another bad habit I have is writing “X helps you to…” which I cut and start with the next verb.
For example; “X helps you slash time creating custom quotes” > “Slash time spent creating custom quotes”.
My good buddy Krista Walsh also had a brilliant editing tip which was editing via “lenses”. The idea is that she first edits based on brand voice and messaging, then VOC/aligning the messaging with what’s important to the customer and then grammar and punctuation.
I love that idea and have found it very helpful myself to go through a few rounds of edits with different focuses.
Phase 5: Delivery of Copy & Revisions
Usually my clients have one round of revisions for their projects as this helps me nail their messaging. I also include this because I see the copywriting process as a collaborative exercise for both me and the client.
I would strongly recommend having a round of revisions with your projects, I think it’s only right to the client as it’s their money at the end of the day.
Besides, I often find that good collaboration with my client always improves the copy. It also avoids them editing the copy themselves and potentially ballsing something up (something that HAS happened to me before, rendering the final copy unusable in my portfolio 😭😭).
But you need a system and a solid process for that to make sure you get good feedback and the client knows what to expect. Here’s how I handle it:
- Create a loom video walking your client through the copy and the choices you’ve made. This is also a great opportunity to highlight anything you’re unsure of so you’re alerting them to the fact that you need their input on something specific
- Add a “cover page” to your copy which tells them what to do. For example, adding suggestions and questions as comments and not editing the doc directly and what the deadline is to have revision requests back to you
- Remind them that the “official” proofread isn’t done until version 2 of the copy is delivered so if they see any typos to feel free to highlight them
It’s also once version 1 is delivered that I send on the final 50% of the invoice (if the client hasn’t paid in full).
Once the client has emailed you saying their revision requests are done then give them the deadline for the final version of their copy (I usually take 7 working days).
The 6th and Final Phase: Offboarding
Don’t let things just wrap up with an email delivering the final version of their copy: make sure you capitalize on how happy they are by getting a testimonial like the one below!
I send an offboarding email that’s separate to the email that delivers their final copy.
In that email I thank them for being a great client and link them to my testimonial form (which I host on a ClickUp form). I also don’t hesitate to send a couple of follow-up emails if I need to: remember your client is busy and they genuinely might have forgotten to fill out your form, it’s not because they hate your copy!
I also like to check-in with any key metrics a couple of months after delivering the copy (which I have access to from the onboarding process). This is great for your own portfolio and offering any support post-project to help them fine tune their messaging or help with conversion rate optimization.
I once followed up with a client to congratulate her for showing up as the second result on Google for the keyword we targeted and that turned into another project. So following up also has the added benefit of bringing in more repeat business.
The one thing i wish I knew Sooner about Project Management and Workflows as a New Copywriter
While I’ve always had a decent workflow, I really wish I had been better at templating and automating my workflows earlier on because this would have saved me so much time.
I spent way too long on repetitive tasks and creating documents that should have existed somewhere as templates and now it saves me a ton of time.
So if you take anything from this post make it this: TEMPLATE AND AUTOMATE YOUR WORKFLOW.
Create Google doc templates for assets you need for your copywriting projects and keep them in a “template folder” so you don’t waste time hunting them down.
And if you’re wondering how to automate your workflow I highly recommend plugging all your workflows into a templated list in ClickUp. ClickUp has been my number 1 project management tool for about a year now and it’s replaced like 3 apps that I used to use.
Not only this, but it’s way cheaper than Trello or Asana premium and you get more features.
I’ll do an in-depth tutorial on my own ClickUp set up that I’ll share with you in the coming weeks.
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Any specific questions about any of this? Drop me a comment and let me know and please share this article if you’ve found it helpful, it really helps me out.
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