How to brief a copywriter, designer or other creative

Do you worry that you don’t know how to brief a copywriter, designer or other creative? Perhaps the thought leaves you cold with panic? What do you say? What do you want to do? Aarrgghh, does it all feel a little daunting?

You may have a vague idea about what you want to achieve – e.g. more of your ideal customer, more website traffic, more people signing up to your mailing list – but you may not be sure how you want to achieve it; after all, isn’t that what you’ve come to the creative for? On the flip side, you may have loads of ideas but find yourself struggling to get them across.

Don’t worry – a good copywriter or designer can help you define your brief without it being a painful experience.


Why it’s important to brief a copywriter

As a copywriter, I know that having a good brief to work from can help achieve the following:

Knowing how to brief a copywriter can save you valuable time and money

Save time and money by thinking about your creative brief in advance

  • It makes sure everyone is on the same page and aiming for the same outcome
  • This saves time and keeps costs down
  • It aids communication between everyone involved in the project
  • It ensures the project is fit for purpose
  • This means the project will help you meet the specific goals you set for it

Without a clear brief, you face the following risks:

  • Miscommunication and misunderstandings between different parties
  • Lack of focus
  • An unclear, diluted message
  • Multiple drafts and amendments, which could cost you precious time and money
  • A generic result that doesn’t speak or appeal to your target audience, leading to lack of sales


It’s natural to feel as though you’ll know what you like when you see it or even that you’ll understand what you don’t like when you see that too. The problem with this approach is that, for everyone involved, it can feel like working in the dark. A copywriter or designer can be great, experienced and skilled, but they’re not mind readers. The more specific you can be about what you want, the better for everyone involved. Taking some time to think about and plan your brief now could save you time and hard-earned cash in the long run.


Brief encounter – It takes two

As I said though, you’re not alone. If you’re struggling to define your brief, the person you’re outsourcing to should be able to help you pinpoint the right information. It can and should be a two-way process.

I’ve seen some shocking briefing forms over the years – they’re dry, unhelpful and focus on the wrong things (facts, figures, costs and schedules). Yes, these things are important and certainly provide a framework to keep everyone on track but they’re not the essence of strong copywriting or design.

In my experience, good copy and design reflects the personality of a brand. It has a strong tone of voice or visual identity and, most importantly, it puts the customer centre-stage. It has the power to make someone go, “Oh wow, they’re talking to me. How did they know? It’s like this product was made for me”. Good copy isn’t bland or generic; it’s not a carbon copy of everyone else – it makes you stand out from the crowd.

For this reason, I believe that questions designed to help you pull together a strong creative brief should focus more on the ‘why’ you’re in business and the personality of your brand. People buy when they make emotional connections. On some level, your customers want to know how you meet their need.


When you brief a copywriter – the things it pays to consider

Before embarking on a new copywriting project, I always ask my clients to think about:

  • The background of their business
  • Their company values/what they believe in
  • What they most enjoy and take pride in
  • Their ideal customer – who they are and what keeps them awake at night
  • How they solve their customers’ main pain point
  • Their main competitors
  • Vision for the business
  • Brands/websites/marketing/tone of voice they like and don’t like (it doesn’t have to be in their industry)
  • Goals for the project – what is it and what do you want it to achieve?
How do your customers view your business?

View your business from your customers’ perspective when you brief a copywriter

There are lots of other ideas and questions too.  They’re all designed to encourage a different mindset, one that sees the business as a customer sees it.

A client recently told me it was the first time he had thought about his business in these terms for years and he suddenly saw everything through fresh eyes. It really does work.



The next time you need to brief a copywriter or designer, why not jot down your thoughts around the pointers above? This will give you a great starting point. Even creating a mood board (or hidden Pinterest board) of your likes and dislikes could help you to narrow down what works for you and what doesn’t.

Remember too that even the best creatives working to the best possible brief don’t always nail the design or content first time round. Sometimes it’s a process of refinement and polishing; other times, everything falls into place. The most important thing is to keep the channels of communication open.

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