How I Take Your Copywriting Brief

It's standard practice when you provide a copywriting brief to fill out a detailed form. I think that's a horrible way to start a process that's all about making your business sound appealing.

Years ago I took a course on copywriting that helped me transition from my former life as a financial market writer.

One of the course handouts was a briefing form.

Eight and half pages long. Twenty eight questions.

Everyone was impressed. It was very thorough and looked very professional.

Back then were all desperately looking for ways to show that we were thorough and professional,

In my first year or so as a copywriter I used to just send this to clients and ask them to fill it in.


Giving the client a form fo complete is still a popular way to do things in the copywriting world.

I think that's a horrible mistake.

Not once have I known a client to answer the important questions well without extra prompting and talking around the subject.

People who get to brief me tend to be pretty smart, I find.

But they’re just not used to answering the kind of questions I ask. And they don’t have a copywriter’s perspective.

That’s why they hire me.

The answers that help me produce good work aren’t on the tips of their tongues.

The other thing is that half of the questions on a thorough standard briefing form won’t be relevant to their needs anyway.

Forms - uuuggh! Who likes them?

So much better than a form...

These days I won’t waste your time by asking you to fill in a form unless you’re hearing impaired and have difficulty speaking.

I find it quicker to interview you, record the conversation and take notes while we talk.

I'll then go back and listen to our conversation at least one more time and take more notes

I get much better answers that way.

Of course, I have a list of stock questions that I take you through.

Some of those stock questions are irrelevant so I won’t make you answer them.

And I have other questions that would never make it onto a standard briefing form.

These are the unique questions that only apply to your business case and they're probably the most important ones of all.

No forms, I promise. Unless you ask.