How to write an effective content writing brief for your content writer

Writing an effective content brief

Writing an effective content brief

For more than two weeks I have been interacting with a client trying to understand what he really requires for his accounting website.

If you are wondering why I talk so much about accounting websites these days it is because, due to my improved rankings for phrases like, “content writer for accounting websites” I’m getting more work from accountants.

But I digress.

So, it has been more than two weeks.

Now, the client has begun to complain that the work hasn’t yet started.

The problem on my side is that I’m not getting a proper brief from the client.

What is a content writing brief?

A content writing brief can be a dedicated document, or it can be simply sent by email.

As long as there is a brief, I don’t even mind clients describing it to me on WhatsApp.

Some clients, especially agencies, sent content writing briefs even for individual blog posts and articles.

Many agencies use tools like SEMRush and with these tools, minute details about individual blog posts can be extracted based on keywords, competitor blog posts, and the number of words required vis-à-vis the competition.

Some agencies use a standardized template that asks you to follow a format something like

  • SEO title
  • One-line description
  • Target audience
  • Primary keywords
  • Secondary keywords
  • Meta description
  • Word count
  • Internal links, if any
  • Some competitor articles
  • CTA
  • Additional notes

Why is content writing brief important?

There are two types of content briefs.

One is the general brief that a client sends about the entire website.

This includes page titles, target audience, keywords and reference websites.

The other is the individual brief for blog posts, web pages and articles.

A content brief makes it easier for the content writer to focus on your core need.

It also prevents rewrites and reduces the number of revisions needed.

The content writer doesn’t miss critical bits of information because you have mentioned everything in the content brief.

Remember that when the content writer’s time is being wasted, your time too is wasted because the delivery of your content is delayed.

Before starting a project, here is the information I need from a typical client:

Clearly defined titles of the web pages

This is the site map.

Over the years I have learned that if the client and I are not on the same page about the exact titles of the web pages, it becomes difficult to write content.

Most of the client send me a bulleted list of web page titles they want me to work on.

We first mutually agree on the bulleted list and then I start working on the content writing process.

But this particular client has just told me the basic nature of his business – accounting outsourcing – and that’s it.

He keeps on saying that I should visit other websites and see how they have structured their content.

It doesn’t work that way.

Every website is unique

They have their own service descriptions.

Even if the basic nature of a business is the same – accounting outsourcing or engineering parts – people provide different sets of services and products.

No two websites are the same.

Why I need to be specific?

The clients are not paying an hourly rate.

They either pay per page or per word.

Hence, I need to be very specific about what pages I’m working on, otherwise, I end up wasting lots of time making changes because suddenly the client thinks that that was not the page he or she was looking for.

Whether I spend one hour or three hours on a document, they are going to pay the fixed rate, and hence, I need to have as much specific information as possible from them.

A list of reference websites

Most of the clients send me a list of reference websites whose content they prefer and the writing style they want me to emulate.

Of course, due to the problems of plagiarism nobody wants me to directly copy the content.

It’s just that when we have a list of reference websites, we have a clear idea of how the content flow must be and how various ideas must be expressed.

It also reduces my workload.

Finding my own reference websites is like throwing darts in darkness.

I can do that – find reference websites on my own – but then, as I have mentioned above, it rarely happens that a client pays an hourly rate.

When you are doing research, you never know how much time it is going to take.

Since the client is managing his or her business, I assume he or she has a better idea of which websites precisely represent their business.

A list of keywords

Although I provide SEO content writing and blogging services, I’m not an SEO agency.

Since most of the clients are paying for content and not for SEO research, I don’t subscribe to expensive SEO tools that are normally used for keyword research.

I’m not saying every business requires SEO tools.

If you have a good understanding of your customers, it is easier to create a basic list of keywords to target for.

As a content writer, I see keywords as a guideline for formulating language.

People use Google and other search engines in their own language.

They type the queries in the language they use in their day-to-day interactions.

The same language must be used when writing content so that it is easier for people to find it on search engines.

This is why a basic list of keywords is important.

Some writing-related guidelines

These are not absolutely necessary but there are some clients who have very specific requirements.

I have been writing content for more than 17 years now and I pretty well understand how content must be written for the web.

I know how it should be formatted for better SEO.

I know how to write content that is easier on the eye.

Nonetheless, sometimes there are certain words and terms the client wants in the content that I may not be aware of because I’m not from that profession.

For example, there must be some legal terms for a law attorney that must be used on the website.

Architects use different jargon – although I discourage the use of jargon, sometimes they are important to express certain concepts.

Then there are some words that need to be avoided.

I have another client who doesn’t want certain words to appear in his content and in the beginning, he hadn’t informed me of that.

After having worked on 15 documents suddenly he realized that the words he didn’t want on his website were appearing in the content.

He wanted those portions to be either deleted or revised.

Wasted lots of time.

A content writing brief saves lots of time

On the client side, it hardly takes 30-60 minutes to write a good content writing brief.

The problem is that some clients cannot understand that a content writer works on a tight schedule simply because the clients are not ready to pay an hourly rate.

On the other hand, they expect a content writer to work as a hired hand, which is not possible.

Two hours wasted in revisions and to and fro communication means two hours of lost revenue for the content writer.

When I had just started working as a content writer I must have wasted hundreds of hours simply because the clients didn’t give me the right content writing brief.

Now I am savvier in that regard.

Take for example the above-mentioned client whose work has been delayed by almost 2 weeks.

I’m not going to spend a few hours finding information that he should have found and delivered to me.

That’s his or her job.

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