Copywriters have a tendency to accumulate a somewhat encyclopedic knowledge of a huge variety of subjects. Day to day, you’re expected to be able to write confidently and authoritatively about anything clients might throw of you, regardless of your own level of expertise in that area. With particularly challenging topics, perhaps covering products and services you’ve never even heard of before, you might find yourself going over a brief and wondering how in the world you’re going to fill up the blank page in front of you with words.
The secret to becoming somewhat of an instant expert, contrary to some copywriters’ beliefs, isn’t about blagging your way through. If you take this approach, your copy isn’t going to make any sense – and your client probably won’t be too impressed either.
What copywriters need to not only stay productive when faced with a difficult task, but sane as well, is methodology. By not having an effective process in place for tackling specialised, technical or just plain difficult subject matter, you both place enormous pressure on yourself and jeopardise your ability to consistently turn out good work.
Use your resources
If you’re a professional writer, you know the value of having great sources. Don’t forget then, when faced with a challenging task, that you have access to the most credible source of all – the client, who has every piece of information you need.
However, it’s not their job to write the copy for you. If you’re just hounding them with calls and emails, only for everything in the final piece to quote them verbatim, they may wonder what they’re paying you for. Striking the right balance between making the most of your client as a valuable resource and wasting their time is about good planning, organisation and how you use your strengths as a writer, rather than being the most creative bluffer you can.
Having a mechanism for finding out more information about a product, service or topic that you can easily recycle between clients, such as a simple copywriting questionnaire the client can fill out at the start of the project, can be a game-changer for everyone involved. This can also be useful if you have multiple stakeholders involved in the project, as it gives everyone an opportunity to provide input before you start writing, potentially dodging any timely rewrites later down the line as the copy goes through different approvals.
No substitute for preparation
When you’re eating dinner, you wouldn’t try to swallow your food whole, would you? Hopefully not. First, you cut it into easily digestible chunks, right? This is exactly what you should do with your writing.
Even if you’ve gathered plenty of information from the client and from your own research, looking at it in its entirety can be daunting, confusing and ultimately leave you staring at your computer screen for longer than you’d care to admit. Dividing content into blocks isn’t just helpful for the reader, but gives your writing process structure.
You don’t necessarily have to keep the structure you write the copy with if it doesn’t suit the project, or the client wants to move stuff around. Don’t treat it as gospel, it’s only there to help you visualise complex subject matter as easily understood parts of the puzzle. This way, you can build your copy piece by piece, resulting in you writing clearer and more authoritative copy in half the time you would’ve spent trying to make sense of everything all at once.
Take it easy, but be efficient
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t make heads or tails of a complicated topic in minutes. Extremely technical subjects will inevitably take slightly longer than blogging about an everyday matter, for example. Be patient with yourself, but be prepared.
Rushing through copy you don’t understand just to get it signed off quickly is hugely counterproductive, especially when the job can be done just as quickly with proper mechanisms in place. If you’ve got the tools to be ready for difficult projects, you can build copy that actually makes sense.