There can be few things as infuriating for a copywriter, or for any creative type for that matter, as having the creation of your sweat and tears criticised by a client. Whilst the temptation is to throw your laptop out of the window or question whether they’ve fully appreciated the intricacy of your words, learning to respond objectively to criticism is one of the key skills a copywriter has to learn.
Writing is a deeply personal process in which you read through the brief, conduct your research and then carefully compose a message carved by your fingers and sculpted by your brain. When you think you’ve understood the benefits, identified the target and then delivered the message with laser guided accuracy, you assume that one run should be enough.
Editing is integral to great copywriting
Moulding a message in a style and form that the client finds attractive can take several attempts. Criticism will always feel like an affront to your ability as a writer, but it can be easier to cope with once you’ve accepted that editing is a natural part of the writing process.
Whilst you might have to go for a quick run to calm down, when you receive criticism of your copy look at it as an opportunity to find out what you can do to get it closer to what the client wants in the next draft.
Once your blood has returned to its normal temperature, respond by thanking the client for their feedback and asking what you need to do to get the copy right. As a writer you can adjust your style and tone at will, and working out how to fashion your message in a style your client will admire is an opportunity to show off your talent.
Tips for nailing copy early on
- After you’ve conducted your research, send the client a questionnaire to identify their key selling points and what differentiates them from the competition.
- Ask the client to provide examples of the style of writing they’re looking for, which competitors’ copy do they think hammers home the message and that they would like not only replicated, but improved.
- Provide drafts of the first sections early on so you know whether you’re on the right track and wont have to rewrite from scratch later on.
- If you’re asked to provide a slogan or headline, jot down as many ideas as you can and then ask the client to comment on which ones they’d like developed. This narrows you down to a particular pen, rather than an entire field to run around in.
- Don’t phone and ask for feedback but wait for an email. Criticism is like a knife to the heart, and you don’t want the client to hear your enthusiasm gush from your body when they first stick it in. An email also gives you the opportunity to be able to walk away from your laptop and breath into a paper bag before responding.
Follow these steps, ask plenty of questions and remember to thank the client for their feedback, because making them happy has to come before keeping your creative ego intact.
[This post was inspired by a discussion on responding to criticism on the FreelanceRadio Podcast]