Copywriter treasure map

You want a freelance copywriter to create your content for you. But how can you be sure you’ll get what you want and not waste your money? Write a creative brief to keep them on track.

For a small job you might get away with a quick email listing what you want but for any bigger project you should really think about writing a creative brief before they start the job.

  • They will know exactly what you want
  • They will be able to do the work faster
  • You are both working to the same goal.

Write a creative brief

A creative brief is a document that channels a copywriter’s thinking.

It gives them some background, explains what you want to achieve, what you are up against, who you are talking to and medium you are using.

A good brief will save you a lot of time and money. A great brief will inspire them.

The Pitch

At the heart of every creative brief is the proposition. It has been called many things over the years – the unique selling proposition (USP), the single-minded proposition (SMP), the Challenge, the Disruption, the transformation, the promise etc.

Each advertising agency will have its own interpretation but it captures your marketing objective. Let’s hold that thought and come back to it.

It is the core of the brief and the hardest thing to write.

So let’s work up to it.

How to write a creative brief

Start with the task

Why do you need copy? Describe your brand/product/service/organisation and what you want to do. Easter product launch, end of season sale etc

The market

A brief outline of what is happening in your market – is there something pertinent that the copywriter needs to know, like what your competition is up to.

The business objective

What is the intention of your business, the transformation you want to achieve?

  • To grow market share
  • Increase volume of sales or revenue
  • Find more users/sign-ups
  • Increase loyalty
  • Shift brand image

The consumer

Describe your customer – not in Facebook targeting terms 18-35 Male etc. – but in real terms. Who are they, what are their routines, likes, dislikes. You are about to start a conversation with someone, and it is much easier if you know and like them.

There’s a great David Ogilvy quote – “The customer is not a moron, it’s your wife.” They are not a cash machine you can just tap, they are people who will be better off with you in their life.

Is there a customer behaviour, an assumption or need that needs to be addressed? What are people doing now that you would like to change?

The proposition

What can we SAY that will make the customer DO? You don’t have to get very creative here, that’s a job for the copywriter but the more inventive you are, the more inspirational you will be.

Simplicity is key. The copywriter has just a few seconds to capture the attention of your customer, so keep this short; one sentence.

It could be simple – like half price sale. But ask yourself, what transformation will take place. Attach that to an emotion and it becomes much more persuasive.

Your brand personality

This is the tone that the copywriter needs to project and any brand qualities that supports the proposition.

The medium

This is where your customer will be most receptive to your ideas. For instance, writing a post for a food product mid-week when someone is rushed and busy is very different to a post that will reach them on a Saturday morning when they are on their way to get their weekly shop.

The mandatories

What has to be included – url or address, or telephone number. Sometimes there is not enough space. Too much and it becomes unreadable.


A creative brief is a fantastic tool that anybody who requires creatives resources should use. It will save you time and money because you’re pointing people to your goal and mapping out the best to get there.

There is a caveat. If your map sucks, so will your results.

Taking the time to write a brief compels you to examine your marketing goals in a detached way, rather than just relying on gut feel and hope. It won’t guarantee success but greatly improve your chances.

This written document becomes the yardstick by which you can measure success. It is the reference point to make sure everyone is on the same page. If you are working with freelancers, you’re working with strangers, so good communication is essential.

If you’re a copywriter and you don’t get a brief, write it yourself or at least have a conversation about all of the points before you start work on a project. The client wants copy that delivers what they want and so do you – it’s the reason they will come back for more.