I was asked recently why copywriting is so expensive, in comparison to other marketing services. The answer comes down to two things; process and input.
Doing the writing itself is rarely an issue. The real issue is collecting sufficient input about what you are writing about.
Every writer has a different variation on the process, but mine looks like this:
1. I’ll interview the business owner until they don’t want to talk to me any more (typically 1.5 – 2 hours)
2. I’ll interview key members of staff at the client’s business (typically 30-60 minutes per call), perhaps doing 3-5 interviews
3. I’ll interview a handful of customers, hopefully representing different customer ‘avatars’ (typically 30-60 minutes per call). I’ll try to speak to people who bought for different reasons.
(As an aside – see the interview I did with Kenda Macdonald for more on that).
4. I’ll then listen through the call recordings at 1.5X – 2X speed, frantically transcribing notes as I go into a notepad file.
I prefer notepad to Word, because formatting and spelling at this stage is merely a distraction. We’re still working on input at this point.
The length of the notes will depend on how much of the conversation I might want to use, but a 45 minute conversation might end up being 1300 – 1500 words.
I could just get the interviews transcribed by someone else, but transcribing the interviews isn’t the sole point of the exercise. The point is to sift and sort the key points in my mind, and prioritise the stories I might want to use. Having the whole conversation transcribed actually wouldn’t be very helpful.
Some parts of the call transcripts can also be used for testimonials, PPC ad ideas, blog post ideas and so on.
5. I write up a proposal for the client, summarising what I think are the key points to get across, the key stories to tell, and the recommended number of emails. Sometimes I’ll include a few different options here, to cater to different budgets.
6. We agree an option, and I finally start to write. When I write I draw heavily from my transcribed notes. The core parts of the copy and the core wording always comes from things I’ve been told in the interviews.
7. Once the emails have been drafted, I leave them to ‘cool off’ for 24 hours. After that I’ll begin the process of editing, which at the first pass is more like ‘rewriting’.
8. After 2-4 rounds of editing I’ll get the copy checked by someone who actually understands grammar.
9. Then finally, we’ll set the emails live.
That’s why copywriting is so expensive.