Some clients are a breeze to work with. They know what they want and they’re great at communicating it.
If you’re a freelance content writer, copywriter, or content creator, you probably have loads of appreciation for this type of client. They make your life easier by providing you with a concise brief, and as a result, you usually deliver work that’s bang-on. Everyone’s happy!
But then there are other types of clients; those who make casual requests over email like “we need a blog about mental health’”. After all the guesswork, you come up with a direction for the piece and put the work in, only to have your client ask you for tons and tons of edits or a new direction altogether.
If they’re not paying you by the hour, this can be a huge waste of your time, and theirs too.
We’re with you. It’s really on the client to prepare a thorough content brief before working with you as a freelancer. But sometimes it’s best to take matters into your own hands, write the brief, and get them to approve it before you start.
It’s a bit more work on your part, but this can end up saving you loads of time and help you write quality content you know they’ll be happy with.
In this post, we’ll go over what to include in your own content briefs and what steps to take to develop one. You can make use of what we’ve shared here if you’re a freelance writer or even if you’re an agency that wants to improve how you brief your contractors.
What is a content brief?
A content brief is a document (or a type of creative brief) that includes important information the content creator needs to know to produce a piece of content. It helps a writer understand the client’s business, target audience and any other must-haves that need to go into the piece.
You can use content briefs for blog posts, website copy, landing pages, social media copy, email newsletters, and any other form of content marketing.
It’s important to note that a content brief isn’t the same as discovery. Discovery usually involves collecting information from the client, but the content brief is what results from gathering that information from them.
Collect information from clients with Content Snare
Before getting started on your brief, you can use Content Snare to collect all the information you need for clients for discovery. Use our templates or build your own for each content piece you need and save yourself loads of time!
Why is creating your own content brief a good idea as a freelancer?
A content brief can be one of the strongest project management tools you can use as a freelance writer to prevent scope creep and stay on track.
Without a content brief, you can run into some issues like:
- Handing your work over to your client only for them to come back with many edits to make, wasting lots of time on the back and forth.
- Spending time writing long pieces that are off-brand, off-strategy, or don’t provide much value.
- Having the client be so disappointed with your work that they don’t even publish it.
- Taking on way more work than you first agreed to do (e.g. a 700-word blog post becomes a 2,000-word blog post, or having to do keyword research when you were under the impression keywords would be provided.
- Worst case scenario - writing unusable content your client isn’t willing to pay you for (although we hope you’ve already collected your deposits to stay out of this situation!).
What your content brief should include
1) Overview of the client’s marketing strategy
Every piece you work on should tie back to the clients’ marketing strategy. Having an understanding of the strategy and where your piece fits in the marketing funnel will help you nail the direction of the piece.
2) Goal/intent of the piece
We can’t stress how important this one is. What is it the content you’re working on is looking to achieve, both for the reader and for the client?
For the reader, a piece could aim to:
- Educate the audience about new trends in the industry
- Describe a new product release
- Motivate the reader to take immediate action on a sale
- Tell a success story
And for the client, the goal might be to:
- Rank well on Google
- Increase organic traffic
- Gain more followers
- Collect leads
Get this very important piece down from the start so that everything you write is intended to help the client and the reader achieve that goal.
3) Overview of the target audience
Who are you writing for? Include some characteristics that describe the client’s target audience. This can be their pain points, their motivations, their demographics, their fears, or where they spend their time online. As a writer, you should always be able to check back and think about whether what you’re writing makes sense to the audience.
4) Voice, tone, and style guide
Another crucial thing to include is what guidelines you need to follow in your writing when it comes to the client’s branding.
Clients will often have a voice, tone, or style guide prepared you can follow to make sure you sound like the client themselves. The voice can be very professional and serious, or humorous and approachable.
If a client doesn’t have a formal style guide prepared, just a few descriptive terms can be used in this section to clarify how you’re going to be writing.
5) Any other requirements for the piece
It’s up to you how you want to organize this in your brief, but be sure to include any other must-haves your work will need. This can be details like:
- Title and subheading suggestions
- Calls to Action (e.g the end of a landing page should have a “request a consult” CTA.
- Keywords to include for SEO
- Links to internal or external resources (e.g link to another blog, or official research)
- Citation requirements (e.g MLA format)
- Approximate word count (e.g. 200-word bio)
- Character limits (e.g. 140 characters for a Tweet)
- Tools that must be used in production (e.g, Grammarly for proofreading, Surfer SEO for keyword research)
Last but definitely not least, state the deadline. You might include multiple deadlines, for example for the first draft, second draft, and final draft.
5 steps for creating a content brief for clients Interview the client
1) Interview the client
First, get all the information you need from the client by interviewing them. You can do this over the phone or on Zoom, but a quicker and more convenient way is to use a tool like Content Snare to collect this information all in one place. All you have to do is build a questionnaire, send it over to them, and have the client fill it in.
2) Write the brief based on your client’s answers
When you have all the information mentioned above, go ahead and write your content brief. This doesn’t have to be an essay-long document. A table listing out your sections and a few lines on your understanding of the expectations will do.
When you’re done, send your brief over to your client dropping them a short message that you’d like them to approve the brief and direction before you get started.
3) Incorporate edits and revise brief
The client will more than likely want to make one or two tweaks to the brief. This is great and proves the exact reason why writing a content brief is so important. Take a look at their suggestions and make the tweaks they ask for.
4) Get client sign off
Send your revised version over one more time to get final approval.
5) Begin your work!
Now you can get to it knowing both you and the client are 100% on the same page.
Writing effective content doesn't have to be a huge struggle. It can be fairly straightforward so long as there’s no guesswork and everyone is on the same page. We hope you found this post to be helpful in getting you started on writing your own content briefs.
Anything else you think should be included in a brief? We’d love to know if we missed anything. Let us know in the comments!