Content Writing: Get It Right the First Time

Good writers are great at telling a story but they can't read your mind. Before you assign a content writer to a writing project, you need to put in a little upfront work to make sure everything runs smoothly and you get the results you want.  

I've developed these 14 questions to make it easier for you to communicate your expectations - and for the writer to correctly scope and price the project. Pour yourself a cup of your favorite hot bev, ask yourself these questions, write down your answers, and share them with the writer before the start of the project. You'll be happy you did.

  1. What is the name of the project?  Thinking through the name of the project helps to give it some direction - but this name most likely won't be the title of the final written piece.
  2. Why are you doing this project? Share what you're hoping to accomplish with the project (lead generation, brand awareness, increased conversions, etc.) and how it fits into your business/marketing strategy. 
  3. What are the specific business goals for the project? Elaborate on your answer to #2 with quantifiable, measurable business goals that will tell you if the project is a success. Be sure to include when you expect to achieve these goals.
  4. What is the main topic of the written piece and why did you choose this topic now? This is a two-part question because it's important to give the writer the topic in the context of your business needs now or in the near future.
  5. Who is the audience? This is the time to talk about the individuals who will be reading/consuming the final product. What do they care about and why do you believe this piece will interest them? If you have already established personas, you can share those with  the writer. I'll talk more about audience and personas in a future post.
  6. Think about search engines like Google: What keywords would you like the piece to rank for? This will require some background work which can be done by you, or by an SEO specialist. I'll provide more details in a future post.
  7. Do you have an opinion or point of view on this topic? The writer is not a mind-reader. If you have an opinion on the topic that you'd like the piece to convey, let him or her know.
  8. What do you envision the format and length for this piece to be? The clearer you are on the format (blog post, white paper, video, etc.) and the length (in number of words or minutes), the easier it will be for the writer to provide you with an accurate price.
  9. Are there any supporting statistics that must be included? If you've collected any research or data that supports the topic, be sure to share. If you don't have these statistics but you want supporting data included, you need to convey to the writer that they will need to do the research. Again, this may affect the price.
  10. Aside from you, who else can the writer contact with questions? Your piece may require interviews with clients or other members of the team. This is the time to convey that expectation.
  11. Do you have any examples of similar pieces that you like or don't like? If so, share them and explain what you think works or doesn't work.
  12. What is the call-to-action for the piece? This one is super important. After someone reads, watches, or otherwise consumes this content masterpiece, what would you like the person to do that will help you advance your business goals?
  13. Do you have images that you'd like to use? Or, do you expect the writer to source the images. 
  14. Where and when will the final piece be published? Where and when will it be promoted? Share your plans for the piece. Is it part of a one-time campaign, or an evergreen piece that you expect will have a long, happy life.

Thinking about these questions in advance will create clarity for you and the writer. Sure, the writer you choose will likely have lots of other questions for you and excellent suggestions that may change some aspects of the project, but at least you'll have invested some time establishing a solid foundation.

OK - time to practice what I preach. Ready for the call-to-action? Wait for it...

If you need help working with writers, developing a content strategy, or perhaps you already have a strategy but want help with making it happen, let's connect. I can help.