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Hiring a designer + a copywriter? Read this!

I've just completed an enjoyable job for a client that reminded me of the disconnect that often exists between designers and copywriters. It's an important thing that many business owners who use freelancers don't know about, so read on!

Bona fide copywriting duos (one writer, one designer) exist in adland, but away from that arena copywriters and designers often don't have much to do with each other.

Freelance copywriters and freelance designers are a bit like blindfolded swimmers in a large pool who occasionally bump into each other and mumble politely.

The job in question was an unusual one. Upon chatting with my client and discovering that he needed some brochure copywriting as an add-on to our original engagement (web copywriting), I suggested he might also use me for the design work.

That's not quite as nuts as it sounds, as I've been designing things for decades. Still, it's not my core skill, so I duly explained that I'd designed stuff for a handful of clients before, showed him what I was capable of and said, 'If that's good enough for you, I can take care of the whole project'.

He said, "Go for it."

Man at a large drawing board creating plans
A project being mapped out, yesterday

Mapping out the whole project

It was a really rewarding engagement for me because it meant that I had complete control over the entire creative idea. I got to map out what needed to go where, write the words and then design it. Great fun – and the client was really happy with the end result. No really, he was.

The really big win for the client, IMHO, was the fact that there was zero friction or loss of information between the designer and the writer. Because, in case you've not been listening, it was just me.

So neither of these things happened:

1/ The designer came up with a design that looked lovely but had no real grasp of the information that needed to be put across.

2/ The writer wasn't boxed into a corner and forced to over-write copy to fill a large space or brutally hack great copy to fit stamp-sized boxes.

I don't for a second envisage a regular new revenue stream for myself as some kind of words and pictures all-rounder, but I reckoned it might be helpful for business owners who were thinking of hiring a designer and a copywriter to have a few pointers about working with people from across the creative divide.

The fact is, many owners will never have dealt with either side before. So here are a few do's and don'ts.

My do's and don'ts of hiring a copywriter + a designer

1. Don't assume that your freelance copywriter and designer will liaise with one another. Unless specifically briefed to do so, they probably won't.

2. Don't give your designer carte blanche to plot out your website, brochure or other marketing material on the assumption that, as they know design, they must know best. I come at things from the opposite side of the table and believe that an experienced copywriter who understands the user journey and what kind of information needs to appear where is better suited to lead the project.

3. Do, if at all possible, get your designer to develop your site in such a way that you'll be able to tweak it yourself long after the initial design work is completed.

4. Don't be afraid to ask your copywriter to roughly sketch out how they imagine their work looking. Because if you're starting with a copywriter before a designer is brought in, you probably don't want them to give you a massive slab of text and consider their job done.

If you look at any websites that you like, you'll see that nearly everything these days is a series of 'blocks' stacked on top of one another. If your copywriter isn't aware of this, they'll also have no idea about user experience or writing effective web copy designed to convert.

5. Do speak to your copywriter for their opinion on the typefaces your designer is proposing. Even if they're not an expert on such matters, a writer is likely to spot something that looks old-fashioned or is hard to read.

6. Do expect to be heavily involved in the project – unless you get the designer and copywriter working well together with a clear brief. Alternatively, assign one of them as project lead, whose job is to deliver finished work that is as near to perfect as possible (and doesn't have missing bits to fill or unfinished wodges of Latin text).

If you'd like to chat about any of this, why not drop me a line?


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