“I will send the first draft to you next week.”
A typical commitment from a freelance writer, who will consider a week or more a reasonable amount of time to research, write, and polish the first draft of any but the simplest of sales documents.
But if you are facing a “we need it yesterday” deadline as a marketing communications manager, a writer’s schedule may seem unnecessarily leisurely. After all, you’re not looking for a literary masterpiece, just a solid and effective brochure or Web content. How much time should that really take?
You’re right, if all the conditions necessary to produce good text quickly lined up at the right time, then a draft would be fast and easy to write. But given the high-demand, over-stretched environment in most marketing departments, this alignment is often impossible.
Consider these factors:
- The initial project input is sketchy or nonexistent. Perhaps the project’s scope and messages haven’t been formulated beyond the idea “We should have a technical white paper to explain this.”
- The subject matter experts are not available or multiple input providers aren’t available at the same time, which means the writer receives delayed, fragmented, or conflicting input.
- The writer prepares an outline from your creative brief, then waits and waits for feedback. Or, the writer starts writing according to an approved outline, then is told to stop because the product or marketing directions are changing. The project may go into limbo for days, weeks, or longer.
- Background materials promised by the input providers aren’t sent or haven’t even been developed yet.
Of course, not all the reasons for writing delays come from the client side. The workflow, project management skills, and experience level of the copywriter also determines writing schedules:
- The writer’s current workload. In a typical work week, freelance copywriters juggle multiple projects from multiple clients, each in different stages of development.
- Research and development time. How much new material the writer needs to produce vs. adapting existing text is a large factor in the project schedule.
- Cycle time. Writing a document from scratch always takes more time than editing an existing draft. And many writers build-in a quality-check cycle, knowing that a fresh look at a draft on the next day always improves the material.
- Refresh time after project delays; is the writer organized enough to do this quickly?
- Project type and content. The higher the communications value or the more technical and complex the subject matter, the longer it takes to write a draft. However, a highly experienced copywriter can deliver an advantage here, by being able to learn new information rapidly and develop appropriate content based on long-cultivated sets of best writing practices.
Identifying a Reasonable Project Schedule
Understand that when a copywriter gives you a delivery date for a draft, it is truly an estimate. Although good freelancers will try to beat that date, the many project variables described here can stymie a writer’s best efforts.By working with the writer to identify and remove project challenges as they arise and by understanding what a freelance writer must manage, you can develop project schedules that are easier to meet for everyone.