Kay Ross - Freelance
Editor, Copywriter and Marketing Consultant/Trainer
you decided to commission a freelance writer/editor to
write or edit a document for your company or organisation – an
ad, a brochure, a website, a feature article, a press release,
a newsletter, an annual report, a sales letter, a direct
mail piece, a video script, a book, a speech, a project proposal…?
Here are some questions that you
should be asked before the writer/editor can give you
a realistic quote, accept the assignment and start the
1. Who is the document aimed at, and what are his/her/their
needs, concerns and motivations?
2. What is the purpose of
the document, i.e. what do you want the reader to DO
with the information?
3. What’s the most
important message that you want to communicate in the
4. How does this document
fit in with the rest of your organisation’s
5. Please tell me all about
your organisation, your products/services, your customers
and your competition.
6. What is the nature of
your company/organisation? Is it a multinational corporation,
a small enterprise, a non-profit community group or
a registered charity?
7. Please show me some
similar documents that your organisation has produced
8. How complex/technical
is the assignment?
9. Who retains copyright
of the text?
10. Do you have an in-house
style guide? For instance, do you want the document
to be written/edited according to US spelling and punctuation
(color, behavior, and organization) or British spelling
and punctuation (colour, behaviour and organisation)?
And do you have a standard preferred way of writing
dates, times, telephone numbers and place names (Wanchai
or Wan Chai)?
11. Is there anything taboo
that is not allowed to imply or promise in your document?
12. If the assignment involves
the editing of previously published text, or your draft
text of a new document, can I that text be seen first?
Do you want just cosmetic fixing of minor spelling and
grammatical mistakes, or do you want major surgery to
the tone, style, length, logic, structure, cultural appropriateness
and marketing effectiveness of the document? And do you
want to use the “track changes” function
so that you can see what changes are made?
13. If the purpose of the
document is to sell something (your product or service),
what is the offer that you’re
making? What is the financial and emotional benefit
of that to the customer (i.e. your value proposition)?
What is your desired brand/image? How do you want your
customers to FEEL when they use your product/service?
Do you have any customer testimonials?
14. What is your project
schedule and deadline?
15. What is your budget?
And on what basis do you propose to pay: a set fee,
a rate per word/page/hour, a percentage of sales…?
If you pay per word, is that per commissioned word
or per published word? Will you pay for out-of-pocket
expenses, e.g. travel, research?
16. How many rounds of
revisions to the text do you expect to include within
the quoted timeframe and fee?
17. Who needs to approve
the text, and what is the process for gaining that
18. Who will the writer/editor
report to, and how will the results be assessed? (You’ll need to nominate one key
contact person within your organisation, so that the freelancer
doesn’t have to deal with conflicting instructions
from several people. This ensures clear lines of communication
and prevents delays and confusion.)
19. Will a confidentiality
agreement need to be signed?
20. Will a “kill fee” be
made if you decide, through no fault of the writer/editor,
not to use the document?
Answering as many of these questions
as accurately as possible will go a long way to ensuring
an accurate estimate, a smooth working relationship and
an effective article reaching the audience required.
Ross, September 2005
Please briefly describe your business.
What are the main reasons customers choose your company?
does your company differentiate itself from competitors?
ABOUT THE AUDIENCE
4. How do you describe your
e.g. Professional level / education level / age range /
English language ability / family status / cultural peculiarities.
Is it different from your current customer profile?
Where and when do you expect your audience to see/read the
ABOUT THIS PROJECT
this project be a "one off", be part of a campaign
or is this
part of a current campaign?
What do you want people to think when they see your
do you want to happen when they see your brochure?
Please list and rank 5 key benefits your product/service/
company is offering to the reader, number one being the
most important and number 5 least in importance.
Is there something specific the advert must depict?
Please underline a few words that best describe how you/your
product/service is to be perceived through this brochure.
Serene / restrained / relaxing / refreshing / mercurial
/ energetic / welcoming / appetizing / dynamic / invigorating
/ masculine /.feminine / delicate
/ robust / motherly / assertive / robust / fatherly ./
genuine / wholesome / refined / cultured / select / witty
/ up market / youthful / mass-market / personalized / independent
/ personal / trustworthy / reliable / conventional / cutting-edge
/ exciting / innovative / romantic / standardized / serious
/ rational / restrained / discreet elaborate / whimsical
/ unrestrained / passionate / nostalgic / traditional /
jovial / visionary / courageous ./
professional / experienced / discerning / competitive /.intellectual
/ creative / consistent , or something else...
13. Is this different from your
company's current image perception? If so, how?
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in getting your
image across to customers?
Are there any critical deadlines such as an event, holidays
Who is involved in the approval process for this project?
Do they have pet hates/loves that should be included / avoided
assuming it doesn't dilute the objective.
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Describe any visual elements or styles that can be utilized
from existing marketing materials or collateral. Please
express likes/dislikes if applicable.
• Corporate Guidelines
• Colour scheme
• Type treatments
• Existing art
Are you willing to pay for royalty free photo library images
or a photo shoot?
Is there any reference material you can provide that you
Do all the decision makers agree with the brief?