Start with the end in mind.

I was recently roped in to write content for a client’s website. After all the questions about their brand, offerings, value proposition etc., I asked them who is going to design and develop the website. They had someone in mind.

What platform?Wordpress.Build from scratch or customise a template?Template.Do you have a template in mind?They did and they sent it to me.

Before I started writing, I had an image of what the output would be like. I had visualised the entire website before I wrote a single word.

I wrote copy that fit into the template. The length of the title, subtitle, sections, icons, buttons etc. I also left comments from the designer / developer pointing out which parts of the template I had intended to be used, and customisations, if any. In fact, I spoke directly to the developer and walked him through how I’ve imagined the whole thing. That hand-off was seamless — well, almost!

The client later requested help with identifying visuals for the site. As I’d already thought this through, it was only an hour’s worth of extra work which I gladly put in.

You see, if you’ve written websites for small companies in the past, you’ll realise that most of them adapt templates. This comes with its own limitations. Even when you build your own design, it’s not infinitely flexible. If I’d written the content to my own style/structure, there would have been endless cycles of “editing” to make sure it fits the space. The developer will say, “this is too much copy” and you’ll be pissed because you get paid by the word!

Ask questions like:

  • Why are you looking to build this piece of content?

  • How are you going to use this? Designers do this a lot because they can then ensure it’ll work in print.

  • Is it timely or evergreen? You can avoid language that hooks it to a particular time, if it’s evergreen.

  • What do you want to reader to do / feel?

  • Would you repurpose this? How?

So, learn to see the big picture before you put pen to paper.

P.S: Don’t charge by the word for website, brochure etc. where the goal is to say as much in as few words as possible.