Writecombination Copywriting
by Andrew Knowles

Copywriting: how long does it take?

How long does it take to write something? I’m often asked this question, both by the generally curious and prospective clients. Perhaps the former are seeking to compare their own writing speed with that of a ‘professional’, while the latter are often seeking an indication of how much my services might cost them.

I quite like the question because it opens a window through which non-copywriters can glimpse the work that goes into creating blog posts, case studies, press releases and the many other forms of words I put together for clients. 

Where does the time go when copywriting?

There are three main elements to copywriting: collecting the source material, writing the copy and reviewing the copy.

Collecting the source material

Information gathering is the first stage in any writing assignment. This may involve researching a topic online, reading documents supplied by the client or conducting interviews. All of this takes time. 

I recently wrote a series of case studies for a client which meant organising and carrying out telephone interviews with some of their clients. I’m currently writing copy for a school and while we all know what they do, creating copy appropriate for their intended audience requires a relatively high degree of technical content, which takes time to research.

Writing the copy

This can be the most enjoyable, but also the hardest part of the copywriting process. I enjoy the challenge of constructing meaningful sentences and paragraphs, but it can be a while before I grasp the overall form of the copy I’m constructing. The act of writing shapes my thought processes, meaning that I have to start writing before I can begin to see where I’m going. I write, I think, I rewrite and I rethink.

Do you struggle to know where to start when writing? I often do, but I force myself to tap out a couple of paragraphs. With some words on the page it’s easier to see what I’m doing right, or where I’m going wrong. Sometimes I’m surprised at how quickly I can complete the task in hand.

Perhaps surprisingly, writing short pieces is often harder than writing longer articles. Constructing a five word strap line for a business, condensing their value proposition into a single phrase, can take more time than writing an article running into hundreds, even thousands, of words.

Reviewing the copy

I enjoy researching and writing. Reviewing is less pleasurable, but it’s essential. My business partner proofreads my work, correcting the typing errors and suggesting improvements. Once I’ve incorporated, or at least considered, her advice, I carry out my own final review.

Then the copy goes to the client. Some clients accept the material without amendment while others respond with suggested changes, sometimes to suit their own changing perspective on what they want, or perhaps because they prefer a different in emphasis. 

The only time a client rejected the copy outright and refused to pay, it didn’t stop them using the same words, with cosmetic adjustments, on their website. That was back in the days when I did a lot of work through agencies, meaning I did not have much of a relationship with the client directly. I rarely work through agencies these days.

So how long does copywriting take?

As you might imagine, it’s not always easy to assess, in advance, how much time a particular piece of copywriting work will require. I can estimate that a simple press release could take an hour or so. Putting a figure on a 10,000 word ebook is a little harder.

But does it really matter how long it takes me to write? What my client really wants is the price and a delivery date, and generally they’d like both to be agreed in advance. What it really comes down to is value for money. If they, and I, are comfortable with the agreed price for a piece of work, the length of time required to write it becomes irrelevant.

By Andrew Knowles

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