TLDR; this blog is packed full of specific, detailed advice on how to give your copywriter feedback but if you’re looking for a quick answer, this is what I email my clients:
Absolutely all feedback is welcome- this copy has to inspire the reader to act, and to give a good understanding of your business, but it also has to feel like you. The more you can share with me the better. It’s super helpful to know what you do like as much as what you don’t like.
The most important word in your feedback is “because” because it helps me understand exactly what you do/ don’t like and why. The more constructive your comments are, the better I can act on them.
💚 “I love this section because it sounds like my tone of voice/ it’s clear/ it highlights the benefits…”
⛔ “Love this!” (Okay, a few of these aren’t the end of the world, we all love a bit of praise…)
💚 “This section isn’t working for me because it sounds too formal/ too informal/ unclear/ incorrect, it should me something more like…
⛔ “This is wrong, don’t like this bit” (There’s just no way for me to know how to fix this…)
Need more information? I’ve got you.
Brace yourself for a little tough love, ok? The clearer and more honest I can be here, the better your feedback experience will be.
ONE: Giving a copywriter feedback- it’s not personal
You’ve invested in a copywriter- yaaas!- and you’ve got the first draft back from them. I’m guessing it’s not completely perfect, right?
If this is your first time working with a copywriter you might be slightly panicking right now. Take a deep breath. Feedback is supposed to happen. Making changes to a first draft is a totally normal and important part of having decent, authentic copy.
Often, the tricky part is clients don’t know how to give feedback or what to say.
And, it’s not your fault. Have you ever had to give detailed feedback before? Probably not. If the thought of criticising or correcting a professional is making you feel super awkward and uncomfortable, it’s not surprising.
None of it is personal.
I’ve given tons of feedback to freelance colleagues I’ve worked with, and (pretty much) every single client I’ve ever written for has given me feedback.
- Some of that feedback has been incredibly clear, helpful, and has genuinely improved the overall copy.
- Some of that feedback has been unkind, confusing, and has been incredibly difficult to implement.
As long as you give clear, actionable feedback, and you provide it in a straightforward way, you’re onto a winner. Whatever you do:
- Do not fudge your feedback and say it’s ok when it’s not.
- Do not ghost the copywriter.
- Do not accept the work as it is even though you’re not happy with it.
- Do not try to edit the work yourself.
The best copywriter/ client relationships are based on professional collaboration and honesty, and the more successful the relationship the better the copy at the end.
TWO: Giving a copywriter feedback- trust your copywriter
You’ve chosen to work with your copywriter for a reason. They’re qualified, professional, and experienced. So, if they’ve included something in the copy, it probably needs to be there.
Be open to hearing their point of view and their explanation as to why they’ve written/ structured things the way they have.
Ultimately, it’s your copy, and it’s your business, so what you say goes. If they’ve got things wrong about you, your tone of voice, your audience, your service/ product, then of course you have to correct them. Your copywriter will want to make sure you’re happy with the writing, so they’ll be open to hearing about the mistakes.
However, when it comes to almost every other feature of the copy, it’s possible you’ll make the copy worse with your feedback.
Here are some examples:
- I had a client who wanted me to delete/ rewrite any sentences longer than 10 words because they’d heard that was good for SEO.
- A different client wanted me to use the exact same SEO keywords in every single heading because they heard it was good for SEO.
- Another client wanted me to take out all the calls to action because they sounded “bossy”.
I had to explain to my clients all the reasons I wrote their copy the way I did. And, I had to explain why I didn’t want to change it. It wasn’t because I was precious about my writing, or because of my ego- I’d written things the way I had because changing it to their preference would have been disastrous for the copy.
I was stuck between doing exactly what my client wanted, or creating an effective, well- written piece of copy. The lesson here is: trust your copywriter.
THREE: Giving a copywriter feedback- go back to the brief
Ok, let’s set the scene. You’ve got the first draft back from your copywriter, and there are some parts which are missing or referenced too often. You might be thinking “how could they miss that?” or “why have they emphasized that point so heavily?”.
It’s a good idea to read the first draft alongside the original brief you gave. It’s likely some time has passed between you completing the original brief and getting the copy, so your memory of what you asked for might be unclear, or the copywriter might have misinterpreted something.
Remember- this is not a huge problem. This is what first drafts are for! It’s a chance to iron out any errors for draft two.
If there’s something missing in the copy which was on the original brief this is absolutely something to discuss with your copywriter.
Phrase it something like: “Thanks so much for including A, B, and C in the copy. In draft two, please could you add in more information about X, Y, and Z. I specifically want to mention… [and then get specific baybee!]
Please, please do not contradict your original brief. If you have to, because something significant had changed in your biz, your copywriter will probably have to start from scratch. Which means… they’ll have to charge you extra.
FOUR: Giving a copywriter feedback- choose how you give feedback carefully
Simply, how has your copywriter asked to receive feedback?
If they’ve said “please provide a bullet point list of changes/ feedback”, then please do that. They might have a super effective way of working, and having a list is the best way for them to work.
Personally, I don’t mind if my clients want to write comments on the word document, or use track changes, or provide a Loom video, or go through it with me on Zoom, or write everything in a bullet point list. I really don’t mind.
But, there are still some helpful guidelines:
- Do not send some feedback in an email, some in a Word doc., and some in a voice note. Adding extra stages for your copywriter to access the feedback just adds work to their plate. Keep all your feedback in one place.
- Do not send a bit of feedback and then wait a week, and then send more feedback because you’ve now had time to go through it properly. There’s every chance your copywriter has already started making changes, and now there’s a bunch more. Send all your feedback at once.
- Slightly delicate- you can’t fudge the feedback and think we won’t know. By the time it’s sent to you, we know that copy inside out, so please don’t try to make up feedback on the spot or be vague and general.
- Please tell your copywriter your feedback within a week. The longer you leave it the less impactful it will be.
FIVE: Giving a copywriter feedback- be extra kind
Unless you’ve been on the receiving end of feedback, it’s hard to explain how crushing unconstructive feedback can be.
Even if you aren’t intending to be unkind, it’s really easy to be. You’ve got huge pressures on your time, your copywriter is waiting for feedback, and you just want to get it sent to them. It’s easy to be blunt, or sharp in these situations.
In your feedback, remember your copywriter has spent hours and hours on what they’ve written for you. They’ve researched, and drafted, and edited, and proofread. They’ve made hundreds of tiny decisions, all with the intention of getting it right for you, your audience, and your biz.
So, if you highlight a section and come back with “don’t like this”, or “spelling?!”, or “change this”, or “hate this bit”, it’s more than unhelpful. It’s unkind.
There is always a way to phrase something with kindness. Think about how you’d like to be given feedback.
The more time you can give the feedback process, the better your final copy will be.
And, the kinder you can be the better your relationship with your copywriter will be.
SIX: Giving a copywriter feedback- tell your copywriter what you like and why
This part isn’t anything to do with making your copywriter feel amazing or boosting their ego. This is a vital, crucial piece of feedback which your copywriter needs so they can do a good job for you.
When your copywriter knows what you like about the copy and what’s working for you, they can do more of it in the copy.
Maybe you love the vocabulary they’ve used, or the tone of voice, or the call to action, or the heading… Whatever it is, tell your copywriter!
Use phrases like:
- “I love this section; it sounds like my tone of voice/ it’s clear/ it highlights the benefits…”
- “You’ve nailed this part; you’ve summed up what I do perfectly.”
- “Yes! This is so good! The call to action is so good!”
- This part made me smile so much, thank you!
SEVEN: Giving a copywriter feedback- tell your copywriter what you don’t like and why
You aren’t going to like every section of the copy. It’s just not going to happen.
Sure, your copywriter is a professional, qualified writer, but they’re human. Humans sometimes make mistakes, or interpret something incorrectly, or make an assumption and miss the mark. These are all things which can be kindly, and directly, bought up with your copywriter at the feedback stage.
Tell them clearly and simply what is wrong, and why. “Because” is the most important part of your sentence. It’s extra helpful to make suggestions too.
Use phrases like:
- “This bit about my process isn’t quite right because I usually do XYZ instead.”
- “This part doesn’t sound like me because I’d say something like “grab your space” or “snap up your spot” or “sign up quick!” but better?
- “While I get where you’re going with this, but it feels a little flat, maybe because of XYZ. Could we add some energy/ urgency?”
You might not like something, but you might not know why. You can absolutely communicate this with your copywriter, but make sure you’re keeping it kind. Say something like, “this section isn’t working for me, but I can’t work out why. I like this part, but not this part…”. Your copywriter should be able to ask you questions to help you work it out.
Whatever you do, avoid phrases like:
- “Don’t like this bit.”
- “Not sure about this.”
- “This doesn’t sound like me.”
- “Not really the vibe I was after.”
There’s just no way for your copywriter to act on these statements or to improve the copy. And, no one’s got the time to just keep trying different versions without direction.
EIGHT: Giving a copywriter feedback- make sure only one person is giving feedback
There is a term known and feared by copywriters and that term is… [dramatic pause] “copy by committee” *shudder*.
“Copy by committee” is when a copywriter sends in some copy to an agency or a department, and more than one person checks it, comments on it, or gives their opinion on it. This feedback is often contradictory, and massively dilutes the message of the copy. People on the “committee” will all like or dislike different aspect which leads to no end of stalemates and going around in circles.
Frustratingly, this means the copywriter is pushed into “taking sides”, or having the project delayed which affects their income, or having to rewrite huge chunks of copy after it had been signed off.
To keep it simple, whoever gave the brief should be the only person who gives the feedback.
There you go- everything you need to know about giving your copywriter kind, clear, actionable feedback which will get you copy you love and keep your relationship professional. Helpful, huh? If you’re looking to work with a copywriter, I’m only a quick email away.