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How to write a creative brief

How to write a creative brief

Great creativity starts with a great brief

Ever tried coming up with an idea with nothing but a blank page as your starting point? That’s what it’s like working without a creative brief.

If you’re employing a Freelance Copywriter or Designer, you owe it to yourself and your budget to write a great brief. If you can sum up the following on one or two sides of A4, you should have everything you need. At least make sure you have points 1-6 covered before briefing any Freelance Creative.

1) Background

Assume your freelancer knows nothing about your brand, or even your sector for that matter. Arm them with whatever they need to get to grips with who you are and what you’re all about. Annual reports, brochures, flyers, web links, press clippings and any industry insights that might tickle the creative process into action.

2) Objectives

What do you want to achieve? Perhaps you want your audience to sign-up to a newsletter, pick up the phone, make an online purchase, request a quote… whatever it is, prioritise. If you already know what success looks like, this will definitely help steer things in the right direction.

3) Audiences

Who are they? What makes them twitch/yelp/wretch? Why might they want to do business with you? Any useful stats? If they’re 12 yr old TikTok addicts, or if they’re crusty old execs who do their business in the 19th hole, your freelancer will need to know. The more they get your audience, the more likely they’ll come up with something that hits the right notes.

4) Think, feel and do

When someone sees your piece of communication, what should their first reaction be? What do you want them to think about your brand and more importantly, where do you want to hit them in the feels? And, then what strings do you want to pull (see point 2)?

5) What’s your USP?

The Unique Selling Proposition. The Holy Grail of marketing. If you’ve got one, assuming it’s worth talking about, then throw all your weight behind it. However, if like virtually everyone else, you have no real USP, then what’s the one thing you want people to remember about you? Perhaps all your competitors could say it too, but you do it better, or they’re concentrating on other hooks – leaving you with an open goal. Another way of loking at this is, if your audience only remembered one thing about you, what should it be?

6) Tone of voice

How do you want your brand to come across? No-nonsense professional adviser, an old friend you can rely on, wizened soothsayer in a pointy hat…? Every brand has a tone of voice (intentional or not) and this needs to run through everything you do. Tone of voice will be just as important to an Art Director or Designer, as it is to a Freelance Copywriter. And if you haven’t got a clue what yours is, or should be, you’ll need to pin it down somehow (may I suggest a brand tone of voice workshop?).

7) Brand guidelines

Many organisations have brand guidelines. Unfortunately, most never see the light of day. Don’t let this be the case with yours. If you have rules for using words, colours, typefaces, images… your freelancer will need to know. So get those guidelines out – you’ll find them underneath that copy of Angling Times from September ’78.

8) Competitors

Unless your offering is totally unique, there will be other people out there vying for the attention of the same customers/fans/members/supporters. So who are they, which ones do you admire and why? What can we learn from them? What mistakes are they making that we should avoid? Know your enemy!

9) Unrelated brands

There are brands out there doing things in a certain way, that although nothing to do with your sector, you admire. A visual style, a certain way with language, an attitude, or personality you aspire to – John Lewis, Volkswagen, Apple, Shake ‘n’ Vac… This will really help, especially with tone of voice work (see point 6).

10) Deadline

‘ASAP’ is not a deadline. If you need to hit a certain date in your calendar, this should definitely be in your brief. But schedules have to be realistic. Creativity takes time, copy needs to be crafted and snap decisions can prove expensive.

11) Budget

The $64,000 (wouldn’t that be nice) question. Sooner or later, a budget will have to be agreed. So why not get it out in the open? Upfront. In the brief. Like, on day one. Seriously, it’d save a ton of time, effort and squirming on both sides.

– – –

If you don’t have the time or expertise to put the brief together, any decent Freelance Creative will be able to help. But it takes time (and moolah), so the more groundwork you do the better.

And even if you’ve written a beautifully buttoned-down brief, be prepared for your freelancer to bring a new perspective and to challenge your thinking.

Talking of which…

Got a creative brief you want to discuss, or need help knocking one into shape? Get in touch.

Jonathan Wilcock (that’s me) is a Senior Freelance Copywriter.
You can drop me a line here, or email