What Children's Literature Can Teach Copywriters
What can writers learn from children's books? Turns out, a lot.
Writing a scope of work for a copywriting job is essential to setting the right client expectations, forming the right (enforceable) boundaries, and even opening space for future upsells/cross-sells. It shows that you have your act together, and provides a clear line of sight for timelines, deliverables, and charges.
The worst mistake you could make as a copywriter onboarding a new client or even pitching to a client before the sale is to not define the job.
It may sound wild, but copywriters do it all of the time. I’d rather you not get stuck in a situation where you feel confused about what you’re supposed to do (or, worse, the client does). You alleviate both that and unpredictability about charges/income when you send a well-crafted scope of work.
Here is how to write a scope of work for copywriting jobs.
Want a FREE scope of work template? I thought it might be helpful to give you the layout I most typically use. You can download it here.
Most copywriting jobs start with a trial. Regardless of a client's vibe, I almost always do a paid trial first. Not only are they vetting your actual skills in context, you’re also vetting them. End up with nine revision rounds? Later, gator. All of the important real world info emerges during a trial.
I suggest you start there. If all goes well and everyone’s game to move forward, that’s when a scope of work should happen. Don’t do it before, because it’s a waste of time in a situation that’s still too uncertain.
If you’ve ever worked in the agency world, first, condolences. Agencies with consultants often budget in scope of work hours, sometimes in a ridiculous range (like, 20+ hours). To be fair, very complex tasks and long-term jobs may have a million moving parts, people with different roles, subtasks, etc. that do require a lot of research. Maybe 20 hours’ worth. But your copywriting scope of work doesn’t even need to be close to that.
I’d suggest that you create a standard scope of work template on a spreadsheet. I use Google Sheets. I have standard categories in every row and column. After writing hundreds of these, I know what I need to stipulate. There are variable components, depending on the client and nature of the work, but you will always need the following categories:
You’ll see in the examples below, for larger products, I scope out based on phases. There’s often a set-up or discovery phase with research, an SEO audit, etc. that I bucket together with a set price. Then, there will be ongoing tasks (weekly blogs, monthly reports, etc.) that I bucket out separately so clients can envision the monthly cost.
Here are some examples of how I craft a scope of work. Notice that it’s a little different each time, but the fundamental parts are the same.
For SEO blogging with a new client, I always make sure I budget in time for me to research their brand. I also won’t start with a new SEO client without an SEO audit. I can’t in good conscience set KPIs and benchmarks if I don’t know the startling line. This phase includes giving me access to the Google Search Console and Google Analytics accounts (or setting them up) and doing a typical SEO audit with competitive analysis, keyword research, etc.
Sometimes, we will work directly with a writing team in a marketing department. We come in for a consulting engagement to start, do all of the good SEO auditing and research, then train their writers. This is an example of how I’d scope a job like that.
Not all clients are hiring us JUST for SEO - in fact, most hire us for a variety of content production tasks. This is a scope of work example that includes the onboarding and review, plus specs out how an ongoing production arrangement would work.
We also sell social media content packages, and require similar elements of the job: onboarding, analysis, setup, access, meetings. Then we sell weekly engagement as well as monthly content. Here’s what a scope of work for social media looks like.
If you have a client who may hire you for a significant amount of work that would take up most of your time/take care of most of your income, you probably want to dive deeper than a spreadsheet. This may mean doing a detailed scope of work that includes in-depth deliverables and really impresses them. Here’s an example of page one of a SOW like that. When I do a long-form scope of work like that, I make sure that I still bundle different phases of projects within the broader scope and set them against prices. Often, people will want to make decisions on a few things to start, and it’s helpful to not have to rework your numbers during negotiations.
As a copywriter, most of your work will probably be content-related. However, you may be able to do other things and be involved in other projects. Whenever I go into a leadership position in a company, either as a consultant or content director, I’ll often oversee various projects. This may merit a little more detail in your types of projects and categories within a scope of work. See here:
This is pretty simple: finish it, get a VIEW ONLY access link, and send it. Sometimes, clients will just be like, “yeah, let’s do it.” Other times, they’ll want to negotiate or rework. That’s fine. I typically hear back from clients within 24 hours. If a week goes by, ping them again.
Whatever you agree on in the scope of work should find its way, in a condensed version, onto your contract.
A word about this, because I’ve both done it and had it done to me: take time to actually think through your timing and timelines. If you estimate that something’s going to take three hours, and it takes seven, you’re going to be salty. You’re also going to be in a pickle (which, I guess, is also salty) because you’ll face a choice: charge a client for the overages (could make them mad) or don’t charge them (could make you mad).
I’ve had a developer do this to me before: we agreed on 20 hours for something. She took 40. Didn’t tell me, just charged me. Yeah. I was mad.
I’ve also accidentally done this before. Told a client something would take “about two hours” and it took six. I didn’t charge them for it. But that’s just me. Because the long-term value of the client made it worth me taking the hit, and you bet I never underestimated that task again.
You’ll get better at this the more experience you get - it takes time to wrap your head around estimating, but you need to get it right if you want to stay happy + keep happy clients.
A great writer scope of work is immensely beneficial to you. It makes it black and white: all of the tasks, average timelines, average timings, average charges. If a client starts to “scope creep,” you have the actual scope to point them back to.
By creating a standard format with the right categories, you’ll save yourself a ton of time.
Want a FREE copywriter scope of work? It’s super simple - on a Google Sheet - you can copy it and use it however you want. Go here to download it (yes you have to give me your email but, let’s face it, I barely understand Mailchimp so I probably won’t send you anything).
There are link building strategies that actually work - learn what they are!