Attention Newbie Copywriters: Your First Drafts Don’t Need to be Perfect

Scribbles

A writer friend of mine was stressed to her eyeballs a couple of weeks ago, owing to a project she wasn’t sure how to tackle. She’d never done this type of writing before and wanted to make sure she got it right, naturally. Here’s what she said:

It sounds like fairly straightforward stuff, and I’m trying to treat it as such, but I really am making it up as I go along and I feel they could be so much better. And I’m struggling and stressed as they all need to be done yesterday.

But she was overlooking one simple fact: Your first drafts don’t need to be perfect. Mine never are. Here’s what I said to my friend, a known perfectionist and procrastinator:

Stop trying to make them perfect. It does sound straightforward. Just do first drafts by following your gut, then send to your client. They probably won’t even request changes, but if they do it’ll be much easier because you’ll have specific guidance to follow.

Again, I repeat: STOP TRYING TO MAKE THEM PERFECT.

When I do copywriting projects, I never expect to get them right on the first shot, but often my clients want very few changes. Always expect the first draft to need tweaks, and then allow yourself to be pleasantly surprised if they don’t.

It’s standard procedure in the copywriting realm to do second, third and even fourth or more drafts, honing your copy until it’s spot on. I know copywriters who offer ‘two sets of revisions’, and copywriters who ‘won’t stop until they get it just right’. My personal preference is to work on projects in two week bursts, with the first week being dedicated to completing the first drafts — therefore giving me and my client something solid to work from — and the second week being devoted to as many edits as the client wants, which, in a rather wonderful turn of events, also eliminates any problems from clients who suffer from fuckingarounditis. ‘I’ve only got until the end of the week to request any changes I want? Alright, let’s go!’

Photo by Laurence Simon.

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