I'm turning into a copywriter. Are you?

9 years ago from , Designer & Front-end Developer

Except I'm a web designer and developer, not a content person. But over and over clients give me so-so copy and I end up editing it and it slows down the design process, and I end up putting in too many hours.

Anyone else have this problem? Do you work with a content person, or just keep doing it yourself and get better at it?


  • Andrew LucasAndrew Lucas, 9 years ago

    Unless you have a dedicated Content Strategist or Copywriter, I'd say it is your job.

    23 points
    • Oskar ZabikOskar Zabik, 9 years ago

      +1 - copy is a part of UI

      2 points
    • Matt FeltenMatt Felten, 9 years ago


      Even with a Content Strategist / Copywriter, you can still have a back and forth. In the same way that a design has revisions, copy has revisions.

      Good copy is good communication is good design.

      6 points
  • Sam SolomonSam Solomon, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    I think great design starts with great copy.

    Copywriter or not, every designer should work to improve their writing skills.

    8 points
  • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, 9 years ago

    I run into this often. My contract clearly states that I don't touch copy. And if I do, its charged at a billable rate.

    6 points
    • Lara Schenck, 9 years ago

      Yeah. But if they don't want you to touch it, do you just use the bad copy? So frustrating cause it kills all the hard design work.

      3 points
      • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, 9 years ago

        You just need to decide where to compromise. Do you use bad copy and not worry about it? Or do you say screw it, write something good to help the overall project?

        Obviously the best thing would be to charge for the time, but I know that can be difficult sometimes for a "fringe" element of a project that really does matter but most people don't think it does. I would also suggest touching base with clients early on and reviewing what copy they do have. Talk about its strengths and weaknesses, and review examples of good copy.

        Copy is really important, honestly more important than design or anythings else (it hurts to admit as I am a designer), but compare this to what you would do if you ask for the client logo and they give you a really crappy .gif from 1999. Do you use it as is? Or do you clean it up and make it at least look presentable? I'm not talking about a full rebrand but a delicate massage ;)

        Hope that helps. Money is always a tough issue, but going the extra mile for a clients will always impress. And now that I've reminded myself of that let me get back to my client project and practice what I preach!

        1 point
        • Art VandelayArt Vandelay, 9 years ago

          Very well said. I've found that when presenting money to the transaction, they begin to think more cognizantly about the topic at hand.

          At the going rate though, you've got to consider this - if they client is aware the copy is subpar and is okay with that, then you'll probably meet this issue down the road with other things related to the project.

          0 points
          • Caleb SylvestCaleb Sylvest, 9 years ago

            Very true. If a client doesn't understand the value of one aspect of a project, that's probably a glimpse of how working with them will be going forward. But sometimes you still have to take on non-ideal clients (if you like to eat and sleep in a bed ;)

            1 point
  • Coulter PattonCoulter Patton, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )


    Short copy, yeah I'll fiddle with that.

    However, there's no way I'm writing a client's sales page.

    First of all, it's presumptuous to think I could even write an effective sales page for a client. Second, an expert would charge 4, 5, even 6 figures for a really good sales page. In other words, it's not just something you tack on your to-do list next to designing buttons.

    As they say, you get what you pay for. If your client wants expert copy, they should pay someone to write it, just like they payed you for your service.

    I agree that it sucks big time when you have to design around bad copy. Sometimes you don't even want to use a project in your portfolio because the copy is so horrible.

    Still, you have to draw the line somewhere. Or you have to figure out a way you can offer the service.

    I'd love to hold a client's hand and help them have the world for nothing, but that's not reality. If you want the best you either have to pay for it or learn it yourself.

    4 points
  • Taulant SulkoTaulant Sulko, 9 years ago

    I fix web copy sometimes but I always consult with our copywriter to make sure it's good to go.

    Also: Noticing bad copy ≠ Being a copywriter

    3 points
    • Lara Schenck, 9 years ago

      Good point - that's kind of what I'm afraid of. I'm a one-woman shop, so I'm the one that fixes the bad copy. I mean, I'm not horrible at it but it's definitely out of my comfort zone.

      0 points
      • Erik LarssonErik Larsson, 9 years ago

        In your next project, try explaining to your client that you noticed that the copy they're providing is subpar and will most probably harm the business goals that you set when the project started.

        Explain that you will be happy to help them with the copy as well (because with every project you will get better at it) but that they will need to pay for it.

        I see three outcomes from this: * Your client goes back to their typewriter and prepares better copy * Your client asks you to write = you make more money. If you're a one-man show (which it sounds like you are) then I bet any money is welcome money * Don't touch the copy. This is tricky because you don't want to present bad work, but at the same time you're running a business. I would think about the business first.

        If you find yourself in a discussion about the copy, always connect it to the business objectives of the webpage.

        0 points
  • Carolann Merchant, 9 years ago (edited 9 years ago )

    Have spent more time than I ever expected crafting words. I definitely don't mind when it comes to supplemental copy in an interface.

    My primary goal is to achieve clear, explicit, and friendly communication. That's definitely something I consider to be in the wheelhouse of design (amongst many other things).

    I feel less qualified to make informed decisions surrounding copy that is for marketing/landing pages or specific conversion goals.

    1 point
  • Andy SmithAndy Smith, 9 years ago

    Absolutely! But more that they give me NO copy.

    So what I do is, rather than use Lorem Ipsum for headings, write witty tag lines. Usually stupid and punny so they have to change it.

    I find it a bit of fun and helps the creative juices flow.

    1 point
  • Jacob TaylorJacob Taylor, 9 years ago

    If the clients gives you bad copy and isn't paying you to change it, then don't change it. Let the copy be bad.

    Don't do work you aren't getting paid for.

    1 point
    • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, 9 years ago

      Isn't it up to you what you get paid for or not? Why not just ask for $X more for the project, to account for the time you know you'll spend doing copywriting?

      2 points
  • Doug Nolan, 8 years ago

    There's no doubt, you're definitely getting a rough deal. This could just be a sign of so much changing in 12 months but...shouldn't sites be built around the content? So hiring a copywriter (or content designer as we're becoming known) would be the client's job, given their content needs hammering into shape. Or they could ask you to team up with one.

    It's not uncommon for a client to write their own copy though - happens a lot. To be fair, they know their businesses better than anyone else, so it's only right that they get all the facts down. But the most effective approach is to take these facts and give them to a writer. I either let a client provide me with the raw material like this, or get all the facts myself from an interview. At that point, I can start looking at structure, and fleshing the whole thing out, considering tone of voice, etc.

    Hell of a lot to expect of someone who's also designing and building your site though. And that cloning thing is still a bit tricky.

    0 points
  • Franco Vargas GolacFranco Vargas Golac, 9 years ago

    I have the same challenge. The design process is more than just aesthetics, it's about seeing the big picture, it's about the Brand experience. So having a clear brand strategy before designing is key, this way the content is coherent and valuable to the user.

    0 points
  • Julie RobertsJulie Roberts, 9 years ago

    I deal with this as well, typically in print designs. While copywriting is not explicitly stated in my job description, it is explicitly within my power to change up headings/etc to fit better with the design and to normalize content between designs. When I typeset smaller things (such as newsletters or notices) I end up changing wordy and unclear copy in the interest of space and clarity. I see my job as effectively communicating through design and the words are part of that.

    I like writing. If I hadn't become a designer, I absolutely would have been an English major (but what do you do with a BA in English?). However, I am not trained in copywriting. I would love to get better at it. How?

    0 points
  • Benjamin RéthoréBenjamin Réthoré, 9 years ago

    Yeah right, writing is part of the design process... A lot of designers seems to believe that they're great copywriters nowadays, resulting in the same crappy headlines everywhere : An endless list of "the most advanced %productName% ever" or "%task% made beautiful". Learning how to write is just as long and hard as learning how to design, moreover, being effective at selling stuff also requires some serious marketing skills.

    Of course there are a few guys out there that aren't only Unicorns that poops beautiful design and code, but also Chimeras that writes like Ernest Hemingway while traveling around the world in 80 days. But hey, I think most of the people can't be great a everything, time spent honing one skill is time not spent on another.

    This being said, if your client accepts to pay for some writing it's great for you, otherwise i wouldn't lose a minute on this. Being a freelancer is already hard enough.

    0 points
  • Gokhun GuneyhanGokhun Guneyhan, 9 years ago

    When it's freelance work, you should let the client know about this and ask for a copywriter budget.

    When working for an agency, try to write something meaningful to help copywriter what you were thinking, they'll love you for that.

    0 points
  • Andy LeverenzAndy Leverenz, 9 years ago

    I have found that making suggestions to copy will more likely than not win your clients approval. For me it's usually a case of wordiness as opposed to bad copy. If both are the cause I might mention my opinion to the client. After all they hired you for your input and hopefully value.

    0 points