The Value of Words and the process of being a paid writer.
Weirdly enough my cosmetic chemistry consulting also stretches to writing. I write training courses, articles, position statements, web descriptions, help desk emails, sales pitches, marketing manifestos and even pack copy – I hate writing pack copy…..
Getting paid for writing is hard – everyone can write, some people can even spell (sadly I’m not one of those people) and when it comes to cosmetic products many brands don’t give the writing part a second glance until things don’t quite work out.
The words that you use on and around your brand help to frame it and also help to build connections between you, the brand owner and them – potential customers. It might sound pedantic and a little odd but every single word you use matters, words can help define the space that your brand occupies – budget, family, luxury, fashion. Words can help people fall in love with your products or can help them stay invisible on the shelf. I love words but I also believe that sometimes they should be used sparingly (something I’m not that good at on this blog. Long articles. Blah, Blah, Blah).
After having just spent an intensive week of trying to nail a writing project that I’ve been too-ing and fro-ing on since last October (yes, I know but the project has been a bit stop and start) I think I’ve finally got my ducks in a row and nailed it. Well, maybe I did. Anyway, I wanted to share with you how I get my head around writing for a brand that is not me, is not aimed at me and is probably never going to be purchased by me.
My writing process.
1) Get a full run down of the brief from the brand owner/ project director.
There is no room for guess-work in writing and as I am not writing for me, but am trying to be the brand I need to know the brand. This sounds very easy but in my many years of doing this I’ve found that many brand owners get so caught up in one brand detail such as a key ingredient, a free-from position or that this is for babies or teens that they actually can’t really paint a good picture of what they are. This is the most common reason why writing is hard and can take so long but ultimately it is so worth investing in.
2) Immerse myself in the subject.
Some people would think me crazy but I need to live, breathe and feel the brand that I’m writing for and that can mean anything from walking around a gallery, going to a race track, shopping or hanging out in the lobby (think of the expense account. I pay that bill) of an exclusive hotel, travelling on business or less exciting things like buying and reading the magazines that brands like this should be in or hanging out with the brands target demographic. I need to know how it feels to be the person that this brand is targeting. What do they value, what do they aspire to, what are they looking for. Why? Because that’s what I’m going to try to sell back to them.
3) Create a visual for the brand.
I’m old school here and while Pinterest and power points are great I like nothing better than getting out the glue stick and creating a vision board. The reason for this is that it connects me with the publications that might sell the brand and it also takes the process away from being purely screen based into a more holistic space. Cosmetic science is all about the senses and what’s better than the feeling of glue sticking your fingers together as you wrestle with a cut out of a beautiful sunset?
4) Reflect on the above.
This is the bit that is very hard to quantify and diarise. Sometimes I get it in an instant and words tumble out of me like water from a leaky bucket while at other times I sit, barren as a desert (or is that dessert, I told you I can’t spell). The time playing with words in the mind is just as important as time spent churning them out on a keyboard.
5) Start writing.
At this point I generally start off with the words that I’ve been collecting that match the images and demographic I’ve identified above. I then try to build them into key phrases to set the scene for the brand and then work down into the detail of each product or each aspect of the brand I’m working on. This process is also hard to define time-wise but generally speaking I find that if I don’t come up with a few good words in a few hours I need to go back a step or two.
6) Client meetings.
Whether it be face-to-face or via email going back to the client to read over my work is crucial (and yes painful and sometimes awkward). While it is important that clients like what is written and believe in it, it is also important to keep in mind that they may not be the target audience either so a session with people who the brand is targeting is also wise at this point.
7) Writing it up.
The last step for me is to organise my often chaotic word and phrase collection into a document that the client can use. I don’t mind doing this as it signals the end of a job well done and shows me where I might have missed something. I always remind people who I’m not being hired for my beautiful grammar or spelling, more for my creative way and understanding of cosmetic legalities but other than that the job is done.
So how much does all of this cost I hear you ask?
Well it’s a bespoke consulting service that is charged on a per-project basis depending on the size and shape of the project and how equip I am to deliver a good job. However, in terms of actual busy work time plus a bit of time to research and think you are probably looking at a month to write-up a brand new product range, long web descriptions and market positioning paper which includes brand direction and ingredient references. A month of time is 4 weeks at say 20 hours per week so it wouldn’t be cheap.
But that’s OK because now you know that there is more to this writing lark than meets the eye don’t you?
And anyway in business shouldn’t we always focus on the return and not the outlay?