Designers: Why Writing Your Own Copy Helps

Designers tend to freak out when they hear the word “writing.” That’s not my job, someone else will get paid to do that – right? Well, not always. Sometimes, the writer is you – or perhaps, if it isn’t, it should be.

via janaka Dharmasena

Writing copy isn’t the frightening prospect many designers think it is, and in fact, it can help you to have a broader perspective on your design work. Graphic design is the arrangement of words and images – doesn’t it make sense to know at least something about how those words are created? Let’s explore some key reasons more designers should be writing their own copy.

The Client Knows Less Than You Think

Most clients are just as puzzled as you are about what the content of their website should be. That’s why lorem ipsum text is so popular. If the client knew what to put in that little box, they would have put it there already. They assume they’ll just “figure something out” later, or grab some random person from the office to write something quickly.

Yes, it’s puzzling, but many business owners don’t seem to factor in the importance of hiring a professional copywriter. Or, perhaps they do, but they simply can’t afford the services of a professional – or at least they don’t think they can. Personally, I think that businesses can’t afford not to hire a copywriter, since copywriting is so fundamental to the success of any business. Without one, their businesses are earning a fraction of what they could be, because whatever copy that ends up there is surely going to be lackluster.

So, your client has no idea what to write to entice their customers. That’s where you come in. Again, you don’t have to be an expert, but even studying a little bit about copywriting will improve your writing skills tremendously, making you better than 99% of everyone else at the company. If you can show your clients the best way to grab users’ attention with just the right words, your reputation as a great designer who knows your stuff will increase.

Helps You Understand Your Audience More

Through your research, you will connect with your client’s target market and what they’re looking for in terms of storytelling, calls to action, and other copywriting essentials. This is very important when you’re working within your client’s niche, as you will become more and more knowledgeable about the client’s industry and target market. This will make you more valuable as a designer, as more and more clients start to demand for someone who knows their industry inside and out.

Makes You A Better Designer

Copy isn’t the only thing you will have to write when dealing with a client. Sometimes, clients will have only the vaguest idea of what they want you to create for them, and the brief that they give you will be, literally, quite brief. A good exercise to improve your writing skills is to actually flesh out your own briefs, thinking for the client and attempting to figure out exactly what he or she needs from you. When you present your sketches along with the revised brief, you can amaze your client with your mind-reading skills.

Writing to fill in the gaps of your design briefs will help you be better prepared for the next client who is unprepared (and believe me, there will be a next time). Your clients will be grateful to have someone on the team who knows what they’re doing when it comes to writing copy and thinking about the needs of the end user.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

Don’t worry if your writing is not of professional quality. Again, you’d be surprised how many startups have had their copy written not just by their designers, but by their programmers, marketing directors, and even personal assistants. Startups are often scrappy and have limited resources, and if you can add any type of value to the team at the ground floor – no matter what they originally hired you for – they will appreciate and use it.

Even if the client ends up not using your copy, you will learn a lot about what goes into copywriting for the next time. Chances are, the client or your other team members will learn something as well. Copywriting is an ever-expanding discipline – even for professionals – and there is always something new to learn. Don’t forget to keep records of everything you write as well. Like your designs, they will be a visual record of how much you will improve. I’ve been writing copy professionally for the better part of a decade, and I’m constantly surprised at the things I learn with each new assignment.

What Do You Think?

Are you a designer who has been asked to write for your clients? How has writing your own copy helped you to strengthen your niche and connect better with your audience?

Leave a Comment