What to include in your creative or content brief:
Adequate deadlines for completion and review
Your sources of inspiration or examples
Audience profiles or personas
Background and contextual information
Expectations and exclusions
I spent eleven years as an in-house marketer before I crossed the great divide into freelance land. As the 'client' I used to pride myself on my briefs to PR agencies, designers and photographers. I thought that was how everyone wrote briefs. I was wrong.
The word ‘brief’ is misleading. These documents require careful preparation and detail. The core principle behind them is to provide someone with all the information they need to do the job that you require – and expect. Regardless of the services you are using or your freelancer/agency's approach, a detailed brief is crucial.
As a service to fellow freelancer and agency staff who receive briefs that leave them scratching their head, and as a service to clients who frequently receive work that isn’t what they’d imagined, I’ve identified five key elements that are often missing, but nonetheless crucial, from content and creative briefs.
What to include when you write a content or creative brief for your freelancer:
Adequate deadlines for completion and review. Having step-by-step deadlines helps both parties manage expectations of when work is due and when feedback or amendments will be provided. There is nothing worse than having to enquire about where the first draft is, or having your freelancer chase you for feedback, amendments and approvals. It is also helpful to indicate who is signing off on drafts and/or providing input and feedback at each stage so the freelancer can take this into account.
Your sources of inspiration. You are sure to have an idea in your head of the work you’d like produced, whether it’s based on previous campaigns you’ve been involved in or things you’ve seen/read digitally or in print. It is vital to share these with your freelancer. Their worst nightmare is hearing, “I’m not sure, but I’ll know it once I see/read it.” Spending 15 minutes collecting examples of work you really admire and believe would suit your project can save hours in rounds of amendments as your freelancer will have a much clearer direction to start from. It also helps spark their creativity, so you’ll get a better end-product.
Audience profiles or personas. Please don’t assume your designer/writer/photographer/filmmaker knows your audience or remembers all of the details from the last time they worked with you. Include the relevant profile and persona information with the brief so that the work they produce is spot on. The more detailed, the better. Without this detail, the freelancer will need to make assumptions and generalisations about your audience – not brilliant if you are aiming for a highly targeted campaign.
Background and contextual information. The more information about why the freelancer is doing the job, the more easily they can produce work that actually solves your problem and meets your and your audience’s needs. You might like to start by answering these questions: Why is this job necessary? How has it come about? What are your overall goals and specific objectives for the campaign? Where will the work be seen/read/distributed? Is there anything you haven’t liked about similar pieces of work that can be avoided?
Expectations and exclusions. What exactly do you expect to receive on completion of the job? For example, what is the word or page count? How many versions do you expect to receive for review? What don’t you expect the freelancer to do? This will save a great deal of awkwardness and heartache due to ‘project creep’ – you’ll know what to expect, and your freelancer can give you an accurate quote and stick to it.
While it’s common practice to send the person(s) you are working with a written brief (with all of the above points included), sometimes it’s helpful to do a telephone brief first. The freelancer or yourself can then put it all in writing and both parties can sign it off to ensure clarity.
Sound’s simple, right? It is. As long as you dedicate the time and consideration your brief, and ultimately your project, deserves.