The joy of a good copywriting deadline 19 May 2021

Joy? Deadline? I appreciate that those two words aren’t usually closely associated, but let me explain…

Deadlines are commonly viewed as being, well, dead dull. But thanks to all my years as a copywriter, I’m convinced about the joy of a good strategic deadline.

Feel the love

I admit it. I love a good deadline. So much so that ​when I’m not given a copywriting deadline by a client, I set one! I like to know there’s a clear goal to work towards.

A good deadline means your content has a definite destination point. It provides a focus, from starting through to progressing right through to completing a project. It means everyone involved has clear expectations. Not only for the copywriting itself but also for feedback, amendments and final tweaks.

Deadlines help to smooth the sometimes complex content development journey. They are guides along the way. And the completer-finisher in me just loves to reach that date in the diary knowing everything is in place as it should be.

Keep it realistic

I have a running joke with some of my clients. When they call or email asking me to help them with some copywriting, I always ask them when they need it by. The answer, usually accompanied with some rueful laughs, is “ASAP!”.

There’s nothing wrong with a tight deadline. It’s in the very nature of copywriting, but, if possible, always look to make your deadlines realistic. It gives you more space to create better content. Not only that, but it will allow time for the all-important approvals process. So, as well as enabling your copywriter to do their work, be sure your deadlines allow time for feedback, amendments and sharing the draft content with key people.

Adjust for impact

While a deadline provides clarity and order, it shouldn’t be set in stone. So don’t keep to it rigidly if it’s not serving the project. The unexpected is a big factor in the marketing and content process. If you can, retain some flexibility around key deadlines. If you think the content will benefit from more input from a colleague or if you suddenly question the approach, don’t let the deadline define the ultimate direction of your copywriting strategy. Assess and adjust if it looks likely to benefit you and your team. And of course, your content.

Stay strategic

A precisely calibrated copywriting deadline is just as valuable as precisely written content. Don’t just opt for a random date. Use the deadline discussion with your team to decide how much time is required for each stage and how long it will take to gain the feedback required. There are of course times when advance planning is a luxury and that’s okay. But if a deadline can be discussed and planned, take the time to do it and you’ll reduce delays and confusion later on in the process.

Does your copywriting deadline fit the bill?

By providing clear boundaries, a deadline can help make the copywriting process more of a joy than a burden. Here are, in my view, some of the defining characteristics of a good content deadline:

1. Realistic
2. Flexible
3. Allows time for all everyone to do what they need to do
4. Established in recognition of the level of input required
5. Known by everyone involved
6. Strategic rather than arbitrary
7. Takes into account other related deadlines.

Not so dull

Your copywriting deadline is what enables your content to move from concept to completion with minimal fuss. It’s the difference between being ready and being rushed. That deadline can also provide carefully applied pressure to help make sure your content project doesn’t just stay on the backburner.

Like children, content development thrives on good boundaries. Why see deadlines as a bad thing when they can be your guide for a more streamlined copywriting process?

It was the inimitable Douglas Adams who famously wrote:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”

Perhaps that quote is popular precisely because deadlines are so often viewed negatively. But a deadline doesn’t have to be the enemy. Carefully agreed with everyone involved and chosen strategically, it can be the difference between content chaos and content success.

Because, with copywriting, as with so much in life, timing is everything.

Camilla Zajac, Green Light Copywriting, May 2021

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