Imagine you’re a designer and your client says, “I want a cool font and I want my site/business card/logo to stand out.” It’s not a lot to go on, right? You’ll want to know all kinds of other things: what their competitors are doing so you can make it stand out from theirs, what the general expectation of the industry is like (no good having a super-friendly, chatty site when potential customers are looking for super-professional), and what’s going to hook in their potential clients.
Copywriting is similar. I can’t count the number of times someone’s said to me that they want a website/brochure and then made me guess what they want by reading my draft and saying something like, “it’s not bad but it still needs more zing.” All that achieves is that I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job by them, they don’t get what they want (usually because they don’t know what they want “but I’ll know when I see it”), and if they’ve chosen an hourly rate, it costs them more.
I decided some time ago that there had to be a better way. So now I send a briefing form, which covers everything I want to know. It’s also great for forcing the potential client to have a think about what they’re trying to achieve, which makes the process go much more smoothly and vastly improves the end result.