How long should copywriting take?

This is a common question, especially among newer copywriters who may be feeling overwhelmed with how long the copywriting process is taking (and feeling self conscious with clients, as a result).

They wonder: Am I taking too long? Am I writing enough? What is a normal time to spend on copywriting (vs everything else)?

While this can vary depending on the person and situation, I follow a very simple 25% rule when it comes to copywriting — and it can be used by anyone, regardless of their copywriting experience.

Annie’s 25% rule of copywriting:

  • Internal Research – 25%
  • External Research – 25%
  • Structure / Information Architecture – 25%
  • Copywriting / Editing – 25%

As you can see, the rule breaks down the copywriting process into 4 steps with an equal amount of time for each phase.

For example, if you scope 100 hours for a project, you would spend 25 hours per each of the 4 phases.

This is something I’ve honed over 10+ years of working as a copywriter with 100+ clients including L’Oreal, The Honeypot Co, Keeps, Under Armour, Smirnoff, Chloe’s Fruit & many others.

Here’s how it works in practice:

1. Internal Research – 25% 

This first step is to get clarity around:

✓ The business (goals, processes, etc)

✓ The brand (personality, tone of voice, etc)

✓ The product (features, benefits, differentiators, etc)

✓ The customers (demographics, goals, pain points, etc)

✓ The competitors (who they are, rank them, etc)

✓ Language (how the client describes the product, processes, etc)

This step typically involves the client filling out an in-take form (or Discovery Questionnaire) and stakeholder interviews – and usually takes about ¼ of the total project time.

2. External Research – 25% 

This step is to validate (or challenge) everything you learned during the internal research phase while gathering fresh insights that will help influence the structure & copy.

This typically involves review mining, customer surveys, customer interviews, competitive analyses, and site audits – and then analyzing the insights into a clear, cohesive document you can refer back to later.

This process usually takes at least ¼ of the total project time (sometimes more depending on the situation).

3. Structure / Information Architecture – 25% 

This step is to translate all of the internal and external research into a structure that will help the client and the target audience achieve their goals.

If you’re working on a website, you’re creating the Information Architecture (or “IA”)

✓ If you’re working on an email campaign, you’re mapping out the content / flow / schedule

✓ If you’re working on a content strategy, you’re creating content pillars and cadence

This step usually takes ¼ of the time (sometimes less) because you’re really just arranging the “puzzle pieces” you already have from the previous 2 steps.

4. Copywriting / Editing – 25% 

Finally, it’s time to fill out your structure (i.e. IA, email sequence, etc) with copy.

Similar to the previous stage, copywriting tends to be quick because you’ve already done so much of the pre work.

All you have to do is look at your structure (which should indicate what kind of content should go where), return to your research insights (which should be in a clear, easy-to-follow doc), and WRITE!

In general, this phase should take about 25% of your time, though it can be more if you get a lot of feedback and need to edit a bunch.

If this is the phase you get stuck on, check out my tips for how to speed up the copywriting process.

Keep in mind, everyone’s process is different – and the 25% rule may not apply to every situation

Sometimes you spend 10% on internal research, 40% on external research, 20% on IA, and 30% on copy.

It all depends on the situation, the output of each phase, and the processes of those involved.

Sometimes I get so much research data, I spend WAY too much time analyzing it; other times I have to hunt for insights, and that takes time, too.

Occasionally a client might have a lot of feedback and I have to spend more time editing than expected (another reason to do your research FIRST – it usually means fewer edits later on).

All this being said, if you’re looking for general benchmarks (so you don’t get carried away with research or spend all your time on a single phase) try my 25% rule.

What about you?

Do you allot a certain amount of time for each task or do you just go for it and hope it works out?

Neither approach is wrong – comment below and tell me what works best for you!

Thanks for reading; if you found this article helpful, please share with a friend. 🩷


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