Onboarding new clients as a freelance writer can be a tedious process, mainly because it can take a few tries to find the brand’s voice and style. My way of reducing this struggle is to always make a business summary the first deliverable I write for every single client.
A business summary is a short document describing basic information of the who, what, and why of the company. It includes information like a mission statement, value proposition, brand pillars and even an elevator pitch.
Why start a client relationship with a business summary?
I answer this question in one of my other posts about onboarding new clients with business summaries, but here’s the gist:
- Business summaries increase customer retention
- Business summaries make writing for clients easier, faster, and better
- Business summaries create new revenue opportunities
- Business summaries make writing more satisfying
Writing a business summary is especially important if you’re ghostwriting for a client, since it allows you to document the client’s voice and style.
Here’s Writing Grid’s business summary, if you’re curious to see what a basic one looks like. Notice that a business summary doesn’t have to be anything fancy. But it will be one of the most important pieces you ever make for a client.
Use the below tips, formulas, references, and examples to create your own business summary, expedite client onboarding, and show your clients you’re invested in representing their brand.
You may not need to include all of the below in every business summary. Feel free to mix and match.
1. Mission Statement
A mission statement states in simple terms the objectives of a company. As a freelance writer, it’s very important for you to know what your client’s overall objectives are. The content you create in the future will need to echo that overall mission.
Look at Amazon’s mission statement:
To be the most customer-centric company in the world, where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online.
This mission statement is a traditional example, starting the statement with an infinitive verb, focusing on action. In your mission statement, try to capture what your client’s objectives are.
In this portion of the business summary, you want to capture the big picture of why your client’s company exists. Why them? Why now? Tell their story. Here’s a fantastic example from Airbnb (check out the section under the heading “Belonging”).
Building a story will require you to invoke your inner journalist. Have an interview call with your client. Dig deep get to the essence of “why.”
3. Target Audience
Knowing your client’s target audience will make an enormous difference in helping you speak for the brand. Outline in as much detail their target audience. As an example, here is our own description of an ideal reader:
Writing Grid’s Audience
Freelance copywriter/content writer. 3+ years experience, has an established machine for producing content, though it may not be 100% organized. Spends lots of time performing admin, with not enough time for writing. Part- to full-time freelancer, putting in 15+ hours weekly as a freelance writer.
4. Value Proposition
A value proposition is a statement of the main benefit or value you (or rather, your client) has to offer. The value of the company could be multi-faceted (for example, maybe a company offers superior quality while also working with sustainable resources). I would say this is one of the most important pieces of the business summary, since variations of it show up in in both web copy and long-form content.
Here’s a good example from WorkBubble:
Our behavioral and personality assessments take the guesswork out of hiring.
5. Brand Pillars
Brand pillars are stand-alone words or phrases to uncover the character of the brand. Usually nouns, these words capture defining characteristics, activities, or objectives of the brand. You can ask your client if they have any thoughts on this, or you can throw some ideas at them to see what they think.
Here’s an example of ObservePoint’s brand pillars:
6. Elevator Pitch
If you had to describe the key components of a company in 30 seconds, what key points would you include? How would you grab a listener’s attention? More than just summarizing what the company does (that’s what the Overview section is for), the goal of the elevator pitch is to catch the listener’s ear and leave them wanting to learn more.
The main components you will want to include in an elevator pitch are:
- Company name
- Target audience
- Unique selling proposition (USP)
- Call to action
Slidebean gives 10 tips and examples for crafting a great elevator pitch.
An overview is different from an elevator pitch in that the content is informational, not necessarily meant to pitch the brand.
The company overview outlines key points about a company, namely what they do, how they do it and why (or the result). I usually break the overview into three sections based on these three points:
What we do
Writing Grid offers tips and, in the future, solutions to eliminate administrative tasks keeping business writers from exercising their craft.
How we do it
The Writing Grid blog serves as a space where freelance writers can share their insights on how to increase writing productivity. In addition, Writing Grid’s technology roadmap lays out a plan to automate administrative tasks for freelance business writers, one need at a time.
Writing Grid’s insights and solutions will cut the time freelancers spend managing and acquiring clients, and give freelancers more time to serve those clients.
The outdoor clothing brand Cotopaxi has a great example of a company overview on their site.
Other Items You Could Include
Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition states how a company differs, excels, or exceeds in a given area. The USP is about communicating the principal value a company provides to a customer, better than the competition.
I like the 2-part USP formula from Scale to Success, where you pair a benefit and control.
Iterating on a Business Summary
Let’s bring this full circle: The first piece you write for a new client usually goes through the most edits of any piece you do for that same client. That’s because you’re trying to find the distinct voice and style of your customer — it’s going to take a few tries. But even if you finally get to where the client is satisfied, it still may be a bit ambiguous exactly what you did to make them satisfied.
A business summary allows you to codify brand voice. So instead of an ambiguous brand identity floating in an amorphous mental cloud, you’ll have a concrete brand document to refer to.
Try starting with a business summary with your next new customer, and leave a comment below telling us how it worked out!