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How to write a brief and what to include

How to write a brief

Writing a thorough brief for a freelancer is one of the best things you can do during a project to make sure that you get the results you need.

Freelancers appreciate being given a detailed brief as it lets them understand exactly what is required from the project and what they need to deliver.

Having a detailed freelance brief is also great for the company making the hire, as briefs help make sure that the freelancer has the skills and experience to deliver on the job and that they are clear about delivering the project on time, on budget and to spec.

But what should you include in a freelance brief?

The specifics may change but the concepts are the same whether you’re briefing a freelance designer, freelance developer, freelance copywriter or other.

Use the guide below to create your own freelance brief and adapt for your project as necessary.

Project overview

Every project needs to start at the beginning and this is your chance to set the scene. Why are you starting this project? What’s the context for the project?

You may want to include some background on your organisation: the who, what, where and why of your business and whatever else might influence the freelancer’s approach to the project.

Business objectives

I’m a strong believer in tying any project to the success of the business. If a project isn’t furthering the business or organisational aims, then it will more likely be a lost project that doesn’t add value.

Define how the project helps your business from the start and the freelancer you hire will understand how they will make a bigger difference to your business.

Project objectives

Flowing under the business objectives are the aims of the project itself. The project overview and business objectives will have painted the bigger picture. This is the place to define exactly what you want the project to achieve.

You may want to include deliverables here that have to be achieved in order for the project to be completed. For example:

  • Achieve 5 sales leads per month
  • Gain $5,000 in product sales per week
  • Generate 10,000 unique visitors per month

The more specific you can make each objective, tied to a particular length of time, the easier it will be to measure the success of the project.

Audience

There are a few basic questions you can put in place that will help narrow down who the project is for. Who is the project aimed at? What economic group do they belong in (ABC1, etc)? How old are they? Male or female? Profession?

You can even go a step further and create user personas for each audience section, which defines things such as what their individual needs from the project are, what they go online for, what device they’ll use to go online, what magazine they read, films they like, food they eat, area of the country they live in, car they drive – the list could go on!

The more specific you get, the better the freelancer will be able to tailor the project towards that audience.

Messaging

A nice suggestion from Sean Fleming here, from comments about this post on Facebook:

“If I were to make one small suggestion it’d be to include “what’s the single-minded message for this campaign/project? It could form part of the objectives section, or be a separate section.”

Examples

Is there any existing work that you can point people towards?

For example, there may be a website or two that you really like and would want the freelancer to achieve a similar site for your company.

Or there might be some company logos and branding that you think would suit your organisation.

Even if you only have one or two examples, giving your freelancer an indication of the kind of work you like will help them complete the project with what you had in mind.

Deliverables

What does the freelancers absolutely have to deliver as part of the project? These are the minimum requirements that will be completed as part of the project, but whatever else comes on top of this will be dependent on time and budget left after this work is finished.

For example:

  • A Wordpress website with customised theme and e-commerce solution
  • A complete social media strategy for Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • An 8-page A4 colour brochure with full copy and pictures

Measurement

You may have project objectives but how will you know if they’ve been achieved? In the measurement section of the freelance brief, make sure you give specific, achievable goals.

For example, for a web site project, this may be the increased number of visitors to a website, the increased value of purchases per user or the number of sales leads generated.

Timelines

You’ll want to put a timeframe on the project, even if it’s a general guide as a minimum.

Do you need the project delivered by a certain time? Put that don as a starter.

Breaking down the project further into milestones will help you and the freelancer agree on what is achievable in what time.

Agreeing a set of milestones also means that you can get work delivered in stage, which helps avoid any big surprises coming at the end of a project.

Needless to say, the more time you give to a project, the more it will likely be delivered to a higher quality or to budget.

Budget

An indication of budget is essential. Even if you’re unsure of what budget to give to a project, putting down a ball park figure will allow the freelance to respond appropriately and discuss how the project could work – or push back if you’re estimates are way out.

Even if helps put your mind at ease, ask the freelancer to break down their budgets line by line – accounting for each part of the project. This gives you more detail to work with and makes it easier to ask questions about what they’re charging you for each part of the project.

These are the main headlines I like to see when receiving a brief and I’ve advised others to do the same. Is there anything you like to add when writing a freelance brief?
Want more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox:

Ben Matthews

Ben Matthews is a digital marketing consultant specialising in tech, media and charity sectors.

https://benrmatthews.com/

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