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what comes first, copy or design

What comes first, copy or design? A copywriter’s point of view.


What comes first, copy or design? As a professional copywriter, this is basically my version of the old chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. I get this question all the time. That, and: Do I really have to pay for copy? I just invested a boatload into my web design! You may think this question makes me seethe, but actually, I love it!

For years, I’ve had a front-row seat to what happens when business owners invest in design without giving a second thought to their copywriting— and this info is too good to gatekeep. In this blog post, I’ll lay it all out for you! Keep reading to learn the definitive answer to the age-old question, does copy come before design? Plus, pick up a marketing tip or two. 

What comes first, copy or design?

Spoiler alert: Copy always comes first. And while you may think I’m biased (I’m a copywriter, after all) I have stats to back it up. Not only will putting copy first save you money in the long run, but it will help you develop an instant connection with your customer. In fact, is it me, or are you and I kind of vibing right now? 

Now, back to the bottom line. If you hire a website designer, they’ll work much (MUCH!) more quickly and efficiently if they have strong copy as a guide. Your copy is your money-saving north star. It will tell the designer how to structure the site, how to highlight the key aspects of your business, and how to design an online home for your business that is authentically you. And they’ll get that all through—you guessed it—copy. No endless meetings. No unnecessary back and forth. No staggering number of extra hours billed. 

Having a professionally written testament to your vibe, your services, and your unique positioning saves so much back-and-forth with the designer and lets your customers know exactly why they should choose you. Copy isn’t just words. It’s a strategy that will work tirelessly for you, 24/7, even when you’re on vacation (Who knows? I could be sipping a café au lait in Paris as you read this. 😉

Why Invest in Copy?

So, we’ve established it: Copy matters. But, do you really need a professional copywriter to do it? If that’s what you’re thinking, don’t worry! I’m not offended. But, I am going to be REALLY real with you. I can’t resist this opportunity to call out mistakes I see small business owners make all. The. time. Before we move on to the myth-busting portion of this blog post—and you should stick around for it, because it’s juicy— let’s talk about what kind of results you can get from copywriting. 

Most of my clients see an increase in inquiries at higher prices after working together. Because they are going through a major brand update, they typically increase their prices with the elevated copy and– with more inquiries pouring in– they make their investment back even faster.

I’ve had clients rank #1 for desired queries on Google, book more of their dreamiest clients, and overall just have more confidence in how they are portraying their business online. 

My clients typically only need to book 1 client to make back the investment of working with me. One of my clients even received 26 inquiries within 1 month of launching her copywriting. Talk about making back her investment! More info here about why you should invest in custom copywriting!

Now, let’s bust some myths. 

Myth No. 1: Designers can provide copy.

Though any designer should be clear with you up front, it’s generally understood that designers are not copywriters, and vice versa! Designers are total pros at crafting the look, the feel, the layout, and the aesthetic of a website. But copywriters, they are not. 

I don’t say this to stoke fear, but rather, just to say that when you don’t invest in copywriting, it puts a burden on your designer and it can even slow down the design process. Expecting them to help you with copy (not just the words but the layout of the text) is out of scope. It’s so much better to hire a pro to help you communicate your message and story beautifully. 

It’s often said that while design captivates, copy keeps your potential clients on the page– excited for what you offer and ready to reach out because they know you’re the right one for them!

When you hire a designer and a copywriter at the beginning of your project, we can often work together to make sure each element of your new website, from messaging and copywriting to SEO, branding, design, and launch are completely seamless.

Myth No. 2: I can use a templated website design and avoid paying for a professional copywriter.

This is another myth that sadly, leaves business owners feeling frustrated. (And without copy that converts.) Templated designs are brilliant for helping you decide where to put your copy and how to section it all out—but you still need that copy. 

Without having your copy in place, you’ll have a bunch of blank slots and nothing to fill them with. Plus, here’s a tip: a good copywriter can help you customize the copy for your template for greater flow and conversion. 

Here’s the deal: If the copy on your website don’t connect with your ideal client, all that design you invested in isn’t being used to its highest potential. In other words, you aren’t getting your best ROI. 

Myth No. 3: I can just do the design now and copy later.

Sadly, this isn’t true. If you are hiring a web designer to create a new website for you, customizing a website template, OR rebranding entirely, you do need the copy done BEFORE the design work can begin.

When your designer has the copy before they design, they can structure the website around the content, creating a guided and incredibly conversion-forward design that will work in attracting clients. If you rely on placeholders or copy that you know you’re going to change 6 months from now, you’ll end up doing twice the work (and probably twice the investment in design) to update your website later.

How to Write Copy for a Rebrand or Fresh New Web Design

So, what happens when it’s time for a rebrand? Even if your business is already up and running, you may want to introduce new services, glow up with a fresh look, or give your business a whole new vibe. In order to communicate your business’s new M.O. to prospective customers, you’re going to need — you guessed it!— copy. And professional copy, at that. 

While some business owners opt to write their own copy, working with a professional copywriter will help you get your thoughts in order, get them down on the page in a way that really flows, and — most importantly — put forth copy that converts! 

Professional copywriters such as myself have extensive training in the best conversion principles. And if you don’t have those in place, even the most beautifully crafted copy will (let’s face it) be pointless. Not only that, but all that money you invested in design will be fruitless. 

See, the point has never been to have *words* on your website. The point is to say something meaningful, to the point, and driven by both your clients’ needs and the heart of your business.

And this leads to my 🔥hot take. I’m just gonna say it: If you can afford to put $10,000 into design, you cannot afford to skimp on copywriting. (TL:DR investing in design without copywriting will render that beautiful design useless. Ouch!) 

How Do I Get Started With a Professional Copywriter?

I hope this post has been helpful in answering all those copywriting questions you always wanted to ask, but never did. What comes first, copy or design? Decidedly, the answer is copywriting.

Have more questions for a copywriter? Or, do you want to know how you can partner with one to help your business soar with copy that converts like gangbusters? Let’s talk. 

I’d love to help you hone your mission and your message, and word on the street is I’m kind of a brand-voice whisperer. Here’s a recent testimonial from one of my clients:

“Before working with The Literary Co, my business was in somewhat of a state of flux. I was in the messy middle of trying to refresh my website and services, update my brand messaging, etc, but I just couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say and express in a succinct way that I liked.

After working together, I feel a lot more confident in my brand message again! The copy encapsulates where I’m at within my business now and where I want to go in the not-too-distant future. Kayla really caught on to what makes me, me, and has been able to translate that into words that feel so aligned and that I’m excited to share.”

  • Dominique M.

Check out my services page to discover ways that we can work together! 

issued on

February 8, 2024

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