How to set your contractor up for success with a killer brief (and how to write one)

June 5, 2018
5 minutes read

When you’re outsourcing an important project, communication is key to getting it right. If your contractor misunderstands the deliverables or the expectations, then you could land in a scenario where you’re redoing the whole project yourself.

One of the best ways to set your contractor (and yourself) up for success when delegating a project is to create a brief that outlines the project’s goals, timelines, deliverables, and other specifics on the scope of work. While creating this kind of document can take some time and effort upfront, communicating all your expectations before your contractor begins work can save you some stress downstream.

If you’ve never created a brief before, don’t worry—it’s not as difficult as it might sound. Here, we’ll outline the benefits of a brief, highlight two different types, and explain how to construct one yourself (no writing degree required).

What is a brief?

Boiled down to its core purpose, a brief outlines the work to be completed for a particular project.

A brief could include details for a marketing campaign, a product launch, a writing assignment, a web design project, or many other projects you might need to outsource.

This kind of all-in-one summary is meant to keep everyone working on a project on the same page—everyone is in the loop, understands the goals, and is aware of important milestones and timelines. That includes you, your contractor, and even your clients. When everyone is on the same page before a project begins, it’s easier to ensure you meet the needs of your clients and that the contractor completing the work gets it right the first time around.

Types of briefs

While briefs can take on a number of different iterations, there are two common types of briefs business owners should be aware of: creative and project briefs.

While the two are similar and even contain many of the same sections, there are a few key differences. So, let’s break down the components of each.

Creative brief

As the name implies, a creative brief outlines the strategies and details of creative projects. That could encompass designing a website, creating a new logo, or writing copy for a whitepaper, for example.

The key elements that are unique to a creative brief include:

  • An overview of a creative task to be completed
  • The aesthetic/design elements to consider
  • How the creative strategy will solve a business problem
  • Examples of similar work or inspiration

Because creative briefs are less technical in nature, they often require more collaboration between you and your client. Creative strategies are more arbitrary in nature, and so you’ll need to communicate well to ensure the brief aligns well with the client’s vision.

Project brief

Project briefs tend to fall on the other end of the spectrum. While creative briefs outline creative solutions to a problem, project briefs highlight a process, tool, or product needed to resolve an issue. For example, you’d create a project brief for a client that needed an app developed or to create a new user backend for a website.

Some of the differentiating factors for project briefs include:

  • Supports a new product or process build
  • Outlines more technical processes and workflows
  • Captures the scope of work, timelines, and budget

Because they’re more technical in nature, project briefs are particularly useful when you’re creating a new product or process your company typically doesn’t use because it helps to put all the details down in a project brief to give everyone involved the same reference point to work from.

How to write a brief

While compiling these details may sounds overwhelming, we’ll walk you through the process of putting together all those critical details into a single document. Just follow these steps to create a killer brief that’ll keep you and your contractor on the same page.

Just a quick note: If you’re completing this project for an external client, you’ll need to collaborate with them to ensure your vision of the project is aligned with theirs.

Establish your goals

Before you start writing, make sure you have a strong grasp of what you want to achieve. How will this project or assignment move your business forward? What problem is the project meant to solve?

In addition to nailing down your goals, establish some success metrics as well. How will you know if this project has achieved its primary goal? What are the key performance indicators (think clicks, downloads, impressions, page views, etc.).

Identify the target audience

Next, establish who this project will ultimately serve. Who is the customer in this scenario? Is the project a marketing campaign meant to capture the attention of new clients? Or maybe it’s an email drip campaign to reactivate old customers?

Regardless of the project, you need to understand who you’re talking to. So, define the target audience or persona—figure out who exactly has the problem you’re trying to solve and you can better understand how to solve it.

Define how the project solves the problem

Remember that problem we talked about in the goals section? Now, think about how this project is meant to solve that problem. How does this new product or campaign meet the need of the target audience/customer?

Define this in crystal clear language—this isn’t the place to be flowery. Keep the positioning of your project simple. If your answer here is complex, you’re more likely to muddle your message and confuse your contractor.

Outline all the stakeholders

This is a brief section where you simply list all the people involved in the project and their responsibilities. This is particularly helpful for complex projects with multiple people working on them at once.

Defining everyone’s responsibilities here helps your contractor know who to talk to for specific deliverables and helps prevent bottlenecks.

Compile all deliverables

This is where you list out all the assets you and your contractor will need to complete the project. Do you need to create a high-resolution logo? Or put together a wireframe for a customer website?

Whatever deliverables are attached to this project, here is where you define them. Add any relevant details (like whether the client wants a large or small logo or whether to use a specific color palette).

Specify the numbers

Don’t forget some of the most important details: the numbers driving your project.

Those include:

  • Timelines: Milestone dates, schedules for deliverables, soft and hard deadlines
  • Budget: What is the investment, with a breakdown of how those resources will be divided up

Moving forward with creating killer briefs

Now that you have a deeper understanding of how to create a brief, you can help prevent a breakdown in communication between you and your contractor.

Whether it’s a project brief or a creative brief, these are the building blocks to create a strong working relationship with your contractor and set them (and your business) up for success.

Need a little extra help creating your brief? Check out these handy brief templates from project management tool Casual.

By Lindsey Peacock

The information and tips shared on this blog are meant to be used as learning and personal development tools as you launch, run and grow your business. While a good place to start, these articles should not take the place of personalized advice from professionals. As our lawyers would say: “All content on Wave’s blog is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be considered legal or financial advice.” Additionally, Wave is the legal copyright holder of all materials on the blog, and others cannot re-use or publish it without our written consent.

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