How I work

Here’s how I work with clients. Starting with the freelance writer problems I solve for you. Then onto fees, frequently asked questions, and my Four Steps to Getting the Writing You Want that will chart our course to success...

It’s scary hiring a writer you’ve never worked with, right?

To ease your mind, here are Seven Excruciating Freelance Writer Problems I Solve for You. Of course, the message is that this is *not* how I work...

If you'd rather go to one topic right away, take your pick: fees, Four Steps to Getting the Writing You Want, where I'll spend my time on your writing project, frequently asked questions.

By the way, I live an hour east of Toronto, Canada. But I work with clients internationally. Technology rocks.

1. Writers who don’t answer your emails

Nothing is more frustrating than working with someone who doesn’t get back to you. As my client, you are my priority. I will never leave you hanging in a void of silence – ever.

2. Writers with inflated (or sensitive) egos

I’m not a “rock star copywriter”. And I’m no sensitive snowflake. Let’s put it this way. Since 2006, I’ve worked successfully in the exacting plain language industry. I’ve developed an obsession for detail and a thick skin. When I work on your project, I focus on delivering what you’re paying for – not protecting my ego.

3. Writers who don’t listen

I cut my teeth writing in the professional benefit consulting world. To keep my job, I’ve had to keep track of a truckload of technical details. So whenever we chat, you can assume I’m always taking notes. And if I have questions, it’s up to me to ask. That’s what you’re paying me for.

4. Writers who don’t write in your voice

You’re in business. You may have cultivated your voice. One that your customers recognize. A freelance writer must be able to nail your voice. Or help you decide how to evolve it. And if a writer you work with can’t do one of these things… they need to tell you, so you can move on.

5. Writers who deliver late

A few years ago, I planned a ten-hour drive to visit a friend in Cincinnati. I arrived within ten minutes of when I said I would. My friend was stunned. But for me, it was about the planning. I deliver when I say I will – period. And I have been known to surprise clients, before the deadline. I’m sneaky that way.

6. Writers who give you messy drafts

When you get full draft copy that’s riddled with typos and errors, it’s frustrating beyond belief. Sure, I may give you a rough draft to test an idea before I wander too far down a road. That can be part of the process. But that first full draft? It will be clean enough to eat.

7. Writers who blast through your budget

It’s one thing if we agree to a change in the work. That’s a change in scope and it happens (we’ll deal with it). But if the project unfolds as planned, I assure you: there will be no surprises when you get your final invoice. And Excruciating Freelance Copywriter Problem #8...

8. Direct response copywriters who don’t deliver direct response copy

You know, I’ve unraveled forms, applications and legal contracts. I’ve written optimized web sites. Heck, I've written sensory fiction that brings readers to tears (that’s a whole other story).

So believe me when I say: I get that direct response copywriting is different.

I'm an AWAI Verified copywriter (click on the link to see what this means). Briefly, it means that I've learned the ins and outs of writing direct response copy.

Am I a Million Dollar Guru with Ninety-Seven Books?

Nope. At least, not yet. But I bet I study those folks you’re thinking about.

Bottom line? If you're a digital or direct marketer. And you hire me to write direct response copy – that’s what you’ll get.


Okay, that was fun. Good so far?
Onward to more practical stuff...

Four Steps to Getting the Writing You Want

After two decades of professional writing and consulting, I've learned a few things. Like how writing projects go off the rails. And how to keep them on track.

  1. Deciding if I'm a fit

    To get started, you'd fill out the form on my contact me page. If I think I can help, I’ll be in touch to set up a low pressure, no obligation chat. If not, I’ll let you know pronto.

  2. Agreeing on how we'll work together

    Through one or more calls, we'll figure out what you need and how we’ll work together. I’ll then send you an email with my work agreement, confirming:

    • Your objectives and a description of the work I'll do for you
    • Exactly what I’ll deliver to you, how and when
    • How much it’ll cost, and your options for payments
    • What happens if there are delays, additional revisions and other project issues that could come up
    • A request that we both agree, sign or confirm by email.

    If we veer off “the plan”, I’ll quickly let you know so we can deal with it. Scope creep happens.

  3. Agreeing on the fees

    Understandably, you have questions about my fees. Put it this way.

    When I was a full-time consultant, I was charged out at $320 an hour. Today, that figure would be higher.

    Now, don’t worry. I don’t charge nearly that much! My rates aren't rock star rates.

    But they're in the upper 20% of the typical market rates for direct response copywriting. For plain language work, it’ll vary depending on the complexity of your document.

    Have you worked with agencies or consulting firms before? If so, I think you'll find me reasonable.

    My fee structure

    I have a rock solid “no surprises” policy around fees, which I hope you’ll find reassuring. In short: I work the way you want to work with copywriters.

    • Flat project fee when the deliverable is clear. If not, we can price it out in steps.
    • Project fee, plus a royalty such as a percentage of revenue, or increase in revenue.
    • Monthly retainer if you have ongoing work. This might also include a royalty.

    If we work together, I promise: you will never be shocked by an invoice from me. When we agree on a number, that’s the number.

  4. Creating your copy in three drafts to final

    The key to success in any freelance writing project is a combination of creativity and efficiency. Different types of projects may require different steps. But here’s an example so you have a a sense of how I work.

    1. You sending me Research and Background Materials, and me diving in and making notes.
    2. A Discovery call to confirm your objectives, and ask questions if needed.
    3. Me creating Big Ideas for your direct response package, or a proposed structure for your plain language project.
    4. A Concept call to share my ideas and get your agreement before I dive in, if needed.
    5. Me hunkering down and Writing and sending your first draft to you on or before the date I promised (with a few headline choices for direct marketers).
    6. You sending me Feedback or Approval.
    7. Me Tweaking your copy, for up to two more drafts. This would also be the stage that I’d do any SEO optimization needed if you hired me for that.
    8. And if you hired me to, me working with the designer or web programmer to get your copy in Layout ready to go.


Where I’ll spend my time on your writing project

When I begin working on your writing project, I don’t just sit down and write.

To give you a sense of what it takes, here’s a breakdown. This isn’t an entirely linear process by the way. I’ve just organized it that way, so you can easily see how I work. And get ideas on how to work with a freelance writer.

The important thing to remember is this: if we get the early steps right, the later ones are much easier.

Simplify and Sell
Direct response copywriting
Just Simplify
Plain language writing
40% – Fuel for the Fire Research

This is the groundwork that will fuel your entire promotion.

This step might include:

  • Researching your competitors and your industry
  • Interviewing you, your team, sales people or key customers
  • Creating a profile of your best customer and the people on the list or lists you’ll be using
  • Reviewing your marketing materials, web site, past promotions and their results
  • Pulling together truthful and credible proof like testimonials, case studies or other performance measures.
15% – Deep Dive Discovery

This is me diving deep into your document, so I can understand it well enough to simplify it.

This step might include:

  • Discovery meeting to help me understand your document and where it fits in your organization
  • Pouring through your document and background materials, compiling my questions
  • In some cases, creating an assessment report to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses
  • Calls with your technical team, to answer questions.
20% – Big Idea Brainstorm

This is the thinking that will create the Big Idea we’ll build your promotion around.

This step might include:

  • Coming up with two to three Big Ideas for you to consider
  • Writing a number of headlines and leads (opening statements) to consider
  • Discussing the options with you, and my recommendation
  • Fleshing out the most credible proof to use for your promotion.
15% – Charting the Course

This proposes a structure or solution to simplify your document.

This step might include:

  • Checking out what your competitors are doing
  • Writing a detailed structure to show the flow of your simplified document, with notes
  • A meeting to present the structure, and updating it based on your feedback.

I’d encourage you to get your legal folks involved at this stage, so we know about sensitive issues in advance.

20% – Creating the Main Ingredients

This creates the Main Ingredients for your promotion.

This step might include:

  • Mining the most valuable customer benefits (answering “why should I care”)
  • Creating emotionally compelling and credible customer promises
  • Writing a super-detailed list of product features
  • Finalizing your offer, pricing, bonuses, and guarantee.
40% – Hunkering Down Writing

This is writing your first full draft, based on your approved structure.

This step might include:

  • Me asking additional questions as they come up
  • Calls with technical experts to answer my questions
  • Reviewing the first full draft in design.

At the same time, you may have been working with a designer for the "look and feel". I might be involved in the design, or not.

20% – Writing a First Draft that Flows

This pulls all the Main Ingredients together in a first draft:

  • Simple, conversational, sensory copy that gets and keeps the attention of your best customer
  • Presenting your product or service honestly - and in its best light
  • Weaving in credible promises, benefits, features and proof
  • Clearly and directly asking for the sale.
10% – Big Reveal of First Draft

This is an exciting step, where you'll see your first draft (possibly in design) for the very first time.

This step might include:

  • A meeting to present your beautifully simplified document

This is a critical step, where your legal and technical folks will need to wake up their Inner Perfectionist... and do a line-by-line review.

10% – Revisions (three drafts to final)

This step might include:

  • Editing, correcting and polishing based on your feedback
  • Working with the designer, if you’ve hired me to.
20% – Revisions (three drafts to final)

This step might include:

  • Editing, correcting and polishing based on your feedback
  • Working with the designer, if you've hired me to.


Other fair and frequently asked questions about how I work

How long do I need to deliver your writing project?

For sales or direct response copywriting projects, please allow three to four weeks from the day you make your deposit.

For plain language projects, please allow for four weeks to a few months from the day you make your deposit. Timing depends on the complexity of your document, and the number of people involved in approvals.

If you're a plain language consultant or agency, you tell me. And I'l confirm quickly I can do it.

Will I sign a confidentiality agreement?

Yes, absolutely.

How do I handle revisions?

You get up to two rounds of revisions to your full first draft free of charge, with the following conditions:

  • Your revisions must be based on the work we agreed on, and
  • You must give them to me within 30 days of me sending you the full first draft.

If you do need more than three drafts. Or you can't get me your revisions until after 30 days, it’s no problem. We’ll just negotiate the fees and a new work agreement. Then I’ll be happy to get it done!

In the unlikely situation where you cancel your project or put it on hold after I've already done alot of work on it, I may apply a kill fee from 50% up to 75% of the total project fee.

Do I guarantee results?

Digital and direct marketing rules prevent me from guaranteeing results for direct response copy. And respectfully, there are many factors that make a project successful.

If you’re a pro direct marketer, I expect that you’ll test the copy I create for you. Maybe even put it up against your control, or another copywriter. That's cool. When I create your copy, I'll give it my all.

And your results may also be due to the following:

  • Your products and offers
  • Your pricing
  • The list or lists you used
  • Your competition
  • Trends in your market
  • Demand and supply in your niche
  • Consumer preferences, or
  • Events, or campaigns going on at the same time.

If you’re a plain language client, you may decide to do user testing with customers or advisors. I think that would be great! I'll do my very best to create content that's crystal clear.

And depending on the questions you ask, your results may also be affected by:

  • Your customer service
  • Your processes that affect business relationships
  • Edits you do in-house (that aren't in plain language)
  • Your IT or software systems, or
  • The people managing your customer relationships.

Long way of saying. No, I do not promise and cannot guarantee specific results.

But I do guarantee that I'll write the strongest content I'm capable of. And work with you until you’re satisfied with your copy.

Will I travel to you?

I live an hour east of Toronto, Canada. For some freelance writing projects, I’d be open to travelling to your office. If we agree that I should be there in person, I’d ask you to pay for travel expenses, including a reasonable fee for longer travel times. By the way, I do most of my client work very successfully via Skype.

If it's convenient for you, you can also come to me in Toronto. I have access to some lovely, fully-equipped meeting rooms at the Verity Club right downtown where I’m a member.

Who owns the copy I’m creating for you?

While I'm working on it, I own the copyright and other rights. Once you pay for it in full, the rights transfer to you. So you won't have the right to use the copy I write for you until it's paid for in full. To be honest, I’ve never had any problems with a client not paying me. I work with fantastic, professional people. But just so you know, I do spell this out clearly in my work agreement. Nuff said.

If you decide not to pay me

I’m a freelance writer. This is how I eat.

If you do not pay me for work I have completed in good faith according to our approved work agreement, I reserve the right to tell the world the truth about you in any way I choose.

I'll be honest with you. In my dozen years of working freelance, I’ve only worked with good people. So I don’t think this’ll ever happen.

But! This is the first time I’m promoting myself on the wild web. So I’m spelling it out in advance.

Do I do "spec" work?

Short answer: no. However, I do get that I'll need to prove myself. So I'm willing to do a number of things to help you get comfortable with me. Like start with a small assignment, at a flat fee. Break your larger project up into shorter steps, so you can walk at any stage.

Put it this way. My favourite client work is long-term. This way, we can get into a familiar, productive groove. And have some fun, too.

So if we're a good fit, yes I'll want to earn your trust. But no, I don't work for free.

My biggest failure as a freelance writer and consultant

I’ll tell you some secrets about me. My biggest failure in how I work is being overly-responsible. And a bit cautious. This means that I don’t take on work I can’t do a good job on. And at times, I under-promise and over deliver.

So what am I really like to work with?

Well, if you’re going to hire me you need to know three more things:

  • I’m a naturally responsive, helpful person
  • I'm calm in the eye of a storm, and
  • I have absolutely no sense of humour whatsoever...


Not ready to reach out? I get it.

Consider signing up at my home page. That way, I won't fall off your radar. And you'll be politely notified when I have more to share.