Freelancing Skills: How to Structure a Deal

The first deal I ever did makes me smile whenever I think about it.

I was a brand new copywriter, but I wasn’t alone…

I had an amazing mentor.

And I was skilled at my job.

What I didn’t have yet, was a client.

So, I meet the nicest lady who ran her own business. She’d built that business on networking and amazing products… she sold cookbooks.

What she didn’t have was great copy.

And if she was going to take her business to the next level, she really needed good copy.

That’s when I showed up…

I talked to the biz owner. And I can tell we’d be a good fit. 

Then, I called my mentor.

Me: “What should I charge her?”

Him: “Whatever you feel comfortable with. Say the biggest number that feels right to you… and that you know you can deliver on. Then, stop talking.”

Me: “Okay, cool.”

Next day…

*on the phone with the mentor again*

Me (delighted with myself): “I quoted her $x.”

Him (noting the impossibly small pricetag): … 

*super long silence*

And that silence was my first hint that something had gone horribly wrong.

I wrote the best sales letter I could for that first client. And we went on to work together for the next 15 months at a brisk pace.

But I never made that pricing mistake again.

How did I work up the nerve to raise my prices?

I always remembered that long silence on the other end of my mentor’s phone.

He wasn’t upset or even disappointed… He was just quiet.

It’s not that often in life that you find someone who lets you take your own steps… doesn’t judge… but keeps being there to help and guide you.

When I started mentoring other writers, I swore I’d be exactly like that. And after all these years, I hope I’ve delivered on that promise.

What I Tell New Writers About How to Structure Deals

These days, I still give the same advice that my mentor gave me:

“When it’s time to quote your price… say the biggest number that feels right to you–that you know you can deliver on–then, stop talking.”

Beyond that, here are some quick tips I’ve learned along the way about how to structure deals:

  1. Remember, you’re working with a person who loves their business, but doesn’t understand yours. It’s your job to educate them on how you work and what your process is. Make sure you set out a step-by-step process with them about what they are responsible for, so that you can deliver your best work.
  2. Have a contract. Even if you never need to enforce it, having something in writing helps reinforce their understanding about the process and take you seriously as a professional.
  3. Take a deposit when the person books space on your calendar. Time is your only non-renewable resource, You can’t resell it. That’s why the deposit is important. My deposits are non-refundable for that same reason.
  4. Send invoices as soon as you reach the correct milestone… deliver the finished work, choose a hook/angle, or whatever it is. Don’t wait to send invoices. People tend to forget why they need to pay you, once the problem is solved and they’ve moved on. (It’s no one’s fault… it’s a quirk of brain science. People are driven by emotions. So, you need to get paid when the project is still top of mind for them.) 
  5. Be clear about what your deliverables are, so that you can avoid scope creep. It’s miserable when a simple project morphs into a 3-headed monster… for the same money… and the same impossibly short deadline. Put a note in your proposal and in your contract that says exactly what you’ll deliver and by what date. If the project changes, write up a new Scope of Work for your contract and send it to your client.
  6. If you write for royalties, make sure you’re clear about when they start and what the terms are. Be aware that most companies don’t understand how royalties work or how to track them. So I don’t usually have a royalty clause in my contract, for the sake of simplicity.
  7. Test the waters with a small project, before you take on their entire funnel. Not everyone is fun to work with. And sometimes, the product that you thought would be fun to write about turns out to be a dud. Even if you know for certain that you’d love to write their entire launch, funnel, etc., start with something small. 

For example, I once wrote an email that sold $220k from one mailing. From there, it was a no-brainer for the client to hire me to write their full launch, 2 years in a row. 

And it was an easy yes for me, because by that point, I knew the client was great and his product was solid. 


The back-to-back launches each did over $1.4M. Win-win!

What to do now: If you’d like to know more about how a former 9th grade Algebra teacher helps multi-million-dollar businesses increase sales with simple “teach for action” techniques, then go to

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply