I based these FAQs on some of the common questions I’ve received from prospective clients about my policies for over 20 years. Like the “What I Don’t Offer” page, I wrote them to help you determine both whether I’m a fit for your organization and how I work as a professional. You can review “The Thrive Business Engagement Process” for a shorter version of some of these policies, but that doesn’t include the information that’s available here about payment or contracts.
Search tip: Hold “Ctrl+F” on your PC or “Command+F” on your Mac and enter your search term to find quick answers to questions most relevant to you.
Obviously, you’re free only to read what applies to you and your organization and skip the rest. Keep in mind as you read, however, that I rarely make exceptions to these policies, especially since they are not unique from those most professional service providers implement. Declining to do so also protects us both legally.
If we can work together within these policies, I look forward to hearing from you about your strategic content writing project.
An Overview of Working With Me
What makes you unique from many strategic digital content communications consultants?
Besides being an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur, my priority is professionalism and client focus in an industry where solo consultants are reputed to be unpredictable and unreliable as well as poor at meeting deadlines and budgets. My work ethic is well-established, I am organized, professional, team-oriented and deadline focused.
I’m a planner who uses specific tools and strategies to work as expertly with my clients as possible. I’m not a “freelancer”; I’m a communications consultant with an established set of business practices who operates with the highest standard of integrity. In fact, I have a well-known reputation for trustworthiness, reliability, and excellence as a solo communications practitioner.
Accordingly, I relate well to executives, talent and marketing managers and editors and deliver results that help you increase your brand value. I do it on time, on budget and without micro-managing by you. I become a partner with your marketing team, representing your management and clients well. My job is to make your work life less complicated.
I believe ours can be an enjoyable relationship that removes one more stressor from your life—worrying about whether that critical project that you’ve been working on for a while will get completed on deadline no matter when you brought me on to help you finish the work. I try to make your decision to contract with me for your project one of the best you’ve made and have had numerous clients say precisely that over the last 20 years.
Do you do media placement?
If you mean by "media placement," your paying me to use my influence as a journalist to get paid to place stories about you in major media under my byline, no. Because that’s unethical, I do not offer paid media placement as a service. Moreover, if a story source later hires me as a communications consultant in any capacity, I cannot use them again as a source for any bylined story I write for any publication or website. Similarly, I don’t offer to write complete articles or posts and put your byline on my words.
Though commonly considered “ghostwriting,” there is a fine line between significantly editing a piece for publication under your name (rather than your brand’s) and plagiarism. I won’t help you cross that line and cause you multiple problems you don’t need. I offer all of my services under the highest ethical standards to maintain absolute integrity and, just as you would, I must decline any offer to provide services that to do not meet that standard.
Will you add links from our brand's content to your blog?
I'm open to limited paid affiliate link opportunities but only from major brands of the caliber you see in my writing portfolio or other client work pages. I will identify any affiliate links and relationships as such because I'm committed to ethical communications and transparency with site visitors.
We'll discuss exactly how we'll achieve mutually beneficial goals with this marketing activity and put an agreement in writing.
For what sizes and types of organizations do you provide strategic digital messaging services?
I only provide my services to thriving—high growth or established—wealth industry organizations regardless of size. I work best with those that understand the value a professional corporate communications advisor and strategic content writing consultant adds to their marketing initiatives. My clients have established content marketing programs that may only need some minor refinement to provide a more precise editorial content perspective.
Ideal clients have a professional marketing team that understands, has experience working with and provides strong internal support for professional communications consulting activities, including writing.
They also tend to have ongoing content needs rather than one-off projects (though I can consider those as part of a content package, in particular for the first project) and the financial resources to support their initiatives.
I work with primarily top news outlets and blogs, digital marketing agencies, content marketing platforms, corporate brands, and high-growth small companies. In addition to offering communications marketing strategy assistance for wealth industry clients, I write content in particular finance niches, including commercial and personal finance, business and property insurance, residential real estate, business operations and development targeting affluent, wealth-focused audiences.
Again, these are well-established businesses with existing content marketing plans into which they integrate my services as a remote strategic digital content communications consultant.
Clients are primarily in the United States, but I have them in Australia, too, and have additional global experience. So, I can work with any client on the globe that speaks English with laws, customs and business practices substantially similar to those in the U.S.
Don’t you provide complete proposals, project briefs, or statements of work?
While I offer proposal writing as a paid consulting service, I no longer write proposals, lengthy statements of work or project briefs for prospective clients in the private sector.
Instead, to get a full idea of what I can offer your organization, rather than providing a lengthy proposal that gives a limited strategy, you can invest in my paid ThriveNow! Discovery ProjectSM from which you’ll get my ThriveNow! BlueprintSM.
Clients have agreed that this service model is the most cost-effective and productive way to meet their needs. To learn more about my process, visit “The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process” by clicking the "Learn More" button below.
Do you offer introductory meetings or complimentary presentations to prospective clients?
I consider pre-engagement meetings, online or face-to-face presentations outside of my business engagement process or virtual or in-person meetings consulting time. In all cases, I charge for a minimum of two hours of time, plus travel, depending on your location. I rarely go outside of the Washington, DC area for meetings but can consider it if all expenses are paid (in advance) by the client.
Learn more about on “The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process” page by clicking the "Learn More" button below.
Will you take an unpaid writing test or do spec work?
No. I do not take uncompensated writing tests or provide spec work. My website, blog content and many writing samples, as well as my many years of experience, show my ability to write any content in my niche areas. But, I will consider taking a paid writing test upon request.
My rate for that test is charged by the hour with a minimum of two hours charged, in advance, for the test. I also can accept your full article rate for editorial content, and we agree on which fee you will pay before I start your project. Finally, I consider paid journalism work, too.
What level of ongoing participation do you require from us once we do engage your services?
We get the best outcomes if we work collaboratively after we execute the engagement agreement. So, after the onboarding process and throughout our engagement, to get the best results for you, I will need designated account managers or other personnel assigned to my project with your organization.
I also will need to keep in regular contact with you or your designated team members to get additional information, updates, and feedback. Often, we will have scheduled phone calls or meetings.
Who is your preferred point of contact in my company?
When I'm working with retainer clients, I prefer to work directly with decision-makers: executive-level personnel like marketing VP’s and managers, communications directors or their appointed staff.
But, I always work with or have direct access to the decision-makers in the organization throughout our engagement. That's because when I’m on a monthly retainer with an enterprise, then I find that having monthly check-in meetings (if you’re local) or phone calls with the decision makers is imperative to make the engagement a success.
When I'm working with an agency, I expect to work with managers with immediate access to final decision makers. Otherwise, I find work gets slowed to a crawl as my questions climb the chain of command for an answer, particularly with multinational organizations. You are investing too much in my services for delays like this to occur.
So, having key management personnel assigned to work with consultants like me as most enterprise-level firms do is ideal for getting the best outcomes from our project.
Do you offer a guarantee or that we will receive guaranteed ROI or outcomes with your services?
I only can ensure that over which I have complete control. I can assure that the strategic communications projects I undertake with your organization will be exceptional quality, delivered on deadline and, provided we remain on scope, delivered on budget.
However, I cannot guarantee specific results or increases in revenue. Because strategic content communications services are an add-on service tied to the execution of your overall content marketing strategy, no communications consultant can provide assurances of its success.
Generating revenue from communications activities depends on far more than supplemental strategic content communications consulting. It depends on your organization’s execution of the entire content marketing strategy you’ve created, including the communications aspect. It also depends on your current brand reputation, your customer service, and the success of your sales team to close business, among many other things.
If your organization performs excellently in all those areas, you can expect my communications consulting services to enhance the value you already offer target audiences.
Do you offer retainer services?
Yes. Nearly all content communications projects I conduct directly with firms are done on a retainer basis, meaning it’s paid in advance, in full, each month. Installment payments, in advance, are available for single projects that we agree expect will be completed in fewer than 60 days.
If you mean by “retainer,” a long-term, month-to-month contract with my firm, yes, I do. If you are willing to commit to at least six months of service (which is the bare minimum necessary to help you achieve real outcomes), we can discuss a long-term relationship in our initial conversation.
When and Where I Work
Do you accept all clients or offers of work?
No. I reserve the right to decline any offer of work for any reason at any time without explanation.
Are you available for rush projects?
In many cases I am, but not always. Strategic digital communications can be a challenging, time-consuming endeavor, especially if an organization is experiencing a serious situation like a D&I or social media crisis. It often takes significant time, at least several weeks for a communications strategy or even long-form content (a week for shorter-form writing projects and some other communications consulting) to produce quality work. That's true most of the areas where I specialize and the large projects I often accept. Even a series of social media posts or a single press release, written correctly and approved, can take several days, depending on who and what is involved in the process for your enterprise.
Therefore, I suggest you call or email the moment you know you’ll need my services. With plenty of advanced notice and proper planning, I’m more likely to be able to accept your project and accommodate your timeline without issue.
One caveat, however. Just as your organization does, I give long-term, retainer clients priority in project schedules, so I’ll have to plan around existing clients if you’re new or not a regular client.
Keep in mind, too, that not only do rush projects require additional investment, depending on the client and size and scope of the project, but I also require clients to pay 50-100% of total project cost in advance. (See Payment & Contracts below). Also, as previously stated, we outline the scope of the project, timeline, and other requirements, terms, and conditions must be in a formal agreement. I make no exceptions to this requirement.
What completion timeframe can we expect for projects?
Though, like you probably are, I’m highly selective about the clients with whom I work and I don't take every contract I'm offered despite being I'm in high demand, I usually can be flexible enough to work within your time frames. However, more lead time means I’ll have a chance to gain an in-depth understanding of your brand or organization so I can provide the highly-customized, strategic content communications solutions you need.
And, while all my clients are important to me, and I put the same effort into providing excellent outcomes for all clients who cooperate with the process, long-term contract clients can expect priority scheduling.
In every case, to be confident we have a mutual understanding of the work to be done under a specific timeline, we will outline the scope of the project, and other requirements, the terms, and conditions of the engagement or project in a formal agreement.
How many hours per month are you available for a single client? What is your overall availability?
Since I want to serve a variety of clients, I cannot help any single client for more than 40 hours per month. I also don’t offer ‘full-time freelance’ services, but I will make sure I specify my availability to each client in our written agreement. I try to make myself available to my clients in the way that supports both our schedules and project needs.
As a professional, I always work until done. But, because I do serve multiple clients at once and work during my regular business hours (depending on the time zone of that client), I am not always immediately available to clients. Moreover, like you, I’m rarely available for unlimited amounts of time to any client.
Will you work the specific hours we want?
Not typically. As a consultant (and what the IRS calls an "independent contractor"), it’s essential I control my time to serve all clients best. While I accept and meet deadlines (unless there are unpredicted client-side delays, I experience a real emergency, or a disaster occurs), and may be able to make revisions in a short time frame, I don’t work set hours for any client.
Do you work on site?
I rarely work on-site at a client's location for liability and other reasons. I never accept long-term contract work on site, either, since it jeopardizes my ability to work for other clients as well as my independent contractor status. For select clients, I will make visits to their central office if we build those visits into our agreement and clients pay all travel expenses.
But, not only do I not work on site, I usually don’t go outside the Washington, DC area unless the client arranges for acceptable travel accommodations and pays all travel expenses in advance. I complete all work from my location and communication takes place by phone, e-mail, IM (like Slack), on a project management platform, web conferencing or Skype or Zoom audio.
Payment & Contracts
What are your rates?
Each project is different, sometimes significantly because of the breadth of services I offer clients and the variety of needs clients have. Except for hourly fees for specific consulting activities, your investment in my services usually is based on a project rate, depending on project type, scope, length, and volume of work.
My rates are highly competitive; they are equal to what a corporate or top national media outlet or major global brand client would expect to pay a corporate communications consultant, business journalist or strategic content writer of my educational background and professional experience.
Note to nonprofits: While I understand the budgetary constraints of nonprofits and have a passion for human service causes, I do not provide discounted or pro bono services to nonprofits (or ministries) on request. Please request a connection to the appropriate pro bono consultant from organizations that match nonprofits with nonprofit experts like Taproot. Or, contact your local Foundation Center for help identifying pro bono or discount services and to find grants to pay consultants.
We’re interested in a project rate for your services. Is that available?
Yes. As I mentioned about my rates above, project rates are available and are easiest to determine once I know your budget. But I calculate them based on my standard hourly rates for that work, which are based on value, not on cost plus. Please specify your interest in those rates when we talk.
We’re a startup or have a tight budget. Can’t you provide inexpensive or discounted services?
I can provide the best services only to thriving—high growth or established—enterprises in the specific service sectors I identify on this site. While I understand that all organizations have budgets, and they may have a cap on communications marketing services, excellent services like mine are an investment. Not only do you get what you pay for when you hire a strategic content communications consultant, but you may also pay for what you get if you hire poorly.
That happens when you don’t achieve the outcomes you desire because the cost of the services often reflects their quality. So, given the caliber of work I deliver, you can expect to pay competitive, market rates.
If limited resources are a concern, I may be able to customize my services to meet your financial limitations. But those personalized services will be within the competitive project rates I charge clients able to invest fully in my offerings. That means you’ll receive fewer deliverables but spend the fees as my other clients do for similar services.
Nonetheless, if you are looking for inexpensive services at the low rates, especially those you would expect to pay on bidding sites or want to “talk me down” on my rates, I’m not the right consultant for your needs. You should consider contacting your local Small Business Development Center or another organization in your area that provides free services to small businesses with limited budgets. Also, review my “What I Don’t Offer” page for additional information.
Do you charge a fee to republish your work on blogs or in publications?
Yes, just as I charge a fee for any other work I charge reprint fees for all articles or blog posts for which I retain rights, including posts on my blog. This policy applies to each reprint whether it’s for the same outlet, platform or publication on a date later than the first publishing date or if it's republished in another place. I do charge each time the content gets republished, regardless of how many times and places it has been published or republished in the past.
I will invoice $100 for content less than 1000 words, $200 for articles or posts between 1000 and 2000 words $300 for those between 2000 and 3000 words, $400 for pieces between 3000-4000 words and $500 and up for longer pieces.
If you don’t ask for permission in advance, I will send you an invoice for one of the amounts above, plus 50% for your failure to request my permission to reprint my work. If you refuse to pay within seven (7) days, you must remove my content from your publication, website or platform immediately or I’ll be forced to take further action to protect my intellectual property.
I also require the right to review any edits you make and charge an extra fee based on my hourly rate to make or review substantial edits. I also expect my byline to remain on all content I write. There may be other terms and conditions depending on what you intend to do with my work product.
What are your payment policies and what methods of payment do you accept?
With rare exception (for editorial clients, content marketing platforms and large corporate clients for example), I provide my services on a retainer basis. They either are fully paid in advance or require at least a 50% deposit with the second half or 50% payment due before I submit final deliverables to you. If you’re a long-term retainer client, services are paid in full in advance each month.
The payment methods I accept are a paper check made out to "Thrive Media, Inc." (as identified in our contract) and EFT or ACH payments. I also will accept credit card payments from organizations with good credit through PayPal or my accounting platform. On rare occasions, I may limit PayPal payments only to instant check or PayPal balance. The client assumes all fees for whatever payment method they use.
I reserve the right to decline to extend credit to or accept credit card payments from any client, even if I have extended credit to them in the past. I also may charge late fees, chargeback fees and fees for dishonored checks and do consider engaging in collection activity on seriously delinquent accounts.
Finally, I submit invoices based on the payment policies clients put in writing to me at the time I accept work. I contact clients directly to make certain they received my invoice on time. I do not future-date or re-date invoices if the client's email technology failes, it lands in spam, a client misplaces it, changes payment policies, changes management, or for any other reason beyond my control. All invoices are net 30. I don't accept clients who pay beyond net 30 and favor those who pay instantly or in advance.
Do you offer refunds or prorated services?
I make every effort to provide the highest quality services available to every client. But, since I base my offerings on my time and projects consume my time as I provide my expertise to you, I cannot offer refunds under any circumstances except duplicate electronic invoice payments.
Since I schedule time on my calendar to projects clients engage me to complete, I also don’t prorate services based on early termination of engagement agreements or if you change your mind after making the initial deposit or submitting a regularly scheduled payment to me.
Are we required to sign a contract or agree to specific terms in writing to work with you?
Yes. I operate as an independent contractor under Thrive Media, Inc. Therefore, in every case, we will execute a detailed contract or agreement between you and your organization and Thrive Media, Inc., the parent of Thrive Content, Inc.
In that contract or agreement, we will make sure we have a mutual understanding of the work to be done under a specific budget, the scope of the project, timeline, fee satisfaction and other requirements. We will outline all terms and conditions of our engagement in a formal agreement that will be executed by all parties.
For tiny, “one-off” projects, depending on the scope of the project, a letter of agreement between you and Thrive Media, Inc. may suffice.
In either case, payment of the first invoice signifies agreement with the written contract I provide on behalf of the corporation. I make no exceptions to this requirement and, please keep in mind that in all cases, you or your organization will contract with Thrive Media, Inc. for my services, not me personally.
Do we own all rights to the work product you produce for our organization?
Since I customize all work to the needs of your organization and this project requires a higher investment than work for which I retain rights, once you pay all fees for the project in full, you own the rights to all work created for you. (Journalism projects may be the exception.)
However, I may ask for permission, in writing, usually before we begin our engagement, to add your project in print and digital form to my work portfolio.
You, of course, may grant these rights at your discretion but I charge higher fees to clients who don’t allow me to use projects I do for them to market my work and any ghostwritten content. Please inform me of any concerns you have regarding confidentiality before our beginning work together, so there is no misunderstanding later.
Will you sign or agree to a non-compete agreement?
No. Those are meant for employees and some types of business relationships, not for working with incorporated corporate communications consultants or strategic content writers like me who specialize in particular industries.
While you should consult with your legal counsel on this, my understanding of the IRS’s Employee Vs. Independent Contractor Rules is whether or not someone you whose services you engage can provide services to similar businesses. As other enterprises of all sizes have learned after lawsuits, one of the principal requirements for your maintaining liability against independent contractors filing claims asserting they were your employee is, “The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market.”
As an incorporated independent contractor, I offer my services to a variety of firms, including competitors in whatever industries where I have domain expertise. It doesn’t support my business model allow clients to limit my ability to grow by accepting other clients in the same industry so I won’t sign those rights away.
I will, however, execute a mutual confidentiality agreement on behalf of Thrive Media, Inc. as part of the fair and mutually beneficial agreement I expect to sign with all clients.
What is the process for learning more about your services and engaging them?
This is a shortened version of "The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process" about which you can learn more by clicking "Learn More" below. But, the process differs by client and project type.
Unless you’re a media outlet where there is a different, standard process, we start with a complimentary 15-minute introductory phone call. During that call, we introduce ourselves and our firms to one another and gather information from each other to determine if we’re a fit. This conversation is not a strategic one which means I won’t be providing any strategic content messaging advice to your organization during that short call.
To help you decide if I have the appropriate level of strategic ability, marketing fluency, and business acumen to supplement your content marketing team with the right qualifications, I’ve written numerous blog posts that prove my corporate and digital communications expertise and editorial content writing ability. I’ve also provided fresh professional writing samples that show my journalistic abilities, written significant website copy here that demonstrates my copywriting skills and constantly update the site with other content that provides evidence of my core capabilities as well as additional ones.
Please take some time and review this communications content and copy. I hope once it convinces you I can provide your organization with high-level strategic content messaging and strategic assistance you need, you’ll feel comfortable scheduling the introductory call.
During our introductory call, if we determine there is a fit, we move onto the next step.
Typically, that is a 30-45 minute exploratory call with the decision-makers in your organization to gain deeper insight into your needs. This call is only about determining your project requirements and learning more about your organization. I will request your budget range during our exploratory call. I don’t provide my fees until next phase, the quote or presentation stage after I’ve gotten a full understanding of your needs.
Then, if you’re still exploring opportunities to work with other consultants, I provide a one-page or shorter working quote (which means it is subject to change based on new information from you). That will give you an idea of what the project rate for my services will be and what I can offer you for that investment.
After you’ve interviewed other consultants, if you decide I’m the right one for your enterprise, you’ll just contact me by the expiration date of the quote, and we’ll take next steps.
If you’re reasonably sure you want to work with me after the exploratory call, we will schedule for me to give you a 30-minute presentation within a week after that call. Typically, that presentation will occur virtually since I charge fees for travel time or longer presentations. That presentation will show you how I serve your business and at what investment.
With that information, your organization can decide whether or not my services are a fit for your needs. Indeed, you are free to say “no” after that presentation, and I won’t take it personally. I may ask follow-up questions, but I won’t launch into a sales pitch if you’re confident I’m not a fit for your project.
Once you decide you want to partner with me, we execute a mutually beneficial consulting agreement; you make your first retainer payment, and we begin the onboarding process.
I don’t provide any consulting or strategic advice during this process.
Can you provide a general overview of your process after engagement?
Again, "The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process" that you can review by clicking "Learn More" below covers this in more detail. But, this process works differently for each client and project.
If you’re an editorial client, you just send me an assignment by email and, after establishing deadlines and other fundamental aspects of the relationship, like contracts and payment, I begin the work. The process is similar for clients for whom I’m conducting the rare one-off project or providing only blog content on specific subject areas.
For longer-term retainer clients, I typically break projects down into phases depending on the type of project. The first step is onboarding—the process of gaining the necessary knowledge, information, and understanding of your brand and culture to partner effectively with you to execute your project. Onboarding is the process with which I begin most client relationships where I'm providing corporate or digital communications consulting work that requires developing strategic plans or there is extensive writing required to integrate into a strategic marketing plan.
At the beginning of the onboarding process, which can take several days to several weeks, depending on your organization or the size of your project, there is usually a 90-minute to two-hour phone consultation. During that initial call, we will discuss your specific needs, objectives, and timelines.
If this is a project that requires me to know as much as possible about your organization’s leadership to complete, I will interview those key executives or team members by phone and email and may participate in meetings to obtain the information I need to execute your project efficiently. Please expect to schedule ample time for those conversations or interviews, especially if I must conduct them over several days.
Concurrent with those initial conversations, I will request you provide as much background information and material as possible which I can use to complete your work. Like a mini-audit which I'd only conduct for strategic writing projects since corporate communications strategies require more formal communications assessessments, this information or these materials include (but are not limited to) brochures, data sheets, marketing e-mails, reports or white papers, web content, interviews, annual or CSR reports or any other kinds of organizational information. I can conduct this information gathering phase with your marketing team. At that point, I usually begin the actual work.
Once I have provided you with initial deliverables, I require that you thoroughly review them and provide your feedback. If this is a writing project, please expect that your content or copy will need revisions, perhaps extensive ones. Also, remember that producing messaging content may need to be a highly collaborative a process.
Open dialogue is critical for me to perform with excellence as your contract strategic digital content communications consultant. Once we get started with your engagement, please expect to devote the time resources and personnel to onboarding for the several days or weeks it takes to complete the process.
I’ve provided a very general overview of the process. It is more organized and detailed than this as "The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process" shows. Workflow also gets customized to each client and I will provide particulars once we’re under an agreement.
How are onboarding and client servicing time accounted for in strategic digital content projects?
As it would with a larger agency provider, my onboarding process can require substantial time. Just as an agency would, I consider it a consulting activity. Client servicing time often requires aspects of consulting as well. Therefore, all my engagements include a specific number of hours of consulting time to account for the investment of my time in those activities. Even my writing services contracts include some amount of consulting time. Any time outside those allotted hours is charged at my regular hourly rate or built into the project rate established for the client.
I consider various activities as consulting time including phone calls, emails, webinars, virtual conferences or Skype sessions I may be required to attend, or any activities that require my time working with your organization. That way, you receive both the specific strategic content messaging services you hire me for as well as the time necessary to manage the process.
What are your hours of operation and your contact information?
If you’ve figured out after reviewing the content on my site and reading these FAQs that I’m probably a fit for your project, please feel free to contact me. My standard business hours are 9:00 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. EST, Monday-Friday. I only adjust them for my overseas clients.
Typically, email is the fastest way to reach me because I regularly check and respond promptly to email, usually within 24 business hours. I also can be reached by phone at (202) 683-9934 to schedule a complimentary introductory call about which you can learn by clicking "Learn More" below to review “The Thrive Content Business Engagement Process."
If you need an exceptional strategic digital content messaging consultant, feel free to contact me to learn how I can help you achieve your content marketing objectives. I look forward to hearing from and, possibly working with you.