6-4. Getting the Deposit Check

Let’s start by assuming you didn’t end up walking home from the desert after your sales presentation. Instead, you have a second appointment scheduled to present your proposal. Good!

You should be armed with three important pieces of information, all of which you learned from your prospect during your first meeting:

1) A Project Description

2) A Project Time Frame (a deadline)

3) A Project Budget

If you are missing or are confused about any of those elements, call your prospect for a brief clarification. This is important, because those elements are points of agreement. You want your proposal to feel familiar to your prospect, and that isn’t possible if it’s filled with assumptions (“we never discussed this”) and/or surprises (“are you out of your mind? — this price is astronomical!”).

With this in mind, I try and keep my proposals as simple and as understandable as possible. They generally consist of a proposal letter, which states the project description, the price and the deposit amount; a production schedule, which indicates the project milestones, client approval points and delivery dates; and a short page of terms, which covers things like the deposit (again), payment dates, usage rights and kill fees.

Your proposals should be so clear that they require no explanation from you. Resist the urge to use flowery language. Stay away from industry buzzwords that may be unclear to your prospect. Completely eliminate ALL superfluous chest-beating, which means: this is completely the wrong time to attempt to sell, or re-sell, the prospect on your services.
You have already done that. Assume the sale. Make sure every word, every chart, every page is focused on his project, his deadline and his budget.

Think of your proposal meeting as a natural continuation of your sales presentation, only shorter. Review the project goals, schedule the approval dates/meetings, confirm the price, then both of you sign and date the proposal letter.

Once your proposal is accepted, it turns your prospect into a client and it becomes the legal instrument, the agreement, that commits both of you to the project.

Last but not least, get the deposit check. Most of the time, you will not even have to ask. You simply need to confirm. As the ink is drying on the agreement and your new client is slipping his pen back into his jacket pocket, he will usually say, “So you need a check for _____ dollars, is that correct?”


He will get it for you, or he will have someone get it for you. When he hands it to you, shake his hand, thank him for his business, confirm your next meeting, and LEAVE. Many designers are tempted to relax at this point and chit-chat. Be professional. GET OUT. The meeting has peaked. Anything you say from this point forward at this meeting has the undesireable effect of UNSELLING you and your services.

Let’s back up and look at another scenario. Sometimes, he will tell you that he needs an invoice to present to accounting, and that you will have your check in two or three days. Generally this is acceptable, but THINK! Does this affect your start dates and deadlines? If it does, SAY SO. Make sure he understands that his deadlines MOVE FORWARD two or three days.

Be prepared. Carry blank invoices for just these situations. Fill it out and hand it to him. Sometimes that’s all it takes in order for you to collect your check right then. At the very least, you won’t have to email, fax or mail it.

Once you have your signed agreement and your deposit check, you are ready to begin work. Congratulations! The next workshop shows you step-by-step how to manage your new project.


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