Have you ever been asked to write free samples of articles or blog posts or take a test in order to prove you qualify for a gig?
Should you provide free samples? What about taking tests? Will either help you land a writing gig?
Like so many things in our profession, the answer to both is a definite maybe.
Okay, ‘maybe’ isn’t very helpful. Let’s look at some risks.
The risk is that the free samples you provide will be used and you’ll never be paid for it. The potential gain is your free samples will land you the gig.
How big a risk are free samples?
While there are people out there who will try to scam writers, often the con is obvious. The ad or email is sloppy and when you try to find the company or person through a search you can’t. Or if you do, you also discover other writers have been scammed. Obviously you don’t want to write for these folks for free. In other words, the risk is pretty manageable.
What’s the upside?
The upside is writing a dynamite sample that’s exactly what the client wants and/or passing the test may very will land you the job.
The only reason you’ll ever want to provide a free sample is two-fold:
- You want the gig
- You trust the client
There would be no point in providing a sample at no cost if you didn’t want the writing job offered – that seems obvious doesn’t it.
Trusting the client is also obvious but often a bit more difficult to figure out.
From the client side
Clients want samples because they don’t know what to make of your list of credits or the kinds of things you’ve written. They tend to think their product or service is unique. They need reassurance that indeed you can target your writing for them.
You get to decide if you trust them or want to go to the effort of providing free samples.
Of course, if you don’t get the gig you can probably use the sample elsewhere.
Add a copyright
Although you technically already own the copyright to anything you’ve written and not given or sold the rights to, putting a copyright – your name, the copyright symbol, and the year – gives the potential client notice they don’t have the right to use the piece. I also include the words ‘requested sample.’ This won’t stop a scammer, but it can help with legitimate folks who don’t quite understand how the process works.
What about tests?
Some clients dream up or acquire tests that they hope will help them find a writer that will work out for them. Some are just disguised requests for a free sample, while others ask you to read a style manual then write a sample. Some will offer a quiz.
If you want the gig, go ahead and take the test. It can’t hurt. If you find the test onerous or stupid or a waste of your time, reconsider – that may be a clue you don’t want to work for them. Or not.
I occasionally volunteer a free sample
Sometimes it just makes sense to offer free samples or partial samples even though they are not asked for. I once got a good gig as a list writer, when I sent a sample list – five or six items as I recall. The client said I was the only one who had submitted a sample list. More recently I did a two paragraph rewrite without being asked. They knew their blog posts as published weren’t up to snuff and gave their link. They were right – the blog was pretty awful. It was also easy to copy and fix the first two paragraphs and email it along with my writing credits. I haven’t heard yet, but it was easy for me to do and may be just what’s needed to land the job. We’ll see.
The bottom line is you get to decide if you want to provide free samples and take tests to land a gig or not. If you do, great – just be clear on your goals.
Have you had experience with free samples and writing tests? Tell us about it in comments.
Write well and often,