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Why you should never offer free writing samples

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It’s very rare that I’ll tell you not to do something at all as a writer. One thing I’m passionate about writers not doing is offering free writing samples to potential clients.

There are many times that I’ve heard of clients asking for free samples. I’ve even had some ask me if I’d write “a short article” on a particular topic to “see what [I] can do.” My answer has always been no unless I’m getting paid for it.

You should never offer free writing samples to a company, firm, or private client. A good potential client should never ask for this.

But doesn’t a potential client want to see your skills?

Well, yes!

When a client comes to you, they want to see what you can do. They need to know if you can write, and more importantly, if you can write within their niche. They need to know if you’re skilled at your job and worth the money you charge.

Just like you wouldn’t hire a photographer without seeing their skills, a client doesn’t want to hire a writer without seeing something.

But you don’t need to write a free sample to prove that. Your own samples are enough.

If a client isn’t happy with your own samples, they’re not a good client. They’re not interested in paying you for your work.

Of course, your samples need to be on topic in the majority of cases. Unless you market yourself as a general writer and don’t cover on particular topic, you’ll need to prove that you’re well-versed in the niches your client wants you to cover. So, you need samples that are on point.

If you’re marketing yourself as a general writer, you’re likely being hired to ghost write. A potential client may even have the initial outline of the content and you just write the topic. In this case, a sample on any topic can be good enough to show off your writing skills.

Either way, your own sample content will be enough. You don’t need to offer free writing samples to get a job.

Free writing samples are part of a scam

I have heard a lot of horror stories of clients asking multiple writers to do a “test article” on a particular topic. Usually, this client has 10 articles or blog posts they want written. They then find 10 writers to ask for the 10 “test articles.” Each one is given a different topic, getting the 10 blog posts the client wanted written in the first place.

Now the client doesn’t have to pay for that content. Nor does the client have to hire any of the writers.

Writers are catching onto this, though. A lot of writers talk to each other. They share horror stories, and they will name and shame clients if they have been scammed.

This is usually the case when people are looking for cheap content. If you have high writing rates and get the attention of serious clients, you’re less likely to run into this problem. It’s still important to keep an eye out for things.

You’re still taking time out of your day

When you offer free writing samples, you are offering up your time and skill for free. Sure, some may say it’s like an actor auditioning for a role, but writing isn’t auditioning. You already have samples to prove you can write. And write well!

You shouldn’t be taking up time to create a free sample when you can use that time elsewhere.

Instead of writing something free for a potential client, write something that you can put elsewhere to use in the future. You could do it on a revenue share site or your own blog. Either way, you’re the one who gets to make the most of that content. It’s there to use for potential clients in the future.

Will the client be happy about that? Be upfront. Share that you’ll do the “test piece,” but make it clear where it is going. This is a great way to find out if a client is honest about just wanting to see your skills or is looking to get content for free.

Never offer free writing samples

Should you offer a discounted rate for test content?

I don’t do discounts for my services. Well, I may do them as a Black Friday sale or something similar, but I don’t offer potential clients a discount for a test article.

I have my samples. Why am I going to offer to write something at a lower price than what I normally charge?

Should you offer a discounted rate? That’s not something I can answer for you.

Sure, there are a lot of writers who will tell you no. These are often the same writers who tell you you’re not charging enough. In the end, it’s going to be up to you.

What I will say is if you offer a discount, only offer that discount the once. Never keep offering discounts to get that client. It shows that you’ll keep making your content cheaper just to get the job. It shows that you’re desperate for the work, and potential clients will prey on that.

MORE: 5 tips for when a client wants to half your writing rate

Are you struggling with clients wanting free writing samples? What do you do to prove your skills? Share your thoughts in the comments below.