The Lure of a Free Sample

Responding to freelance writing ads can be awkward when you are starting out. What if you know that you can do a good job on a project, but the ad specifically asks to see samples of writing on a related subject matter and you just don’t have it? You may have a portfolio with little or nothing in it, or just don’t have anything related to the project you are applying for. What will you do?

There are several ways to get the client’s attention and present yourself in a confident manner. I like to offer to do a free sample of about 250 words for the client if they would like to offer a topic to me. Some writers will argue that you should charge for the fresh sample, but I don’t think that is always necessary. I will only offer a free sample if I have a good idea what they want but don’t have any off-hand samples that show that particular skill or are related to the subject. I have been hired for many jobs based on these samples, and I think it is a great way to prove your abilities.

Another reason why offering a free sample works is because it creates a vision in the client’s mind. They can more easily imagine how you would approach the rest of the project. Often times, they will feel that you have already started, so you might as well finish. Besides, everyone perks up when you mention the word “free.” It creates a trust between you and the client before they even hire you. People are more willing to purchase things from those that they trust. That’s why it works. If it makes you feel more comfortable, you can send the sample in .pdf or simply tell the client that you will retain the copyright to the article unless it is purchased. If you don’t want to offer it totally free, you can offer it at half price.

There are times when I will charge for a sample. This is normally when the client requests a full-length, fresh article. Sometimes clients are a bit nervous about getting scammed or they have had experiences with poor service that included poor grammar or a “copy paste” submission. If the client does not want to pay for a sample that they are requesting, I would ask why.

I recommend luring clients with a free sample earlier on in your writing career while you are still building your portfolio. Like I said, it has worked like a charm for me.

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