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I thought I'd kick off my new series here on All Freelance Writing with an awesome story about something that happened to me this week. I started my week by losing a $7,000 finance course writing gig. Yay me!

Why am I happy? Well, because I have to be or otherwise it would mean I did something wrong. Okay, kidding. I'm happy because, from the way this transpired, I think I was saved from a gig that would not have gone well. Or not...who knows.

The Dish

Okay, so this all started on Elance. Huh? Elance? You can get high paying gigs on Elance? Ummm....yeah...but you have to know how--and I'm not going to get into that until next week.

On Elance one morning I found this posting to rewrite a series 7 study manual into something people could learn from and enjoy. The pay was $400 per chapter and would have amounted to $6,800 total. I bid for the gig and was one of the people the company decided would be a good fit. So they sent me a message with a copy of the manual and asked me to do a 3-5 page rewrite for them so they could see what I would do and compare it to the other writer's revisions.

Say what?

I responded to the hiring...guy...and told him that I'd be happy to send additional samples if he needed to see them and gave him links to some more stuff I'd written that I thought fit the tone of what he wanted. He responded back that my samples and resume were all well and good, but they'd be making their decision based on these custom-written samples of 3-5 pages. Here was my response:

I'll have to respectfully decline. Thank you for the consideration and good luck with your choice.

I'm not going to share his response with you because I don't think that it's appropriate, but I will tell you it involved this: ?????

Now, I could have assumed he had peanut butter in his question mark key so it got stuck and that's why there were all kinds of question marks in his response, but instead I assumed that he was curious about my decision to pull myself out of the running. So I responded to ???? with:

It isn't practical for a writer to give every prospective client a free sample. It is cost prohibitive, supplies the potential client with free content that the writer would normally get paid for, and should not be necessary when samples and recommendations are available. It's like commissioning an artist to paint a portrait--you would not ask for a free portrait so you could compare multiple artists. You would examine their prior work and make a decision. The same goes with builders, financial advisors (a few commission-free trades just to test them out and compare their instincts?), house painters, landscapers, etc.

Asking for a free sample that will take hours to complete shows a disrespect for the writer's professional experience, time and talent. If you were really blown away by a writer's samples and experience, you would have the respect necessary to hire based on that. Since that is not the case, I would guess you haven't found the right writer yet and I will just take myself out of the running while thanking you for your consideration.

You should know that at this point I no longer wanted the gig. It's not like I don't understand where he is coming from--I mean, crappy writers abound. People who say they can do something, when they aren't actually sure they can, crop up in spades and writers are a quarter a dozen--so I really do get where he is coming from. But wanting the gig and needing the gig are two different things. I don't want to work with someone who is going to ask for THREE TO FIVE PAGES OF FREE WORK. You know, if the guy had asked for a page I wouldn't have been so hard on him--although I still would have explained my objections.

He responded that he felt I was wrong, that they had been overwhelmed with responses, had narrowed it down to just four of us and that I was the only writer who had a problem submitting the unpaid sample work--which must mean that I'm wrong...right? He also said that they show a "glimpse" of this course to prospective students before they sign up and that offering this "glimpse" at the course before they buy had increased their business exponentially. Um...really? Wow, I guess that's exactly the same as this situation...oh...wait a minute....:

I don't really want to belabor the point, but a free glimpse at the course is not taking time (and therefore money) out of your pocket with each viewer and is standard procedure for a course like this. If the prospective students don't like the "glimpse" they move on. You have your content to sell to other students and it took no additional time out of your billable hours to show the sample to your prospective students. I provide the same free glimpse at my work and worthiness through existing samples, not newly developed, custom content.

Best of luck with your choice and the manual, it is nice to know that I made it to the final four.

The Lesson?

Oh...well...there is no lesson. Some of you will read this and think, "Yeah--right on girl!" Others will read this and think, "Oh my, who does she think she is? So cocky that one...harumpf." And still others will think, "I read all this and she didn't talk about crack whores one single time? What a waste."

The lesson is, there is no lesson. It's your business, you do what you need to do. Seriously, if my cats were starving or in need of cosmetic surgery, I probably would have just done the samples and tried to get the gig. But my cats are beautiful and don't need surgery and my table runneth over so I made the business decision to do what I thought was right.


Thanks for sharing!
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Yo Prinzel
Yolander Prinzel is the profit monster behind the Profitable Freelancer website. She has written for a number of publications and websites such as American Express, Covestor.com, Advisor Today, Money Smart Radio and the International Travel Insurance Journal (ITIJ). Her book, Specialty Ghostwriting: A New Way to Look at an Old Career, is currently available on Amazon.