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Your response when asked for a free sample?

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We've all been there... applying to a job or speaking to a prospective client, and they ask for a free sample to evaluate your work.

What's your standard response to this request? How exactly do you word it, if you want to start a working relationship with this person?

I recently applied to a gig where an email was blasted to all applicants asking us to write a sample. I wrote back & asked if it would be paid at the advertised rate... they said no, as I expected, that it was a sample to evaluate my skills and wouldn't be published by them.

Here's how I responded:

Hi [name],

Thanks for the quick answer. As a professional who makes a living from my writing, I'm unable to take the time to write free samples for prospective clients. No offense, but I have bills to pay 🙂

You can get an idea of my skills by checking out my portfolio [link]. If you'd like to discuss hiring me to write an article for [website], I'm still available to book new clients through September.

Thanks much,

Keri

It was worded kind of harshly because it wasn't a topic I'm very interested in writing about, and I doubted they would actually pay me when they're probably getting tons of free samples from other writers.

But I'm just wondering how I could respond if it's a client I'm very interested in working with.

Do you have a standard response? Please share here 🙂

5 thoughts on “Your response when asked for a free sample?”

  1. The biggest thing I’d remove is the line about having bills to pay (if you really want to work with a client).

    I don’t have a cookie-cutter response to send out, but the gist is this:

    Professionals generally do not write custom free samples, and as such, that’s not an option.
    I might gently explain that a first project on any client’s behalf involves the most background research time getting to know them and their audience (and that’s time I’m happy to put in once contract terms and project scope are nailed down).
    I let them know that, while I don’t write custom free samples, I do make exceptions to order policies for new clients. Basically, instead of committing to the usual minimum order amount up front, I’ll do a smaller one-off piece for them at my usual rates. If they’re happy with the work, we can take it from there. If they’d rather move forward with someone else, no hard feelings, they’re not stuck in a contract, and I didn’t waste time doing work I would never be paid for.
    Occasionally you never hear back if you won’t do the free work. But in most cases the prospects are understanding. They may or may not choose to move forward, but I haven’t got a lot of pushback on it. I just make sure I keep it firm yet polite. That helps to remind them that they’re working with an owner of a business that has something they need, not a potential part-time employee they can jerk around.

    My only exception might be for editing projects — especially big ones. In that case I might edit anywhere from a paragraph to a page for free up front, but with payment due if they decided to hire me and use that work in their end project. This way, again, they don’t have to commit. But it’s also for my own peace of mind because editing timelines can be difficult to estimate without playing with some of the client’s original copy first. It lets us both know what we’re in for.

    Reply
  2. Thanks so much for the detailed response! This is just what I needed… I’m saving it for next time.

    I haven’t done a ton of editing for clients, but it’s something I’ve been considering doing more of, so that’s good to know.

    Reply
  3. Thanks, Sharon, good to know! When you say trial rate, do you mean you do a lower/discounted rate for the one trial piece?

    Reply

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