As a freelance writer, you are bound to come across clients that ask for free samples, whether you have just started freelancing or you have been at it for years. I still get requests from clients to provide ‘samples.’ Of course, none of them use the term ‘free,’ They call it test drives, test gigs, and what not. But at the end of the day, if it’s about doing work that you might not get paid for, then it is a free sample.
The dilemma with free samples for a freelance writer
Personally, I have only given free samples to clients or publications when the opportunity was too big to pass. When the chance of getting published or working with a great company meant more than getting paid. I got one of my biggest clients by writing a test sample But again, I wrote that because at that point, I didn’t have any relevant samples to show the client. A test sample was my way of showing them my potential, and it worked!
That being said, there are many fake clients out there who ask freelance writers for free samples, use them, and then never pay the writers. So you have to be extra careful about taking up free samples. After all, if you end up writing more free samples than paid ones, then it doesn’t really work out for you.
In this article, we will be discussing how to decide whether you should write a free sample or not.
Do you have a portfolio?
That’s great. Send the client relevant samples from your portfolio instead of writing one. Try to send them the most relevant articles that align with their requirements and not the most latest ones.
Is the client still not convinced?
Considering you have a very relevant sample and previous experience, and the client is not confident, suggest a paid test gig where they pay you in advance for the first article. If they don’t like the quality, they can easily go their own way.
If you don’t have a portfolio or any relevant work experience for the project you want to take, then you may want to consider writing a free sample. But don’t go ahead writing just yet.
Check the authenticity of the client
- Can you not find anything about them online?
Whether its an individual or a company, look for their online presence. Try searching for their name on LinkedIn or Facebook too. If you still hit a dead end, its best to not write a free sample at all. Instead ask for an advance and a signed contract.
- Is the client a really big company?
Don’t go writing a sample if you know the company is big and you have heard about that brand. Trust me, some of the biggest brands continue to not pay freelance writers or delay their payment by months, all in the name of formalities and financial processes.
Go through LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Twitter, and Facebook. Search company name + freelancer/freelance writer to check how the company treats freelancers. If you find a freelance writer already working for them, get in touch with them to ask about their honest opinion.
Does the client want to discuss rates before the free sample
This is one of the most important points that you need to notice. Is the client too eager for you to work on a free sample and they don’t want to discuss rates at all? If that is the case, then there is a big chance you won’t ever get paid for it. After all, how can a client just ask you to write an article and not care about the budget?
Set the rules for copyrights in case things don’t work out
So, you have decided to write a free sample for the client after discussing your pricing. That’s great but before you send the client your content, set grounds for copyright — What happens when things don’t work out? The client shouldn’t be allowed to use your work if you aren’t getting paid for it.
Create a contract including all those terms and ask clients to sign them. Be sure to include their company name, GSTN, PAN, and registered address. You should also mention that you will hold the copyright to the content until you are paid for it and you are open to take a legal action against the clients if the client chooses to use your content without paying for it.
If the clients are not willing to pay, this is the least they can do to imbibe trust. If the clients are not even open to signing anything, then it’s time to move away and not waste your time in any free samples.
After sending the sample
If the client stops responding, send a reminder email after 7 days. In case they still don’t reply, send a copy of the signed agreement to remind them that they cannot use your submitted work anywhere since they haven’t paid you.
Also, use Google search or Copyscape to make sure your submitted work hasn’t been published anywhere without your permission.