Should Freelance Writers Write Sample Articles: Yes or No?

From time to time, one of my clients would have a need to hire Filipino freelance writers. Early on, I picked candidates after reading their old articles. Unfortunately, it did not work out well. Hence, I started asking all applicants to write sample articles. As I found out later, though, there were people who are against writing test articles.

Here is my take on writing trial articles from the perspective of both a client and a freelance writer. After reading this article, I should have answered these four questions.

1. Why do clients ask for sample articles?

2. Why should freelance writers refuse writing test articles?

3. Why should freelance writers write trial articles?

4. How can freelance writers avoid the need to write sample articles?

One thing I want to mention early on is my approach to freelancing. Contrary to many people, I do not see it as a form of employer and employee relationship. Instead, I view clients I work with as customers. In other words, it is my business, and I am providing writing services.

In the past, I own a company which distributed tools throughout the Philippines. It was not until I liquidated the company a few years ago that I pursued a career in writing. Back then, whenever we have new products, we ship out samples to our network of dealers. Of course, it costs us money, but that is one way of advertising our products. For customers to order our products, we have to give them samples for testing.

In the same manner, I view test articles as nothing more than advertising.

Questions and Answers

1. Why do clients ask for sample articles?

Often, applicants do not have enough or acceptable showcase articles. Even if they do, the topics are not related to the needs of clients. Also, the samples do not show the desired style, technique, or tone.

Some clients do not give freelance writers a chance. If they do not see anything they like, then they dismiss the application. Others, though, may have seen the potential of particular candidates. Hence, they give them a chance by asking for trial articles.

2. Why should freelance writers refuse writing test articles?

In one word – scammers.

Unfortunately, there are many of them lurking in marketplaces. Often, these thieves post ads and ask all applicants to submit trial articles. They then use the samples on their websites.

There are also the enterprising scammers. These are the people who offer cheap writing services. Once they have clients, they then post ads and ask for sample articles. Then, they pass these submissions to the clients and get paid. Meanwhile, the freelance writers who submitted will not hear from these assholes again.

Oh, there are the cheap bastards too. Like the thieves and the enterprising scammers, they also ask for test articles. Then, they post ads looking for people to rewrite the samples. They end up spending less money as rewriting is less costly than original content.

As if stealing once is not enough, these thieves may ask for more trial articles. Imagine the audacity of some to even bug the freelance writers to write more.

3. Why should freelance writers write trial articles?

Simple. It is to prove that writers can deliver content written in a way that conforms to the needs of clients.

A counterargument often given is that existing sample of writers suffices. In as far as I have experienced, that is not true at all. In fact, most applicants do not have enough. Furthermore, most of the articles are not related to what the clients need. Because one person can write about a particular topic, it does not follow that the same can also do others.

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As I mentioned earlier, I treat freelance writing as a business. I, too, had submitted sample articles to clients. One thing that I always do is to have potential clients agree to never use my samples. I view the time spent writing as an advertisement in which I show what I can do. Furthermore, it is also an investment in that the samples become a part of my showcase or portfolio. Not to mention, in writing new topics, I expand or enhance my writing skills.

4. How can freelance writers avoid the need to write sample articles?

It most cases, it is the freelance writers who contact potential clients. If this is a court trial, then the burden of proof is on the applicants. Evidence, in this case, are the existing articles written by the candidate.

The best way to lessen the need to write sample articles is to have one that matches the requirements. Unfortunately, that is unlikely as most freelancers lack the necessary preparation. Hence, having a diversified collection written in different writing styles helps.

Do you want to know what is better than having a collection of sample articles?

It puzzles me that most of the freelancers in the Philippines do not maintain an online presence. I am not only referring to social media but having a blog. There is no better way to showcase writing skills than to have an updated blog. Having one is not only a platform to showcase but also to attract more clients. Not to mention, it is a way to keep honing and improving.

Choose When to Write Sample Articles

There are only two kinds of people that writers encounter when applying for a writing gig. One is the scammers while the other is the legitimate clients. Of course, we do not want to have anything to do with thieves.

When it comes to legitimate clients, then it boils down to a matter of perception.

During negotiations, who holds the cards?

It depends.

Let me try to illustrate that for you.

Scenario 1. A client visited this blog and decides that the article I wrote here suits his needs. He then messages me to inquire about my services. There is no need for me to write a test article. In fact, the only reason why the potential client reached out is that he likes what he sees on this site.

Scenario 2. I came across a client wanting to contract the services of freelance writers. It does not matter if it is on social media or marketplaces. I applied not only because I can write, but also because the client seems to be legitimate. If asked to write a trial article, then what am I supposed to do?

In the second scenario, instincts from years as a businessman kick in. To close the deal, I show the client how valuable I am by submitting a sample article as needed.

I am curious, though. What are your thoughts and would you write sample articles?

ROBERT LEE

Content Manager, Article Writer, Blogger

1 Comment
  1. Thank you for this insightful article. It is true this is a common dilemma for freelance writers. While some would easily give in and provide sample articles, there is also the danger of being duped and tricked into writing something for free. The best option is to prepare a comprehensive portfolio that showcases a good number of quality written articles that any client can easily choose from. A blog, indeed, is a great platform for this. In fact, I agree that even other freelance workers, like designers and graphic artists, should set up their blog to showcase samples of their work.

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