Clients requesting applicants to write sample articles for free is a common practice. And for quite some time, it has been one of the most divisive issues within the freelance writing community. Some writers feel it is abusive practice, while others accept it as a good vetting process.
Agreeing to write sample articles is a matter of choice. Rather than staying on one end of the spectrum, I choose to stay in the middle. Some circumstances call for rejection. Conversely, there are instances where the benefits outweigh the cons.
Write Sample Articles: Yes or No?
Clients differ in their hiring process, but they all need to see sample articles. Usually, they would ask you to submit documents or links to published posts. But some of them would ask you to write a test article about a specific topic.
Writing sample articles will not be an issue if clients pay a fee for your time. But most do not pay, and that is where matters get tricky.
Many content writers have encountered scammers. After submitting a custom-written sample, they do not get hired. Instead, they would later find their submissions already published on some sites. I hope you can keep your options open.
Why do clients ask you to write test articles?
A few years ago, a long-term client did not ask applicants to write sample articles. Essentially, we choose the top candidates based on the samples they submitted.
Every prospect we interviewed received some copies of our articles. During this time, they are made aware of our preferences and requirements. And then we hire them on a trial basis, usually lasting two weeks.
Despite assurances that they can meet the style, tone, and quality level asked, many of them did not meet our expectations. We also noticed that the articles they wrote for us did not meet the quality level of the samples they used to apply.
After months of never-ending frustrations, I had one realization. Going through tens to hundreds of applicants is a grueling task.
Here are my observations during those times:
- 9 out of 10 applicants do not have impressive portfolios. Many of them also submitted articles written years ago. They should have revised those samples to correct mistakes and make them better.
- Most of the applicants did not demonstrate their ability to analyze and process information. Instead, they mostly rewrote or summarized similar posts on the web.
- Only 2 out of 10 applicants took the time to compose a proper email, although some oversold their skills. As proven later, many of them struggled when writing a high-quality, informative article.
Given these negative experiences, the client and I decided that top candidates need to write a sample for us before getting hired.
As you can see, there is a reason why clients ask applicants to do a trial article. It is so they can see if your actual output can meet their expectations.
Why should you refuse to write sample articles?
Some freelance content writers insist clients should pay for writing sample articles. If you hold that belief, decline. After all, no one can force you to write sample articles. But by declining, the worst thing that can happen is not knowing if you threw away the opportunity.
There is, however, one plausible reason why you should refuse to write a sample article. As applicants, one of the things you need to do before applying is to conduct due diligence on the client. If you feel the client lacks professionalism or is untrustworthy, walk away.
Why do you need to write a sample article?
A typical article is 1,269 words long and takes almost four hours to complete (Crestodina). No one argues that four hours is not valuable because it is valuable. So, I understand how frustrating it is to write several samples without securing a gig.
The next time a client asks you to write a sample article, ask these questions first:
- Is the client legitimate?
- Are the compensation and other terms acceptable?
- Can you comply with the requirements?
If you answer yes to all of the questions above, by all means, write.
Each sample that you write serves more than one purpose. Besides proving that you are the right candidate, the other benefits are:
- Learn new things. Specific requirements (or specifications) may be new to you. Writing, in this case, is an opportunity to pick up new skills and knowledge.
- Add to your portfolio. Sample articles are usually not subject to a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA). As such, you can add them to pitch to other clients.
Sample Articles Are a Prerequisite to Getting Hired
Clients are only willing to invest in you if they think your articles can meet or exceed their expectations. So, the next time a client asks you to write one, consider the benefits of complying.
Yes, thieves are preying on unsuspecting freelance writers. But suppose you determined the client to be legit and the compensation acceptable. In that case, there is no reason not to write a sample article.
Content writing is like running a business where you are offering your services. As you know, every business requires an investment to get it off the ground running. In the same manner, sample articles are your business investment. It is a means for you to compel clients to retain your services. And in the process of doing so, you can practice your craft, further enhancing your skills and raising your value.