Words on a Page Writings about writing

Why you shouldn't (and when you should) write a sample article

A woman typing on a laptop

Here’s the scenario: you see an advertisement for a writing gig. It looks good — interesting subject matter, a chance to write regularly, and the pay’s pretty good too. You apply.

A few hours or a day later, you get a response. They’re interested in working with you, but they want you to write a sample article first. Why? To see how you’d handle the subject matter.

To be honest, I’m of two minds when it comes to writing a sample article for a gig. Here are a few reasons why I think you shouldn’t, and should, write a sample article.

Why you shouldn’t write a sample article

As a freelance writer, your time is money. The time it takes you to write that sample article is time you could be spending looking for new clients or gigs, or writing something that will actually make you money.

There’s not guarantee you’ll get the gig. Your style might not be quite what the client is looking for, or you could go in a direction that the client doesn’t want. In that case, you don’t get paid.

What about using the article elsewhere, say on your own blog or with some publication or the other? That’s a possibility, but the article might not be in the area of your blog’s focus. And there’s no guarantee that 1) a publication will accept it, and 2) that you’ll make enough money to cover the time you spent working on it.

Why you should write a sample article

As I mentioned earlier, the main reason most clients request a sample is to make sure you can handle the subject matter. They also want to get an idea of your writing style.

If you’re an inexperienced writing with minimal credits, a sample can demonstrate 1) your ablities, and 2) your willingness to do the work. Even with your lack of experience, the latter could be the difference between you getting the gig and not getting it.

If the sample is in one of your areas of expertise or focus and you don’t get the gig, then just might be able to remarket or reuse it. You might need to tweak the article a bit, but that could be worth doing both financially and from the perspective of you adding to your portfolio.

Should you or shouldn’t you?

That’s up to you to decide.

If you think that it’s worth the time to write a sample article and that you have a good chance of getting the gig, then by all means do it. Otherwise, I recommend that you think twice.

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