This is a difficult one, especially if you’re a new copywriter trying to build a client base. Do you give up your time and do the trial, or do you turn it down and spend that time marketing your services to a client who actually wants to pay you? Ultimately, it’s your call, but please at least read this before jumping in with both feet.
Wearing my copywriter’s hat, this happened to me quite recently. I thought it would make a good blog and recalled having seen another copywriter writing about the very same thing. So, after some digging, I found Alastaire Allday’s blog on free samples. I agree wholeheartedly with his advice and there’s no point in repeating it. Instead, I’m going to explain what happened to me quite recently …
Out of nowhere, I got an email saying …
“The reason I’m contacting you is because I’m looking for copywriters interested in collaborating with us on an ongoing project and I believe that your profile fits our current needs.”
Unless you’re a sceptic (like me), your first reaction might be to feel flattered and to think, ‘Hey – out of all those copywriters, they’ve chosen little old me – I’ve arrived.’
But what of their request?
“I’d like to know if you’ll be willing to take a test of 1-5 pages in order to start working together. After taking and passing the test the first project would entail quite a large volume of work, since the catalogue has approximately 160 pages, and most likely a long-term collaboration with us because we would need your services again in the future for similar projects. Subject matter is retail/consumer products. I would appreciate it very much if you’ll include in your reply an estimate of the cost for this project and how much time would it take.”
1 to 5 pages of what? This could amount to a day’s work or more. I have no idea what they actually want. A 160-page brochure, eh? Sound tempting? It’s meant to – they’re dangling a carrot here. But they haven’t told me nearly enough to make a decision about a trial, let alone give them a quote.
I had no intention of doing the trial. And I certainly wouldn’t quote for a job unless I knew exactly what was involved. But for the sake of a potential blog, I thought I’d put them to the test.
I replied saying it was not our policy to offer free trials, but I would consider a paid trial if I had a proper brief. Much to my surprise, they replied saying they would consider it! Oh! But I had just three days to do it.
The next line in the email went on to ask …
“Have you done this type of work before? Could you possibly send us your portfolio?”
Remember, they approached me. They had already said, “I believe that your profile fits our current needs.” So why, if they had done their homework and I met their criteria, were they asking these questions?
Incidentally, their proposed free trial involved three versions of four different pages of a brochure (12 pages?). That could have amounted to a couple of days of my time that no-one was going to pay for. They would have had the benefit of my skill, knowledge and experience without paying a penny for it. What would you have done under the circumstances?
So when this happens to you (and it surely will), remember this blog. Check out Alastaire Allday’s advice too before making any decisions. And tread carefully.
Blog post by Joy McCarthy