In the past few months, I have been asked several times to write a test article for free when applying for a freelance job. While I don’t have a problem with writing/editing tests for full-time employees since the company is making a long-term and expensive commitment, I think that companies should not ask freelancers to take unpaid writing tests. Interestingly enough, editors for consumer publications never ask this of writers, so this is relatively new dilemma for many content marketing writers. I believe that this unfortunate trend is due to many companies using freelancers who have typically only hired full-time writers and they are simply translating their hiring process to the freelance world.
While I am fundamentally opposed to companies asking writers to do a writing test and wish that all writers could turn down the “opportunity”, I realize that we don’t live in a perfect world and writers need to feed their families. There are a few cases, where it can be the right decision to do it while there are many others where writers should turn it down and run for the hills. I will admit that in a very few cases, I have done the writing test after careful thought to my business goals and current workload as well as the potential income of the opportunities.
But before you get to the point of deciding, here are five strategies to try to get the client to change their mind about the writing test. If these don’t work, then you have a decision to make. Next week, I will give five questions to help you decide if you should do the unpaid writing test or just say no.
- Tell the client that you don’t typically do unpaid writing tests for freelance gigs and ask what they are trying to learn through the test. Explain that if they called a plumber that they wouldn’t ask them to fix their toilet for free to see if they could do a good job.
- Tell the client that you have writing samples already available in the form of your previous published articles and deliverables. Ask your client if they would like you to send additional samples especially work that closely resembles the tone, content and deliverable of their project.
- Point your clients to LinkedIn recommendations and offer references from former clients. If you have a testimonial page on your website, make sure that your client has seen your endorsements.
- If the client counters that they want to see your writing before it has been edited (a common reason that clients ask for the writing tests), point them to your own blog or an unedited piece. You could even offer to send in the unedited version of an already published piece. Make sure that it is not a piece that is awaiting publication, because you might be violating your contract to that client.
- Offer to do a paid trial at a slightly lower rate. Explain that this gives the client the chance to evaluate your work without a long-term commitment on their part while you are still compensated for your valuable time. I have had pretty good success with this strategy.
What are your thoughts on doing a writing test for free? Have you had success with getting clients to change their mind?