Free Copywriting Samples: 5 Reasons They’re A Really Bad Idea

Despite the best efforts of the freelance community, there are still companies out there who are in the habit of asking for free copywriting samples before they hire someone to draft their web, blog or brochure content. It’s pretty obvious why this is bad for copywriters, but here are five reasons it’s a bum deal for businesses too.

1. You’re likely to attract desperadoes

Think about it – you want a copywriter for your website, or your new business brochure. You want to make sure you get someone good – someone really good – who’ll do an excellent job in communicating what your business does, what sets you apart from the competition and why customers can trust you.

Do you think quality copywriters are hanging around on content mills waiting to send you free content? Do you think they have time? Or, more likely, do you think it’s the new, inexperienced, underconfident writers who’ll sit down and write you 500 words of whatever, just on the off-chance you’ll like it enough to hire them for cash money in future?

Requesting free copywriting samples is likely to attract only those writers who are desperate for any work they can get their hands on, and who have no paid work to fill their time.

2. There’s actually no need

Finding a copywriter who’s a good fit for your company takes time. And sure, you may not feel like you’ve got time, but treating the hiring process like a numbers game is a recipe for disaster.

Rather than heading to one of the freelancing sites and requesting free copywriting samples from every writer on there (remember: some poor mug in-house has to wade through all that junk content), ask around and see if there are any writers your colleagues, clients and connections can recommend.

Once you’ve found someone who looks like a good bet, take the time to brief them properly. What are you looking for in a copywriter? What are you hoping to achieve through content marketing? And if, after all that, you’re still persuaded they’ll be a good fit, it’s time to pay for a sample piece of work.

3. You wouldn’t expect free stuff anywhere else

So, you go into a coffee shop and you order a cappuccino to go. The barista tells you it’ll be £3.99, but you point out that the coffee is just a free sample – if you like it, you’ll come back and buy coffee in future. You’ll tell your friends – it’ll be great exposure.

You take a sip – the coffee’s OK, but nothing special, so you decide to go elsewhere, clutching your free beverage as the barista shrugs and hopes for better luck next time.

Sound likely? Same goes for copywriting – there’s no good reason to expect free samples.

4. Congratulations on being everyone’s least important job

Let’s say you manage to find a half-decent copywriter who’s willing to give you free copywriting samples to peruse. What makes you think you’ll get their best work?

Sure, if they’ve opted in to whole situation, they must be interested in your business, but come on: the second a paid opportunity arises, or something crops up at home, or they just don’t feel like sitting down at their desk for another hour or two, your job is going to get pushed right to the bottom of the to-do pile. It may get done, it may not, but it’s not likely to be a job any copywriter will really put their heart into.

Hire the right copywriter and you’ll get someone who:

  • Gets to know your company and its values
  • Learns about your products and services
  • Understands the way your target market operates
  • Knows how to build trust in your brand

I would say you can’t put a price on that, but sure you can!

5. You’re risking your reputation

The Know, Like, Trust factor is something I talk about a lot. Content doesn’t exist in a vacuum, which is why free copywriting samples are a bad idea for you as well as the writer who delivers them.

Getting a copywriter to draft you 500 words here and there makes no sense. Sure, you might get a few free copywriting samples from various writers, and you might think they’re good enough to stick up on your website but, honestly – is that what you want to be the voice of your company? Where’s the strategy? Where’s the brand consistency? Basically, what’s the point?

Add to this the fact that copywriters talk. Well, we email. EACH OTHER. So if you’re the kind of business owner who asks copywriters to work for free, you can bet your cheap ass boots a lot of people are going to know about it.

That’ll make hiring someone good in future a lot more difficult.

Put simply, it takes a lot of effort to build a brand that consumers get to know, like and trust. Why would you risk it all on some free copywriting samples?

Over to you: what’s your take on free copywriting samples? Terrible idea or harmless request? Comments below!

2 thoughts on “Free Copywriting Samples: 5 Reasons They’re A Really Bad Idea

  1. Great post, Lorrie. I can understand why clients chance their arm with this sort of approach, but I don’t think it’s a good idea either. I haven’t had good experiences with prospective clients who’ve expected me to provide free samples, and I don’t offer free samples any more. My blog acts as sufficient evidence to show that I can write, so that’s what I tell people who ask for freebies.

    1. Thanks, John. I’ve never met a successful copywriter who thought it was a good idea, to be honest, so that tells me everything I need to know.

      Good response re: your blog content, too: short, sweet and to the point.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *