Copywriters: ever get new clients asking you to provide a short customised sample? Yep, we all do.
I’ll bet your thought process goes something like this:
- No way. Don’t I have enough portfolio pieces on my website?
- You wouldn’t ask an electrician to wire a plug just so you could gauge how good he is.
- You’re just after free work, aren’t you?
- What kind of client asks for a sample? You’re going to be a pain in the ass, aren’t you?
- My peers will kill me.
I hear you, I really do. And the Professional Copywriters’ Network is expressly against them.
But, in the last year, I’ve won around £7000 of new work when I’ve provided a (very) short sample. The freelance copywriters who didn’t offer that service missed out.
Here’s why I frequently OFFER a custom sample to new clients.
- Buying a copywriter’s time is a big investment. I can sometimes hear prospects wavering on the phone. That’s when I politely suggest I could do a trial piece.
- I don’t like working with clients who doubt my ability. It makes me doubt it myself.
- Providing a sample proves to me that I can drop into the right tone of voice and write for that industry.
Now, there are several riders attached to my samples. The chief one is this: I make it very clear that the writing is only a very small part of the copywriting process. Most of it is research and thinking.
So I tell the prospect that what I provide will give only a very broad indication of my ability to hit the right note and write for their sector. The finished piece will be much more considered and polished.
Copywriting is unregulated
My problem is that I empathise with prospects too much.
Last time I looked, copywriting is a completely unregulated industry. There’s no OfCop. Perhaps there should be.
Let’s consider plumbing. The cheery chap or chapess you invite into your home to fix your boiler will hopefully hold an NVQ Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating (Level 3 Environmental Technology) or something similar.
You can’t do NVQs in copywriting. Want to be a freelance copywriter? Easy. Just call yourself a freelance copywriter. Congratulations: you’re now a freelance copywriter.
Unsurprisingly, the standard of many of the copywriters available on the web leaves a metric tonne to be desired. I really don’t blame prospects for their caution.
But what about that ‘free work’ issue? Well, I provide two paragraphs of long-copy form. I give myself a time limit and work on an aspect of the business that needs little specialist knowledge.
For this to be of any use to them, they would need to find 27 other copywriters all willing to write two paragraphs, all in the same style, and then somehow knit them together. It’d be like that kids’ drawing game, Consequences. ‘Would you mind awfully just writing paragraphs five and six of page 11?’
Last month, I provided a short sample to a German manufacturing company and won £4000 of new work.
I’d say the half hour I spent on that was a pretty good loss-leader, wouldn’t you?