Should You Create a Free Sample for New Clients?
The magazine I work for is looking to hire a part-time graphic designer to help the production department with creating print ads. The team has interviewed a few good candidates already, but nothing has stuck.
In fact, there was one woman who the team really liked. She showed us some great samples of her work, she had a flexible schedule, and looked like she would be the perfect hire to join our team. Our art director gave her a take home assignment on a Friday, hoping to see something on Monday. She gave this woman a logo, some copy, and a specific ad size to see what she could come up with in a specific amount of time. We never heard back from her.
Disappointed? Yeah! We were hoping this woman would knock our socks off. But she never sent in her graphics test. This led us to two conclusions: that she didn’t really want the job after all or she was creatively unable to do the work we needed her to do.
When I read this blog post on All Freelance Writing about freelancers providing a free sample to potential clients, it made me think about our situation. In this post, author Chris Bibey talks about a situation where he met with a client who wanted him to provide a free sample, based on their particular needs, within 24 hours. This is something freelancers should expect from time to time, Bibey says, as some companies will trust in your skills while others are more skeptical—especially when they have never worked with you before.
My advice is as follows: there is nothing wrong with providing a free sample to a potential client as long as you feel that it could turn into a paid gig. Unfortunately, there are people out there who collect as many free samples as they can from as many writers as they can find. When everything is said and done, they did not pay a dime yet have plenty of unique content. —allfreelancewriting.com
Over time, Bibey says, you will get better at discerning who is fishing for free content and who is a serious potential client.
If you are writing or designing something for a targeted market—perhaps one you have never worked in before—creating a sample of your work is not out of the question. Would you hire someone to paint your house or take care of your child without researching their background? I wouldn’t!
Providing a free sample of your work is not the same thing as working for free. The sample should be specific and to the point. You should have clear direction, and if you don’t have clear direction, be sure to ask for it. You do not want to waste your time creating something that might be close to what the client is looking for.
Agreeing to create a free sample of your work has potential benefits for both you and the client.
A potential new client has just as much risk in hiring you as you do in taking on the project. Not only does the client get to see what you can do, you get to see what it would be like working for them. Perhaps they are disorganized, unclear with feedback, or unrealistic in what they want to pay for your services. Providing a free sample is your way of interviewing them, too!
If any red flags appear while you are going through this process, you can step away without worrying about breaking a contract, losing money, and burning a bridge. While the client is testing you out, be sure you are testing them out as well.
Building a Relationship
You obviously want to work with clients in which you have a great relationship. That relationship has to start somewhere—and many times it can start with a trial or free sample.
As a freelancer, you get to choose who you want to work with, which is a great benefit to a freelance career. If you put your best work forward and start out with a potential new client on the right foot, a good relationship can be built.
If you are not willing to go the extra mile and provide a free sample to a potential new client, you could be shutting the door to a positive—and lucrative—relationship with a great client. And a good relationship with one new client can lead to more through a great referral.
Look, I’m not telling you to give it all away, I’m merely suggesting that you don’t turn your nose up at the opportunity to work with new clients based on the fact that they want to see what you can do for them. Even if it doesn’t work out, at least you have some newly created work that you can add to your portfolio. That way if you have the chance to work for a similar client, you have something ready to show.
How do you feel about offering a free sample of your work to potential clients? Has it helped your business grow?