Tuesday, February 21, 2012

No, You Don't Get Free Samples

For some reason, people with supposedly normal intelligence expect writers to produce custom-made sample articles for free. Craigslist and other freelance writing gig sites overflow with these requests. Many of the requests come from content mills, but mainstream magazines and newspapers are equally guilty of expecting freebies.

The most recent request I received came from Ink'd Writers. I had already sent them a cross-section of live links to my published articles at Hidden Valley, the Houston Chronicle, Livestrong and this blog. They replied with "What an impressive portfolio you have!" Then they asked for two 300-word sample introductions so they could "determine how familiar" I am with "writing for an online audience."

I've been "writing for an online audience" for five years now, guys. No one expects any other professional to work for free. What makes you think any writer worthy of a single column inch would give away work?

Somehow, the argument that I need to give you  "a more direct feel for how you write in comparison to others" just doesn't hold any water. You're looking for free articles, plain and simple. What you are doing is dishonest, whether you intend to stitch everyone's samples together or coax the remainder of each article from the "lucky" writer you finally select.  No, you do not get my work for free. If you want me to write for you, pay for it.

If you are a new writer, don't fall for flattery of this type, and don't take the bait when someone asks for a free, custom-written sample of your work. Your time, your research and your word choices all have value.