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What to say when someone asks you for ‘sample content’

Follow this 3-step action plan for the best results

Avoid offering your content for free if you can help it.
Avoid offering your content for free if you can help it.

These days, I’m increasingly receiving emails from various companies, asking me to complete a ‘sample test’ even before a quick phone call or video interview.

Besides being a bit thoughtless for not familiarising themselves with me before assigning me a test, the prospective client also comes across as someone with scant respect for my time or profession. More so, when their test runs into pages, which would easily take hours, if not days, to complete.

In the world of freelancing, time = money, and if the client regularly works with freelancers, they should know this instinctively.

Don’t even get me started on the times I’ve been scammed in the name of ‘test samples,’ where unusable sample work was taken from me for free and used anyway. Despite an email trail, it’s surprisingly easy to prove such transgressions as “coincidences.”

If you’re a freelancer at the receiving end of such requests and wondering what to do, I share my tried-and-tested 3-step policy surrounding ‘sample content.’ To each their own, though, so no judging if you decide to provide one. I’d still encourage you to avoid it if you can.

Step 1: “Is this a paid sample?”

Whenever you’re asked for a test sample, shoot this question straightaway.

It’s the best way to ensure compensation for your efforts towards the test sample, regardless of whether it’s accepted or not.

In the process, you avoid leaving money on the table and see your bank balance shore up in the process.

Agree on the number of changes and revisions permissible in advance.

If the client says yes to this arrangement, great. If no, you tell them…

Step 2: “Please allow me to direct you to my blog and portfolio.”

Ideally, your blog is the only resource your client needs to see to gauge your writing and editing skills. And if you have a book, that’s a bonus! (Buy/download, read, and review my book PiKu & ViRu here; it’s FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)

If the client is yet to check out your previous work, let them do so.

Yes, they should have done that prior to contacting you. But it’s alright to give them a benefit of the doubt at this stage.

Once they’ve studied your portfolio, they should ideally find it sufficient to make a decision.

If they still insist on a test sample, ask them for the reason. Usually, it turns out to be company policy.

Now, you do this.

Step 3: The final decision

I’m definitely nobody to judge you if you agree to do the test sample. You’re the best person to know what to do in your situation, and as long as you’re acting from a place of clarity, that’s fine.

Even then, it should happen after all your attempts to get the client to agree to a paid sample fail, or if the client’s organisation is good and reputed enough to be worth it.

Though, I’d still advise you to avoid bringing down your worth in any way. Buy time, if possible, and keep looking for paying options so you don’t have to do the test in the first place. In any case, it’s your call at the end of the day.

But if you’re someone who doesn’t want to provide a test sample for free, and the client is refusing to pay you for one, you’d want to end this conversation right here. Just say, “I don’t do test samples, but I’ll let you know if anything changes along the way.” And continue to explore paid opportunities.

Facing test-sample requests need not be scary. If you follow this strategy, you’ll end up prouder of yourself for having done the right thing—and possibly even richer.

Post backdated on 31 July 2022


In my opinion this is a normal request, because the client needs to see examples of my work, so he drew from them and decided whether to order my work or not. Personally, I record all my work with a program for recording video from the screen on mac, the instructions are left here, and then send him a few materials for review.

Priyanka Agarwal
Priyanka Agarwal
Jun 21, 2023
Replying to

I'm referring to instances where clients ask freelancers to complete an unpaid test and write a sample copy from scratch. The risk of your work being misused in such cases always looms large.

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