Writing Samples: What to Show a Potential Client

by Jodee Redmond

One of our readers sent an e-mail recently wondering about writing samples and what you should share with potential clients. I’ve been giving this some thought and this is what I’ve come up with:

If you know what topic or theme the client wants to hire a writer for, then provide a sample along the same lines. Now, some ads are not that specific about the topic that a client wants you to cover, so check the ad closely for the type of writing the client is looking for and provide them with a sample that reflects it.

A client wanting to hire a writer for web content will want to see samples of either SEO writing or general articles. For your SEO samples, tell the client what keywords you were given and the keyword density. For a client looking to hire a copy writer, technical writer, or what have you, give them something that showcases your abilities in that area gives them an idea of your writing voice. It will help them decide whether you are a good fit for the project.

In addition to providing samples, I include a list of topics that I have written about in the past in my cover letter. I want to give the person looking at my application some idea about the different things that I have done, because you never know what will pique someone’s interest and make them decide that you are the writer they want to work with.

When it comes to providing writing samples, do you have a stock portfolio that you show people or do you send a different set with each application? Do you have a sense of which strategy is most successful?





14 responses
  1. Amy Derby Avatar

    Good topic, Jodee.

    I choose my samples carefully to match with the position. I don’t respond to job ads unless they mention a topic and give details, so I always have a pretty good idea of what they’re after when I respond.

    In a way I guess I do list other topics I’ve covered, although I don’t do it in an actual list format. After I’ve addressed my direct experience to their area/topic/whatever in my cover letter I’ll say, “I currently blog for one law firm about A and another about B. In the past I have blogged about X, Y and Z.” (Maybe that is what you mean.)

    Then I choose the best samples I have to match the gig. I limit it to three, unless they specify that they want more than three, with more available on request.

  2. Aurora Avatar

    I always send what I believe is the best match for the topic the client is looking for, but also something that will match the style and angle they are looking for. For example, I may have a related topic piece, but if it is more reference and I know the client is looking for a news format, I will also provide news-oriented pieces to show my style (if I don’t have a single piece that matches both in one).

    This is a bit off-topic, but your post reminded me I had a question to ask of others. What should one do when you are asked to provide a sample that is original (400/500words+). Would you include your copyright informatiom so the potential client cannot use this (just incase you don’t get the job), or would send it along and cross your fingers and consider just another task to getting another job? 🙂

  3. Kristy Avatar

    You know what I’d like to see? A sample resume. I don’t know why I’m having trouble with mine, but I am. My “corporate” resume was no problem, but the writing one is. I think part of it is because I’ve got so much experience as a ghostwriter that I can’t really give specifics. I’ve been doing it for over a year and I don’t have much I can show. The resume just seems to look so pitiful. I don’t know, maybe I’m just overreacting, but is there any chance we might see a sample resume?

  4. Jodee Avatar

    @ Amy: I don’t write in one specialized niche, so I tell people what kind of work I’ve done (general content, SEO, ebooks, reports, blogs, autoresponders) and give them an idea of some of the topics I’ve covered.

    @ Aurora: I haven’t run across that one in awhile…I would think that a potential client can get an idea of your writing style from your prior work. If they want you to do a test assignment that they are willing to pay for, then that’s not a problem but I wouldn’t be working for free.

  5. Jodee Avatar

    @ Kristy: I’ve the sample resume idea to my list of thing to cover. 🙂

  6. Sandi Avatar

    Thank you so much for this! Extremely helpful!

  7. Kerry Dexter Avatar

    just a comment to Kristy’s situation: perhaps a paragraph of narrative biography would work better than a resume?

  8. Cherrye at My Bella Vita Avatar

    I’m glad you asked this question, Aurora. I’ve encountered this a few times, as well. I would do it as long as the client knew the article could not be used unless I was hired/payed. From my limited experience with this the clients who are honest appreciate the fact that you respect yourself and your work and it opens the door to clear communication. If a potential client balked or was non-responsive, I would move on.

  9. Amanda Nicole Avatar

    I include up to 3 relevant samples in my response to a job posting, as well as mention my relevant experience in the cover letter. I also add a link to the portfolio page of my website at the end of the email; I’ll say something like, “And here’s a link to my full portfolio. Please feel free to have a browse around my website to get to know me a bit better.” That way, they also get an idea of my rates and why I charge what I do.

  10. Amanda Nicole Avatar

    PS: I have a writer’s resume that I’ll paste into the email if a posting specifically asks for one, but I’m not entirely happy with it, so I’d also be interested in coverage of that topic. Specifically, how to include website content creation on a resume. Thanks!

  11. Kristy Avatar

    Thanks Jodee! And I’m glad to see I’m not to the only one that is interested in the topic! Whew!

  12. Kristy Avatar

    @ Kerry – Sometimes I do that; however, when the client asks for a resume, it is better to provide a resume than a narrative paragraph. I’m a stickler for following their directions.

  13. Rachel .:.A Step Ahead.:. Avatar

    I created an online portfolio to hold the majority of my samples. When emailing a potential client, I am sure to tell them about my online portfolio and I attach other samples that relate to their subject if needed.

  14. Sue Avatar

    I’ve had editors tell me that they like seeing a sample before it was edited, so they have a more clear idea of the quality of work they’ll be receiving. I send something that has already been published. I’ve gotten a few jobs — including one posted here last week — because I do this.

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