On Giving "Free" Samples...

This article was originally published at The Freelance Farmer...

What do you do when a potential freelance or work-at-home opportunity asks for a sample of your work - especially when it is a writing or creative gig?

A writing sample is a clip. It is a showcase of my work, designed to tell a potential future client that I know my stuff. It is not a "help yourself to this article and publish it at will" permission. I thought everyone knew this. To avoid finding yourself in a situation where someone publishes your work without your permission (and especially work that may already be published elsewhere), follow these quick tips:
  • Use abridged work when possible. Remove client-sensitive info and details that could prevent it from infringing on copyright issues should someone decide to go ahead and publish it without your permission. 
  • If you feel like it could be swiped, use a free article (or better yet, don't apply). Make sure you note that it is a "free article" in your application, and request that credit be given back to you and your website. 
  • If you find yourself being stolen from, speak up. Sometimes, it's simply an education issue. Smaller companies may not know that it isn't OK to use your sample without your explicit permission, or they may be confused as to what a writing sample really is. (Many of them just follow a basic ad format that they may have seen on another job posting without really understanding it.) The good companies will take your content down ASAP, if requested. 
  • Write content specifically for your sample stash. It's OK to build a small portfolio of samples that are not published elsewhere. While it isn't something I'd spend a great deal of time on (or a great deal of super ideas on), it's useful for situations like these. 
What has your experience been with samples? Do you find too many people "sampling" without permission? Do you even apply for jobs that require samples?

*Photo by Ben+Sam via Flickr.

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