As a copywriter, I’m fortunate that nobody has ever asked me to write for free, but I know that it does happen. It may seem like a reasonable request – you don’t know the writer’s style, or even if they can really ‘write’, but it’s wrong and offensive for a number of reasons.
Why Not to Ask a Copywriter for Freebies
Firstly, nobody would advertise themselves as a copywriter if they weren’t one! They would be found out fairly quickly, and this would both affect their chances of getting any kind of work in the future, and damage the reputation of the profession.
As I’ve said before, writers are well-qualified, and deserve to be compensated accordingly. If you want to know if they can write to suit your needs, look at their website – the web copy and their blog will give you a feel for their style. They may also have an online portfolio, or you can ask to see samples of previous commissions – most writers will be happy to send you links or documents, although they may have to redact certain details to protect client confidentiality.
Secondly, you wouldn’t dream of providing your services for free, so why should you ask this of anyone else? If you’re embarking on a large project which needs a lot of copy, you may look at more than one writer to see if they’re a good fit, in which case it’s not unreasonable to trial them all.
A Copywriter Works Hard on Every Assignment
However, you MUST compensate them, even if you ultimately decide not to work with them. They’ve put time and effort in to craft the best work they could, possible taking time away from other paying work, so they need to be paid. You may even use their work as inspiration or as the basis of some copy you publish. They own the copyright on anything they produce (click here for source), and may challenge you if you use it without their permission.
Finally, there’s a notion that freelancers and creative industries can be poorly paid because they’re sustained by their passion for their work. There’s also an idea that there’s less effort involved to produce artistic pieces – there’s a perceived lower value on the output.
This is untrue, and a ridiculous notion. Craftspeople have to invest in materials and manhours, which influences how they price their work. Similarly, copywriting isn’t as straightforward as just typing 300 words into WordPress, and a copywriter has to charge for thinking time, because that’s when the content starts to take shape.
Hopefully, you’d never ask for free samples anyway, but as someone who’s constantly learning and honing their writing skills, and who knows many fantastic creatives, I’d ask that you value their time and hard work and respect their prices.