Friday, January 2, 2009

Writing Samples to Land a Gig – Six Things to Know

Image representing Google Alerts as depicted i...Image via CrunchBaseSometimes when applying for a new client or freelance writing gig, you will be asked to provide a ‘sample’ of your work. Usually, you can simply provide appropriate links to previously published work in the same topic. However, sometimes new prospects will insist upon custom ‘samples’. What should you do?

There are several schools of thought on this, and it seems to be more a matter of personal preference than anything else. However, there are a few great rules of thumb to keep in mind as you make your own decision about how to handle such requests.

1- If you write it, you own the rights to it.
If someone insists they own the rights to the sample they are asking you to submit, there is a strong possibility you are being conned. There will then be nothing to stop them from saying you did not meet their hiring guidelines and then ‘rewrite’ your submission enough to prevent you from being able to take legal action against them. If someone wants the rights to your work, you will have to sell or assign them. Otherwise, the sample still belongs to you.
2- Samples should be paid for. If someone really insists upon a custom sample, they should be willing to pay for your time and effort. After all, they are asking you to work for them, even if it is just to create a custom sample. Exceptions to this are a matter of opinion. I have found very few instances in which I felt it was acceptable to write a free custom sample.
3- Previously written works should usually be sufficient examples of your style, voice, knowledge, and skill in the topic and genre. While there are legitimate reasons why a custom sample might be necessary, in most cases, prior works should suffice.
4- Protect yourself with links. If you send in a link to a sample that has been previously published and someone else now owns the rights, you are giving yourself extra protection against theft. This is because if the new prospect steals your content, the company/client that purchased it will be able to take legal action and probably has deeper pockets and more legal resources than you do.
5- Set up ‘Google Alerts’ on all your published works. Some recommend using the title, some say to use several lines from your work, and others recommend using key words/phrases. Be sure to enclose lines, sentences, and other word groupings in quotation marks to get results that are more accurate in your notifications. This is not fail-proof, but it is a great way to track references to your work, as well as help protect yourself against content theft.
6- Get or stay involved in writing forums. Members are very good about protecting one another from the scammers and giving one another leads to great gigs. More than once, I have seen alerts about such fraudulent job postings just as I was getting ready to report them to the group. Having such a great group of writers to confer with has saved me enormous time and effort when it comes to weeding out the bad gigs from the good ones.

Google Alerts

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