One of my favorite websites for freelancers, freelanceswitch.com, published a blog post titled “Should You Create a Free Sample for New Clients” (April 30, 2012). That article was in turn based on a post on allfreelancewriting.com titled “Should You Provide a Free Sample to Potential Clients?”
I was disappointed that the authors of both posts answered the title questions with yes.
I disagree. I offer a review of my portfolio and a list of references for potential clients to contact. I also offer a free initial meeting so the potential client and I can interview each other. If a potential client can’t decide whether or not to hire me based on all that information, so be it. If they have a large project, I might suggest that they hire me to do a small portion of the job and then assess the work done and decide whether to hire me to complete the rest of the work.
The same could be done if hiring for a permanent job: bring the designer or writer on for a week on a paid freelance basis, then decide whether to hire him or her permanently. You’ll learn a lot more about the person you might be hiring in that week than you would from a free sample of their work.
Some people argue that it’s ok to work for free if the free sample will not be published by the potential client. It’s still work and in my opinion shows a lack of respect for the designer or writer’s time and talents.
Sure, there are exceptions to everything. I just can’t think of a great reason to work for free.
Has offering free custom samples of your work to potential clients paid off for you?