Choosing the Best Writing Sample

Posted on January 7, 2016 by John C

writing sampleA well-crafted portfolio is a freelance writer’s best marketing tool. The writing samples that compose your portfolio offer a snapshot of your writing skills to potential clients. They are designed to show a client not only how you have handled past writing assignments, but also inform them of how you can meet their specific needs.

Just as with a resume, there is no such thing as a universal writing sample. Your portfolio must be flexible enough to draw interest from a wide spectrum of potential clients.  Consider following these guidelines to maximize the effectiveness of your writing samples:

Tailor your writing samples to the client 

It wouldn’t make much sense to send a copy of a concert review you wrote to a editor looking to hire a script writer. Your writing samples must be relevant to what a potential client actually needs. Before sending out writing samples, do a little homework on your potential client. Learn about their company. Check out their website. Get a feel for their brand’s voice. It will help you find a sample that is a good match with the client.

Put your best foot forward

Using sloppy, boring or generic writing samples will reduce your chances to impress a potential client. Choose a sample that puts an original spin on an idea or engages the audience with a compelling story. Many clients are looking for a writer who knows how to tell stories with their writing, They want to see evidence that a writer can draw in an audience and convince them to keep making visits.

Play to your strengths

The best writing sample is one that showcases your best writing skills. It is literally selling your abilities to a client. That’s why a writing sample should play to your strengths. If you want to become a food critic for your local newspaper, for example, demonstrating your ability to accurately describe the look and taste of multiple dishes is essential. You can accomplish this task, for example by sending product descriptions of a favorite dessert or meal. Understanding your strengths can help you target the right samples to the right people.

Keep it short and sweet

Few clients want to spend tons of time plowing through a writing sample that feels like a mini-novel. Sending a potential client an in-depth white paper might sound good in your head, but it isn’t practical unless you’re being considered to produce content in that specific format. Make a point of sending strong writing samples that are also short and sweet. It shows that you can write well and get to the point quickly – a trait that is always appealing to a client with limited time and space for content.

John C is a professional writer and editor who has written articles and blog posts dozens of websites and publications for more than a decade. His current goal for this upcoming year is to branch out into the exciting world of fiction writing.


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