A contact of mine recommended me to a prospective new client. Hoorah! It was in the travel sector. Double hoorah! I love travel, writing about travel, and have written for travel industry clients in the past.

The prospect emailed to say: ‘Congratulations, you’re on the shortlist. Please complete this short assignment  by tomorrow midday, and we’ll decide.’

The assignment was to write a ‘snappy/punchy’ headline and two lines of descriptive copy about five different topics.

I replied to say thanks but no thanks.

At this stage of my career, I don’t see why I should have to provide unpaid copywriting in order to win business (although I am perfectly happy to provide samples of copy I’ve written before, if that helps.)

Before I write a word for a new client, I meet them for a proper brief, to find out all about them, their product /service, their target market and their competitors. (For existing clients, the process is much quicker, because I’ve already been through that learning curve, researched everything I need to know about the background context, and established the appropriate ‘tone of voice’.)

For good copywriting, there is no such thing as a ‘short’ assignment (in my opinion). Writing something short (e.g. the perfect ‘snappy/punchy’ title) actually takes longer than writing something long.

In order to write a title and benefit-led text on this occasion, I would have had to spend time researching their website and blog, as well as conducting telephone interviews. I would also want to know who the communication is aimed at, what is the objective and in what format it will appear. Only then would I be able to writing compelling copy that gets the results they are after.

I don’t see why I should do that for nothing and at such short notice.

So are they cheeky monkeys or am I a fool for turning work away?

1 Comment

Jeremy Walker · January 20, 2011 at 10:34 am

I make you right Jackie, unpaid trial specs are ultimately underdeveloped and uninformed, effectively sub-par. The engagement can't and won't be the same. And factoring in the cost of your time either strips your profit or passes on a 'failed pitch' subsidy to paying clients if you don't win the work.

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