Have you ever tried to close a new client by sending them a free sample of your work? It’s a popular strategy in a lot of freelance professions — especially for copywriters like me. And it can be a powerful way to demonstrate your value and skills to a new client…
But most freelancers I see using this technique are making a critical mistake.
And it means they’re only landing a tiny fraction of the clients they could get for their efforts.
See, when you create a free sample for a potential client, you are giving them a chance to test your work before hiring you.
So a copywriter would create a sample email, blog post, or Facebook ad…
A graphic designer might create sample social media post tiles or YouTube video thumbnails…
And an SEO specialist could take a prospect’s existing webpage and develop an optimized version for higher search rankings.
Then, once you have your sample, you send it to your prospect and offer to let them use it for free. And you also mention that — if it performs well — you’d like to talk to them about a paid engagement to get them even better results.
And to be clear, the rest of this article focuses on sending samples to clients that you are asking them to use in their business.
But if you’re simply sending examples of your work or links to your portfolio, different rules apply.
Now like I said, giving clients a free way to test your work can be a great way to stand out. Because it allows your clients to see a tangible example of what you can do for them before money changes hands.
And the truth is, most of the time your prospects won’t actually wait to use your sample before they hire you.
Since if they subjectively like what they see, they’ll consider bringing you on to work for them.
The problem is that most freelancers assume their prospects will value their free sample — just because it’s free.
And they act like they’re entitled to have the client review and use their free sample — again, just because it’s free.
But your prospects are busy.
And that means — when you send them an unsolicited free sample — it can feel like you’re giving them more work to do. Not less.
Since now they have to open and read your email…
…download and review your sample…
…decide if it’s worth using…
…pull their team away from other projects to implement your sample if they like it…
…keep track of the results…
…and a bunch more stuff that I’m probably missing.
So even when you send a “free” sample, it places a significant demand on your prospect’s time.
Which is why you should never send an unsolicited free sample in my opinion.
Because you risk turning off your prospects by immediately making them feel like you’re giving them a bunch of work to do.
Especially since there’s a simple, no-risk way to get around this problem…
Start by emailing your prospect and telling them about the free sample you’d like to share.
Give them a quick summary about what you created and why it will help a meaningful part of their business.
But rather than attaching the sample right away…
Instead, simply ASK if they would like to see it.
You can say that you “don’t want to send unsolicited attachments and clog up their inbox” or something similar.
Because I can’t imagine that any business owner would say yes to an unsolicited sample…
But would somehow say no when you ask for permission to share it first.
Which means there’s virtually no downside to getting permission first. (Plus you can always decide to attach the sample later if you don’t hear back from your prospect.)
On the other hand, I do know plenty of business owners who feel like you’re imposing on their valuable time when you send them an unsolicited sample.
So by asking for permission first, it shows you respect their time.
And that is often enough to make your prospects agree to check out your sample — when they would have said no if you just dropped it on them uninvited.
That means getting permission to send a sample first has virtually no downside and a lot of upside.
Just make sure you’re honest about whether or not you have the sample created already.
Yes, it’s a more powerful message if you tell a prospect that you already have a sample for them — and with their permission, you’d love to send it over.
But creating free samples also takes up a lot of time.
And that means you may be tempted to offer free samples to a lot of potential clients…
…but only create them if they reply and say yes.
DO NOT do this.
Because if you get a prospect to say yes — only to reveal that the sample isn’t actually finished — you will immediately lose ALL their trust.
And likely all their business, too.
Instead, there’s nothing wrong with emailing your prospects and telling them you would love to create a sample for them to test. And to let you know if they’re interested so you can get started right away.
While it may not be as powerful as saying you have a finished sample ready…
It can still be a compelling offer when you frame it like this. And most important — you’re up-front with them that it’s not actually done yet.
Either way though, do not send samples to your prospects unless you have permission first.
Because getting permission will only help you turn more prospects into clients — and it will virtually never hurt.
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