I had to laugh when I checked my email today. It’s been a while since I was asked to do spec-writing (‘You write; if we like it we’ll give you some more work.’). I’m still trying to work out whether to commend the sender for their initiative, damn them for their cheek or commiserate with them for their naïveté.
The email, sent through my website, was from a chap up north. He’s starting a web design business and wants feedback on an enclosed direct mail letter (obviously sent to several professional copywriters). What’s more, he’s planning some further letters in the future. And guess what! The pro who sends him the best feedback on his draft will get the business.
I declined. Not because I couldn’t have transformed his efforts, but because, like many professional copywriters, I don’t agree with spec writing. It harks back too much to the notorious ‘agency test‘ where, lured by vague promises of unspecified future work, a naive or gullible copywriter writes a load of free copy to show how good they are. Because of this, I declined this one – perhaps more politely than I should have done! I’m still wondering whether anyone will actually get the promised work, or whether the sender will cut and run with what he considers to be ‘the best’ letter.
As far as I’m concerned, my portfolio speaks volumes about my capabilities. If you like what you see, a small trial project is a great way for me to show what I can do – and for you to show that you can pay. Besides, I offer a guarantee anyway, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
It’s an approach that‘s worked perfectly for me as a Gloucestershire copywriter since 2006. Which is why I won’t be taking ‘Mr P‘ up on his offer. Hopefully, the other recipients of his email will have the good sense to decline too. If content is worth writing, it’s worth paying for. Spec work like this simply devalues quality freelance copywriting.