A few days ago, I wrote about a potential client whose idea of "modest" rates was $1 per article. In the middle of telling them off via email, I had an epiphany, and changed my email to a sales pitch explaining why they need quality writing at my rates.
Unfortunately, the sales pitch didn't work, as I haven't heard back from them. However, I'm guessing that sort of email has a better chance of being read than one that tells someone off.
Lately, I've also been dealing with a lot of requests for what I call "custom" writing samples - when clients request that you prepare a writing sample on their specific topic. There are several problems with this, but I think one of the major ones is that these requests usually are made in a form letter that was obviously sent out to everybody that replied, rather than just a few likely candidates. As a result, the writer would be taking a lot of time to prepare a custom sample that is going to compete with 200 other custom samples. The odds just aren't good enough to justify taking that time away from paying work.
The other problem is, of course, that many of those requests for "samples" are actually scams - the "client" asks every respondant to write or edit a different piece, and as a result gets a lot of work performed without having to pay for it.
The risks are just too many, as far as I'm concerned, so I always very politely redirect them to my online portfolio (which they already received a link to in my initial email and on my resume).
Although this happens periodically, a few incidents in particular caught my attention recently. One was a response to my email that stated:
In lieu of reading dozens of resumes, I am really just interested in seeing how you write. If you want to apply for this position, write a short ad of 200 words or less pitching the following program...
He then described a very specific ad that he wanted written, including the intended audience and a special sale. His email ended with, "The best ad gets the job!"
This irritated me in several ways. One, he doesn't bother telling me how many other writers are taking the "test," leading me to believe that probably all 200 or so respondants are being requested to write a sample. There's a lot of potential for a scam there, especially since there's no mention in the email of who he is, what his business is, etc.
Two, his choice of words screams "Liar!" He claims that he doesn't want to read "dozens of resumes," yet he's basically setting himself up for reading dozens of 200-word ads. Seriously - how long does it take to look at a resume, skim the first section (which is all that usually gets read), and move it into the "keep" or "discard" pile? Certainly not any longer than it does to read a 200-word ad and decide where it ranks.
Basically, either this guy is extremely inconsiderate by making every applicant write a sample, whether or not they're truly suited for the job; OR he is running a scam and asking each applicant to write something different. I resent him the link to my portfolio, and offered to do a paid trial run - basically telling him that I'll write any sample he wants if he pays me for it. I never heard back.
But although you can't win them all, you can definitely win some. I responded to an ad the other day with a price quote and an explanation of why I'm the perfect writer for the job. I got the job, as well as the right to quote future work as it becomes available (rather than tying me into my present rate, which is slightly lower due to the the project being an easy one). Although it's not as stunning a success as the first example would have been, it's still good to know that my sales skills aren't the problem.