Copywriters: How important is showing sample work ?

46 replies
I peruse a lot of copywriter pitch sites and agency sites. One thing I notice is they fall into four categories:

- Site has abundant sample work. (Rare... Sites by ex-9-to-5ers tend to be most diligent about posting samples...)

- Site has links to sample work, but most of the links are broken. (Surprisingly common... Especially among "big names" in IM... I'm looking at you, Chris Haddad...)

- Site has links to a portfolio, but it's really just a bluff. Click the link and you'll find just brief descriptions of projects they've worked on. (Rare, but surprisingly common...)

- Site has no sample work at all. (So common that I'm wondering if there's something to this approach... )



I'm beginning to think that samples can be as much a detriment as a help.

Sure, they just might impress a prospect enough to hire you. But they're also likely to shift a prospect into "judge mode" -- whereby they're judging your work based on ads they've liked in the past, that commercial they laughed about on tv, or a million other things that have little to do with principles of copywriting.

The prospect may not be a good judge of copy at all, yet you'll be rejected based on their personal taste.

On top of that, if you're not showing samples of work related to the project they have in mind, they may just click away in search of a copywriter with more closely related experience.

Ironically, the sales pitch that got them to the point of checking out your samples is then completely discounted.

A site minus samples, on the other hand, works or doesn't work based strictly on your sales pitch. Seems you have more control that way.

What's your opinion on samples? Do you show them? Would you hire a copywriter who didn't have them?

Do you use the ol' "samples available on request" angle?
#copywriters #important #sample #showing #work
  • Profile picture of the author TypingPandas
    Hi there,

    We do have a few samples on our website for about every service we offer. Still, we prefer the old way, as you said - offering samples on request. To us, this is the best and most reasonable approach, because our samples may not be on the subject the client wants. So, we ask him to give us a subject, write a 400 - 500-word copy on that topic and go from there. This way, the client can see how we approach the subject for their specific company and audience, and he can tell if we meet his requirements. Until now, this has proven to be the best solution for us.

    And to ask your other question: no, we wouldn't hire a copywriter without seeing their samples.

    Best,
    Typing Pandas
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  • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
    Originally Posted by splitTest View Post


    I'm beginning to think that samples can be as much a detriment as a help.

    Sure, they just might impress a prospect enough to hire you. But they're also likely to shift a prospect into "judge mode" -- whereby they're judging your work based on ads they've liked in the past, that commercial they laughed about on tv, or a million other things that have little to do with principles of copywriting.

    The prospect may not be a good judge of copy at all, yet you'll be rejected based on their personal taste.

    On top of that, if you're not showing samples of work related to the project they have in mind, they may just click away in search of a copywriter with more closely related experience.
    Agreed on both accounts.

    In my experience, people who ask for samples tend to be bargain shoppers and unqualified to even judge the difference between good writing and good copywriting. They're also clueless that the most important thing is the person behind the work.

    On top of that, there are "copywriters" who will download your portfolio and use the samples to land their own clients. I had this happen a few times before I changed my policy on sharing client work. I also had a lot of my work copied or straight ripped off.

    These days, if someone asks me for samples, I just delete their email and move on, and I make more money now than when I used to give them out. Especially if they ask for links to live ones. Had three client websites copied damn near word for word doing that.

    That said, if you're just starting out and have no reputation, you might not have a choice.

    Clients with money tend to hire by reputation. I.E., someone told them about you, or they read your book, heard about you from somewhere before they came upstream to the source. If you can get this to happen, great. If not, you have to do what you can do to get started.

    Lastly, I advise against writing samples on demand.

    There are sneaky people who will use that as a ploy to get content written without paying for it. I've even seen it suggested in some outsourcing guides, which is a hell-worthy trespass.

    A good client knows that you have to pay for value and is happy to do it, even if it's just to test a writer out.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      If you're a beginning copywriter and do good work but don't have testimonials or a track record, an online portfolio can help.

      If you have a lot of experience, testimonials tend to be much more powerful than a portfolio.

      I agree with others in this thread that sample work can hurt as well as help, because prospective clients apply their own industry filters to it, which may throw off their judgment.

      Marcia Yudkin
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      • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
        It's telling if people are coming in asking for samples...
        the copywriter hasn't done the work of pre-selling and positioning himself
        or herself as the expert.

        Then does the buyer really want somebody to create
        that same weak messaging for them?

        Something to think about.

        Best,
        Doctor E. Vile
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        • Profile picture of the author Alex Cohen
          Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

          It's telling if people are coming in asking for samples...
          the copywriter hasn't done the work of pre-selling and positioning himself
          or herself as the expert.

          Then does the buyer really want somebody to create
          that same weak messaging for them?

          Something to think about.

          Best,
          Doctor E. Vile
          Ding ding ding! Absolutely true.

          Alex
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          • Profile picture of the author splitTest
            Thanks all.

            I see opinions skew toward not posting samples if you can avoid it... The point about positioning especially rings true.

            I guess the most effective angle would be a strong pitch that includes "samples available on request" or something to that effect... (or even better: "Free 21-Page White Paper! Including Copywriting Case Studies from this industry, that industry, and the other"?) ... then make the most of those requests as leads...
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            • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
              An ad run in a national newspaper by my friend, was all results different types of businesses had got.

              From hairdresser to food processor and others in between.

              There was a short back story summary, the exact numbers of the result and time frames.

              The offer was to book a 20 minute phone call to get a personalized plan
              they can implement themselves, or have him implement it for them.

              Not only did he get calls from ideal clients, he got calls from large companies wanting him to speak
              to them as well as ad agency top brass calling him to congratulate him on the ad, as they marveled at it.

              The ad brought in clients from his local community when he ran it there.

              He was the rainmaker in the readers mind, therefore you don't ask for samples
              from a rainmaker.

              Best,
              Doctor E. Vile

              P.S. I wrote an ad for a web design firm just starting out.

              The owner had no web design experience,
              therefore he had to outsource the work.

              The ad brought him in $25k worth of ongoing work within
              3 days of running it in an environment where others showed off their portfolios
              and years of experience.

              I showed no images or portfolios.

              The callers weren't asking for them either.

              This only happens when you know
              how to create a set up where the ideal client reads it
              and says, "this guy knows more about the subject than the rest of them."

              That's all ya gotta do.
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              • Profile picture of the author savidge4
                Only in the very beginning of my career did I present "Samples of work" it has for the most part been "Case Studies" since then.

                Using this platform of displaying "Samples" allows for a pre sales setup. This gives you the opportunity to separate "your" work from work that you do for clients. Correct wording can showcase your ability to listen to and complete clients projects above and beyond their expectations.

                Depending on the presentation there is the ability to showcase the before and after... as well as any financial increase that was created with the piece. Add into this a testimonial factor, and you have a very powerful presell piece.

                I am in complete agreement with the above statements of prospect wondering and judgment based on "Samples" and have found that the framework of displaying clients needs and outcomes greatly reduces this effect. They are looking at work you have done for other clients vs work you have done.

                I am also in complete agreement with Ewen's comments.. that to a point there is no need to display samples... however, one has to ask how much business was lost because there was not an option to see any previous work?
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                • Profile picture of the author splitTest
                  Originally Posted by savidge4 View Post

                  Only in the very beginning of my career did I present "Samples of work" it has for the most part been "Case Studies" since then.

                  Using this platform of displaying "Samples" allows for a pre sales setup. This gives you the opportunity to separate "your" work from work that you do for clients. Correct wording can showcase your ability to listen to and complete clients projects above and beyond their expectations.

                  Depending on the presentation there is the ability to showcase the before and after... as well as any financial increase that was created with the piece. Add into this a testimonial factor, and you have a very powerful presell piece.

                  I am in complete agreement with the above statements of prospect wondering and judgment based on "Samples" and have found that the framework of displaying clients needs and outcomes greatly reduces this effect. They are looking at work you have done for other clients vs work you have done.

                  I am also in complete agreement with Ewen's comments.. that to a point there is no need to display samples... however, one has to ask how much business was lost because there was not an option to see any previous work?
                  Nice insights. Thanks.

                  Good point in that last paragraph, too. While "samples" can undermine your sales pitch & positioning, maybe we're discounting the consideration that many clients "shop around" (as opposed to just responding to our solicitations)... and in those cases, copywriters who link to a portfolio will have a leg up on those who don't...?

                  (...Especially when it comes to specialty copywriting... e.g. finance, health, b-to-b etc... where the prospect is more likely to know a thing or two about what makes good copy...)

                  That's why I'm liking the "case studies" idea as opposed to skipping samples entirely... I think it preserves the "expert" positioning, while still giving the prospect copy to chew on... Also lets you put each piece in context and combine it with any related testimonials and results...

                  You're showing your "samples" yet still actively making your case...

                  ...But savidge, do you deliver your "case studies" up front or on request?

                  I'm thinking "on request" is best, for the reasons in the posts above...
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                  • Profile picture of the author savidge4
                    Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

                    ...But savidge, do you deliver your "case studies" up front or on request?

                    I'm thinking "on request" is best, for the reasons in the posts above...
                    I don't do Copywriting exclusively... To be honest, not to sure what that sales funnel would even look like. BUT, if there was a way to stop the prospect form looking further and saying "this is the one" I would dang straight present it openly.

                    Again displaying the "Sample" in context backed with pre sales elements why wouldn't you display this?

                    We do kinda sorta live in a NOW society correct? you make a cold call, the sale is made when? You go onto a site to buy a blender the sale is made when? you need a plumber.. the service call is set when? You call DirecTv for hook up the sale is made when? You want a Copywriter.. let me get back to you... WHAT?

                    A qoute I can understand, but any step in the process that can alleviate potential sales leakage, I'm all for.
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              • Profile picture of the author splitTest
                Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

                An ad run in a national newspaper by my friend, was all results different types of businesses had got.

                From hairdresser to food processor and others in between.

                There was a short back story summary, the exact numbers of the result and time frames.

                The offer was to book a 20 minute phone call to get a personalized plan
                they can implement themselves, or have him implement it for them.

                Not only did he get calls from ideal clients, he got calls from large companies wanting him to speak
                to them as well as ad agency top brass calling him to congratulate him on the ad, as they marveled at it.

                The ad brought in clients from his local community when he ran it there.

                He was the rainmaker in the readers mind, therefore you don't ask for samples
                from a rainmaker.

                Best,
                Doctor E. Vile

                P.S. I wrote an ad for a web design firm just starting out.

                The owner had no web design experience,
                therefore he had to outsource the work.

                The ad brought him in $25k worth of ongoing work within
                3 days of running it in an environment where others showed off their portfolios
                and years of experience.

                I showed no images or portfolios.

                The callers weren't asking for them either.

                This only happens when you know
                how to create a set up where the ideal client reads it
                and says, "this guy knows more about the subject than the rest of them."

                That's all ya gotta do.
                Ewen, do you have those ads handy? Would love to check them out, especially the first one. Your friend with the first ad must've had a helluva track record (eg. big name clients) to win that much credibility. ...Or it must've been one hell of an ad.
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                • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
                  Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

                  Ewen, do you have those ads handy? Would love to check them out, especially the first one. Your friend with the first ad must've had a helluva track record (eg. big name clients) to win that much credibility. ...Or it must've been one hell of an ad.
                  No big name client results.

                  You don't even need your own client results when starting out...
                  like I did for my web design client I quoted earlier.

                  I just used split test results that were publicly available
                  and set them up in a way so they showed clearly
                  the cost of making mistakes in the design....

                  Little changes that the buyer and most designers
                  have no clue what a major difference in outcomes
                  they make.

                  Best,
                  Doctor E. Vile
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                  • Profile picture of the author Brock Poling
                    Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

                    I just used split test results that were publicly available
                    Really? Where do you find things like this?
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                    • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
                      Originally Posted by Brock Poling View Post

                      Really? Where do you find things like this?
                      Marketing Experiments.

                      VWO and other split testing tool sites.

                      Conversion optimization firms.

                      Best,
                      Doctor E. Vile
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    This is a great topic for discussion.

    I offer samples on my website and fell into the broken links category
    before I compiled them as one PDF. I know many copywriters who
    offer samples on request and use that "request" as an opportunity to
    seal the deal.

    I have found that when clients ask for samples of the EXACT copy
    they are looking for they are not very qualified prospects. They already
    think that you must have written a letter for their exact product or service
    to do a great job for them. I have even found that providing such copy
    REDUCES your chances of getting the job. So I agree with Seth.

    But at the same time most prospects do not know how to evaluate a
    copywriter so they don't even know what to ask for. This is where
    some education comes in handy. I read through many request for
    copywriting work and see wrong criteria mentioned all the time.

    As mentioned above, if the client has to see samples in order to
    hire you something may be missing in your marketing.

    -Ray Edwards
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  • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
    I only have a portfolio for showing off my visual work, since I work more on the Madison Avenue side than the DR side.

    For my after working hours clients, I simply do not share other clients' projects with prospective clients. I find it to be a breach of professional etiquette unless I have explicit permission. I'd much rather have testimonials and numbers to use than permission to show someone words they may not be able to objectively judge.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jennifer Hutson
    I'm really glad this came up. I've been re-doing my personal website and having a dilemma over whether to include a portfolio or not. Sounds like a bad idea.

    I've also been wondering if I should include a Rates page. I see about 50% of copywriters who include one and 50% who don't.

    I've always thought it was better to quote clients on an individual basis, but now that I'm starting to see so many other writers doing it, I'm wondering if there's something to it. Things like "Blog posts starting at $75" or "Website content starting at $150 a page."

    Any opinions on this?
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    • Profile picture of the author sethczerepak
      Originally Posted by Jennifer Hutson View Post

      I'm really glad this came up. I've been re-doing my personal website and having a dilemma over whether to include a portfolio or not. Sounds like a bad idea.

      I've also been wondering if I should include a Rates page. I see about 50% of copywriters who include one and 50% who don't.

      I've always thought it was better to quote clients on an individual basis, but now that I'm starting to see so many other writers doing it, I'm wondering if there's something to it. Things like "Blog posts starting at $75" or "Website content starting at $150 a page."

      Any opinions on this?
      Dan Kennedy, who is probably the highest paid copywriter alive, advises to look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite. That advice has done well for me. The only thing I post about pricing is a project minimum of $2,500.00. It's a great filter.

      As for exact prices, it depends on the type of clients you want. There's a reason you don't find prices on the menu in those REALLY classy restaurants. They cater to people who buy what they WANT, not what they think they can afford.

      Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

      Thanks all.

      I see opinions skew toward not posting samples if you can avoid it... The point about positioning especially rings true.

      I guess the most effective angle would be a strong pitch that includes "samples available on request" or something to that effect... (or even better: "Free 21-Page White Paper! Including Copywriting Case Studies from this industry, that industry, and the other"?) ... then make the most of those requests as leads...
      Another thing to consider, why would someone go to your website, see pages and pages of your writing, and then turn around and ask for "a writing sample?" lol Especially if they're not specific about what they're looking for. That's like sitting down to a 7 course meal, then getting up and asking for a sample so you can decide whether you like the chef's cooking.
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  • Hello splitTest

    If you carry out the job well "before" you have no need to see your wallet on your site, you just publish testimonials from people traceable and the job is done.

    My advice is to not put rates, otherwise it looks like a standard work, when in fact the work of a copy depends greatly on the niche for which to write.
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  • Profile picture of the author SplashCopy
    Everyone's different but I've found that almost all of my clients have requested an example of some of my work.

    I guess it's only natural, especially if they can see a live website or flyer.
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  • Profile picture of the author jessegilbert
    I would say sample work is extremely important. If you have any data or proof on how it worked in the marketplace, all the better...Because sometimes copy can look good, but if it wasn't tested you can't know for sure. Personally I think the most powerful would be a site or agency with a good rep, and a least a few samples with the results on the site.

    A lot of business owners may have lost money on ads in the past or tried other writers, so anything that can put them at ease or inspire confidence could put the numbers up exponentially.

    Having at least a few samples may also show that you have potential JV partners for them if the products you wrote about are actually awesome or relevant to your marketplace as potential upsells, backends etc...
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  • Profile picture of the author kk075
    I'm not sure how I missed this conversation earlier, but it is a good one. Here's my two cents-

    I remember thinking 7-10 years ago, "If I only had a sample in "xyz", I bet I could land this particular project." And over time, samples did seem to help get my foot in the door more often...but I discovered that it was rarely the deciding factor. In fact, the closer I paid attention, the more I realized that an awesome pitch with no sample would often work better than a generic pitch with super-relevant samples.

    Why? I think it's because every brand has their own type of voice and when a client looks at a sample, he/she thinks, "Nope, that's nowhere close to how we deliver our messaging." And it really doesn't matter how good/bad the sample is either...the style itself is what makes or breaks the day.

    But here's my other problem with samples- I can only show you about 15% total of what I've written over the past 3-4 years. Everything else was completed under an NDA for a corporate marketing team that needed a top-end copywriter for 5-15 hours a week. That's who I target these days and I very rarely have a relevant sample to provide. But since I have my business website with 50+ pages, there's plenty there for customers to get a solid feel for me and how I write.

    I also get around that by always offering a custom sample at their request, which very few big clients will ever take me up on. Again though, I'll spend an hour on a custom proposal to make sure I'm getting the callback...and I think that's far more important than any other aspect.

    Oh, by the way...my resume is two pages long, with the entire second page being links to current/former clients and sample work that I did for them. So I guess I do provide samples after all; I just never thought about it that way since I made that move years ago.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeHumphreys
      Nice thread... Here's my take on it.

      If you're a new(er) copywriter then portfolio samples on your website are another weapon to help you close more prospects.

      As you become more established then client testimonials and professional reputation carry more weight than current portfolio samples.

      I still keep portfolio samples on my copywriting website. I do so for several reasons:

      1. If it helps convince more qualified prospects in a given week/month/year to contact me, then I'm happy to have them there.

      2. It shows some of the different niches, styles, and voices that I can write copy for. My portfolio samples aren't my most current work. But they are a positive representation of how well I can write copy.

      3. It does some of the heavy lifting for me. If a prospect asks me for portfolio samples or to see what my writing style looks like, then I just refer them to my website.

      Having said that, I know several copywriters who don't ever show portfolio samples. They view each project that they write as copyrighted property of their client that shouldn't be shared with anyone else because it could hurt their client's business.

      I can respect that.

      These days, I don't share the majority of my recent client work because there's a non-disclosure agreement in place or because I get ongoing royalties from those projects.

      So my parting thoughts are you need to figure out what works best for you and stick with it.
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      • Honestly I don't remember the last time I was asked for a sample of my writing.

        My customized direct mail system still pulls in new business. Referrals keep calling. Repeat business always turns up.

        A few months back I took my website down and just keep the domain active for email purposes.
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  • Profile picture of the author nmwf
    I can't imagine any serious business situation in which samples aren't required before making a hiring decision.
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by nmwf View Post

      I can't imagine any serious business situation in which samples aren't required before making a hiring decision.
      I think you should read through this thread and find out exactly what REAL copywriters are saying.

      When I had samples out there, all they did was get ripped off. When I put a case study out there, all that happened was newbies ripped it off and pretended they now understood the process. THOUSANDS of them.

      Do you need a sample when you buy from the grocery store?

      Do you need a sample when you buy office furniture?

      How about a meal at a restaurant? Some of those can get as pricey as what the newbies charge for a sales letter! Let's imagine the reaction to, "Hey, Chef! I wanna try some of your food before I sit down for a meal." Gordon Ramsay IN YOUR FACE for the reaction...I'd pay to see that.

      I made this video well over two years ago and in it I say exactly the same things writers shared in this thread.


      Thieves...

      People who don't know any better...

      And those who try to cobble together what I call a "Frankenstein Monster" of copy from different sources...

      All of which you avoid by not sharing samples.

      Experienced writers can tell who the other experienced writers are by their answers here.

      You can also tell who's never landed a five-figure or higher contract.

      And you can also instantly see the differentiating factor.

      Positioning it is.
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      • Profile picture of the author nmwf
        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        I think you should read through this thread and find out exactly what REAL copywriters are saying.

        When I had samples out there, all they did was get ripped off. When I put a case study out there, all that happened was newbies ripped it off and pretended they now understood the process. THOUSANDS of them.

        Do you need a sample when you buy from the grocery store?

        Do you need a sample when you buy office furniture?

        How about a meal at a restaurant? Some of those can get as pricey as what the newbies charge for a sales letter! Let's imagine the reaction to, "Hey, Chef! I wanna try some of your food before I sit down for a meal." Gordon Ramsay IN YOUR FACE for the reaction...I'd pay to see that.

        I made this video well over two years ago and in it I say exactly the same things writers shared in this thread.

        What to do when Your Credentials or Experience are Questioned - YouTube

        Thieves...

        People who don't know any better...

        And those who try to cobble together what I call a "Frankenstein Monster" of copy from different sources...

        All of which you avoid by not sharing samples.
        That's too bad that you were ripped off. However, when I go to the grocery store, restaurant or furniture shop, I'm not hiring anybody to work for me. So that analogy doesn't work for me.

        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        Experienced writers can tell who the other experienced writers are by their answers here.

        You can also tell who's never landed a five-figure or higher contract.

        And you can also instantly see the differentiating factor.

        Positioning it is.
        Got it. Experienced writers who've presumably landed a five-figure or higher contract do not provide samples because of potential theft.

        I guess someone should go and tell all those leading copywriting agencies to get their samples off the Internet then!
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      • Profile picture of the author splitTest
        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        I think you should read through this thread and find out exactly what REAL copywriters are saying....

        Experienced writers can tell who the other experienced writers are by their answers here.

        You can also tell who's never landed a five-figure or higher contract.

        And you can also instantly see the differentiating factor.

        Positioning it is.
        I'm now in the "samples available on request" school of thought, so I can see your other points ~ but ~ the above is a lil over the top...

        Bob Bly posts tons of samples, and he's an experienced copywriter to say the least.

        One of the best copywriter sites I've ever seen, home of a guy with lots of corporate staff experience, posts sample sales letters and also makes them available for download. The guy specializes in selling consumer magazine subscriptions... (I forget the name - found his site here - maybe you remember?)

        Chris Haddad gets decent contracts (presumably), and he posts samples (with broken links yet). Most copywriters coming out of corporate staff positions (ie. plenty of experience) post samples in my observation. Most copywriting instructional books recommend posting a sample portfolio. And of course, lots of agencies post samples and case studies.

        So it's not so cut and dried...

        In the cases of Bob Bly and the magazine guy, Bly specializes in copywriting for industrial/technical products and the magazine guy of course specializes in selling magazine subscriptions... I think maybe it's more important for specialists to post samples than generalists....(?)

        And of course, it's important to make samples available if the client knows copy and wants to resell your services, like if you're pitching to work with an agency... So all in all, maybe it's situational.

        Not to snipe at anyone, but from what I observe, it's mainly IM copywriters (and copywriters who sell books and courses to aspiring copywriters) who never post samples. Maybe the world of IM is special like that...

        Originally Posted by copyassassin View Post

        ...Young copywriters should spend their money getting to know players. Go to the conferences, big drinks for the big guys, join their masterminds. No samples needed anymore.
        Man, if the best path to success was waiting for guys in the old boy's club to recommend me between sessions of back slapping & grab assing, I wouldn't even want to be a copywriter. There are far better paths than the one you describe, and even with that path, you're gonna need to show what you can do...

        Anyway, thanks for all the good responses here. Definitely helped me rethink my approach.
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        • ST,
          Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

          Not to snipe at anyone, but from what I observe, it's mainly IM copywriters (and copywriters who sell books and courses to aspiring copywriters) who never post samples. Maybe the world of IM is special like that...
          Don't forget you have the group of copy writers who keep all their business under wraps. It's a competition thing.
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        • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
          Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

          I'm now in the "samples available on request" school of thought, so I can see your other points ~ but ~ the above is a lil over the top...

          Bob Bly posts tons of samples, and he's an experienced copywriter to say the least.

          One of the best copywriter sites I've ever seen, home of a guy with lots of corporate staff experience, posts sample sales letters and also makes them available for download. The guy specializes in selling consumer magazine subscriptions... (I forget the name - found his site here - maybe you remember?)

          Chris Haddad gets decent contracts (presumably), and he posts samples (with broken links yet). Most copywriters coming out of corporate staff positions (ie. plenty of experience) post samples in my observation. Most copywriting instructional books recommend posting a sample portfolio. And of course, lots of agencies post samples and case studies.

          So it's not so cut and dried...

          In the cases of Bob Bly and the magazine guy, Bly specializes in copywriting for industrial/technical products and the magazine guy of course specializes in selling magazine subscriptions... I think maybe it's more important for specialists to post samples than generalists....(?)

          And of course, it's important to make samples available if the client knows copy and wants to resell your services, like if you're pitching to work with an agency... So all in all, maybe it's situational.

          Not to snipe at anyone, but from what I observe, it's mainly IM copywriters (and copywriters who sell books and courses to aspiring copywriters) who never post samples. Maybe the world of IM is special like that...



          Man, if the best path to success was waiting for guys in the old boy's club to recommend me between sessions of back slapping & grab assing, I wouldn't even want to be a copywriter. There are far better paths than the one you describe, and even with that path, you're gonna need to show what you can do...

          Anyway, thanks for all the good responses here. Definitely helped me rethink my approach.
          Bob Bly is not posting in this thread.

          I interviewed him, though.

          Something to consider...when a client goes to talk to Mr. Bly, they're not hiring "a copywriter." They're interested in hiring Bob Bly. Nothing to do with his posted samples.

          Though coming in sideways here you have made me think of another kind of "sample"...the Kindle book. Both Bob and I have Kindle books and they are useful positioning and pre-selling tools.

          I would much rather use these than copy samples as they describe more about personality and "what it's like to work with this expert."

          My recommendations are the same in web design as well as in copy.

          What if you show a blue website as your sample, and your prospect doesn't like blue?

          There are too many chances for you to blow it.

          Yes, you could ask some questions to find out what their preferences are before sharing. But now we're getting labor-intensive.

          People look for jobs with resumes and cover letters.

          Doesn't mean that's the only way to do it. Or the best way. It's just the way most people think of doing it.

          Same with samples.

          Start thinking about your AUDIENCE.
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          • Profile picture of the author splitTest
            Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

            Bob Bly is not posting in this thread.
            How do you know that?

            Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post


            I interviewed him, though.

            Something to consider...when a client goes to talk to Mr. Bly, they're not hiring "a copywriter." They're interested in hiring Bob Bly. Nothing to do with his posted samples.

            Though coming in sideways here you have made me think of another kind of "sample"...the Kindle book. Both Bob and I have Kindle books and they are useful positioning and pre-selling tools.

            I would much rather use these than copy samples as they describe more about personality and "what it's like to work with this expert."

            My recommendations are the same in web design as well as in copy.

            What if you show a blue website as your sample, and your prospect doesn't like blue?

            There are too many chances for you to blow it.

            Yes, you could ask some questions to find out what their preferences are before sharing. But now we're getting labor-intensive.

            People look for jobs with resumes and cover letters.

            Doesn't mean that's the only way to do it. Or the best way. It's just the way most people think of doing it.

            Same with samples.

            Start thinking about your AUDIENCE.
            Interesting viewpoint... And in the summer of Trump, I don't write off the power of sheer balls in getting people to buy into your "expert status"...

            However, I don't think it's wise to write off having a portfolio to the extent you're suggesting.

            ...& I hope you're not saying a web designer shouldn't show samples. That just makes no sense. Designers of all kinds have to show samples.

            In your other post, you also suggest that copywriters in the “show samples” camp aren’t “real copywriters” or “experienced”... Just sayin’ -- there are plenty of real, experienced copywriters who are apparently in that camp, as demonstrated by their own websites. Indeed, the most obviously experienced copywriters -- those with a staff track record -- mostly show samples.

            I think the important thing is knowing when & why to show samples... I think "available on request" is the winner, because you satisfy the people who won't work with you without a looksee and you get a lead in the process...

            P.s. -- When people hire bob bly they're just hiring a copywriter... Most people aren't fans of the craft like we are. They just want the guy with proven chops who can sell best for them. Just so happens that bly has the chops.
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            • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
              Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

              Designers of all kinds have to show samples.
              Re-read my earlier post about web designer firm bringing in
              25K worth of work in 3 days, despite...

              having no experience...

              no samples from outsourced contractor...

              in a city with web design firms having
              long standing reputations and samples
              out the wazoo...

              no pre-selling through blogging...

              no pounding the phones or street.

              That client can testify it can be done,
              all on public record on this site.

              It's done by re-setting the buying criteria.

              Best,
              Doctor E. Vile
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              • Profile picture of the author splitTest
                Originally Posted by ewenmack View Post

                Re-read my earlier post about web designer firm bringing in
                25K worth of work in 3 days, despite...

                having no experience...

                no samples from outsourced contractor...

                in a city with web design firms having
                long standing reputations and samples
                out the wazoo...

                no pre-selling through blogging...

                no pounding the phones or street.

                That client can testify it can be done,
                all on public record on this site.

                It's done by re-setting the buying criteria.

                Best,
                Doctor E. Vile
                Yep -- I saw that... It's in my swipe file... But I bet that approach would be even more powerful supplemented by a great portfolio... When it comes to things like design in particular, people want to see what you've done.

                Copy may be a lil different because it's more about quantifiable results, but design is definitely a discipline in which you want to show sample work.
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                • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
                  Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

                  Yep -- I saw that... It's in my swipe file... But I bet that approach would be even more powerful supplemented by a great portfolio... When it comes to things like design in particular, people want to see what you've done.

                  Copy may be a lil different because it's more about quantifiable results, but design is definitely a discipline in which you want to show sample work.
                  I have sold both copy and web design for years without needing to show samples.

                  Samples would have HURT because what I did for past clients was not what I would have to do for these prospects.

                  Do it whatever way it works for you. But you don't have to give samples.
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                  • Profile picture of the author EzraWinter
                    Copywriters: How important is showing sample work ?

                    Not as important as showing results

                    The model "I achieved (x) sales for respectable company (x) by doing (x)" is the most important thing I've seen when it comes to pitching yourself.

                    If I'm ever hiring a copywriter, I don't really care what I think about the prose - I only care if it can achieve real sales with my customers.
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    • Originally Posted by nmwf View Post

      I can't imagine any serious business situation in which samples aren't required before making a hiring decision.
      Off the top of my head here are just a few serious business situations which do not require a sample to make a hiring decision.

      Lights go out - Electricians
      Pipe Bursts - Plumbers
      Lost keys - Locksmiths
      Car Breaks Down - Tow Service
      House needs cleaning - Housekeepers
      Damaged flooring - Carpet Installer
      Filthy Carpets - Carpet Cleaners
      Glass Store Front door won't close - Glass Door Repairmen
      Rotting Door Frame - Carpenters
      Leaks in the ceiling - Roofers
      Lightning Strikes or Termite Infestation - Tree Surgeon

      Clearly understand, copy writing is a skilled trade. Like any tradesmen will attest to, you are only as good as your last job.

      Same applies to those who write copy. What I did on my last assignment won't look anything like what I'm about to do for my new client.
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      • Profile picture of the author nmwf
        Originally Posted by ThePromotionalGuy View Post

        Off the top of my head here are just a few serious business situations which do not require a sample to make a hiring decision.

        Lights go out - Electricians
        Pipe Bursts - Plumbers
        Lost keys - Locksmiths
        Car Breaks Down - Tow Service
        House needs cleaning - Housekeepers
        Damaged flooring - Carpet Installer
        Filthy Carpets - Carpet Cleaners
        Glass Store Front door won't close - Glass Door Repairmen
        Rotting Door Frame - Carpenters
        Leaks in the ceiling - Roofers
        Lightning Strikes or Termite Infestation - Tree Surgeon
        These are not business situations. They're home emergency situations. Of course, anyone looking for home repair services had better ask to see samples of past work whether those samples are in the form of photographs or work done at a friends house.
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        • Actually each of those situations do not require hiring a professional and are not emergencies.

          Not providing a sample of past work, will in no way nullify the business professional's experience.

          Originally Posted by nmwf View Post

          These are not business situations. They're home emergency situations. Of course, anyone looking for home repair services had better ask to see samples of past work whether those samples are in the form of photographs or work done at a friends house.
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  • Profile picture of the author copyassassin
    so here's the real deal:

    If you are lurking on the internet, looking for a copywriter, it's completely normal to want to see some examples. Especially if you don't know the person, or haven't heard from them.

    Now, guys in the know, players mind you, usually meet in mastermind group during the year. And they talk about recent launches and whoz doing what.

    In other words, a guy gives a person a chance, sees the results, and then shares the results with his friends. The big names can ususally get work done pennies on the dollar because up and comers know that an endorsement by a big guy can be worth hundreds of the thousands of dollars in future business. That being said, big time dudes will have their favorites, and pay them good chunks of dough because their is a premium for knowing what you;re likley to get.

    Then, those friends tell other friends.

    No need for a sample because players have seen the campaign already. And they know the results.

    Bottom line: if you are starting out looking for copy, without a network of people to guide you, you're likely to get screwed. Because you will read copy, think its good, and buy from that.

    Who really cares what you (the buyer) think of the copy? You probably won't know good copy from bad copy.

    As long as it's legellay compliant, and produces an acceptable ROI, thats all that matters.

    Young copywriters should spend their money getting to know players. Go to the conferences, big drinks for the big guys, join their masterminds. No samples needed anymore.
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  • Profile picture of the author kk075
    You can't argue with that logic. When someone can write comprehensive articles on any topic in seconds, they obviously have more knowledge than even the biggest names in the industry.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ghoster
    In my experience, people who ask for samples tend to be bargain shoppers and unqualified to even judge the difference between good writing and good copywriting.
    I can attest to this. Generally, the client you want is the one who will put you to work and get out of your way.
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  • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
    I think it was Craig Garber who when asked for samples said if the tons of articles, blog posts and related sales letters on his site weren't enough evidence, they probably were not a good fit.
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    • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
      I think it was Craig Garber who when asked for samples said if the tons of articles, blog posts and related sales letters on his site weren't enough evidence, they probably were not a good fit.
      If I am not mistaken, Alan Weiss, author of Million Dollar Consulting, has said much the same thing.

      Marcia Yudkin
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  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    Originally Posted by joe golfer View Post

    I think it was Craig Garber who when asked for samples said if the tons of articles, blog posts and related sales letters on his site weren't enough evidence, they probably were not a good fit.
    Interesting thing about the Garber website is he has a "Writing Samples" link right up there in his header. Click it and you get a bunch of articles analyzing ads and such... I'm not sure if they're case studies of his own stuff or of others' work -- since in the few articles I looked at, he doesn't make that clear. In fact, you could easily come away with the impression that it's his work he's analyzing.

    Writing Samples - Craig Garber

    Anyhow, interesting approach & interesting website...
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    • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
      Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

      Interesting thing about the Garber website is he has a "Writing Samples" link right up there in his header. Click it and you get a bunch of articles analyzing ads and such... I'm not sure if they're case studies of his own stuff or of others' work -- since in the few articles I looked at, he doesn't make that clear. In fact, you could easily come away with the impression that it's his work he's analyzing.

      Writing Samples - Craig Garber

      Anyhow, interesting approach & interesting website...
      Must have been Doberman Dan, then.
      No, I'm kidding, I'm not sure where I heard that. Maybe I dreamt it. The basic idea is that your content and marketing material are samples themselves.
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