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How to Collect Samples, Testimonials, and References as a

Beginner's Blues: How to Collect Samples, Testimonials, andReferences as a Freelancerby Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and AssociatesMy samples are self-selling. They gleam behind protective c...

Beginner's Blues: How to Collect Samples, Testimonials, and
References as a Freelancer
by Brian S. Konradt of BSK Communications and Associates

My samples are self-selling. They gleam behind protective covers
in my portfolio and snatch me business. "Wow, I really like this
one," says a new client, studying one of my newsletter samples.
"That's what I want. Can you do something similar for me?"

"I sure can," I tell the client. "I think we should shoot for
four colors, instead of two. And thick texture paper would be
better for self-mailing."

The client agrees. He also agrees to pay me $850 for the 4-page
newsletter, half now and the rest when I complete the job.

"Your samples are your most persuasive tools to seal the deal,"
advises Mary Anne Shultz, a NY-based freelance writer who
specializes in ad copy.

"At least seven out of my ten clients had asked to see some sort
of samples before hiring me for the job," says freelance writer
Joan Berk. "Clients want to know what you are capable of doing
for them."

"Even if your new client does not ask to see samples, you must
have samples," says Louie Markowitz, a freelance writer
specializing in corporate newsletters. "I show every new client
at least one of my samples -- a sample that is similar to what
they have in mind. This helps me get constructive feedback and
insight into what the client wants."

This is easy for the established freelancer to say, who has
collected professional samples over the years and knows that
samples sell themselves to clients.

But what about the beginning freelancer who has nothing?

According to freelance writer, Scot Card: "Don't panic. Many
freelancers start at the bottom. It's where I started. And
probably so will you."

As a beginning freelance writer embarking on a part-time or
full-time freelancing career, you'll need to do a lot of "grunt"
work in your field of specialty. Depending on your approach or
what you choose, you'll be doing assignments and working on
projects for little or no money, but the payoff will reward you
in the long run.

Writing a brochure for a local non-profit organization or writing
a press release for your church's summer events will come in
handy the day you need to show your first client what you've been
up to. But it doesn't just begin with freelancing to local
non-profit organizations or churches. You can tap into many other
outlets to collect samples while improving your experience,
skills and knowledge before you begin freelancing part-time or

Your first step to get started is obvious: Take inventory of
everything you have written.

Everyone has done some writing in the past: writing term and
thesis papers; writing articles for your college newspaper;
providing copy for a flier or brochure for an organization;
helping your friends write their resumes, or your own. The list
goes on.

Of course, a client won't hire you after he glosses over your
high school term paper (with the bright red A at the top) or a
short poem you scribbled in a birthday card. But all of your past
writings can serve as a benchmark as to where you stand now. You
may even possess samples hiding in your closet or lost somewhere
in the massive directories of your hard drive, waiting to be
reworked and re-edited for a fresh facelift.

Take inventory of all of your writing samples and evaluate them
as if you are the client. What grabs your attention? What makes
you squint away. Do your samples have anything in common with
your specialty? Can you rewrite any of your samples for
improvement? If so, redo them and use them to begin your
portfolio. If not, listen closely...

Here are some ways, endorsed by established freelancers in the
field, that can help you collect samples of your writing,
including testimonials and references; but by no means do you
have to follow them. Be creative and seek out other alternatives.

Joseph Martenello (technical writer): "I worked as a part-time
stringer for my local newspaper for a year. How'd I get the job?
I responded to an ad in the newspaper, even though I barely had
any writing experience. Next thing I know, I was covering town
meetings and local events, boring stuff. I didn't get paid much
-- not enough that I could live off -- but this lead to a higher
paying position writing short features for a while and
freelancing for neighboring newspapers for dirt pay...I was able
to collect my published articles and put them into a portfolio.
Even now, six years later, I'm able to state in my sales letter
that I worked as a newspaper reporter. That title has a lot of
clout with clients. My clients expect short, tight copy -- the
type of copy evidenced by my published newspaper clips."

Judith Corbishley (PR consultant/writer): "I started my so called
'freelancing' by catering my writing services to local
organizations. You wouldn't believe the demand for freelance
writing in organizations! And the reason why is that many
[organizations] will not pay you, at least the non-profit ones
won't. I basically immersed myself in everything I could get my
hands on. I wrote press releases, developed brochures, published
fliers, you name it. Gradually, my specialty -- from having to
handle many writing tasks -- emerged. I fell in love with PR, and
now do it full-time, supporting myself with my writing. And it
all started by contacting the director of a local non-profit
computer education organization. You can do the same. Check your
community newspaper or local bulletin board for volunteer help.
Then call up the director or contact person. Ask if they need
somebody for writing. Most likely the answer will be yes! You'll
be able to do the writing at home under a flexible deadline. When
the time comes to produce your promotional material, you can list
the organization as one of your clients. You are under no
obligation to state that you've worked for free. Leave this
information out. Go for it and good luck!"

Brian Konradt (copy writer/DTP publisher): "Years ago I had
joined a national writers' group. I started a newsletter for the
organization, out of my own expenses, and charged each member $3
for a copy. I also wrote a press release to publicize the
newsletter. My press release was published in three trade
magazines. I never made a profit -- in fact, I lost money on this
endeavor. But I used the newsletter and the published press
releases as samples. Members also mailed me testimonials about
how much they loved the newsletter and how professional it
looked. This was my very first professional sample that I stuck
in my portfolio, and possibly, I believe, persuaded my first
client to invest in my services. You can do something similar."

Michelle O'Reilly (copy writer): "Network. Meet people. You got
that? My first client came as a result of my being in the right
place at the right time with a stack of my bright white business
cards tucked away in the fist of my hand. I had attended a
marketing seminar that was held by a local business chapter. The
seminar had attracted a large gathering of business
professionals, entrepreneurs, and other freelancers. There was
time afterwards for networking -- and that's what I did. I handed
out my business cards to anyone who sounded as if they'd be
interested in my writing services. And somebody was interested! A
few days later I received a call from a young entrepreneur who
was looking for a way to promote a new product. Was I interested
in writing a brochure for him? I told him let's get started, I'm
ready, with not even an idea of what I was going to charge him. I
only got paid a fraction of the amount I demand now, but it
helped me launch my career. Whenever there's a social gathering
in your area, make sure you attend and network. Put your face in
front of the crowd. Let everyone know you exist and you have
these great skills as a writer. Network. Remember it. It's a
great way to get clients and referrals."

Andi Lipschein (technical writer): "If you want to get yourself
samples, attend a workshop. It's how I got my first professional
sample: a technical manual, critiqued and corrected by the
instructor, on how to operate a piece of equipment. My advice is
attend as many workshops as you can in your area of specialty.
They offer tremendous benefits: you increase your knowledge on
the subject, you get trained by a professional, you get hands-on
experience, and you walk away with professional, critiqued
samples for your portfolio. Many local community colleges and
high schools offer writing workshops as part of their Continuing
Education series. The information and samples you obtain will
last a lifetime."

Rita Clayborne (PR writer): "I interned my way to success...My
experience and skills came from interning for five different
public relations firms in New York for two years. I got a lot of
hands-on experience -- and a lot of headaches, but I learned how
to work with deadlines and how to deal with clients. I also got
tremendous insight into the field, such as pricing my services
competitively, how to tap into my market, and how to make a
business succeed. This had a positive impact on the success of my
PR business today. You can intern part-time (a couple of days out
of the week), or full-time (five days out of the week). I got
paid for my work as an intern, but don't always expect to get
paid. Call up some PR firms in your area and speak with the
person in charge. Ask if they offer an internship program; if
not, ask if they'd be willing to accept you as an intern. You can
locate PR firms in the Yellow Pages. Alternatively, you can
contact the Cooperative Education department of your local
college and ask the director to help you in your search. As an
intern, you will collect many professional samples, references
and contacts!"

John Palmeri (graphic designer): "When the company I worked for
was planning to do a newsletter to celebrate its 30 years of
service, I jumped at the opportunity. I was only a stock clerk
there, but I was attending college for my bachelor's degree in
Communications Arts, and I had some skills as a layout artist. My
boss agreed to let me produce the newsletter, and boy, did I get
excited. I didn't get paid for doing it -- although there was a
bigger Christmas bonus for me -- but it helped me produce my
first sample with my name on it. At that time I wasn't planning
to freelance -- but that changed down the road when I wanted to
make more money doing what I love most: producing newsletters. To
this day, I still produce newsletters for the same company I had
worked for five years ago. The difference now is I get paid top
dollar to produce it, and I'm my own boss."

Once you have samples, you'll need to prepare a portfolio, plus a
brochure or sales letter or web site selling your services. Your
promotional material should contain testimonials for hard-hitting
power. As a beginner, don't spend a lot of money advertising your
services. The time will eventually come when you'll turn "pro"
and you'll spend at least 25% of your earnings on promotion. For
now, decide to place a small classified ad in your local
newspaper, tack up fliers on the bulletin boards at your local
supermarkets and libraries, or advertise your services on free
job boards on the Internet. See what types of responses you get.
Be persistent in your search for clients. Most of all: Don't give
up! The professional is the amateur who had never quit in the
first place.

When you get your first clientHealth Fitness Articles, let the client do most of the
talking. You will find that many clients will not even ask to see
your samples -- so don't even bring it up. Many clients will
accept you as a writer -- on your word alone -- and will work
with you.

Work hard and good luck!

Article Tags: Collect Samples Testimonials, Collect Samples, Samples Testimonials, Freelance Writer, Press Release, First Client

Source: Free Articles from


2003 B. Konradt
Brian Konradt is webmaster of FreelanceWriting.Com
(, a web site dedicated to help
writers master the business and creative sides of freelance
writing. Mr. Konradt was formerly principal of BSK Communications
& Associates, a communications/publishing business in New Jersey,
which he established in 1992.

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