Community Spotlight: Why Your Writing Samples Can Put You Ahead of the Competition



January 4, 2017 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Working as a freelance writer can be a lucrative and financially satisfying career, but only if you’re able to attract and retain clients interested in what you have to share. While your resume and portfolio go together as promotional tools to get your foot at the threshold, your writing samples are the true test of whether you’ll be invited to step inside the doorway. One of the first steps to successful freelance careers is remembering your samples are a personal signature that highlight your creative individuality.

Feast or Famine

Writing samples should speak to the client by providing tidbits of useful information, or better yet, little known facts or intriguing bits of history, science, or obscure facts. With these extra bits and pieces creatively sprinkled throughout the sample, you’ll create enticing content designed to stimulate the imagination and keep interest from the first to the last paragraph, putting you ahead of the competition because it isn’t run-of-the-mill information.

If you can’t capture the attention of a client from the get-go, you stand a good chance of sliding down a slippery slope to the bottom of the list of the virtual stack of resumes and/or profiles the client is reading. As writers with catchy and creative “hooks” in their samples grab, and hold, the interest of the client, those with less spark and sizzle or who haven’t given their sample work enough detailed attention, will, most likely, fade and fizzle.

Creating a Memorable Impression

You only get one chance to make an impression with clients when applying for writing gigs. If you consider yourself a talented freelance writer who can manipulate words to make an impact, the initial information provided to a client is the opportunity to prove it. For this reason, put your confidence level in first gear and show off your writing skills.

Samples: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

You want a client to be drawn into your world of words and to do this, you need samples that create a scene or theme that allow the reader to easily visualize what it is you’re writing about. Whether you’re describing a travel destination, discussing the latest women’s fashions, or laying out a marketing plan for a business, the reader needs to “see” what your words are describing in their mind’s eye. If you can do this, your samples will make an impression, placing you in contention for a writing project.

On the reverse side of the writing coin, if you don’t take samples seriously or write them as an afterthought or off the top of your head, you’ll lose the opportunity to promote your writing talent, which can lead to your application finding its way, quickly, to the trash bin.

Poorly written, shallow, fluff-filled, non-informative, non-descriptive, and boring samples won’t be up to the same standards when competing against seasoned writers who can twist words into what clients are looking for, which is content with substance that grabs and retain readers.

Good Versus Bad Writing Sample Examples

An example of a poorly written writing sample looks like this:

The east coast of Florida is a great place for a vacation, especially Miami and Miami Beach. Both places are very popular places to go for tourists who enjoy the ocean, the sand, and the sunshine. Miami has a lot of things to do and see. There’s also many hotels where you can relax and look out over the water or lounge by the pool. If you’re hungry, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, too, wherever you go in the city. Nightlife is also busy and there’s lots of places to go shopping for a souvenir. The Miami and Miami Beach area is fun for everyone no matter when you visit.

The same example, written in an informative and creative way, looks like this:

Miami and Miami Beach on Florida’s sun-drenched east coast, are prime destination locations for travelers interested in a diverse menu of activities, entertainment, culture, accommodations, and dining. From Miami, bordered by Biscayne Bay, you can go boating and fishing, or make the short drive across the bridge to Miami Beach. Once you arrive, water enthusiasts have access to the sparkling Atlantic Ocean for swimming, surfing, skiing, diving, and more. Sun worshippers have miles of sugar-white sand to crunch between their toes or relax on a blanket to soak up some rays. There’s even a nude beach for the adventurous.

The nightlife in Miami and Miami Beach is steaming hot with many clubs open until the wee hours with music and dancing. The Art Deco National Historic District in Miami Beach is a “must see” area where beautifully detailed and unusual architecture adorns vintage hotels. In Miami, restaurants and cafes in Little Havana will please your palate with traditional Cuban food, a cup of espresso, or a refreshing Mojito before heading to one of the area museums, Zoo Miami, Villa Vizcaya, Miami Seaquarium, Lincoln Road, South Beach, or the botanical garden. No matter when you plan to visit, Miami and Miami Beach offers excitement and adventure for all ages.

Tips to Make Samples Soar

  • Empty words hold no meaning. They’re like an empty can without the goodies inside.
  • The four C’s to strive for are writing: crisp, clear, creative, and concise content. Meaning, avoid fluff, eliminate run-on sentences, paint a picture using an extended vocabulary that doesn’t include the same tired words everyone else is using, and avoid extra words that aren’t necessary to make a point.
  • Write in a professional, yet casual tone.
  • Keep sentences short and sweet. People lose interest quickly, so keep the information flowing smoothly.
  • Always read your sample aloud so you can hear how the words are flowing.
  • Triple check your work for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Nothing screams inexperienced writer like a sample fraught with errors.
  • Start with an intro and end with a statement summing up the piece. Otherwise, it will come across as unfinished.
  • Use and cite credible sources to enhance your sample.
  • Show through the information provided you’ve done thorough research.

As the good versus bad writing sample shows, there’s more to writing quality samples then simply putting down some words to fill up space. Following the recommended tips will help people new to freelance writing create top-notch writing samples.

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