Freelance Tips: Should You Offer a Free Sample Edit?

Some freelance proofreaders offer new clients a free sample edit. This means checking part of a document for free so a client can see your work before committing to paying. But is this a good idea? And if so, how should you approach offering a free sample edit?

Why Do Some Proofreaders Offer a Free Sample Edit?

There are two key advantages to offering a free sample edit:

  1. Different people have different expectations of what a proofreading or editing service will involve. Providing a free sample lets clients see what you will do for them. It can also let you work out the level of editing the client wants and offer a service accordingly.
  2. Offering to proofread a sample document allows you to preview a client’s writing, which makes it easier to estimate how long a job will take and how much you should charge.

It also works as a form of advertising. If someone is on the fence about whether they need a proofreading service, they are more likely to try your services if they can preview it for free.

This is why proofreading agencies – including our partner company, Proofed – typically offer a free sample service as a matter of course. But whether you should offer a free sample edit as an individual freelancer may depend on your circumstances. We’ll look at a few factors below.

Factor #1: How Established Are You?

For experienced proofreaders with a roster of regular clients and a busy schedule, offering a free sample service may not make sense. It would simply reduce the time you have available.

But if you are new to proofreading and have time to spare, it can be a great way to secure paying work. It can also be a simple way to hone your skills and develop as an editor.

Factor #2: What Do You Stand to Gain?

It makes sense to offer a free sample when it could lead to more paying work afterwards. As such, you should weigh the time a sample will take against the potential benefit.

For example, if proofreading a 1,000-word sample document for free could land you a major project (e.g., a book manuscript) or repeat work (e.g., a business client that produces a lot of content that needs editing), it will be time well spent.

Similarly, some publishers will ask you to proofread a test document for free, but being on a publisher’s list of trusted proofreaders is a great source of work.

Factor #3: What Is the Client Asking of You?

If you offer anything for free, there’s a good chance someone will try to take advantage of it.

You may, for instance, find people ask you to proofread a document for free with no guarantee of follow-up work. Or you might find an author who wants you to proofread an entire chapter of a book as a free sample before they consider paying for your services.

Whether this is worth your time is a personal choice, but you should be careful people do not abuse your generosity. One option is to offer a limited free sample edit (e.g., a maximum of 1,000 words). This will allow potential clients to preview your work, but it saves you from working on lengthy documents for free.

Should I Offer a Free Sample Edit?

Ultimately, the only person who can make this decision is you. It is certainly worth a try if you are looking for ways to secure more work, but make sure you don’t undervalue your time.

Alternatively, you can offer a reduced rate on samples, but not a free service. This can encourage potential clients to take a chance and lets you demonstrate your skills. But if the sample doesn’t lead to more work, at least you have been paid something for your efforts!

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