Should Freelance Editors Provide Free Sample Edits?
Freelance proofreaders, copyeditors, and line editors often do a free sample edit for prospective clients. This sample is generally between 250 and 500 words (one to two standard pages). This can help the freelancer determine how long the entire project will take them while giving the client an idea of what it’s like to work with them.
But are they right for your business? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of providing sample edits:
1. When done strategically, sample edits can be an amazing sales tool.
It’s all about choosing the right passage that allows you to show the client exactly what you can do, and what it’s like to work with you. On one to two pages and with a few edits and comments, you can simultaneously highlight your technical skills (your attention to detail and knowledge of the style guide in use, for instance) as well as the unique value you bring to every project (your sense of humor and supportiveness, for example).
2. Because sample edits show your value, they can make a big difference in being able to charge what you’re worth.
I can’t tell you how many times leads told me they wanted to work with me, and no one else, after I did a free sample edit for them. This was despite the fact that I often had the highest rates of any of the editors they’d contacted. The highest rates. This is a powerful lesson in perceived value, i.e., the assumption that a higher price means higher quality. And when perceived value is backed up by a sample edit (demonstrating actual value), it can dramatically increase your conversion rate.
3. Completing a sample edit on a set number of words helps you estimate how long the entire project will take.
For example, let’s say the client’s book is 50,000 words (200 standard pages), and it takes you 10 minutes to do a heavy copyedit on 250 words (one standard page). 200 pages * 10 minutes each = 2,000 minutes total. Divided by 60 minutes, you get an estimated total of 33 hours. Without doing a sample edit, it can be difficult to figure out how long a proofreading, copyediting, or line editing project will take you.
4. Offering a free sample edit can make an amazing first impression and build trust.
Even if the potential client chooses not to move forward at that time, it’s a small way to impact them positively. People remember this, and it can lead to future projects, either with the original prospective client or via referral.
1. Sample edits can be time-consuming.
If your rates aren’t high enough to account for the unbillable time you spend acquiring new clients, they can quickly become a pain point. Also, for some editorial pros, it’s a matter of principle: they do not do any client work, no matter how small, for free.
2. There are other ways to show your value.
If you lean against providing sample edits, you can share examples of past work instead (with permission, of course). If you do a lot of content marketing, like blogging, you may find that leads already know they want to work with you—and you won’t need to convince them further with a sample edit.
Sample edits can be a great sales tool, help you charge what you're worth, and help you estimate how long the project will take. However, they can also be time-consuming and there are other ways to show your value. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide if providing a free sample edit is the right fit for your business. (And keep in mind that you can also choose to do paid sample edits!)
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