How to Create Spec Samples to Attract Your Ideal Clients


Showing clients what you can do when you have little or no experience may seem impossible. But there’s an easy way to do this: Spec samples. And when you create spec samples, you also get more experience.

Before clients hire a freelancer, they want to see that you can do the work they need you to do. But when you’re a new freelancer, you probably don’t have enough—or maybe any—samples to share. You can also use spec samples when you want to break into a new type of writing or editing.

There’s an easy way to solve this common problem: Create spec samples (speculative samples).  A spec sample is a fictional sample that’s like a project you would work on for a client.

Spec samples demonstrate what you can do to potential clients. Think of them as a preview of the quality and style of work you can deliver.

Focus Your Spec Samples on Client Needs

Creating spec samples lets you target your dream clients. Start by considering the type of project you want to work on, the type of client you want to work with, and the client’s industry. Align your spec samples with the needs of these clients.

After you’ve chosen the project, client type, and industry, choose a few dream clients you’d like to work with. Visit their websites and study samples of the project. Once you understand what your dream clients need, create examples of that exact type of content—as if the client had hired you to write or edit the content.

Using our earlier example of creating a spec sample of a blog post for a health system, visit the blogs of leading health systems such as Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic. You’re not likely to land these clients as a new freelancer, but you should learn from the best.

Study their blog posts thoroughly. Note the topics covered, and the tone, style, format, length, etc. used by the health system. If you take notes about all of this, then you’ll start to see some similarities across health systems.

Learn More About the Project

If you have no experience that’s similar to writing or editing a blog post, then you also need to learn more about how to do this (especially for writing). You may be able to find some free content online or you may need to take a short online course, webinar, tutorial, etc.

Courses that include homework usually give you something that you can use as a spec sample. Professional associations are a great source of reasonably priced and sometimes free courses, webinars, tutorials, etc. The American Medical Writers Association and the Editorial Freelancers Association, for example, both offer lots of educational opportunities.

Coursera offers “more than 5,000 courses, professional certificates, and degrees from world-class universities and companies.” They have 66 programs in business writing, 22 programs in copywriting, 281 programs in content marketing, and 119 programs in editing.

These are just a few examples of ways to learn what you need to learn to create spec samples that will help you attract your dream clients.

Write or Edit the Spec Sample(s)

Choose a topic that’s similar to what the client covers. Let’s say that you decided to write a blog post on why it’s harder for women to lose weight than men for a health system.

If you’re writing the spec sample, do research on the topic. Use credible, high-quality sources, including, in this example, blog posts from the health systems you researched. You may need to do some research for an editing spec sample too.

Now you’re ready to write or edit your blog post. Use the tone, style, format, etc. that you saw on the health systems’ website. Make sure the post is about the same length as the samples you reviewed.

If you’re an editor, find a project that’s similar to what you want to do and create a fictional version of it with errors (the Before version). Then fix those errors in the After version. Make sure the errors show the type of editing you do (proofreading, copyediting, substantive editing, etc.).

Clearly label your edited version. Put After first and Before second. Include a note at the top explaining that After is the edited version and the original version, Before, is after the edited version.

If the type of project you want to work on is very big, do a sample of part of the project.

Once you’ve finished your first spec sample, repeat the process until you have 3 to 5 samples. Choose different types of projects for other spec samples so that you show clients the different types of projects you can do.

Be Clear About Spec Samples

Clearly label your spec samples so that clients know these aren’t from actual projects. The best way to do this is to include a header at the top of the sample.

Share Your Spec Samples

Post your spec samples on your website. You can also put a few on LinkedIn.

Build Your Experience with Spec Samples

Along with showing clients what you can do, when you create spec samples, you get more experience. And that will help you impress and land more of your dream clients.

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Learn More About Spec Samples

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