Once in a while you’re going to get a potential client who says, “We’d love to work with you, but we want you to produce this sample project for us this week, just so we can see exactly what your work would look like if we hired you.”
This is never ok. You should never ever take on sample work, unless it’s compensated.
Here’s what you say: “I’d love to do sample work for you. In fact, I have an hourly rate for exactly this purpose, for client prospects who want sample work. My hourly rate for sample work is $200/hr. And I’d be more than happy to produce that work for you this week for my hourly rate. Also, I have plenty of sample work that I’ve done for previous clients– projects that I’ve completed–that I’d be happy to show you. These clients continue to hire me over and over again for the great quality work that I’ve produced for them. Either one works for me, let me know what you prefer.”
That’s it. You don’t ever ever do sample work for free for a client who hasn’t signed a contract.
It’s important to show clients that your time is your asset. If you still aren’t buying, ask yourself this: Have you ever seen a lawyer give away a sample contract to a prospective client to prove that they can write a great contract? I didn’t think so.
Free samples de-value your work. And providing free samples does not lead to more clients, and it most certainly does not lead to premium clients. In fact, I’ve seen more consultants ghosted than hired after providing free work.