How to Write a Writing Sample for a Job

Can’t escape it, eh?

The dreaded writing sample.

Also known as writing clips – if you wanna get all fancy.

How to Write a Writing Sample for a Job

You need it to show prospects you can write out complex ideas and, in turn, prospects or the employer will use writing samples to ensure the person they hire for content writing is knowledgeable in their industry topic.

It’s a tall order to fill, especially if you’re a new student to online writing. Having a writing sample for a job application is one of the tools you need to start freelance writing, and without it, it’s going to be hard to land gigs.

A writing sample also has a lot of requirements too like the writing topic and – how long should a writing sample be anyways?

In this post, I’ll dive deep into writing samples – from what it is to why you need them to how to create a writing sample for your job and more.

What is a Writing Sample?

A writing sample is the best representation of your writing skill and writing style that shows your expertise in a topic.

A writing sample comes in many different forms – blog posts, emails, brochures, landing page copy, books, magazine article, or ad copy.

As an online writer, having a writing sample blog post would be ideal because it’s one of the best representations of online writing there is.

A writing sample generally isn’t an essay or academic paper.

But, if you want to be a copywriter, then providing a writing sample email letter or a longer document ad copy for a shoe store can be a better show of copywriting.

Why You Need a Writing Sample for a Job

You might be wondering why writing samples are needed for a job anyways.

A while back, I had a kid tech company reach out for content writing.

They wanted a writing sample because they weren’t confident that I could write about tech stuff. Made sense since the content they knew me about was about parenting and digital marketing.

So, I chose to write an excerpt – an un-paid 300-word writing sample on the Gro Clock.

Unpaid 300-word writing sample

If you know my story, then you know that product description writing is something I loathe! But, now I only dislike it.

But, this writing sample I did for the Gro Clock was extremely fun for me. Why? Because I had a Gro Clock and the story I shared is a legit true story.

My twins love their Gro Clock, and they do not get out of bed until the sun shows.

So, I had a strong feeling towards this product, making it a cinch to write about it. And, since it was less than 500 words, I felt it unnecessary to get paid for this sample.

From this example, if a hiring manager or client isn’t sure you can write for them, they may seek out a writing sample. I highly suggest you ask for a paid writing sample instead of opting for a free one.

Why would I say this when I clearly showed you I produced a free sample of my writing?

Because I was at a point that I could pick my clients and I mostly work with profitable businesses that value content marketing. So, there was no doubt that they would pay for my writing, if they hired me.

But, if you’re a new freelance writer with no writing samples and a prospect asks for one – get paid for it!

Another reason why you need writing samples is simply to show prospects you are a legit writer and not a hobby blogger.

If you visit any mom blog or home decor blog out there, they most definitely don’t have a writing sample’s page. That’s because they are a blogger and not a writer.

To stand out from other bloggers, have a portfolio page, or writing sample page with your writing samples.

My portfolio page

This immediately makes you look more professional and experienced.

Can’t I just use my blog as writing samples?

Yes, you can, but there are some exceptions to this.

I was able to land some gigs with my passion blog, Twins Mommy, but they were few and far between.

So, if you have a blog with audience-driven content and you don’t need to make a living as a writer, then go ahead and start a blog, have fun and see if you can land some writing work.

However, most of you out there want to make a living writing! If so, having a dedicated writer website is what will get you to that point. Guaranteed!

And yes, you can have a blog on your writer website. This is just supplemental, however, and shouldn’t be the only writing samples you showcase.

Finally, having a writing sample can prove to prospects that other people “hired you” or published your work.

A great way to create a good writing sample is to guest post. This shows easily that other people love your writing so much, they decided to publish your work on their blog.

How Long Should a Writing Sample Be?

As you can see from my example, I wrote a 300-word sample piece.

But, in general, your writing sample should be between 800-1200 words if you are writing a blog post. For other forms of content, it can be shorter or a larger document – emails are less than 500 words and books start at 10k words.

Remember, employers or blog owners don’t have time to read lengthy blog posts. So, it’s in your best interest to provide valuable content in around 1,000 words.

Jobs that Require a Writing Sample

For jobs that need strong writing skills or journalism-type jobs, writing samples are a given.

So, as a freelance writer for hire online – having writing samples on a portfolio page just makes sense. Your writing sample examples can seal the deal for potential clients looking at your website.

So, typical content jobs that need a writing sample might be:

Before we go into a writing sample template, if you want more help in writing the perfect writing sample – and finding the perfect subject matter for your first sample that will attract clients – make sure to check out the Writing Sample Starter Kit!

Writing Sample Template

The writing sample template I’ll share is for a standard blog post. Again, I feel this makes a great writing sample for your portfolio page.

Writing sample template for a blog post

For your writing sample blog post, the set up is:

  • Introduction – provide a hook and promise of what your reader will learn in your post
  • Body – this is where you break down your blog post into subheadings and actionable ideas
  • Conclusion – All writing samples should have a conclusion paragraph. Clients like to see this!
  • CTA – this is your call-to-action. Give your readers something to do like share your post.

Remember, this is a mock-up sample of what a blog post would be. Of course, you can use this writing sample template for all your blog writing and guest posting.

This is the template I use for my blogs too!

Here are some writing sample examples:

How to Create Writing Samples

Let’s dive deep into the steps for creating writing samples.

Headline

The headline you choose should be optimized for engagement. You want to use superlatives (if appropriate) and use powerful words that convert.

If you need help try Coschedule’s headline analyzer.

It will help you craft a good headline that will get clicks. Remember, you want your writing samples to signal to prospects that your blog post could potentially be on their website.

So when crafting that headline, think about a prospect’s website and brand and how you can infuse that personality in your headline.

Introduction

The introduction of your writing sample needs to hook a reader in immediately.

Prospects don’t have a lot of time to read your content, so if you can draw them in at once, they will stick around and read your writing sample. Some ways to start your introduction are:

You should also frame your introduction as a top-down process – you introduce the broad topic and narrow it down to the problem you are discussing and the solution you will share.

Body

The body of your writing sample should be anchored with subheadings.

This shows prospects you know how to write for an online audience since this is mostly specific to online writing. When creating your outline, each point in your blog post should be a subheading.

For example, if you want to talk about whether or not Instagram is great for business, I may talk about these ideas:

  • What is Instagram?
  • Businesses already using Instagram
  • How can you get started using Instagram
  • Instagram bio
  • Instagram stories
  • etc.

As I think about my blog post idea for my writing sample, I can pinpoint the discussions I want to cover. As I’m writing, I can decide if these topics warrant a subheading.

To kick it up a notch, you can do an interview or a case study in your writing sample. With clean copy all around, a sample like that can convince prospects to hire you.

Conclusion

Your conclusion paragraph should artfully summarize your blog post. This conveys to prospects they will get an entire blog post when they hire you.

CTA

As an added bonus to your writing sample, add a CTA. This call-to-action makes your writing sample legit and real. You can have readers share your post or you can ask a question to elicit comments.

Make sure to use an editing tool like Grammarly, to fix any grammatical errors in your paper.

Where to Display Your Writing Samples

Now that you have your writing samples, where do you house them?

Let’s look at some popular places you can showcase your writing samples.

1. Your Portfolio Page

Your blog, or writer website, is a great place to house your samples. You want one central hub online to promote and share with prospects. Your writer website fulfills that job!

On your blog, you can set up a Portfolio page or Samples page and display them there.

An easy way to share your samples is by using links. This is what Jen Mattern did:

Writing sample as links on your website

You can also show them with a feature grid. I show you how to do this in Writer Website in a Weekend.


2. Contently

Contently is a portfolio platform where you can upload your content or links to make your portfolio.

Here is what mine looks like:

Writing samples on Contently

If you can’t sport a writer website right now, then go ahead and use Contently. It’s a professional portfolio platform, and it’s free to use.

3. Contena Publishing

Contena is a job board but they also have a free publishing platform for writers.

You can use this platform to write your first writing sample even if you don’t yet have a blog. It’s super easy to set up your profile and start writing.

4. LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform for businesses. You can create a profile on LinkedIn and attract prospects to hire you. Your LinkedIn profile is also your online resume.

So for under experience, you can showcase your samples from your writer website.

LinkedIn also has a publishing platform, which means you can write your sample directly on LinkedIn and generate a link to your sample easily.

Creating a writing sample on LinkedIn

5. Medium

Medium is a free blogging platform where you can start writing immediately. Set up your profile and get to it!

Once you publish your writing sample on Medium, you get a live link which you can use for your pitch emails.

What’s great with Medium is you have the ability to make money with your writing by signing up to their Partner Program.

By submitting your pieces to publications with a larger audience, you can gain some money for views and engagement. It’s not a lot, but it’s something!

How to Write a Writing Sample

There ya go!

Having writing samples is important if you’re brand new to freelance writing. From the prospect’s point of view, they don’t know you at all, and they don’t want to hire a stranger that may not know how to write.

But, if you have a professional website with a portfolio page – or a Contently page – you can show prospect’s you’re the writer for them!

Over to you –

Where do you display your writing samples and what types of writing samples do you have? Share in the comments!

Don’t forget to pin me!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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52 Comments

Elna, your blog and your 6-day course are a goldmine of information! Thank you so much for sharing it with us newbies. I am in the process of setting up a profile on clippings.me. Would you recommend Contently over clippings.me or are they both worth having?Reply to Ursula
Hi Ursula, I’ve never used clippings, but I do prefer Contently. They are more popular and businesses know of Contently as a content marketing platform so that’s an added plus when having your portfolio there. But, do what’s right for you!Reply to Elna
This has been really helpful to me. Thank you so much for the generous help.Reply to Naomi
Hi Naomi, You’re welcome! Have fun creating a writing sample for your next job!Reply to Elna
Thank you for being so generous and simple with the information. I’m glad I saw this. I just started out as a freelance writer this February!Reply to Temitope
Hi! Congratulations! Have fun freelance writing!Reply to Elna
Thanks Elna for all the advice and for taking the time to share your experience and strategies for getting started as a freelance writer/blogger. I am trying to go through all of your emails and as many of the links as possible so that I can have a truer idea of where and how I need to start this new career. Thanks again and have a Blessed day. – The website below has no content as of yet.Reply to Troy
Hi Troy, Thanks so much for stopping by! Congrats on starting a freelance writing website! It will fun to design it but if you need more tech help I do have a video course called Writer Website in a Weekend here: https://elnacain.com/course/wwiw/Reply to Elna
Elna, for years I have convinced myself that pursuing a career in writing would prove unsuccessful because that is what everyone told me. Writing is my true passion in my life! It killed me to hear pessimistic views on my future and I almost lost sight of what I really wanted. Until I discovered freelance writing. Honestly, I am very new but I know that this is what I want. Your advice has given me hope that this will work for me. I think I found a niche, however, I was wondering if I need to know everything about my niche. I chose something that is very broad, do you suggest I narrow my choice? Thank you! LizzieReply to Lizzie
Hi Lizzie, I’m so glad you found out about freelance writing! Yes, you can get paid to write online and make a living out of this! As for your niche, it’s best to narrow it as much as possible or narrow the client at least! You can, however, land gigs in a broad niche like parenting or digital marketing as I niched to that for a while before I niched down.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna! I really appreciate how didactic your post is, really helpful and relevant info! Blessings. Ana ๐Ÿ™‚Reply to Ana
Hi Ana, Thanks so much! I try to help as many new freelance writers as possible and well, my background is being a teacher ๐Ÿ™‚Reply to Elna
Hi, Elna! Thanks so much for this article and the many others I have been reading to get up to speed on freelance writing. I am enrolled in your Writer Website in a Weekend as well as Write to $1K and they are practical, easy-to-understand and well-organized.Reply to Yvonne
Hi Yvonne, Thanks so much! So happy you are enjoying my writing course and WordPress site course!Reply to Elna
Hey Elna! As always great post. You really are the Super TwinsMommy for upcoming freelancers ! Btw I am a bit apprehensive about any bias clients may have with regards to hiring Asian or Indian freelancers (English not being our first language but still most of us have profound academic exposure to it). Am I justified in my fears or is there no such thing? JackReply to Jack
Hi Jack, Thanks so much! I think if you market yourself as a credible writer and have good English skills you should have no problem. Don’t make your location everything when you market yourself as a writer. I don’t think I mention where I live at all on my writer website!Reply to Elna
You’re amazing & generous!Reply to Lyn
Hi Lyn, Thank you so much! glad you found some good tips to write your fist writing sample!Reply to Elna
Elna you have such complete and valuable information. Thank you for doing all the legwork!Reply to Patricia
Hi Patricia! Thank you so much! So happy you found my post on how to write a writing sample!Reply to Elna
Thanks for the vital information about sample writing. Am new and interested with Freelance writing jobs though I have little knowledge of computer programs. Is there a way I can get assistance from you.Reply to Shem
Hi! Glad you found some tips on writing a writing sample for a job. Learning to use your computer takes time. I would use Youtube to get some help!Reply to Elna
Thank you so much for the powerful info, I just created my Linkedin and published one of my report writing, obviously follow your direction as I have yet to create my own website. Later will do a sample writing alongside with your guidelines.Reply to wan
Hi! Good to hear! LinkedIn is a great platform to publish your writing samples! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Thanks for the list on where to publish sample writings! I just wonder if its a good idea to make niche-specific posts per platform?Reply to Karen
Hi Karen, There’s no need to write a specific writing sample based on the platform you’re using. You can post the same writing samples on different platforms. For example, my content is similar on Contently and my portfolio page on my website.Reply to Elna
Thanks for sharing and making the process simple. I felt as if I was all over the place until I can across your strategies. I also signed up for writeto1k. Thanks againReply to Sheniqua
Hi Sheniqua, Thank you so much! I hope you enjoy the course and I can’t wait to hear all about your success as a freelance writer!Reply to Elna
Thanks for all this useful information, I’ve been trying to apply as much as I can and so far you’ve made it easy!Reply to Jaimie-lee
Hi Jaime-lee, So happy to hear this! Yes, as long as you have the right tools it will be easy! Good luck!Reply to Elna
So I have made the decision to free lance and have been gobbling up information all week. Your site has been incredibly helpful and has given me the confidence that I can really do this. I love the idea of using Medium or Contena to help me post, but I am a true newbie with no writing samples. What are some suggestions for topics? Anything that appeals to me?Reply to Kerry
Hi Kerry! As for topics, I would stick to knowledgeable ideas or credible ideas to show you worth as a writer. So if your job right now is in finance then write finance content!Reply to Elna
Your content is amazing!! So thankful I came upon you! Sharing with my writing group!Reply to Rebecca
Hi Rebecca, Thank you so much!I hope this post on writing a writing sample will help your followers!Reply to Elna
This is a great article! Thank you. I have been struggling with this lately and your post couldn’t have come at a better time.Reply to LaToya
Hi LaToya, That’s fantastic to hear! So glad you are ready to write a writing sample!Reply to Elna
Thank you so much for your wonderful post and valuable content. They save bidding writers a lot of headaches. I think I am in love with you for all your wonderful work. Cheers!Reply to Andrew
Hi Andrew, Thanks for commenting back! Glad you enjoyed this post about how to write a writing sample!Reply to Elna
Thank you for all the amazing information on your website! I had no idea where to start with writing samples. This is very well put together information, and very helpful.Reply to Nicole
Hi Nicole, That’s great to hear! Yes, writing a writing sample may seem easy but when you sit down and really think about the objective of writing samples, it can be daunting. So glad this step-by-step process was helpful!Reply to Elna
Thanks for sharing Elna, I just bought your course writeto1k. Your course is awesome and has given me in-depth ideas on how to move from where I am. I am a blogger who uses freelance writing as her income stream.Reply to Elizabeth
Hey Elizabeth! Thanks for purchasing Writeto1k!! I hope you are enjoying it! Good luck on writing a writing sample for your freelance writing biz!Reply to Elna
Thanks for sharing this Elna! Starting to plan for my writer portfolio as I donโ€™t have a blog. This is detailed sharing post ๐Ÿ™‚Reply to Michelle
Mam you are awesome ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿค—๐Ÿค—thankyouuuuuuuuuuu so much ,I m learning all about freelance writer from your website , hope I will start all these soon!!Reply to Simran
Hi Michelle, You’re welcome! So glad you found some help on how to write a writing sample! Thanks so much for wanting to share this post. It means a lot to me!Reply to Elna
Thanks Elna for sharing, the wealth of information gathered from your emails is just too expository and with a simple layout. I am really glad I made that click on your blog post. Thank you once again really grateful ๐Ÿ™Reply to Collins
Great Blog! This blog really tells you how to write a writing sample for a jobReply to Ryno
Hi Ryno, Thanks so much! I’m sure a writing sample is something not a lot of people know! Glad you enjoyed it!Reply to Elna
Great post Elna. This information is invaluable for new freelance writers!Reply to Kyle
Hi Kyle, Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed my post on how to write a writing sample!Reply to Elna
Wow this is awesome, thanks a lot Elna.Reply to Jemimah
Hi Jemimah, So happy this wowed you! A writing sample is really the first step to getting paid to write! Good luck!Reply to Elna