Writers need to stop being exploited in this way

We all need to put a stop to this

Jo Driscoll


Photo by Drew Hays on Unsplash

I’m a freelance writer with a creative agency on my books and was looking to add another. Browsing through Upwork, I came across a promising opportunity with an agency. I got in contact, sent through my details, and everything looked promising until those dreaded words — we’ll need you to do a trial.

An unpaid trial.


There are several problems with unpaid trials.

Imagine a business wanted a hundred articles, and they got a hundred freelancers to write them as a ‘trial’. They’d get the work they wanted without ever paying a penny. And they could keep repeating this anytime they wanted new articles.

The scenario above really does happen, and unfortunately, far too often.

Now imagine you are one of the freelancers. You spend quite a few hours researching and writing the article for your trial. Something that you would ordinarily charge hundreds for. Yet, you’re doing this for free with no guarantees of any work at the end.

You’ve effectively just given this business hundreds of pounds.

What about paid trials?

What if you receive compensation for your efforts? The remuneration is likely much lower than your usual fee, so you can decide whether the effort is worth it. They will likely be a better client to work with as they respect your time and you as a professional from the outset.

Respect your freelancing as a business

In my email exchange with the aforementioned potential client, he made it clear that I am just a ‘freelancer’ and not a business owner. I think this really clarifies how he sees freelancers as a lower class of worker and not worthy of respect.

Regardless of how my business is set up, it is still a business nonetheless. There’s just little ol’ me bashing the keys on my keyboard in my home office. I sell my writing services to other businesses. I do a tax return each year. I’m classed as self-employed. Businesses come in all shapes and forms. Mine is a professional trade.