Writing examples are an essential part of showcasing strong writing skills and work experience. Learning how to write a writing sample is easy.
Writing samples are a quintessential component of career development for freelance writers, book authors, copywriters, graduate program applicants, and other content creators. They help convey a creator’s skill and ability to meet a particular job description to prospective employers, clients, and agents.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write a writing sample and answers to some of your most frequently asked questions about content example creation.
- Step 1. Choose Your Subject Matter
- Step 2. Determine the Best Writing Style for the Job
- Step 3. Showcase Your Writing Ability
- Step 4. Proofread Your Work Before Adding to Your Writing Portfolio
- Step 5. Create Samples for a Variety of Writing Jobs & Apply
- Step 6. Market Your Writing Examples
- Final Word on How To Write A Writing Sample
- FAQ About Creating Writing Samples
Step 1. Choose Your Subject Matter
The subject matter you choose for your content examples is one of the most important considerations you can make. Not only should it align with the content you’re most skilled at creating and what you enjoy writing, but it should also fit the niche of the job you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re applying for a job to write blogs for an acupuncture clinic, you’ll want to select writing examples that are in the health and wellness niche. Even better would be to send sample content on a subtopic of acupuncture. You wouldn’t want to send a research paper on climate change for a hiring manager of a clinic to review.
The subject matter of your sample content should be as close to the topic(s) of interest to a prospective client as possible. If you don’t have an existing example on the ideal topic, consider writing one.
Step 2. Determine the Best Writing Style for the Job
The type of writing sample you create largely depends on the best fit for the job. Ideally, your sample will illustrate that you have the work experience needed in the specific subject matter you’re looking to get paid to write. You may decide to create a unique content example for each niche you write for, or it may be even more beneficial to write a custom sample for a prospective client according to their specs.
Here are four types of writing samples, definitions, and examples for each:
A persuasive writing sample convinces the reader to agree with a statement made by the author.
“Most people enjoy having a pet dog when they are children. Without a doubt, dogs are better pets for kids than cats.”
A narrative writing sample tells a story.
“My childhood dog was my favorite pet because we used to play frisbee together in the backyard of our home.”
An expository writing sample is designed to explain or expose a particular topic.
“Cats are actually more popular shelter animals than dogs; every year, 100,000 more cats are adopted from shelters than dogs.”
A descriptive writing sample should help readers imagine or visualize an image.
“I saw a grey and white tabby cat on the side of the road the other day. It appeared to be very young and lost, but I would know if I saw it again because it had one white paw.”
Step 3. Showcase Your Writing Ability
Above all, your writing sample should showcase strong writing skills in the specific niche(s) you’re interested in. It should present your topic in an attractive, engaging way and immediately grab your reader’s attention and draw them in.
Use clear, memorable language to describe people, places, and things. Organize your writing sample to have a clear beginning, middle, and end that readers can logically follow. Even if it’s short, your content examples shouldn’t be out of context or confusing to the audience. Sentences should be fluent and segue smoothly from one to the next.
Avoid passive voice and use a tone that is both appropriate and unique to your own writing. If your sample includes statistics or references, be sure to include your sources at the bottom of your sample in the most appropriate format. Take the time to understand your reader’s expectations and use vocabulary suited to their reading level.
Step 4. Proofread Your Work Before Adding to Your Writing Portfolio
Writing samples that you have created to exhibit your skills can not only be sent to potential clients or employers, but you can also host them on your website. The content you publish to your writing portfolio should be clean copy free of grammatical errors.
Go over each piece of writing in thorough detail to look for spelling mistakes, extra spaces, punctuation errors, and other minor issues that you might overlook on the first pass. If possible, ask a friend, family member, or colleague to review your work to catch any mistakes that you might have missed. You can also print your content and read it aloud; this helps you identify issues with flow and syntax.
Step 5. Create Samples for a Variety of Writing Jobs & Apply
As mentioned in Step 2, many freelance writers prefer to have content examples on a wide variety of topics. While some writers specialize in just one or two topics and become authoritative content creators in that niche, others have the ability to write well in multiple genres.
Make a list of the topics you’re passionate about or want to learn more about, or already know a lot about. Then, create writing samples for each. If possible, write a unique sample specifically for the job you’re applying to. However, it may be more appropriate in some situations to use the same sample for more than one job interview or opportunity. For example, once you have a writing portfolio set up, many job applications allow you to simply send a link to your online collection of works.
Many online job applications will allow you to attach files to their forms, allowing you to submit your resume, a cover letter, and content examples all together. If you’re submitting a paper application, print off copies of your content to include with your physical resume.
That said, you should always read a job description thoroughly for instructions on how to apply and submit your work examples. Follow these instructions to the letter; hiring managers will often discard the applications of writers who don’t, even if their example content is good.
Step 6. Market Your Writing Examples
Every writer can benefit from marketing their writing samples. If you post regularly to a blog, this content can be automatically fed to your social media channels for easy promotion. If you have a robust online portfolio, you should also market this to drive more traffic to your work and contact information.
On your website, your example copy should be well organized and easy for potential clients to find. Interested parties shouldn’t need to comb through content samples unrelated to their desired topic or niche. Instead, make sure your site navigation is straightforward and your calls to action clear.
Posting a piece of writing on your social media platforms is also a great way to bring attention to your writing skills. LinkedIn is arguably the best platform for professionals since it allows robust networking between companies and their team members. Additionally, if you post your content examples on social media, you stand to get significantly more exposure than you would if you were only submitting samples during your job search efforts. You might also find our guide on how to make an online writing portfolio helpful.
Final Word on How To Write A Writing Sample
Creating high-quality example content is an essential component of preparing to become a freelance writer or attending graduate school, among other jobs that require excellent writing skills. Therefore, understanding how to write spectacular sample copy should be high on your list of priorities early on in your career and should be a skill you continue to hone as you build your reputation as a writer or author.
FAQ About Creating Writing Samples
Why do I need a writing sample?
Example content can exhibit your writing ability to academic professionals, potential employers, and other industry authorities. As a freelance writer, graduate school applicant, book author, etc., you need to be able to easily refer prospective employers, hiring managers, and clients to the best writing you’ve published to date.
What are the different types of writing samples?
There are many different types of writing samples, ranging from creative writing examples, news article clips, excerpts from academic papers, and sometimes even just an introductory paragraph. A writing example can be content on any topic in any genre; generally, the only limitations are that the excerpt is short enough to be considered an example. On the other hand, a content sample isn’t the place to try to explain complex ideas or digress on issues irrelevant to the gig.
How long should the word count of a writing sample be?
If your employer’s instructions specify how long the word count of your content should be, it’s essential to adhere to these guidelines. Don’t submit content that is longer or shorter than what your potential client is requesting. If the job application does not specify how long your sample should be, two to three paragraphs with no more than three sentences each is a good neighborhood to stay within.
Who is my target audience for sample copy?
While the target audience for example copy is actually prospective clients, you will usually want to write your samples to an imaginary one — often a specific group of consumers. So, for example, if you’re applying for a job to write for a service dog training magazine, your target audience isn’t trainers. Instead, it’s current and potential service dog owners.
You want to illustrate to your potential employer that you understand their target audience and ideal customer. Therefore, your example content should be poised to address the same problems or needs that their customers have, not necessarily the problems or needs that they themselves have.
What tone or style should I use for my example content?
The tone and style you use for your writing samples also depends on the type of writer you want to be or the niche you want to write in.
If your goal is to be a jack-of-all-trades writer, you can benefit from having a number of samples in many different styles and tones. Make sure these are clearly labeled so potential clients can tell the difference between content examples. Or, if you want to continue writing in a particular style that is most comfortable to you, you should only showcase this style in your example content and your writing portfolio.
Will my content be brought up in interview questions?
Suppose you’ve submitted your content examples to an employer who holds a traditional interview process. In that case, you should be prepared to answer any questions they may have about your work during the meeting. Of course, your prospective employer may or may not touch on your sample copy, but if they do, you should be ready to address the subject matter with confidence.
Will I get paid for my writing samples?
Usually not. The copyright of example content often remains with its original author and is housed within that writer’s portfolio of works. However, there are some cases in which writers may obtain payment for their writing samples.
For example, if you are a freelance writer completing a paid writing test for a prospective employer, you will generally be compensated for the content. However, this happens infrequently and is determined on a case-by-case basis by the client.
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