I saw a post about this a couple of weeks ago. In it, a fellow scribe told the story of how he missed out on a copywriting job because he refused to do a test.

This is a contentious issue. Personally, if the project requires it, I’m not anti copywriting tests, but I do object when they are unnecessary.

For example, I have a pending project for which the (rather large) client has requested a test piece to be done. In this particular case (I can’t go into details), I’m happy to do so. They also happen to be a long-term client.

However, there are times when I refuse such a request.

A test isn’t necessary 99% of the time

If you’re looking to work with a copywriter, the chances are you’ve done quite a bit of research.

You’ve Googled them, taken a look at their work, and asked colleagues and friends for recommendations. Considering the legwork you’ve done, you’re pretty sure those that made your shortlist are all suitable candidates.

The problem is because you’ve left the content to the last minute, you don’t have time to meet with all of them. You haven’t written a brief yet because you were going to talk to them over the phone. Therefore, your solution is a general email to your shortlist containing a very brief outline of what you want. At the end of your message, you ask them to complete a short test.

Not going to happen. And here’s why.

Who are you?

For starters, they have no background about you or your company. They don’t know what your brand is or stands for. Without that knowledge, it’s impossible to create content that reflects your values or brand personality.

Who are they?

Your customers are the most crucial factor when it comes to creating content. Without in-depth knowledge of who they are and what their motivations are, again, it’s impossible to create content that they can engage with.

What’s your USP?

They can see what you do from your current website, but that doesn’t drill down to what matters – your USP. What do you offer that no one else does?


And that’s just for starters. Without that vital information, your shortlist doesn’t stand a chance of hitting the right note.

Let’s face it; if you were looking to hire a decorator to repaint your house, you wouldn’t ask them to paint one room as a test. No. You would go by recommendation.

Do your research

Yes, doing your research to find the right writer does take time, but it will be worth it.

Look at what they’ve done in the past, especially the variety of voices they can write in (that shows flexibility).

Have a chat with them.

Get a range of quotes but don’t plump for the cheapest one, just because it’s cheap. As a general rule cheap copy delivers crap results. Copywriting is a profession, just like law, accounting, and finance so expect to pay professional rates.

A test won’t guarantee you an excellent outcome. Doing your research, and taking the time to provide a full brief will.


Sally Ormond is a professional copywriter who is happy to quote for your project. Call +44(0) 1449 779605.