Copy Tests

Hi Angela,

I’ve been writing for 20 years (13 as a freelancer) and, for some jobs, I’ve been asked to do a copy test. If it was a short exercise and didn’t require a big investment of time, I would usually do it. I’ve stopped doing them, however, because I’ve found that some of the employers were really just fishing for ideas; they never really intended on hiring anyone and this was a good way to get some ideas/concepts and copy for free. One company actually used my copy in one of their catalogues, although with a little creative editing, it would have been hard to prove.

I heard through the grapevine that a major retail chain store here in my hometown was looking for a full time copywriter. I sent over my resume and writing samples to their inside ad agency. The creative director said that they would be sending over a little exercise “to see what their applicants could do with a pair of assignments that we might actually take on.”

With marketing in mind for two states (where they are planning on opening stores), for the “test,” they want one :30 second grand opening TV spot and one :60 second radio spot. In addition, for another campaign, they want one :60 second radio spot targeted at teens.

Sounds to me like a lot of work for free. I’m not going to do it. I don’t need the work that much but want to reply in a dignified way. What are your thoughts?


I absolutely agree with you. If they can’t hire someone using past writing samples and references, they shouldn’t be running ads.

And, you’re absolutely right! Some companies that ask writers to take these so-called tests and then use the material, never hiring any of the writers. It’s a huge scam and it’s on the rise.

Need advice? Send an email to: angela – at –