As if life weren’t full of tests and trials enough, you’ll find that some jobs even require you to complete a copy test before you get the work—or even before a second interview. A copywriting test is a sample writing exercise. It’s a way for a potential employer to see your skills writing for their particular brand. But what does that mean? And is it a good thing or a bad thing? And what is the format?
We’re so conditioned, after our years and years of school, to think of “tests” as bad things. You may find, though, that copy tests are tools that can help you get work.
You may be thinking: “But I already have a portfolio! Isn’t that what that’s for?!”
Here’s the thing, though: Copy tests can be good things. In fact, they can be great things! Think about it: If you’re a fairly new copywriter and you don’t have a ton of pieces in your portfolio, a copy test can help you prove to your potential employer that you’re good at what you do. They wouldn’t be taking a risk by hiring you; they can already see that you’re good at what you do.
Whether or not you decide to move forward with a copy test, here are a few key things to help demystify the process and help you decide when to say no to a copy test!
When Will You Take a Copy Test?
Not every copywriting test is going to look exactly the same for each company. Typically, a copy test happens after you’ve had at least an initial phone screen with a company. Sometimes it will come later in the process, as a last and final step before they decide to extend an offer.
One red flag to look out for is submitting a copywriting sample before you get on a call with a potential client. If you’re excited about the company and you want to put together a spec ad to include with your application materials, that’s totally fine! That can demonstrate you’re really excited about the opportunity.
However, if you’re on the fence of whether you want to work with a particular client, you want to get on an initial call, too! That initial call can help you feel out whether this is an opportunity you want to move forward with just as much as it can help the company decide if they want to move forward with you.
What Type of Format is a Copywriting Test?
Sometimes, the hiring manager or someone in HR will send you a prompt and give you a day or two to complete it and send it back to them. This take-home style copy test allows you to spend as much or as little time as you want on the test. However, the request shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to an hour to complete (more on that below!).
Other times, such as if you’re interviewing in an office, the company may have you do a copy test on site! In this instance, they’ll likely limit it to 30 minutes for example.
The copy test will give you the background on a project and the objectives (much like a creative brief would), but you’re also welcome to ask questions about it. Though multiple choice might be nice, it’ll be in the form of whatever work the company would be most likely to have you do. So, for example, if it’s an interactive company, they might have you write a banner ad or an email.
If you don’t have a creative brief, make notes! Demonstrating the types of questions you ask and how you’d approach a project is just as valuable as what you write!
When to Say No to Copy Tests
A copy test should be a small project. I repeat: small!
If a prospective client or company is asking you to write a homepage for them or 15 product descriptions, this is a point where you may negotiate with them. You can say something like:
“I am really interested in this opportunity. With this volume of work, I am happy to do this as a paid project. Or I will gladly provide 2 sample product descriptions as a free sample. Please let me know which of these may work for you!”
It may be hard to say, “no” when you’re first starting out. But the sooner you can value your time, the sooner others will value your time, too. There are so, so many companies willing to pay you for a copy test or accept a small sample.
And, after all, would you really want to work for a company that doesn’t value your time right off the bat?
Not all jobs will require copy tests and you’re most likely to see them when you’re applying for junior to mid-level work. But when you do see them required, do your best to see them as a positive thing and dive into them with enthusiasm. You’re good at what you do; here’s your chance to prove it right off the bat!
Watch More: Should You Take a Copy Test?
Copy tests can tell you a lot about a client. If they’re paying you to do one? It shows they value not only copywriting, but you and your time. If they’re asking you to do a lot of work for free? They may not be your ideal client OR they may just need you to explain what a fair copy test does entail!
On episode 53 of the Build Your Copywriting Business podcast, Nicki and Kate talk all things copy tests, including how to negotiate with your clients for a fair copy test (*ahem* the majority of copy tests should be paid) and the red flags that signal you should walk away (fast!) from a potential client.
Your turn! Have you taken a copy test for a prospective employer/ client? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below!
Last Updated on June 30, 2023