What to Do When Your Best Samples Are ‘Gated’

You write something fantastic for a client.

You’re super proud of it. And you’re excited to share it with prospective clients as an example of what you can do.

But then the client posts it behind their paywall.

And so you can’t share the link with prospective clients.

Darn it!

It’s not unusual for written content to end up behind paywalls, especially when you write for media properties.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t use this work as a sample, especially if you plan ahead.

Get Permission From the Start

The best thing you can do to avoid this kind of situation is get permission at the start of the client engagement.

State in your fee agreement that the client gives you permission to use the deliverable in your portfolio.

Not all clients will agree to this. If they don’t, you can strike it from the agreement.

But if they resist, don’t stop there! This doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing arrangement.

You can ask for permission to anonymize the work (i.e. remove the client’s name) before sharing it.

If they don’t like that option, you can ask for permission to share the work privately.

Here’s how that works: You agree not to post it to your website, but if a prospect asks for a sample your client allows you to share it with them directly.

If You Haven’t Gotten Permission, Ask for It

Getting permission up front is a lot easier than trying to get it after the fact.

But let’s say you didn’t get permission in advance. And now you desperately want to use the deliverable as a sample.

If your contact is still around, you can reach to them and ask for permission to share.

But what if your contact is no longer with the company?

In this kind of situation, some writers will be bold and share the content privately anyway, especially if it was written several years ago.

I can’t recommend this choice. The decision is yours. And you should consider the sensitivity of the content, the client and the industry.

You certainly don’t want to get caught up in a dispute over copyright infringement or disclosure of proprietary information.

Set Up an Online Portfolio

Another way to avoid a lot of these issues is by having a portfolio of work on your website.

In most cases, an online portfolio will satisfy a prospect’s need to see more of your work. So you’ll spend less time negotiating permission and emailing samples. And your client might be OK with your posting excerpts of their work in your portfolio, as opposed to the full piece.

Some prospects may prefer to see your content live on your client’s site. But often a simple explanation and alternative (i.e. “I can’t show you that, but I can show you this”) will do.

Besides, having your own online portfolio avoids the problem of clients editing your work after you submit it — which can happen when content is live.

Gated Content Isn’t a Problem If You Plan Ahead

Having your best content hidden behind a paywall usually isn’t a problem if you plan ahead.

Get client permission upfront to include deliverables in your portfolio. If the client resists, asks for permission to share privately. At the same time, set up an online portfolio and keep it current.

Do these three things consistently, and you’ll spend less fretting over gated content.


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