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by Christina Lyon

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I'm Christina Lyon, a coffee sipping, piano playing, beach loving, word-obsessed freelance writer and musician. I'm on fire for helping freelance writers get paid and small biz owners succeed online. When I'm not reading or writing, I play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast.

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What To Put In Your Writing Portfolio – 6 Tips For Beginners!

Christina Lyon

Are you a beginner writer and stumped on what to put in your writing portfolio? I’m sharing 6 tips to help you showcase your writing, stand out, land clients, and get paid to write!

Ok, so you want to be a freelance writer, but you’ve got zero cred to your name. Am I right? Friend, I was there once, too! It’s a tricky spot to be in because, without clips, you won’t get hired. As challenging as it seems in the beginning, knowing what to put in your writing portfolio is crucial.

Portfolios help showcase your work and land clients, but how will you do that with zero experience? Clients won’t hire you for your word alone, but they will hire you for your words!

But what if you have nothing to highlight? In this article, I’m sharing how to use the resources you already have to build a writing portfolio from scratch.

You’ll learn how to showcase your writing without any actual writing experience. Once you land a few clients, you can add some legitimate pizazz to your portfolio to land better clients.

Here are six samples to put in your writing portfolio, start pitching, and bring in the bucks!

If you’re just beginning your freelance writing career, start here.

Otherwise, let’s write!

What to Put in Your Writing Portfolio

What should be included in a writing portfolio? You might think that you need impressive clips to get hired, but that’s actually not true at all. Getting hired as a freelance writer used to be highly competitive and only available to an elite class of writers. Now? Businesses need more digital content than ever before.

As a beginner writer, you might not get featured in Forbes or Nat Geo, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get paid to write.

If you’re able to navigate the internet, you’ll have no trouble building a writing portfolio. Not sure what to put in your writing portfolio? Here are six writing portfolio guidelines you can use to showcase your writing as a newbie:

 

Sound good? Keep reading to learn how to leverage each of these six content writing examples to land clients.

A screenshot of one of Christina Lyon's blog posts in her freelance writing portfolio.

When I first broke into freelance writing, I used my travel blog to land my first clients.

1. Your Blog Posts

Wondering how to create writing samples in the quickest fashion? I have one word for you: Blog, blog, blog. Okay, that was technically one word written three times, but you understand the importance here.

I’m not going to tell you that you don’t need to have a blog because you do. Sure, you can whip up a few word docs and fire em’ off, but what does that say about you? It might highlight that you’re a great writer, but it doesn’t give you credibility.

A blog offers you writing practice, creative inspiration, and a place to build a portfolio. 

More importantly, a real, live, published blog offers prospective clients insight into how serious you take yourself as a writer.

But starting a blog is hard and only works if you’re an influencer with thousands of followers on social media, right? Wrong.

Anyone can start a blog, and I recommend everyone do so!

Are you obsessed with dogs? Start a dog blog and write content all about pet ownership, dog health, pet food, and grooming. Is there a wino in the house? Build a blog and dissect all the intricate details of your favorite wines.

The point is to choose a writing niche you love and start writing content.

Starting a blog gives you the opportunity to hone your skill by writing about what you want to write about. Take a deep dive into your own perspective.

In the competitive world of content creation, clients are always on the hunt for unique angles. In fact, it’s what will get you hired.

When I first started freelance writing, I was a journalism student with a few published articles in a student newspaper. What made me stand out? My travel blog.

Every client that hired me in my first year of freelance writing said they “loved my blog.” Did they ask about my experience and education? Nope. They hired me because I had blogging credibility and they wanted my expertise.

Tips to get you started on your blogging journey:

  • Create a free WordPress blog, or consider upgrading to Wix to create a simple, easy to use website and blog.
  • Keep your blog posts around the 1-2K word range. Highlight both medium-length and long-form content in your freelance writing portfolio to show your range.
  • Choose your strongest blog posts to show clients that you’re actively writing.
  • Conduct Google searches into other blogs within your niche and take notes of what they are blogging about.
  • Chime in, but add your own spin. Above all: be yourself with your writing, because that’s what clients want to see.

 

2. Guest Blog Posts

Publishing your blog content is an excellent start. However, you’ll want to graduate and get published on other platforms as well. Ready to learn how to showcase your writing? Time to write a guest post!

If you’ve never written a guest post on a blog before, don’t worry, it’s a relatively painless process! Step one is to make a list of blogs that relate to your interests by doing a quick Google search.

Page 1 on Google will pull up the highest-ranking blogs and websites, but these are highly competitive platforms. You could start with these, but I recommend going down to the bottom of page 1, or even onto page 2 to optimize your chances.

If you want to really narrow things down, you can use search tools like Buzzsumo to hunt down the most popular blogs in your niche.

Once you’ve chosen a blog, make sure to research it thoroughly so you can pitch some ideas to the owner based on the posts you’ve read. Don’t be discouraged if the rejections flood in, it’s part of becoming a freelance writer.

Ready to stand out? Here’s how:

  • Thoroughly vet a blog before sending a pitch to ensure you’re a good fit
  • Brainstorm unique pitches that aren’t already published on the blog
  • Write a flawless pitch that encapsulates your fresh angle for the post

 

When you get the green light, write like your life depends on it, because your livelihood as a writer 1,000% does.

As soon as its published, add that baby to your portfolio! Always make sure to include the links to the article so that a potential client can verify it. 

A woman sits at an open laptop writing a piece to put in her freelance writing portfolio.

3. Volunteer To Write For Organizations

This one is a bit of a slippery slope because you never want to get too comfortable with writing for free. 

On the one hand, you risk getting taken advantaged of, and that ain’t cool. But on the other hand, it’s a quick, easy way to gain experience and add some pieces to your portfolio. 

But here is the cold, hard fact that’s a tough pill to swallow:

As a beginner writer, you need samples to get hired, which means you need to leave your ego at the door and write a few free pieces.

Sure, you could get lucky and bypass this step. However, as I tell my writing students:

You need to write for pennies first so that you can write for bucks.

I don’t suggest writing for free long-term, but I also wouldn’t get hung up on the rate in the beginning.

Want to know how much I got paid to write my first paid article?

$30.00

Before you shout “big money” and pull out the bubbly, consider that my first writing assignments weren’t paid. And my first regular writing client paid $12 per article.

Point being: you need to strike a balance that works for you between paid and unpaid gigs.

To start, write for nor non-profits or other organizations that you are deeply invested in on a personal level. 

Love rescue dogs? I know, here I go again with the dogs, what can I say? I love the puppers!

Reach out to your local animal shelter and volunteer to write some blog posts for them. Are you into politics? Write some op-ed articles for your local newspaper. 

If you can, negotiate a byline and backlink to your freelance writing portfolio.

Writing for free in the beginning sucks because it doesn’t pay the bills. However, it’s also glorious because it makes you a better writer. Find opportunities to practice writing, write your best content, and then include these pieces in your portfolio.

While you may not have made any money off these articles, you have social proof that you have writing chops and can channel these clips to get paying clients.

4. Niche-Specific Writing Samples

How do I create a content writer portfolio? A dash of imagination, a hearty pour of hard work, and a stroke of writing talent, that’s how.

As writers, we would all love to create pieces for literary giants like Vogue or New York Times. Fun fact: It’s my utter DREAM to write for Nat Geo, and has been since I was a little girl and first clutched the infamous yellow-framed mag in my tiny hands. 

Still not giving up on that dream, folks, and neither should you!

Having a byline published by influential organizations instantly amplifies your writing credibility! Fact is, it takes time, dedication, and hard work to get to that caliber of writing. 

Don’t let that deter you, because we all start somewhere, and that’s why you’re here, so pat yourself on the back!

While you might not be getting calls from Vogue or Healthline just yet, you can use your imagination to write content in your target niche.

Here’s how:

  • Choose a published article that received a lot of attention and re-write it from your perspective.
  • Are all news outlets covering a major event? Imagine Anderson Cooper asked you personally to cover it and start writing!
  • Ask yourself who you really want to work for. Once you have that clear, start writing the content your ideal clients need.

 

Writing pieces for dream clients and including them in your portfolio is a great way to show that you’ve got the skills to be published alongside the greats, even though it hasn’t happened… yet! 

A closeup of a woman writing in a journal, writing a bio is a great piece to put in your freelance writing portfolio.

5. Your Bio – Yes, Tell Your Story!

Don’t be shy about introducing yourself! Include a short description of what makes you, well, you! Also include your services, which will set the stage for your writing samples.

Tell readers (and potential clients) what you’re offering and why your content shines.

And do not forget your contact information! You don’t want to make it an obstacle course for potential clients or employers to contact you. Avoid getting clever or kitschy with your contact page. 

Put it front row center where it’s nearly impossible to miss. You could include a telephone number if you’re comfortable giving that out to the world; however, an email address is sufficient.

If you have any active (and relevant) social media accounts, include them too! These sites can provide additional information about you and your work, while also demonstrating the size of your online reach.

And lastly, please don’t forget to get personal. Share insight into your story, background, experience, and process.

6. Testimonials

What do most writing portfolio website examples have in common? The writers aren’t afraid to flex social proof from clients. Including testimonials is an excellent idea for everyone — beginners and pros alike. Testimonials are an essential way to build credibility about your services and work ethic.

But again, if you have no writing samples in your portfolio, how will you accrue testimonials?

Anyone who can speak to your skills can write a testimonial. And guess what? They don’t always have to come from people who have paid you! Remember that animal shelter you wrote some free blog posts for? Reach out to them and ask to write up a brief testimonial about how much they loved your work.

How to get portfolio testimonials:

  • Ask your employer or former employer to write a testimonial
  • Reach out to colleagues to write about your skills and professionalism
  • Contact your college professors or counselors and ask them to write a brief testimonial

 

Freelancers find most of their jobs by references and word-of-mouth. Never underestimate the power of networking to build credibility and bolster your writing career.

A client testimonial about Christina Lyon's writing services.

Time To Write!

As you can see, you don’t necessarily need published samples in your writing portfolio to land clients. With these six content pieces in your portfolio, you make a clear, bold statement:

I take my writing seriously. I’m professional and invest in my craft. I’m hireable.

When you’re new to the world of freelance writing, it may take a little time to build up your writing samples. That’s perfectly fine!

There is a universal thread that ties these concepts together: your ability to sit down and write.

Before you know it, you’ll have a stellar portfolio you’re proud of, and that will land you high-quality clients! 

Need more freelance writing tips? I’ve got you covered!

A woman works at a desk on what to put in your freelance writing portfolio.

June 16, 2020

Freelancing Tips

*This post may contain affiliate links, and I may receive a commission on purchases made through provided links (at no extra cost to you).

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by Christina Lyon

Hey there! I'm a coffee sipping, piano playing, word-obsessed freelance writer and musician on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners tell their stories with engaging marketing copy. Need written content? 

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