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!
Otherwise, let’s write!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
Christina Lyon is a coffee-sipping, word-obsessed business blogger, content writer, and blog consultant. She’s on fire for helping creative entrepreneurs and small biz owners build thriving blogs that enhance online visibility and convert to sales. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to play music and explore the beaches and wild trails along the California coast with her husband Steve and rescue pup, Clio.
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