Building a freelance writing portfolio is so F*****G EASY. Don’t listen to the sites that tell you to build a website or pitch big publications for guest posts.
I’m going to show you the free and easy way how to build a freelance writing portfolio from scratch with 0 samples, connections, or experience in 1 as little as one week.
I did it, and it was enough to build a full-time freelancing income. And if I can do it, you can do it too. Trust me.
That’s how much I paid to split a room with my girlfriend in Prague.
And I could barely even pay that. It F******G SUCKS being a loser.
I took a long, hard look in the mirror and made up my mind: I was going to be a writer, start making real money, and achieve freedom like I always dreamed.
There was just 1 little issue….
I HAD NO WRITING SAMPLES OR PORTFOLIO! And I didn’t know what to do first….
I was a complete beginner. I didn’t have any experience, connections, samples, or any clue what the hell I was doing. There were a lot of no’s in my life at this time now that I think about it…
No samples. No money. No degree. No career path. No idea where to start working on my dreams.
Should I go to eLance or ODesk (Now Upwork)?
Should I cold pitch randoms?
Should I work for a content mill?
Should I punch myself in the balls repeatedly for even thinking I could actually do this (Better than writing for content mills)
Listen to me when I tell you this:
Creating a writer website/portfolio and finding your own clients is the best way to launch a freelance writing career.
If you want to start freelance writing with no experience, this is the best way.
Once I had my portfolio ready to go, I almost immediately started finding PAYING CLIENTS.
The rest is history. Now I’m Freelanceaholicking in Ho Chi Minh City!
This guide is going to cover EVERYTHING I’VE LEARNED:
- How to build your portfolio
- How to create QUALITY SAMPLES that attract paying clients
- Where to publish samples when you have no experience
- Tips for a killer freelance writer portfolio
- Examples of simple yet powerful portfolios to copy
- Vlad Putin and Steve Buscemi
You ready? I’m ready!
Ⅰ: How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio Step-By-Step
Let’s just dive right in….
Step 1) Sign up for a FREE writer portfolio at one of these sites
You don’t need a fancy writer’s website to get your first clients.
A free portfolio will do just fine. My first portfolio was at Journoportfolio.com.
Journoportfolio is a great site for beginners, but this is a HORRIBLE portfolio.
And no, not just because this is a humiliating photo of me at age 24ish. It’s because I make the #1 mistake new writers make with their portfolios. I’ll cover all that in the last section.
If you don’t like Journoportfolio, try these 2 free sites:
- Clippings.me (Limited to 10 pieces)
- Contently.net (.NET! NOT .com!!! The .net domain is for freelance creatives)
Step 2) Write one topic for your portfolio about something you like/know a lot about
Normally, I’d recommend writing ONLY targeted samples, but after working with tons of new writers I’ve realized the #1 problem for new freelancers is OVERTHINKING.
The best advice I can give is: GET WORDS ON PAPER.
Get those juices flowing by writing ANYTHING. Cats, places to visit in Namibia, the top 3 reasons FRIENDS is the best show of all time, the top 3 reasons FRIENDS is the worst show of all time.
I don’t care. Once that one piece is up you will see PROGRESS. You will feel motivated. You will want to get. This. Shit. Done.
You can even delete it once your portfolio is bigger.
Still with me?
We’re about to build the F**K out of your writer portfolio!
Step 3) Write 3 TARGETED samples
Now that your creative juices are flowing and you’ve badmouthed FRIENDS, it’s time to build-out your portfolio with 3 targeted samples.
By now, you should have a writing niche. You have a writing niche, right? If you don’t, stop RIGHT NOW.
If you don’t have a niche, make sure to check out my ultimate guide to finding a freelance writing niche from hell + follow the steps to finding the perfect specialty topic that pays well
Go to Google and enter “the best [your niche]” + blogs and see what it spits back.
Go to those blogs and see what the top ranking posts are.
Voila! Now you’ve got topics to cover. Just be sure to put your own spin on them and write ORIGINAL ARTICLES.
Make sure to tell clients that these are based off your “in-depth” research and reflect the current state of the industry.
Pro Tip: Want to be the absolute BOSS? Take those articles, improve on them (More info, top 10’s instead of top 5’s, more images, better intros, etc.), and display your article side by side showing improvements.
Step 4) Publish RELEVANT Posts on Free Platforms/Social Media
Guest posting is probably the best way to gain credibility as a new freelancer, but that takes a lot of time. You’ve got to research who even accepts gust posts, concieve and pitch ideas, wait for F*****G ever for a response, then actually write the damn piece….THEN WAIT TIL’ IT’S PUBLISHED.
If you want to build your portfolio fast, just use FREE sites that let you publish INSTANTLY. This is something I learned the hard way:
Clients care WHAT YOU CAN DO more than WHERE YOU’RE PUBLISHED.
Publish a post on at least 2 of the following:
- Ghost.org (Another great publishing platform. Here’s a comparison between Ghost and Medium)
- Linkedin.com (Lets you publish blog posts directly to your profile)
Create only relevant content.
If you’re in the parenting niche, write a blog about what it’s like to raise an only-child, twins, triplets, whatever. If you’re in the digital marketing niche, write a post about the state of digital marketing going into the next year.
Step 5) Build out your writer portfolio by using social media
Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Linkedin_BUILD EM ALL OUT.
Label yourself a writer in your niche and share your samples, published materials, and guest posts across all of your social profiles. Then, link to your portfolio in your profile.
You are what you say you are. If you say you’re a “Freelance XYZ writer”, clients will see you that way.
See how easy this all is?
Now you’ve got:
- 1 fun blog on any topic
- 3 targeted samples proving you know about your niche
- At least 1 industry-relevant article published on a content platform (preferably more)
- Samples shared across all social media
- Multiple profiles across the web stating that you’re a freelance writer
That was FAST and didn’t cost a penny.
Ⅱ: Tips For How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio
The #1 Mistake Every New Freelance Writer Makes in Their Portfolio!
Do Not Be BORING (By Saying the Same Shit Everyone Else Does)
Let’s flash back to my first portfolio and cringe (Or my life in general at that time)
This is a tour-de-force in F*****G up your portfolio.
It does at least state what I do, which is good enough I guess. But what exactly makes me different than every other freelancer out there writing similar content?
Instead of the boring “I’m an expert” BS, try these 3 approaches:
- Make em’ laugh: Humor is a great way to make a sale and build bonds. Crack a joke and they’ll hire you.
- The McDonald’s (Social Proof): Billions served. I love this tagline. The original social proof at its finest. If you’re just starting out, you obviously can’t write “hundreds of articles for dozens of clients”, but you can write something like “Medium.com’s favorite digital marketing writer.”.
- Details: If you want to be straightforward and professional, try a more detailed approach by saying exactly what you write about. EX: “I’m a legal copywriter specializing in long-form blog posts. I help firms create content about personal injury settlements, divorces, drug possession, etc, etc”. Behold, the power of specialization.
My portfolio from before would look a hell of a lot better like this:
Change Your Mindset From Employee to Equal
I notice a lot of new writers asking how to apply for employment with companies/websites, and I think this mindset shift is especially important.
Stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like a professional whose services are in need.
You aren’t applying for a job, you are SOLVING A SERIOUS ISSUE FOR YOUR CLIENTS.
You aren’t looking for a good salary, you are CHARGING WHAT YOU ARE WORTH.
Recognize that as a freelance writer, your service provides major value and companies need you. Don’t think of yourself as low on the totem pole or “below/subservient” to your clients.
Expand Your Portfolio With Catchafire
Catchafire.org is a site that lets you use your skills to help worthy causes.
There’s a good chance that projects will need a writer from time to time. This is a great way to gain exposure, contribute to good causes, and wipe away the sins of whatever you did over the weekend you sick bastard.
Consider Writing for Free
Normally, I HATE WORKING FOR FREE. There are exceptions, however. It all depends.
If someone asks you to work for free, tell them to go fuck themselves. Screenshot it and share it across social media and in writer groups.
But if you OFFER to work for free – for example, writing a free sample – you might not even need a writer portfolio. Some clients are happy to see a 300-500 word blog, and might even hire you for ongoing work JUST from that sample.
It’s happened to me plenty of times. I offered a free sample to one person in a cold pitch that got accepted. That person ended up introducing me to a marketing company that hired me to write their company blog. The CEO liked my work so much that he offered me a full-time position and relocation to Montreal…I refused.
Don’t Have a Shit Load of Samples
5-7 samples is plenty. If they’re targeted to your client, that’s more than enough. Hell, 3-5 is all you really need so long as you’re targeted exactly to the right kind of client.
No client is going to read all of your samples anyway, let’s be honest.
I’ve written hundreds of articles on god knows what, but I never show prospects more than 3-4. There’s no need.
Get as much social proof as you can. That’s why I recommend writing on free publications. Some clients might not even know that Medium is free for everyone to write on. They might just think “wow, this writer is featured on the interwebz!”.
Note: All of my business comes through Freelanceaholics.com and word of mouth now. I don’t even bother with a writer portfolio.
Ⅲ: Examples of Good Writer Portfolios By Niche
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Just copy this stuff. You’ll eventually settle into your own style.
Simple portfolio with a one-liner
This portfolio ticks all the boxes:
- My name
- Good photo
- What I do
- A bit of humor
- Call to action
Below this, just put 3-5 samples in your niche and you’re done.
Detailed Real Estate Portfolio
If you’re looking to write in a niche like real estate, this is a killer profile to copy.
Blog posts, community profile (This is HUGE. Talk about where you live if you wanna write about real estate), market news, etc. This might take a bit of WordPress knowledge, but definitely something to strive for.
For your portfolio, I’d create several different pages/categories – blogs, listings, community profile, about me – and add content to each.
Parenting Blog Portfolio Sample
Cortney Fries makes this list because she spells Cortney the same way my sister spells Cortney.
She also has a solid, easy-on-the-eyes portfolio that not-so-humbly shows how good she is. This is a great example of social proof.
As a beginner, it’s important to publish on as many media as you can to build your own version of this. “I’m [name], a parenting writer featured on Medium, Ghost, Issuu, and etc, and I’m passionate about the living, breathing creatures I’ve pushed out of my body”.
Finance Writer – The Flex
Megan Nye has a sick portfolio with a quick bio, tons of social proof, and all of the topics she’s covered with links to each post/where it was published.
Can’t beat this. It’ll take you a long time to work up to this, but for now you can steal her format of a quick bio, categories of topics, and the individual posts themselves.
So what should I do now, Kevin?
If I were you, I’d get started on writing samples for your portfolio NOW!
Don’t overthink it. Just do it! Choose your niche, write some samples, and start building your brand. Next, go looking for clients anywhere you want. I recommend hunting them down on Google or going to Facebook.
Let me know where you’re going to publish yourself and what you’re going to write about.