Are you someone who loves words and wants to make a career out of writing?
Are you excited about the prospect of getting paid to write but aren’t sure where to start? Do you feel stuck when it comes to generating writing samples?
If any of this sounds like you, you’re exactly where I was at the start of my writing career. If there’s one thing I could go back and tell my former self, it would be this: keep calm and develop your writing portfolio.
Portfolios are essential to a freelance writer’s success.
They showcase what you’re capable of far better than any job experience or letter of recommendation ever will. They’re the clearest cut way to demonstrate your skills and your voice.
That’s why I decided to put together a step-by-step tutorial on how to build a writing portfolio complete with tips, tools, and more.
Portfolio building can seem daunting at first, but when you break it down step by step, it’s actually great practice and even sort of fun! Even if you have no professional writing experience, a career as a writer is attainable for you.
If you follow the steps laid out here, you’re sure to end up with a portfolio you can be proud of. Then you’ll be ready to start landing paid gigs doing what you love.
What You’ll Need to Follow This Tutorial
You don’t need any experience to follow this tutorial and start building your portfolio. Here’s all you’ll need to get started:
- A love of writing
- Access to a computer or laptop
- A positive attitude
- An open mind
Let’s get started!
1. Choose Your Writing Focus
As a freelance writer, you may end up writing in a variety of styles.
You should start by familiarizing yourself with the different types of written content that clients often request. This way, you can create a portfolio that shows off your writing chops across various styles.
Here are some of the most common types of written content:
- Blog posts
- Press releases
- Social media posts and captions
- Website content (for example, an about us section)
- Product descriptions and reviews
- Email newsletters
- Guest posts
To get started, read samples of each style.
Once you feel familiar with a particular style, practice writing your own sample, even if it’s just for a fake product or company.
A good content writer is versatile, but it’s natural to have a style or two that you prefer over others. After experimenting with different styles, choose which type of writing you would like to pursue so you can focus on it.
Not sure what your writing focus should be?
Check out this Dan Lok video on which writing areas are most in-demand right now:
2. Identify Your Passion/Niche for Your Portfolio
What subjects inspire you most? What topics get you feeling excited to write?
When you first start building your portfolio, focus on areas you’re truly passionate about. This will get the creative juices flowing. It’s also not a bad idea to start out by writing about what you know. If you grew up riding horses, try a blog post about caring for horses.
If you love music, try writing a review of a favorite album that you know backward and forwards.
Once you have an idea of what your niche is and what you like to write about, think about what type of company or client you’d want to hire you.
If you’re focusing on home improvement writing, research home improvement blogs, or companies. Identifying your target audience, or who you want to hire you, will help you build a portfolio accordingly.
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one niche, either. If you excel at food writing and reviewing the latest tech gadgets, include samples of both in your portfolio.
Clients love hiring writers who have an area of expertise. It ensures they’ll receive content that is inspiring and well researched.
If you don’t think that one niche, in particular, is calling out to you, you can always fall back on picking something that’s in high demand. You’ll just have to do a little extra research to educate yourself on the topic.
Check out this video by Jordan Makelle on profitable freelance writing niches:
3. Choose a Platform for Your Portfolio
You’ll need a platform to host your portfolio so you can start getting those writing gigs!
There are a couple of different options for this. I’ve outlined some of the best ones and how they compare to each other.
Fiverr is an online platform that connects freelancers with customers.
It’s also an excellent tool for building your portfolio. It’s extremely easy to get started. You’ll find work much quicker than you would submitting job applications. You can start by charging lower rates for your writing services.
This will help you build a client base and generate more writing samples for your portfolio.
With Fiverr, clients can leave reviews, which will boost your credibility. You’ll gain real experience and testimonials that will help you get hired for more jobs. Aside from just building an awesome portfolio, you can also start making money right away on Fiverr.
Watch this video by Mike Nardi for tips on turning a healthy profit on Fiverr:
You can also opt to create a more conventional website to showcase your portfolio.
Websites allow potential clients to view your portfolio and your testimonials easily. The only downside to this option is that it costs money and is not as easy to get started with as Fiverr.
Creating a website can feel overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
Here’s a Squarespace tutorial on how to build a website in just 10 steps:
Blogs are also a great way to show off your writing chops.
They’re a very personalized option, showcasing who you are and what you’re passionate about. This option might be perfect if you are most interested in creative writing or writing about social issues.
You should also include a photo of yourself, a bio section telling the reader a little about you, and a contact page. Potential clients should be able to peruse your portfolio and figure out how to reach you with ease.
Guest posts are articles posted on another person or company’s blog.
Getting guest posts published on other sites is a great way to build your credibility and network. You can start out by offering your services to smaller blogs or businesses at a lower or even free rate.
Guest posts also allow you to explore different niches.
If you know of a small business that sells candles, offer to write them a guest post ranking the best scents for fall. You might find that you have a knack for writing about aromatherapy!
To get started writing guest posts, you should first create an author bio and a sales pitch. Highlight your strengths as a writer and any specific areas of expertise you may have.
Not sure what a guest post-sales pitch looks like? Check out these tips from Alex Berman:
Once you have some writing samples under your belt, whether from Fiverr, a personal blog, or a guest post, you can add your work to a portfolio site.
Journo Portfolio and Clippings.me are two great options that make the process of creating an online writing portfolio easy.
There are plenty of resources online that guide you through using these sites, such as this short but sweet guide to building a writing portfolio on Clippings.me:
Keep Creating Sample Work
Once you know what type of copy you like to write, what your niche is, and where you’ll publish your best work, just keep on writing and writing!
Don’t worry if the paid gigs don’t come pouring in right away - they likely won’t. Focus on what you can control, which is practicing your writing. There are plenty of ways to generate sample work besides just guest posts and Fiverr.
You can create mock posts. Find a product you’d like to review and do the research on it yourself. Format the review as if it were a real paid assignment.
You can use Microsoft Word or Google Docs to create sample work.
Identify smaller sites and businesses that might need written content but have smaller budgets. Write a piece for them and pitch it.
The best way to stay relevant as a freelance writer is to constantly update your portfolio. Write every day, even if you aren’t getting paid to do so. You could start a Medium page and write and publish whatever you want.
For inspiration, check out Neil Patel’s awesome video on how to write a blog post:
Last Minute Tips
Now that you know what the portfolio building process entails and how to get started, I wanted to share some other helpful hints.
There are things I wish I had been told when I was first starting out.
Tip 1: Quality is Better Than Quantity
You know how you were always told that a resume should be a tight one-pager? How it doesn’t need to include every job you’ve ever had and every accomplishment you’ve ever achieved?
The same is sort of true for writing portfolios.
A potential client is likely only going to read a few of your samples before deciding whether to hire you or not. Make sure your best work is the first thing someone sees on your portfolio.
You should only include writing samples you feel confident about. Simply put, it’s about quality, not quantity. You don’t need to include three essays that you wrote in middle school just to fill up space.
Tip 2: Put a Face to The Work
Whether you publish your portfolio on Wix or use Fiverr, make sure to have a professional, up to date photo of yourself visible.
Clients will want to put a face to the work.
Tip 3: Actively Educate Yourself
There are so many amazing resources at your disposal, thanks to the world wide web. Seek out Youtube tutorials, Ebooks, and online classes that will help you improve your writing.
It’s never too late to start honing your craft. The way to be one step ahead of your competition is to put in the work that most people aren’t willing to!
Tip 4: Never Underestimate the Power of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is an amazing professional networking tool, and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Posting your work on LinkedIn can foster connections and help you get work.
Writing is my passion, and it feels like a dream that I’ve been able to make a career out of it. Only a few short years ago, I never thought this was possible. If I had a time machine, I would tell my younger self what I know now about breaking into the freelance writing industry.
The amazing thing about a freelance writing career is that you don’t need a specific degree or a ton of experience to get started.
You just need to be willing to start writing.
A well-crafted portfolio is truly the key to getting paid work that you’ll enjoy doing. It’s worth doing the research and putting in the effort. The hardest part is figuring out where to start, and hopefully, you know exactly what to do next.
So, what do you think your next step is? Got a question about it? Let us know!