When starting out, many freelance writers lack writing samples to show clients. No samples means no credibility in the eyes of prospective clients. Often times, their lack of a freelance writing portfolio costs them a job or forces them to accept low paying work.
So if you’re new to freelancing and don’t have any samples yet, here are a five simple ways to start building your portfolio.
1. Start a blog
For a freelance writer, the biggest benefit of starting a blog is getting samples. The second you publish your first post, you have a sample to show to clients.
Think long and hard. What is the one topic you’re truly passionate about? Something you can write about without being prompted or paid.
Found one? Now create a blog on the topic and start posting. Not only will it showcase your writing, it will also give you those all-important samples to show to prospective clients.
2. Guest Post
Guest posting is an excellent way to get samples. Your blog is centred around one topic or theme (or should be). Guest posting, on the other hand, gives you the chance to show your writing skills and expertise about different subjects.
Link back to those articles on your own blog, or make a separate page titled ‘Samples’ once you have three to five guest posts.
3. Article Marketing
It’s surprising how many companies look for writers through websites such as EzineArticles.com. The best thing about these websites is that they provide an Author Bio section where you can market yourself as a freelance writer.
If the client likes what he’s reading, his next action will be to click on your website or blog and get in touch with you.
I recently had a prospect email me along the lines of:
“I read your article ‘Foods that are bad for Sleep’ at Bright Hub. Very nice work. Your profile took me to your blog and your blog to your email.”
The email continued on to outline a writing opportunity.
I wrote a few articles for Bright Hub in early 2009, when I was a new freelancer and writing for content mills to get samples. The article the prospect read is more than a year old. And while I no longer write for Bright Hub, my work is still published there and serves as a sample for anyone looking for writers.
You never know when a prospect might contact you after reading one of your articles on an article marketing site.
Make good use of the author bio and be sure to link to your website, blog and/or portfolio.
4. Work Pro Bono
No samples? No experience? No problem.
Start by contacting local businesses and Non-profit organizations. No one says no to free help, and Non-profit organizations are always looking for writers. It’s a win-win situation. They get someone to write their website copy, business communication, grants, etc., and you get experience, samples and even testimonials!
5. Write a Sample
Not sure your blog or portfolio is enough? Why not write a sample on the topic the prospect is looking to hire a writer for?
If you still don’t have any samples (“What? Still no blog, guest posts, articles on content sites or pro bono work to show for yourself?”), then this is a good way to showcase your writing.
If you’re hired, congratulations! Your effort paid off. If not, you can always store it as a sample in your portfolio.
When I started out, I used to write tailored samples a lot. The driving force behind this strategy was pure desperation. I wanted to stop writing for content mills and get real clients – even if they were low paying ones.
One thing I did do was never mention that I had written the sample especially for the job – unless the prospective client showed interest in working with me. Then I used it as a selling point.
Have you used these or any other methods to build your freelance writing portfolio successfully? Tell us in the comments and we’ll do a follow-up post.