If a potential client asks to see samples of your work, what would you show them? You need to have samples of your writing ready. An online portfolio is one of the most important assets you can create for yourself as a new freelance writer.
Not sure where to start? That’s understandable. Creating a freelance writing portfolio from scratch can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Once you understand what clients are looking for and how to craft samples, this process is simple.
Here’s exactly what you need to do to build a freelance writing portfolio that wins clients.
Why Should You Create a Freelance Writer Portfolio?
An online portfolio is the key to breaking into the world of freelance writing. More and more people are going freelance and it is competitive, but there’s also a lot of demand.
According to a survey from SEMRush, 56% of brands outsource content writing. Of those that haven’t outsourced before, 60% said they’ve considered it.
This is great news if you want to be a professional freelance writer. Companies are looking for writers. If you can display your skills and get their attention, you can get the gig.
Some new freelancers think that a portfolio is something you build throughout your career. There is some truth to that, but it doesn’t mean that you need to have years of experience as a writer.
You can craft a portfolio that will help you land clients, even as a total newbie.
Why Do You Need a Freelance Writer Portfolio?
All freelance writers should have a portfolio of work. Potential clients decide whether or not they want to work with a writer based on their portfolio.
Many clients will not even consider you for a gig if you can’t show them a portfolio of work. A great portfolio can do the selling for you once you get in touch with a client.
How Is a Writing Portfolio Different From a Resume?
Traditionally, we’re taught that we need a resume to apply for gigs. This document includes information like your work history, education and references.
However, you don’t really need a resume to be a successful freelance writer. That doesn’t mean a client will never ask you for one, but it’s rare. Having a resume doesn’t hurt, but not having a portfolio can significantly reduce your chances of getting a gig.
A writing portfolio does much more than give potential clients information about your background. It shows them what you’re capable of creating and the outcome they can expect when they work with you.
It’s all about showing clients that you understand how to write well, you’ve done it before and you can do it for them.
The truth is, freelance writing has a low barrier to entry. Many people can be freelance writers if they’re willing to put the work in. On the flip side of that, though, it can be a challenge for clients to vet writers and find one that has the skills they need.
Make it easy for them by pointing them directly to your work.
What Do You Put in a Freelance Writer Portfolio?
Your freelance writing portfolio needs one thing: writing samples. Sounds obvious, right? It is, but a lot of new writers stress over this. A few pieces of your best work will be enough.
Here’s some guidance on creating and selecting pieces for your writing portfolio.
Using Your Existing Writing
If you have experience as a writer, start looking at the pieces you’ve already written. There may not be a need to reinvent the wheel here. Start with what you already have on hand.
A word of caution: Re-read any previously written clips you’re thinking about including in your portfolio. It’s likely that your writing skills have improved since you’ve written them. You may want to update these pieces to match your current skill set.
Creating New Writing Samples
Creating new samples for your portfolio is your best bet if you’re a new writer. It’s also a good idea to start here if you don’t have any existing samples that show that you can craft what paying clients are looking for.
You may find that you end up including a mixture of existing samples and new samples, depending on how much experience you have.
How Many Samples Do You Need to Put in a Writing Portfolio?
If you don’t have any existing writing samples, start by creating a few blog posts. 1,000 words each should be more than enough. You don’t need to create award-worthy, in-depth pieces at this point. Write as well as you can, as quickly as you can.
You should add 3-5 samples to your freelance writer portfolio. Don’t go overboard and include too many samples, especially as a newbie. The goal is to start pitching clients and making money. You only need a few pieces to showcase what you can do.
Where Do You Host Samples for Your Portfolio?
If you don’t have any client work you can link to, you can either self-publish your samples or guest post. Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of each option.
Publishing your own writing samples online is your best bet if you want to launch your freelance writing career fast. This allows you to be completely in control of your samples and the way that they appear to potential clients.
Pitching and getting your content published on well-known websites is smart. It can go a long way to help you establish credibility with clients. However, it can take weeks to get a guest post published, and it’s not a must-have when you’re starting out.
How Can You Create a Freelance Writing Portfolio That Wins Clients?
Having your writing portfolio is great but there are many things you can do to maximize the value of your portfolio site and the impact it has on potential clients. Here’s what you can do to make your freelance writer portfolio stand out.
- Create a Portfolio That Is Easy to Navigate
Don’t make it difficult for clients to make their way through your online portfolio. Clearly label each sample and if you choose to include several types of clips in your portfolio, organize them by category. That way, clients can find what they need and decide if you are the writer they want to work with right away.
- Choose Quality Over Quantity
Your portfolio should always feature your best samples. Don’t worry if your portfolio is small. Clients don’t want to read everything you’ve ever written. They just want to see that you have the skills to write for them. In this case, less can be more.
- Check Your Work
Everyone makes mistakes, but the pieces you include in your online portfolio should be error-free. Double and triple check every piece to ensure that it represents the quality of work you can offer to clients.
If your portfolio is full of errors, clients will be much less likely to hire you. If you aren’t a great proofreader, you can use a tool like Grammarly to make that process easier.
- Use Images
You may be a writer, but that doesn’t mean that you should overlook the power of a good visual. Find stock images that can accompany pieces in your portfolio or take a screenshot of each piece of your work. This will make your portfolio more attractive and encourage potential clients to click.
- Consider Your Clients
When you’re deciding what writing samples to include in your portfolio, consider your target clients. You don’t need to choose a niche at this point, but you do need to have some awareness of the types of writing you like to do.
For example, if you want to write blog posts for companies, don’t fill your portfolio with personal essays. Take the time to look at what different businesses put on their blogs and incorporate best practices into your samples.
Do You Need to Create Your Own Website to Display Your Freelance Writing Portfolio?
No, you don’t need to purchase a custom domain or create your own website to display your samples for clients. There are several free ways to display your portfolio online and it only takes a few minutes to set one up. I was working part-time as a freelance writer for three years before I invested in my own website.
Eventually, you should have your own freelance writer website, but it’s not necessary to get your first gigs. Your time will be much better spent on creating compelling samples and learning how to market your skills as a writer.
Freelance Writing Portfolio Examples
Here’s what my freelance writing portfolio looked like early on in my career.
This is on a freelance portfolio site. It also includes different kinds of clips across several writing niches.
Here’s what my online portfolio looks like today.
It’s much more focused on my ideal client now that I have a niche. However, visually, it’s not all that different from my first writing portfolio.
Do You Need to Update Your Portfolio?
You can create your portfolio in just a few days and start pitching clients, but there is something that every freelance writer should understand about their portfolio.
Your portfolio will always be in progress. This isn’t something you can set up and then forget about.
Putting together a professional writing portfolio is important but it will never be complete. Review your portfolio periodically to ensure that it includes your best work. As you take on new projects and clients, keep track of all the writing that you do.
Save links in a spreadsheet, download content as PDFs, or make copies of writing you do in print. That way, you’ll have an archive you can use to update your portfolio and reflect your experience.
Ready to Create Your Freelance Writing Portfolio?
If you don’t have a freelance writer portfolio that shows off your best work, now is the time to create one. Don’t wait. Start putting together your freelance writer portfolio now and use it to land clients.
If you have more questions about creating a freelance writer portfolio, drop them in the comments below.
Looking for More Help With Your Freelance Writing Portfolio?
Soon, I’m launching a portfolio course to show you my approach to displaying your work and winning clients without choosing a writing niche. This is perfect for people who want to jump into freelancing without getting bogged down by unnecessary tasks that cost you time and money.
Inside the course, I’ll walk through every step of creating your freelance writing portfolio fast, so you can start making money as a writer. Sign up for my email list and you’ll be the first to know when the course goes live. You’ll also get freelancing tips sent straight to your inbox.