How to Create Your Writing Portfolio from Scratch

Okay.

You know what you want.

You want to be a freelance writer.

How to Create Your Writing Portfolio from Scratch

You’ve done your research and you know this is the creative outlet you need and help you quit your 9-5 job for good! But, now, you have no clue what to do to get started.

Do you pitch first?

Do you start a blog?

With anything new, there will be different ways to get to the same end goal. For me, I had absolutely no experience writing for businesses or being online. Sure, I went to Facebook or Pinterest, but I did that for personal reasons, not to market something.

I didn’t know what to do or how to do it once I realized I wanted to freelance write.

I made mistakes in the beginning too and had to learn the hard way what tools I needed to start freelance writing.

But, I’m here telling you what you do need first. You need a writing portfolio.

This is a sample of your writing in the writing niche you want to get paid for.

Oh, dear. Did I open up a can of worms when I talked about a writing niche????

Technically you need to have a writing niche to write samples for your writing portfolio, but it’s not required.

A prospect typically won’t hire you unless they have read your writing in the niche they require. You can click the image below to view it better.

A recent inquiry let me know that they read my writing samples on my writing portfolio page on my site. My samples told them that they liked my style and wanted to hire me this year.

Having a solid writing portfolio filled with your best writing can really make or break you as a writer trying to make this a business.

So, let’s dive into all of this and see what the best way is to build your portfolio.

What is a Writing Portfolio?

A writing portfolio holds your best writing as a freelance writer. Your writing portfolio demonstrates your writing skill in your niche topic and shows off the places you have written for.

You can house your portfolio on your blog – the best place – or on a portfolio site like Contently or LinkedIn.

Learn in this video about different portfolio sites for your writing portfolio

Does your writing portfolio have to house EVERY piece of writing you’ve ever done?

No.

It should only have relevant, up-to-date content that showcases your best writing ability in the writing niche or niches you want to write for. On my portfolio page I share writing samples for different topics I enjoy writing about – digital marketing, blogging, social media, WordPress and personal development.

A Writing Portfolio Example

There are many ways you can display your freelance writer portfolio as I mentioned.

By far the best way to display your portfolio is a page on your writer website.

You can just add links to your writing portfolio page or stylize it using a page builder or using WordPress’s editor.

To me, this is the most professional way to display your writing portfolio to potential clients.

The Content to Use in Your Freelance Writing Portfolio

So, do you only put blog posts in your writing portfolio?

No. You put the type of content you want to get paid for. This might mean sample emails, mock-ups of white papers, site content for an About page or a blog post.

I typically write blog content, so my writing portfolio is made up of blog content. I also think this is the easiest type of content to create and to market for your business. You can land regular work as a freelance blog writer.

But, should you just draft up samples in Google doc or is there a better way to build your portfolio? Yes!!

Creating a Writing Portfolio From Scratch

The best way to create a writing sample for your writing portfolio is to guest post.

This means your post is published on someone else’s blog. It can be paid contributions, but more often than not, it’s a free opportunity for you to market your business in front of a brand new targeted audience.

Guest posting also gives you the ‘street cred’ as a professional freelance writer.

My first three writing samples were not really in my niche, nor were they at all related to each other.

The first was for A Nation of Moms. I wrote about gut health for toddlers. I thought natural health would be a good niche to get into. My second was for Social Media Today.

This post is in my writing portfolio currently because it has helped me break into the digital marketing niche – the niche I currently write in.

Finally, the third sample was for Psych Central on how to improve your mood. I was ecstatic for this sample as it was on a very prestigious platform, even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about mental health.

As you can see, not defining a niche didn’t stop me from writing about things I knew – natural health, mental health and social media (the last one I was learning at the time and wanted to write about it).

So, how do you guest post to fill up your writing portfolio from scratch?

1. Run a Google Search

The easiest is to run a Google search on the niche you want to write for + “write for us.” Here is an example of dog blogs!

You can search for literally anything + write for us to get guest blog opportunities.

2. Read The Guest Blog’s Guidelines

Every place you guest blog for your writing portfolio will have a different set of guidelines to submit your post. Some may want a Google doc while others want you to send an attachment via email.

There may be strict rules on what types of links to include, who you can mention in your post and how to write your post and the length of the post. Here are The Abundant’s Artist’s guidelines.

3. Create Your Guest Blog Pitch

Now comes the fun part – crafting your writing pitch based on the guidelines you just read!

Again, different blogs want different things. Some want 3-5 topic suggestions while others want an outline of one post idea. Figure out what they want and come up with a great topic or list of topics.

Here is my pitch for A Nation of Moms:

 

I suggest you research how to craft a pitch for guest blogging. It’s important that your pitch comes off personal and sounds like you know the blogger’s content. Simply using a template for your guest pitch, won’t work in landing any guest posts.

Instead, read the blog you want to guest post and learn about:

This information can help you stand out in your pitch. The blog owner will know you did your research.

 

4. Write the Guest Post

When you get accepted, it’s time to write the guest post. One thing to note – don’t pitch the SAME topic and outline to multiple guest blogs.

If you pitch the steps to eat paleo to five health blogs and two of them accept your pitch, you can’t write that post. And you can’t swap another idea either.

Instead, think of similar blog topics to pitch. So, for the health example, if you want to guest post on a health site, come up with several ideas that can be similar if you have a hard time coming up with blog topics:

  • 5 Steps to Get Your Family Eating Paleo
  • Why Paleo Eating Isn’t Just a Fad
  • 25 Easy Paleo Snacks to Take on The Run
  • 5 Easy Ways You Can Start Eating Paleo

5. Craft Your Author Bio

One of the best reasons you want to build your writer portfolio using guest posts is you get an author bio.

Your author bio is the place to market your freelance writing business!

A good bio has these components: what you are offering, what type of content you provide, how to reach you and some kind of way to tell your personality.

My author bio has evolved over the years as I’ve grown as a freelance writer. Here is my most current author bio:

6. Submit Your Post And Wait

After you submit your post (via the way the blogger indicated in the guest post guidelines) it’s time to wait. You will probably get a response from the blog owner saying that they received it and give you a timeline of when your post will be published.

Other blogs may want you to edit and revise your content before they publish your post.

Once all of that is handled, you wait until your post is published. During this time you can pitch for more guest spots, work on your writer website and start pitching to job boards.

As a new freelance writer, you gotta hustle every day. Figure out the tasks you need to do to get your business up and running!

7. Create Your Writing Portfolio

You hear back! They published your guest post and you have a link now!

That’s great! Now you can create your writing portfolio.

Create a page in your WordPress site and name it Writing Portfolio or writing samples. From there you can drop your link or stylize it with a page builder or with WordPress’ editor.

Here’s an example of using WordPress’s native builder Gutenberg, a page builder, to create a writing portfolio.

Now what?

8. Fill Up Your Writing Portfolio

You just have one writing portfolio item.

You need more!

My suggestion is to have at least 3 to start out with. I would choose writing topics that are somewhat similar, unless you state different writing niches.

While guest posting is the best way to create a writing portfolio, another way is to create a Medium profile and submit your writing to publications on Medium.

Medium has thousands of publications that have submission sections. For these places, you don’t need to pitch, just sign up or send your draft link of your Medium post.

For example, here’s my piece on Storius, a Medium publication.

9. Create Multiple Writing Portfolios

A trick I use to look like a highly credible writer is to be everywhere online! You can do that easily by having multiple writing portfolios online. I have several from Contently to Clearvoice to LinkedIn to Medium and more!

Make sure to check out my video at the beginning of this post to check out all the places you can have a portfolio and go ahead and make some writing portfolios!

Writing Portfolio Q/A

1. What is a Writing Portfolio Format?

Typically, your portfolio is a page online that shows multiple links or images for your writing samples. There is no hard and fast rule for how your writing portfolio should look like, just that you have one or more than one to show your writing expertise.

2. What is a Good Writing Portfolio Mix?

It’s up to you what type of writing samples you want in your writing portfolio. For me, I only have blog posts on my portfolio page. But for you, you might have mock up samples of a press release, white papers or emails.

List out your services on your writing portfolio and then share links or examples of those services.

3. Is a Writing Portfolio a Resume?

No it is not. Your writing portfolio demonstrates your writing skill while a resume summarizes your educational experience, accomplishments and skills.

You can, however, use your portfolio in place of a resume if a client asks for a writing resume and you don’t have one to share.

4. What Should Not Be Included in a Writing Portfolio?

I would not put any writing samples that aren’t in my niche, that are too short (since I write long-form content), or not the best type of writing I have online will not be shown on my portfolio.

It’s Time to Create a Writing Portfolio

There you go!

A guide to building a writing portfolio from scratch. Don’t feel that since you are a beginner you can’t have a professional writing portfolio under your belt. It will take a bit of time, but you can definitely have one!

It’s your turn – have you started your freelance writing portfolio? Let me know in the comments!

Hi I'm Elna and I'm a freelance writer and mom blogger. I help people just like you become a profitable freelance writer. Within 6 months of starting my freelance writing business from scratch I was able to earn a full-time living as a part-time freelance writer while taking care of my twin toddlers. Check out my free email course Get Paid to Write Online and learn the steps you need to take to be a freelance writer.

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73 Comments

Hi Elna. Your post is comprehensive,i love it.I want to be a good freelancer and i dont know where to start.I hope you can be of help. ThankyouReply to Marssie
Hi Marssie, That’s great to hear! Good luck creating your writing portfolio!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Your post is very convincing and comprehensive. I am a university graduate and willing to start as a freelance writer. But have no in-hand experience, let me start. Thank youReply to Naila
Hi Naila, Thank you so much! So happy you found help with this post on how to create a writing portfolio πŸ™‚ I’m here if you need more help.Reply to Elna
The blog post was comprehensive and informative. I’m 16 and I want create my writing portfolio. At this schooling-age, I have hands on experience at nothing. What niche should I start writing in?Reply to Yashwardhan
Hi, Thank you so much! Glad you enjoyed this post on setting up your writing portfolio πŸ™‚ As for a niche, this will be something you need to figure out! What do you enjoy writing about and is there a potential to make money writing in that niche? These are things you need to search online for and gain help from other writers!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I started my stint as a freelance content writer six months back. And I am steadily getting ghostwriting projects. Building an impressive portfolio while being abided by NDA is the biggest challenge. Thank you very much for guiding through the process.Reply to Urja
I’m just getting started on my own blog/website, but am interested in freelance writing, as well. I’m also a nurse in grad school. Are our own academic writings appropriate for a writing portfolio, or is it better to use blog-type writing?Reply to Jeannette
Hi Jeannette, It depends. If you want to work in with academics then have that style of writing. Otherwise, blog posts are a highly versatile form of content online.Reply to Elna
Hi Elna Thank you for sharing such valuable information. I am a ghostwriter specialising in thought-leader articles and I am struggling to make a portfolio as the work published is not under my name. How do I come out with a ghostwriting portfolio Thank youReply to Sakhile
Hi, Great question! For ghostwriters I do recommend you get bylines via guest posting. You can guest post your ghostwriting topics so that it shows your credibility as a ghostwriter. For example, a portfolio item can be, “5 mistakes businesses make when hiring ghostwriters.” This can sit on your portfolio and help businesses hire you. You can also create mock up samples of your ghostwriting work. If most of your work is product descriptions, then create a mock up of a product or do a list post of products. Good luck!Reply to Elna
Is it okay to put the same writing samples up in different places (website, Contently, Medium), or does Google ding you for duplicate content?Reply to Reya
Hi Reya, Yes you can. For portfolio places you can but for Medium I would be careful not to copy a blog post or guest post to Medium. But you can share the link to your Contently portfolio page!Reply to Elna
Elna this is great! I am just starting as a freelance writer from a teaching background Let me start now. Thank you.Reply to Sanctus
Hi, That’s great to hear! Your teaching background can lend well to freelance writing jobs! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Yes, Elna started a blog to project my portfolio. But after listening to you, I need to make some amendments. Thanks for the content really need of the hour.Reply to Sreelatha
Hi! That’s good to hear! Fix up your portfolio and you should be good to pitch!Reply to Elna
Hello Elna, I would firstly like to thank you so much for this insightful write-up, I do however have a question. I really hope this gets answered becasue I came across this article a little later than others. Under the 4th subtopic “The content to use…”, you stated that your portfolio is made up of blog content as it sums up the majority of your work. Contrary to this, in the 4th point iterated under the writing portofilio Q/A (what should not be included…), you said you would not put any writing samples in the portfolio. My question is, what blog content did you refer to initially making up your portfolio if not the writing samples and how do you research on what topics to write about if they aren’t made to be submitted to any publication? Thank You.Reply to Kayode
Hi Kayode, I also noticed this and was confused by it. It seems like a contradictory statement. I think she meant to say, “I wouldn’t include just any writing sample such as something too short, etc.” We need to be more strategic about the types of writing samples we put in the portfolio and not just any writing sample. I hope that’s what she meant anyway because that’s what I understand.Reply to Sonia
Hi Kayode, Your portfolio should demonstrate the type of writing service you do. Since I’m primarily a blog writer my portfolio has only blog posts. But, if I was a case study writer or white paper writer I would have mock samples of white papers or case studies in my portfolio. I may also have an occasional blog post that talks about white paper writing or case study writing to show my credibility in this service. As for what not to include, I wouldn’t include items that were short, not in my niche or just not professional – a writing sample detailing my road trip with my family, rather than a writing sample of the must have items to take for a family road trip.Reply to Elna
This was really helpful! Thank you πŸ™‚Reply to Molly
Very helpful article! thank you, Elna!Reply to Irina
Good afternoon, Elna! Thank you for taking the time to put this together. I am also looking to make a living doing freelance writing work part time as a mom. I am going to definitely save this to my notebook for future reference.Reply to Taylor
Hi Elna! Thanks for this article, it has been very helpful. What are your thoughts on including school papers and essays in a portfolio? I’m just starting off to supplement my 9-5 income and don’t have very much to include yet.Reply to Hannah
Hi Hannah, For your portfolio, you want to include things that businesses need and will hire out. So a “school paper” isn’t something that a business wants on their site. The same for essays. Instead, you want to write blog posts or mock ups of white paper or other things as those are what businesses need.Reply to Elna
Hi Taylor, That’s great to hear! Have fun exploring my blog and Youtube channel for freelance writing advice!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna! This is great post. I am new b and I don’t have a portfolio yet. I will definitely follow your tips.Reply to Tanveer
Hi, Thanks so much! So glad you found this post on creating a portfolio for your freelance writing biz helpful!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna! Thanks for this information. I was wondering if you had any advice on writing an author bio if you don’t have any professional experience yet. Thank you!Reply to Tiffany
Hi Elna, This is very informative for me and I like how it is in understandable terms. Thank you for posting this. I’ll keep on developing my budding site and portfolio! πŸ™‚Reply to Christine
Hi Christine, You’r welcome! Good luck on setting up your portfolio for freelance writing!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I’m glad I found this post, and why not? It ranks no.1 on Google. I’d surely follow your instructions, thanks a bunch.Reply to Pamio
Hi, Oh, thanks for letting me know that my post rank! It’s nice to hear that πŸ™‚ But I do hope you found the post valuable and helpful in creating a writing portfolio.Reply to Elna
Thank you so much Elna. I’m an aspiring freelance writer, blessed to have come across your article. It’s been helpful.Reply to Teddy
Hi Teddy, Thank you so much for your comment! I hope you find some help on my blog for freelance writing tips! I’m here for you!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, This is awesome advice. I’ve been working as a freelance copywriter on outsourcing sites and have come to realize that I want to write lifestyle blogs instead. I’m currently editing and setting up my WordPress website and was thinking of just directly posting a few blog topics in it. When done, I thought I’d simply link in the website for samples, along with my pitch. Is that a plausible way to set up a portfolio, or would I be flat out rejected doing that?Reply to Guia
Hi Guia, No I don’t think it would be rejected. Try it out and see what happens!Reply to Elna
I started my copywriter portfolio using projects I did previously for companies I worked for as well as assignments I had with AWAI. There might also be some I did for other authors and myself, (7 published books). But I’ve been very interested in starting my freelance business with blogs because I have read so much about them.Reply to Rosemarie
Hi Rosemarie, That’s great you have credible clips for your portfolio. Guest posting can also help with that when you guest on popular sites or magazines. It think going from copywriter to freelance writer is a easy transition you can make! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Thank you Elna for this very practical post. I have been doing freelance writing here and there, but don’t have a solid portfolio. I will definitely follow your tips.Reply to Unsa
Hi! I’m so glad to hear this. Having a writing portfolio is one of the biggest and best tools you can have to help you land freelance writing jobs!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I love your blog posts. Your writing style is very good. Can you give me a suggestion on how to write content when the client assign you a topic that you didn’t know about?Reply to ahmad
Hi Ahmad, I do have posts on this blog about writing tips so make sure to search for that topic on this blog! If you need more help on how to write content I highly suggest my Freelance Blogging in a Weekend course. I teach you how to write specific types of content that clients pay big bucks for! https://elnacain.com/course/freelance-blogging-weekend/Reply to Elna
Interesting site with some real good ideas and pleased to find one that is current. Thank you for this information. I will be coming back to your site for any new ideas or updates. SabrinaReply to Sabrina
Hi Sabrina, So happy you found this info helpful for building your writing portfolio as a freelancer! It really does help prospects decide to hire you when seeing all your best writing in one place!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I cannot thank you enough for all this useful information. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all. I am Brand Spanking New to this and I had a question I hope you can give me your opinion on. I saw a job posting for an unpaid internship for content writing with promise to help build my writing portfolio. Articles average a 500 word count. I have no work or sample writings. Should I take this job to build my work up?Reply to Jessica
Hey Jessica, Personally, I wouldn’t do an unpaid internship. You can easily find freelance writing jobs with job boards, social media and more!Reply to Elna
I love your website. As a younger writer I love your guides to starting this and I will be using your blogs as a guide 1000%. Your points are very straight forward and I understand them clearly. I am so glad I found your blog to aid me and your posts are what is going to push me to actually go forward with this.Reply to Jacob
Hi Jacob, Thank you! So glad you found the best way to build your writing portfolio. Guest posting really is the best way so go get out there and Google blogs to write for!Reply to Elna
Hello Elna, This is great information and more appealing than other freelance writing sites I’ve visited. I made the lovely mistake of pitching to a magazine and submitted the entire article instead of a sample. Over a year later, I have not heard from this company even after I followed up with them. I’m not sure if I can publish this article since they never responded. Is it possible they rejected me without notifying me or kept the article for their use? I’m concerned because they will not respond at all. I would be happy to hear from them even if it’s to say. “We’re not interested.” Can I use Copyscape to find out if it was plagiarized? The rejection of my article is fine with me. However, my main concern is if I publish this article elsewhere and it’s already been published by someone else, then I would be charged with plagiarism. I used to write for a content mill informed me about attribution in their disclosure. Since I submitted the full article, do they now own full rights to it, and, therefore full attribution?Reply to Charlene
Hi Charlene, Thanks so much for your compliment! Glad my blog has good freelance writing tips! As for your issue, I’m sorry that happened to you! As for dupe content I would run your post in Copyscape to see if it’s been published elsewhere. From there you can make your decision! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Thanks for your prompt response and the helpful advice. I logged into my Linkedin account the other day and was wondering if I could use it for a writer’s platform. I wasn’t sure if I could, so I logged out of my account. I recently subscribed to your Youtube channel and watched your video on using Linkedin for your writer’s platform and finding your niche. Do you offer one-on-one coaching for writers? I could really use some help!Reply to Charlene
Hey Charlene! Just reading Elna’s helpful article and saw your note. I know of a great 1:1 coach for new and growing freelance writers. Her name is Heather Deveaux, and she runs The Freelance Writing School. I was one of the first people to take her course and become a coaching client. I really loved the foundation and support I got from her. Hope it’s okay that I’m suggesting her coaching here!Reply to Kacey
Hey Charlene, Thanks, but no I don’t do any coaching 1:1 anymore! Sorry!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, It’s a perfect help you are doing to a great difference in make people’s life. I am a new comer in this field. I thank you so much for this much motivation. You are wonderful.πŸ˜ƒReply to Benazir
Along the top of my web browser I have 9 tabs open, all are different posts from your website. I learned about freelance writing quite recently, about 6 months ago, and have been trying to imitate a sponge and soak up everything I can find about how to become a freelance writer. Discovering Elna’s site was like striking gold! These articles are so helpful, I’ve taken classes on Udemy and Skillshare and while they do provide a ton of useful information, I feel like Elna’s posts are more personal, practical, and are more tailored for answering the questions I have as a newbie/wannabe freelancer. Elna, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us! Thanks to you I feel like I really can earn an income doing this, it’s not just a fantasy anymore it’s an actual goal for me to achieve! Your information really is changing lives, when I put everything I’ve learned to use and start making money writing you will have helped me (a widowed mother of 4) find a way to support my family on my own and for that I am deeply grateful!Reply to Christina
Hi Christina! Wow! Thank you for your wonderful testimony! I love helping people learn more about freelance writing. Thank you for stopping by. Make sure to enroll in my free writing course! You can also email me too! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna. I loved reading this post. It’s always been my dream to be a freelance writer. I went to school for it and everything but I’ve gotten so caught up in the daily grind I feel like I’m getting further and further from my goal. Like my “wheels are spinning”. I really liked your post because not only did it get practical and simple steps but also it renewed a certain level of hope that with a little more focus I can achieve my dreams. Thanks so much! ^_^Reply to Shannon
Hi Shannon, That’s great to hear! So happy you found this post helpful to build your portfolio πŸ™‚Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Thank you very much for sharing tips you have learned about writing and finding new clients. I can’t believe I never used this exact method to find work. Sure I Googled different combinations, but this is perfect. Now to put your tips into practice.Reply to Laurence
Hi Laurence, You’re welcome! Glad you found some good tips to create your portfolio as a freelancer!Reply to Elna
Elna these tips are WONDERFUL. I spent a small fee a while back on a different online accredited course ‘How to Submit for Magazine Articles’ but the outcome was no where near what your tips suggest here. Fingers crossed your helpful insights here further me to freelance writing success!Reply to Leanette
Hi Leanette, Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed this post on how to build your portfolio as a freelancer!!! πŸ™‚Reply to Elna