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.

Let’s look at more portfolio examples to help you house your writing samples or clips.

LinkedIn

I have mention LinkedIn and I feel this is the 2nd writing portfolio you NEED to have. Every freelance writer NEEDS a LinkedIn portfolio.

Here is mine:

My LinkedIn portfolio example

Why do you need more than one if you will most likely link to your website’s portfolio page in your pitches?

Because companies use LinkedIn and they find writers on LinkedIn.

If you optimized your LinkedIn portfolio, you’ll gain writing gigs.

Contently

I also have a Contently writer portfolio. Again, companies to go Contently to find writers and if they find my portfolio, I can pick up a gig right then and there!

Here is my Contently portfolio example:

My Contently profile

Medium

Later on I will talk more about Medium, but for now, know that Medium can house your writing samples and act as a portfolio for your writing.

Here is mine profile:

Medium portfolio for my writing samples

Over the years, Medium has become a “must-have” for a freelance writer in terms of housing your clips and using it as a portfolio to share with potential clients.

Many businesses are using Medium and I’ve heard of writers who write speciality topics like cryptocurrency, land writing jobs.

Go ahead and sign up to Medium!

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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94 Comments

Great article! I’m just starting out in my career and I definitely needed this information. Thank you!Reply to BRITTANY
Hi Brittany, You’re welcome. That’s awesome you want to be a freelance writer. I hope this post on creating your writing portfolio was helpful!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Amazing info, thank you for sharing! Concerning samples up for portifolio, just work you get from a client or can be something you did to show off your skills?Reply to Clark
Hi Clark, Thank you so much! Great question! Yes, your writing sample can be things you’ve written for yourself (like a blog post on your blog). As long as it demonstrates the type of writing a client would want then go for it!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, Great info – thank you! I have taken a long break from writing and want to get back into it. I did have several articles posted online (about 8 years ago!), but unfortunately the sites no longer exist. I did save PDF copies. How would you suggest I go about making my portfolio? I thought about just uploading these PDF copies, but I am reticent as I feel it may look really dated!Reply to Pam
Hi Pam, Thanks for stopping by! You can upload your PDF to your website and then grab the link and use that to share on our portfolio site. So you would name the sample and link the name of the sample to your PDF that you store on your website! I hope that makes sense!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna! Awesome post as always. I have some published blog post pieces on my medium handle that I’ve linked to on my portfolio. However, I feel adding links to blog posts that I write for my clients is a good way to improve my portfolio. (Correct me if I am wrong) I’ve just got an inbound lead today and I’ve a scheduled sales call with them tomorrow. They seem to be a good client and I really want to convert them and use this gig as an opportunity to boost my portfolio. So I want to know – would it leave a bad impression if I ask them if they would allow me to link the work I do for them on my portfolio or would be willing to publish it under my name? And if I shouldn’t ask them this question in this sales call, when should I ask? Can I even ask? Crickets! Any advice would be appreciated. ThanksReply to Rashi
Hi Rashi, Personally, I would never ask to add one of my links to a client’s piece of content as part of the initial discovery call. When you get the assignment you can ask at that time! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Thanks for all this excellent info. I was wondering if my portfolio should have every kind of writing I want to do and you cleared that up for me. Thanks, Elna.Reply to Kim
I get hired by an agencies, can I display what I wrote? Is this a given or do I need to ask to put their client in my portfolio?Reply to Stephanie
Hi Stephanie, If your projects are bylined then yes you can add them to your portfolio without asking. Otherwise, ask!Reply to Elna
Great post Elna..i’m just getting started and am struggling to find my way. I don’t have any guest posts, but am toying with the idea to just start blogging. Would this add credibility when i do start pitching, since the potential client can see i can actually write? or do you suggest pitching first, land my first 3 guest posts and then publishing my writers website? Btw, i used your bluehost code! thank you very much for making all these resources available!Reply to Angela
Hi Angela, Thanks for using my Bluehost link! πŸ™‚ As for your questions, you can do either. I feel starting a blog first and then creating sample like posts on your blog can work. You can even start on Medium and write for publications and that can serve as your sample too (not sure guest posting). But, once you have a few posts on your website I would pitch guest sites and job sites!Reply to Elna
Thanks so much! This definitely helped!Reply to Angela
Thank you for this amazing post. I’m now more confident that this is the right course of action, and I’m excited too. I had two ideas, what’s your opinion on them. One is that along with one’s portfolio, having a blog on that same website. I’m sure you don’t need to link to your blog from your portfolio because it speaks for itself, but would this add authority in the blog? Another is having your own blog on another website, preferable similar to the field you want to work in (not exactly the same niche as you might not find work due to conflict of interest). And then linking to it (or them). I’d love to know your opinion.Reply to Obaid
Hi, Here are my answers: You can link your blog posts on your portfolio page if you are brand new and don’t have client pieces or guest posts. On my portfolio I do list one of my blog posts but it’s another blog of mine and I feel that is fine!Reply to Elna
Hi Elna, I’m really enjoying working through your posts. I am a published author but I’m keen to get into freelance blog writing. I am currently working through your Freelance Writing Prep Masterclass and intend to tackle another course when I have finished this one. A question I have. I recently wrote content for a content mill for a few weeks. As a result, I have a number of articles published online. However, they are not published under my name. Some have another name. Others just say admin. The company says you can use these articles to build your portfolio but I don’t understand how. If I use the link to the online article and a potential client goes to read it, they will not see my name. Please can you advise me? Many thanks.Reply to Shirley
Hi Shirley, Going with content mills will result in ghostwriting so in order to use those posts on your portfolio you do need to ask them first if you can promote their posts, but in all honesty, content mill posts aren’t the best types of writing samples to have on your portfolio! It might be better to draft one on your blog or on Medium! Good luck!Reply to Elna
Thanks so much, Elna. I appreciate your advice.Reply to Shirley
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