You know what you want.
You want to be a freelance writer.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 Brazen’s guest 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:
- How long their posts are
- The format for their posts
- Their popular high sharing topics
- Their headlines
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.
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.
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 sample in my portfolio. 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!