The ticket to getting your first freelance writing job.
Yes, it’s that important.
It’s not entirely impossible to land a content job without any sample writings. Although I did have a sample when I landed my first gig, it was not relevant at all.
Yeah, you read that right. I had one sample only to provide when I pitched. Ouch! But, you know what? I kept pitching and kept landing work. Eventually, I built my portfolio to what it is today.
Over this time, I learned what makes a good sample. It’s more than the actual writing. In fact, the ways to improve your samples has nothing to do with the quality of your writing. But, that doesn’t mean your samples can have spelling errors and not make any sense!
Your samples show an example of your writing ability. Nothing speaks more to prospects than a sample of your best writing. They can immediately tell whether you,
- Are familiar with online content
- Have engaging and captivating writing
- Know how to write
- Are a new writer
It’s important as a new freelance writer to have at least three sample writings under your belt. They should also reflect the type of writing you want to get paid for. For example, if you are interested in press release writing, having a sample of a press release is ideal. The same goes for if you want to write blog posts or sales pages.
So, how can you improve the samples you already have?
1. They Are Relevant
Remember when I mentioned that I was able to land my first gig using a sample that wasn’t relevant? The pitch was for an auto-enthusiast writer and my sample was for proper gut health. Go figure!
I’m surprised they hired me 🙂
If you’re a new writer, I strongly suggest you have samples that are relevant to the pitch. But, I’ve also mentioned that it’s a great strategy – when you’re new – to pitch to anything and everything you’re slightly interested in.
But, you can’t have 10 samples in 10 different niches.
Instead, have up to three samples and to choose topics that are in your niches. Later down the road you can pare down your niches and write for one niche (as this can help you make a living as a writer). For now, having around three can help you pitch to more job ads.
If you’re having trouble coming up with topics that will wow your prospects, one of the best things you can do is take some time and research blogs in your niche.
For example, lets say you are interested in writing in the WordPress niche.
Take a look at these blogs to get an idea of topics you can create your samples around:
From here find topics that interest you. For example, writing about trends for the next year shows prospects that you are up to speed in the WordPress industry.
You can also visit job ads in your niche and check out those blogs as a way to see the type of content these businesses may want.
Finally, if you follow freelance writers in the same niche as you, you can also go to their portfolio and get some ideas to help you with your samples.
2. They Are Formatted
One of my pet peeves as a writer is writing that isn’t formatted for online readers.
What does this mean?
Reading online is hard enough if you’re on your mobile, so make it easy for everyone to have shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. By doing this, you make it easier for people who scan your content – that’s 79% of us.
Do you see how this blog post has subheadings? Why am I doing this?
It’s another way to help readers actually read my blog post. We are all scanners, so when we read a sub heading we can decide if it’s worth the read. One thing I don’t like is when people use a list as a subheading.
This is a no-no in my books. Your WordPress editor makes it easy to find those headlines:
And if you’re writing your articles in Microsoft Word, you can find you headings in your styles menu:
Most marketing content has a call-to-action. This is something they want the reader to do such as sign up to their newsletter, download an app or make a comment.
If you’re interested in blog writing for example, make sure your samples have a CTA at the end of your post.
3. They Are Published
Ahh, here’s the tricky part for many new freelance writers. They don’t have any published samples. Want to know another thing about my first pitch that landed me the gig?
My sample was a PDF.
So, yeah, you can totally land a gig with your PDF’s, but it will be harder to land that gig. The people who are reviewing your pitch and samples can find a quality writer with a published sample and decide to hire them.
What does being published have anything to do with landing a gig?
- It helps your credibility as a freelance writer
- It shows that your writing is more than a hobby
- It shows you’re legit
That’s why I recommend all new freelance writers to get their samples published. How can you create publishable samples?
You can start a blog and create blog posts in your niche. For some reason, I didn’t do this. I created a blog and blogged about content writing. I think I did that because I was excited to just blog!
Another way is to guest post. There are free and paid opportunities and it’s not that hard to get your post published on another blog.
Feel free to send your pitch if you want to guest post over at FreelancerFAQs.
For me, guest posting is the best way to sell your samples to your prospects. It definitely shows that you are a freelance writer.
But, if you’re totally brand new, the next best thing is to create a sample document and publish them either on Medium or LinkedIn Pulse.
Medium is a blogging platform and some small businesses actually use Medium for their blogs. For example, one of my clients uses Medium:
It’s easy to set up your profile and start writing within that hour. I set up a profile and syndicate my blog posts as a way to grow my brand and audience.
So, go ahead and write your samples on Medium!
Or, you can go to LinkedIn Pulse and create a sample. I made a writing sample in the digital marketing niche (but I didn’t know that was my niche at the time) early on as a new freelance writer:
Both of these methods work great for a brand new freelance writer, so turn those PDF’s into published links online!
Let Your Samples Speak For Themselves
For a lot of new freelance writers, getting your samples can be a challenge if you haven’t figured out your niche or you’re persistent on getting a guest post and not even looking at other ways to get your samples.
But, if you want to make a go out of this, you need to prioritize your work. In my free course, I lay the foundation on getting your first client. And the first thing you need is a niche.
After that, it’s all about getting samples and then from there it’s time to pitch.
So, do your samples speak for themselves? I hope these three improvements will help you land more clients!