(When You’ve Done Nothing and Know Nobody)
If you’ve decided you want to become a freelance writer, sooner or later you’re going to have to work out how to build a writing portfolio and get clients.
To get clients you need to be able to prove you can produce good work, and to do that you need a writing portfolio.
Because lots of would-be writers don’t know how to build a writing portfolio, this often sorts the wheat from the chaff very early on. This is when it would be oh-so-easy to retreat back to good old predictability and give up on your dream of becoming a freelance writer.
So potentially brilliant writers fall at the very first hurdle, but you – yes that’s you – are going to get back up and this time get a bit more creative about it.
What follows are the exact steps I took to create my own writing portfolio. (Get a step-by-step guide on this as well as bonus strategies with this FREE ebook.)
How to build a writing portfolio: Stop thinking like an employee
First of all, you’ve got to get into a positive but realistic mind-set. You’re basically in the same situation as when you went for your first salaried job all that time ago.
Remember? The job advert said they needed someone with experience, but this was your first job so you didn’t have any yet. Of course you would have just as soon as they gave you the damn job, etc etc – and round and round it went. It was a nightmare and you either settled for a job you didn’t particularly like or you improvised a bit.
Thankfully, the modern freelance writer happens to belong to an exclusive club where members make their own luck and control their own destiny. Unlike the frustrating position of having to be given a job in order to gain experience, people who strike out on their own only need to go out and get it.
It’s a different way of thinking and working and it’s something every new freelancer needs to get used to pretty quickly.
How to build a writing portfolio: Start small
It’s unlikely you’ll get paid much for your writing in the beginning so be prepared for this. What I’m about to share is how to build a writing portfolio so you can showcase your work and go on to earn money from your writing – not how to earn lots of money from the outset. This is not a ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme after all.
You’ll likely know that there’s a website called fivesquids.co.uk (the US version is called fiverr.com). Here you can create a free listing of something you would do for a fiver (keep it clean people). For example you might create an gig stating: “I will write a 500 word blog post for your small business website.”
When I first started out I had no idea how to build a writing portfolio but I put up a post on fivesquids.co.uk and a few ‘jobs’ came straight in (which is just plain good for morale at the beginning of a freelance writer’s career). I completed the work as though I was being paid properly for it and sent it back.
But it didn’t end there – and here’s the important bit – I wrote a note with my completed work saying if they wanted me to revise or add anything I’d be only too happy to do so. Then, before I signed off, I added:
If you're happy with my work please leave positive feedback for me on the site. If you're happy for me to include my work within my portfolio please state when and where my work will be published. Please also let me know if I can help with any other work you may have coming up.
If they’re happy with your work none of the above is going to be a problem for them. OK, so you’re not getting paid what you’re worth at this stage but this exercise is not about that – forget the fiver!
You’re building a portfolio of work here so you can get clients in the future. What’s more, it’s satisfying to complete the work (you’re still writing after all) and you’re building not only a portfolio, but also potential contacts.
Of course this isn’t the only way to build a writing portfolio. It is however a simple and effective way for absolute beginners, and one that also provides you with much needed confidence and practice at your craft. You’ll soon find you’ve written about all sorts of topics for all sorts of mediums and have a good amount of work for your portfolio to showcase on your website or blog.
It’s at this stage that you can happily delete all traces of yourself from the fiver-type websites and get out of there – fast!
Onwards and upwards mon amigos.
Want more? These tips are part of a bonus eBook that makes up the Earn a Full-Time Living as a Freelance Writer Online course. Just click the link for details and access.
Image courtesy of Alexandre Duret-Lutz via Flickr. Text added.