The advice you’ll get the most often from seasoned freelance writers is you need a portfolio if you want to land decent work. That’s 100% percent true, but the problem is, if you’re new to freelance writing, you probably won’t have anything to publish there.
That’s a problem almost all of us have run into. Some people jump at the chance to get any gig they can so they can pad their portfolio, but that’s not the best route. What you can do instead, is get a bit creative with your portfolio so you can skip having to work content mill jobs and find good clients right away.
In this article, I’ll help you set up a freelance portfolio that will impress clients, even if you don’t have that many (or any) writing credits yet. It’ll take some work, but rest assured, it will pay off!
Step #1: Set Up a Freelance Portfolio Using WordPress
For this step, you can use pretty much any platform you want. However, I’m a big fan of WordPress due to its ease of use and customizability, so it’s the platform I usually recommend for personal projects.
To set up a portfolio using WordPress, all you need is decent hosting and a domain name. Where you go from there is up to you, but I’d recommend looking for a free portfolio theme you can use.
We cover all these steps in our Start a Blog guide, so let’s not focus too much on the technical side of things. For now, suffice it to say your primary goal is to set up a portfolio that looks clean and professional.
Right now, it’ll be empty (or close to it) because you probably don’t have any writing credits to your name. Let’s go ahead and fix that.
Step #2: Publish Blog Posts Around Your Chosen Niche
If you want to make a good living as a freelance writer, you need to specialize. When a discerning client is looking for someone to hire, they’ll go for the guy with proven experience in a field over the one that claims to be able to write about any topic for cheap.
Chances are you’re somewhat of an expert in at least one topic already. If it’s something marketable, then you’re in the race. Your next step is to write some pieces you can showcase in your portfolio, so clients can decide whether you’re a good fit for their projects.
The good news is, you don’t need to write a book on whichever field you want to specialize in as a freelance writer. In my experience, most potential clients only take a look at one or two of your pieces. For your portfolio, I recommend displaying a showcase of your best work on its homepage, which you should update often:
Notice the example includes featured images and excellent titles. You want to maximize your chances of clients checking out your work, so those details matter a lot.
If you’re not sure what to write about, then do some research on hot topics within your chosen field. In any case, remember you’re writing to impress clients, so bring your A-game to any posts you publish on your portfolio.
Step #3: Look for Guest Posting Opportunities
Publishing your own content is a decent start. However, you also want potential clients to know that you’ve been published elsewhere. Even just a single writing credit on a somewhat popular website may sway someone who is on the fence about hiring you, so what you want to do is look for guest posting opportunities.
As you may know, guest posting is when another blog agrees to publish one of your articles in exchange for linking back to your site and giving you exposure.
Usually, I’m wholly against working for exposure. However, with guest blogging, you can get a lot of bang for your buck if you target the right online publications. That is to say, you need to focus on popular blogs within your niche so you can show off your writing chops.
To get started, check out this article I wrote recently about guest posting and how to find opportunities worth your while. Once you land your first guest blogging credits, be sure to display them on your portfolio, right alongside the rest of your work!
Step #4: Include Some Information About Yourself (But Don’t Go Overboard)
Most people like to put a name to the face when they’re paying someone for their work. It’s a simple matter of trust, so at the very least, you want to include a nice headshot on your portfolio:
However, a picture isn’t enough in this case. I’m a big proponent of letting your work do the talking for you. If you want visitors to hire you, you’ll also want to include some personal information on your portfolio.
A lot of people take that advice too much to heart and end up including long biographies. To be frank, no one reads those. What clients want to know is what your relevant experience is, summed up in a few lines. This portfolio, for example, takes a very unique approach:
To be fair, a lot of successful freelancers take very different approaches when it comes to their portfolios. Some of them do include a ton of information about themselves, so you don’t have to take my word as gospel.
At this stage, your portfolio should be about ready to go. You have the technical end of things ready as well as some work you can showcase. Before you go public, though, it wouldn’t hurt to check out some other portfolios from around the web.
Take a look at what other freelance writers are doing and see if there’s any ideas you can borrow to improve your portfolio. When you’re confident you’re good to go, start pitching clients and if you don’t see much success after a while, then try showcasing some new content. If you keep at it, you’ll land your first gig soon!
Without a freelance writing portfolio, getting decent jobs will be nearly impossible. Some people can coast by on their writing credits, but having all those available on a single website that clients can check out is invaluable.
When you’re starting, I recommend you don’t take on low-end jobs to pad your portfolio. Instead, do the following:
- Set up a freelance portfolio using WordPress.
- Publish blog posts for the niche you want to work in.
- Look for guest posting opportunities within your field.
Once you’ve set up your freelance portfolio, it’s time to hit the job boards to look for potential gigs. There are plenty of places you can look in, including our own Paid to Blog Jobs board, so take a look around!
Image credit: Pixabay.
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