What’s a newbie freelancer supposed to do when a client asks you “do you have a copywriting portfolio?”.
I mean, you’ve been putting in the time, right?
… Learning from the masters of copywriting.
… Refining your craft through long hours of copywriting exercises.
… Making sure you can generate some real results for your future clients.
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You know you have the skills to create a great result for your client.
But when a client asks that question, and you don’t have an established freelance portfolio, you’re screwed.
You’ve got nothing to prove your ability and show the client you’re worth their $$$.
So what are your options?
Do any research online and it’s a pretty one-sided process.
- Create a professional writers website
- Create a well-established home page and services page
- Start to worry over SEO and how you can optimise it
- Hit the keyboard hard and start cranking out a tonne of content
- Hope that the right person will see all that content and send you an inquiry
Then, after all that action you burn out and realise all that action – actions that’s taken months to complete – has resulted in a whopping $0 in sales.
Nah, we can do better than that, right?
We’re gonna establish a quick and easy writer’s portfolio for you today by the end of this article.
A freelance portfolio that you’ll be able to use to land your first clients and should keep you going until you get to the $1000+ / month range.
Ask yourself this single question to figure out if you need a paid freelance portfolio website…
Here’s the single question I ask newer freelancers to understand if they’re ready for a professional website.
“How much is your monthly income?”.
Asking this tells me a couple of things about you and whether or not you’re ready to invest in your career.
If your answer is less than $500 / month, my advice is not to pay for a professional site.
Because hosting alone can run you into the hundreds of dollars to set up.
If you then pay for a professional theme, you’re out another couple hundred bucks.
(If you want to see a breakdown of the costs from a recent run-through of my hosting provider of choice, check out this piece on setting up a pro freelance website).
And that’s not to mention the countless hours spent setting things up, optimising your layout, design, and SEO so you can rank and convert.
When you’ve not yet even broke $1000 / month that’s time and money wasted.
If you are consistently making $500+ / month, then you’ve probably got the chops to make a career out of this.
And at that point, investing in yourself is a wise decision.
What if I’m a new freelancer who has no clients and no portfolio?
Wherever you are in your career, you’ve gotta have a freelance portfolio.
Without one, there’s no way to prove your value and ability.
So if you’re in the sub $500 / month camp, here’s what we’re gonna do.
We’re gonna set you up with a completely free portfolio you can set up within the next 20 minutes.
Not only that, but this portfolio should be enough to help you get to your first (and consistent) $1000+ / months.
And you’ll only need two free accounts to do this.
Here’s what we’re gonna do.
In short we’re gonna write samples of the kind of work your ideal client wants for their site.
And we’re gonna publish them on Medium.com for free.
Then, we’re gonna pull in all the relevant information into a Google Drive folder.
When a client asks you for a copy of your portfolio or samples of your work, you simply shoot them over a link to the shared Google Drive folder.
They can peruse at their leisure and you’re set to start landing clients.
So let’s get started.
How to create a simple (but super-profitable) freelance writing portfolio online
For the folk earning under $500 / month, here’s the process.
Step 1 – Set up a free Medium.com account
Head to Medium.com and look for the button in the top-right that says “Get started”.
When you click that, you’ll see the below.
Sign up through your preferred method and complete your registration.
Congrats, you’ve now got a free account that’ll allow you to publish your work on the internet to a pre-established audience.
Step 2 – Request a free copy of the HaW Google drive freelance portfolio template
If you click the link below you’ll see a popup.
Fill in your deets and I’ll shoot over a “fill-in-the-blanks” template to get your free Google Drive template up and running.
Step 3 – Fill out your details and add your design in the HaW copywriter portfolio template
When you download the freelance portfolio template, you’ll find 3 different elements.
First is the editable template. Make a copy of this so you can edit it.
At the top of the editable page you’ll find instructions on how to make a copy and a link to as video.
That video is a quick 6 minute breakdown of tips on how to design your portfolio so it’s much easier for clients to find the information they need to know before hiring you.
The final element of the freelance writing portfolio template is a finished example template from yours truly.
It took me 5 minutes to create and shows you what a finished version of this might look like.
Once you’ve filled out your details and edited your design, it’s time to send it to real life potential clients.
Step 4 – Start pitching your ideal clients with a link to your portfolio
OK, so we’re gonna be sending this to any potential clients who ask for samples of your work or to explain a little about what it is you do.
By sending this simple, single portfolio file you’ll find it much easier to explain your value to the client, massively increasing your chances of landing the gig.
If you’re just at the start of your career and need to know how to land clients, I’ve got you covered.
Read this piece on finding your first freelance writing client to get the process a lot of HaW students have used to start generating $$$ within a short time frame.
That guide will also work for you if you’re not a complete newbie but also want some guidance on landing your own clients.
If you want a little help on how to effectively pitch potential clients with your portfolio, read this article on effective cold email pitching for freelancers.
Between those two pieces you should be able to get some quick results with this killer freelance portfolio.
Step 5 – Start writing content your ideal client would want on their site
If your “past samples” section is a little thin or – worse yet – non existent, don’t panic.
There’s a simple way for you to quickly populate this with something known as “spec work”.
Spec work is basically writing something your ideal client might want to use in their marketing.
You’ve not been engaged by them, but you’re still gonna produce the kind of content they want to publish on their site as proof you can do what they need.
This is why we set up the Medium account.
Research the kind of articles that are doing well in your target niche (and if you don’t know your niche, follow this quick 30-minute guide to choosing a profitable freelance niche), write similar pieces and publish on Medium.
I recommend doing this on Medium because it both…
- Gets you over that hesitation of hitting “publish” on your work
- Can start generating interest in your writing immediately as your audience is likely already on Medium looking at articles.
A little bonus tip for Medium is to publish your article to a relevant publication.
Doing this means that they’ll push your article out to their audience. Which, if you’ve selected the publication and niche well, means you could immediately get in front of your ideal client.
Here’s how to do it.
First, find publications on Medium that are aimed at your ideal clients. When you find one, head to their Medium homepage and you’ll often find a link with something like “write for us”.
Follow the steps to become an approved writer of the publication. You might have to wait a few days for approval.
When you are approved and you’re ready to publish an article, stop.
Don’t hit publish immedciately. A lot of the publications want your article to be exclusive to them. Which is worth it if they have an established audience.
At the top of the page when you’re ready to hit publish, click the horizontal triple-dot to the right of the publish button.
Then click “Add to publication” to bring up a list of the publications you’d like to submit it to.
Click the one you want to add it to and then “Select and continue”.
The publish button will change to “Submit”. Click it to submit for consideration for that publication.
If you get published in the publication, you’ve got a stronger piece that should have a larger “win” for your freelance writing portfolio.
Which brings us to the next point.
Step 6 – Add any “big wins” to your freelance portfolio template
As time goes by you’ll want to frequently publish new writing to Medium.
Make sure you keep an eye on your stats on Medium for any big wins.
If an article gets a lot of views or likes, make sure you add that to your portfolio as it’s a better symbol of the results you can generate.
If you get a client and help them achieve a big win, make sure you add that to your freelance portfolio.
You should think of the freelance portfolio template as exactly that. A template. It’s always a template that can be amended, updated, and improved at any point in your career.
It’s a living document of your biggest wins and results and should be constantly updated.
Never think of it as a finished product.
You’re downloading a freelance writing portfolio template. And that’s what it will always be.
This whole process should help you create a decent freelance copywriter portfolio in as little as 20 minutes.
But before we sign off and put a pin in this, there’s a few things I need to cover to help you get the most out of your portfolio.
Include the right kind of writing samples in your portfolio
Your samples have to be relevant.
That’s relevant to…
… the industry you’re targeting
… the kind of work you want to do
…your ideal client’s customer base
For example, I write a lot for SaaS that focus on eCommerce stores.
A book of poetry, my latest novel idea, or even something more relevant like “how to grow your SaaS brand” isn’t really going to cut it.
Because none of those things are what the client would publish on their site.
But let’s imagine that the client is a SaaS that helps commerce stores create social proof…
… and that your portfolio is filled with pieces around improving social proof for e-commerce stores.
Would that client want to work with you? Hell yeah they would. Your samples show that you are an expert in the area.
Make sure your portfolio samples are relevant not just to the client, but to the customers they target.
You’ve gotta make sure you’re already writing the kinda stuff your ideal client would pay you for.
That makes the decision for them to hire you an absolute no brainer.
If you’re not sure who you’re targeting, be sure to run through the simple process outline in this piece on how to choose a profitable freelance writing niche.
What else needs to be included in your freelance portfolio
Let’s imagine, for some crazy reason, that you don’t want to download the done-for-you template included in this piece.
You still need to know what to include in your portfolio.
Below you’ll find a list of the key things and pieces of information to include in your freelance portfolio.
Social proof / results
At the start of your career you may struggle to include this.
But for every job you complete successfully, get the client to offer a quick testimonial on your work and what you helped them achieve.
If you want people to believe that you’re a grade-A writing bad-ass, you need to give them some proof.
A sentence or two from a few clients about how awesome you were will go a long way in establishing that trust.
If you can point to real results, like “articles increased traffic by X%” that does even more for your credibility.
And if the results and testimonial work together like they do in the above examples, that’s even better.
Also, make sure you stay on top of your Medium account stats.
If you write a breakthrough piece, then use that win and feature it.
“Wrote an article which received 12,000 page views in its first month”.
As you progress through your freelance career, make sure you’re constantly collecting wins and proof to leverage in future versions of your portfolio.
Your *best* services
You’re gonna want to list a couple of things here to show that you know what it is you’re talking about.
You’ll need to include…
… a summarised work history that’s relevant to your writing niche
… what you’re good at / knowledgeable in
… any awards / recognition you’ve received
… feature relevant work experience
You basically need to outline that you are the only logical choice for this client by listing out why you’re the best at what you do.
Relevant clips and samples
If you’ve got any clips or samples that would make a prospective client say “god damn we gotta get this writer for our team”, smash them into your portfolio.
This isn’t a time to be modest, so be sure you include the links to your best work and explain why these are so impressive.
You’re trying to blow the client’s socks off.
It’s time to put that humble pie down and embrace your inner narcissist (at least for a short while).
The next step
When a potential client has finished reading your portfolio, what is it you want them to do?
Say “that’s pretty fuckin’ cool” and go back to their business?
You need them to commit in some way to a next step.
This is often referred to as the “call-to-action”.
And for your portfolio, I recommend only one thing to be included.
A “book a time to talk” link.
To land high-fee clients you’re gonna need to talk to them on the phone.
You want to make your CTA “idiot-proof”. By that I mean make it super clear so the client can’t miss it.
You also want to make the action clear.
For example -> CLICK HERE TO GET X.
Is much better than a weak → LEARN MORE.
In the case of your freelance copywriter portfolio, I’d recommend going with a “CLICK HERE TO BOOK A FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION”.
The client knows both what they have to do and what they’ll get.
And make that shit huge and bold so they cannot miss it.
And finally, you need to include your contact details so the client knows how to reach out if they don’t want to book a call.
And put your handsome mug on it so they can see you, you beautiful bastard.
A face is a lot easier to associate with than a weird jumble of words on a document.
And that’s it.
If you’ve got all of that in your freelance writer portfolio then you’ve got everything you need to start landing clients.
The only thing to do then is to start sending it to the right people so you can land some higher paid work (more on that here).
Use this to get to consistent $500+ months, and then you’ll be safe to create your own professional freelance writer website and grow your copywriting business.