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How to build your freelance writing portfolio from the scratch

Your portfolio is a showcase of your work that will help you get hired for getting hired.

In business, everyone wants their services to be well received by their target market, reach a larger audience, and make them a lot of money. Your clients want to make sure that your work will help them achieve that.

Click here to join a freelance writers’ boot-camp and find your first client in their exclusive job board

WRITERS DEN

Your portfolio is a showcase of your competencies that can help a client make a decision to hire you.

Can you use words to persuade prospects to buy in on your client’s service or idea? Can you paint a vivid picture of a person or scenery for even the lamest of people to comprehend? How do people interact and respond to your work? Is your writing engaging? Can you compel people to keep reading?

Your client will use your portfolio to assess these things. Whether you are qualified or not, beginner or expert, if your work speaks to your client, you’ll get the job.

So a portfolio is pretty important and this article will help you build it up with no experience at all. So Get cosy and let’s create your portfolio step-by-step.

Finding your first few projects

At this point, I’m assuming you have picked a focus topic and hence ready to create a portfolio. If not, don’t worry, this article will take you step-by-step through that process and also give you some suggestions on which are currently profitable.

The first step is to find your first few projects so you can use them for your portfolio.

You have two options here. Paid project or unpaid projects.

Paid projects

Unsurprisingly, paid projects are a little harder to secure compared to unpaid projects. Since you do not have any work to back up your claims of being a good writer, it is hard to find someone who is willing to trust you blindly and pay you. That being said, it is not impossible. I know some people that started their businesses on paid gigs (sadly not me). The list you will find as you read through has plenty of places where you can find some paid gigs. The only thing you’ll need to have is a pitch, but don’t worry, I have linked examples of those here too.

Unpaid projects

Unpaid projects are easier to find and hence are the most popular way to start. Many blogs, websites, and start-ups will offer you publishing opportunities if you are doing it for free. You can find unpaid gigs by approaching websites that could use the help and offering your services. You can also register on bidding sites like Guru and freelancer and bid at no price, letting them know that you’re building your portfolio.

Important: Never make it sound like you are a clueless beginner. No one wants to work with someone who does not know what they are doing.

Besides that, you can register for a free medium account and publish a few articles on your niche there. This is easy and fast since you won’t need to get any permission. As soon as you register your account, you can start publishing.

DON’T MAKE A HABIT OUT OF WORKING FOR FREE THOUGH.

Do not get entangled in that web! Do a few projects for free and then start charging for your services.

There are a lot of places online where you can find writing opportunities. I’m going to talk about three categories and then give you a list of platforms that you can register and find writing opportunities.

Where can you find your first few gigs?

A simple google search can take you a long way, but it is not always convenient. Goldmines are not easy to find.

Jobs boards and content mills

Jobs boards and content mills are the most popular ways for writers to find paid work. The competition is very high and there are a lot of professionals selling their services. As you become a professional freelance writer, you want to steer away from content mills and build your own client base. As a beginner, however, it is a good way of finding clients and making money.

Job boards, I find are much better than content mills. You find people who are willing to pay you right for your work. This means that it might by harder to secure a job, but it’s not impossible. So take a look at job boards as well.

Tip: Learn how to market yourself and your services from the very beginning, that is how you’ll make a lot of money.

Facebook Groups

I also recommend Facebook. Join a freelance or freelance writing group in your area and introduce yourself. Mention that you want to build your portfolio and are offering your services for free. Be specific about what you’re offering. E.g. say your offering two people two articles each for free, on the niche, you want to be paid for.

Don’t only join groups with freelance writers. Find out where your clients hang out and join those groups too. A group of bloggers can be a perfect place for you to find clients since their business is literally posting stuff on the internet. If you’re not already, get in Facebook groups now and leverage the free client base and connections you can make.

Linkedin

Linkedin Is a very good platform to get high paying clients. Because it is, in itself, a job-finding platform, you are equipped with multiple tools and options to help your job-hunt. LinkedIn brings you face-to-face with your prospective employer. You can send them a message and introduce yourself. That is too good an opportunity.

LinkedIn can also perform a search for you and send you relevant jobs to your email making it easy to apply. If you are looking for a more detailed article about Linkedin (You should), click here.

Again, it will often have high ticket clients and hence it might be slightly harder to get a gig as a beginner.  

Local businesses

Another very good way to find clients is to contact some local businesses and find out if you could do a project with them for free. This includes local magazines, newspapers, school newspaper, the jewellery store – literally any establishment where your writing is relevant. You can form partnerships with them and then you can even ask for a recommendation. Business people know other business people, and just like that, you are growing.

Here is a list of platforms where you can find writing gigs

  • Linkedin
  • Facebook
  • Freelancer
  • Fivver
  • Guru
  • Upwork
  • People per hour
  • ClearVoice
  • Online magazines
  • Problogger job board
  • Craigslist
  • Indeed
  • Simplyhired
  • Medium

ACTION: Pitch to 5 clients for paid writing gigs in your niche and 3 for unpaid.

For some, you may need to write a pitch, and If you are wondering how to craft a good one, find some examples here.

P.S. Do this now, save this post on Pinterest, and come back when you are ready to proceed.

Decide on how you are going to host your portfolio

So hopefully it hasn’t been two months since you started. (or two seconds, because that will mean you did not take the action above). Let’s move on to the next step.

What options do you have when it comes to hosting your portfolio?

There are a couple of options here. You may host your portfolio on a portfolio site like journo, make a website portfolio, or create a google doc portfolio. All these have one major advantage and that is a link. When a job calls for a portfolio, all you do is send them a link where they can access all your work. It’s just convenient.

Google doc portfolio

Creating a google doc portfolio is easy and does not take much time. It is therefore recommended when you are starting out. If you’ve only worked on a few projects, a google doc is the best way to showcase those projects. I found my first few projects using a google doc because I didn’t have enough samples to put on a website… and I didn’t have time to create one.

Website portfolios

Website portfolios should be your goal. They take much longer to create, and you may need to pay for hosting, but they are perfect. You have control over everything regarding your portfolio and you can easily market yourself. Essentially, that is your spot on the internet.

ACTION: Decide where you are going to host your portfolio and proceed. Here are some examples. If you want a simple google doc template, click here.

Compile your portfolio

Once you decide on how you’ll be hosting your portfolio, it’s time for the fun part. Making a great representation of your work.  If you are anything like me, you want to make your portfolio easy on the eyes and user friendly. The former is a preference thing, but the latter should be compulsory. Don’t make your potential client struggle to locate what they need in your portfolio, you’ll lose them. If you have accumulated a lot of work, only put your best work on your portfolio. It is not necessary to put everything. Choose the ones that gave the best results, and the ones you feel were the strongest. Only put your work if you have a few samples.

ACTION: Write your introduction and link your all the articles you’ve written. Again you may refer to some examples here. If you want a simple google doc template, click here.


As you go through your journey, remember not to get hung up on the details. Be aggressive, relentless, and proactive and most of all, don’t give yourself time to hesitate.

Get to creating your portfolio now because if you wait, you probably won’t.

If you still can’t get around creating your portfolio, click here and we’ll create your portfolio together step-by-step. I’ll send you prompts and companies that are currently hiring.

We don’t miss out on opportunities because we do not know, we do because we don’t take action. (tweet that:))     

How to pick a profitable freelance writing niche

I know you want to make money in the comforts of your home with your writing skills. I don’t blame you, there’s only a few who would cringe at that thought. All the freedom to work from wherever and not have to answer to anyone. It’s a dream. But like any of those, you must work to achieve them.

Click here to join a freelance writers’ boot-camp and find your first client in their exclusive job board

WRITERS DEN

DO YOU NEED TO NICHE DOWN AS A FREELANCE WRITER?

The topic of niching down has been discussed in detail by a lot of professional freelance writers. Most of them agree that you should pick a niche when you begin freelance writing. I am no different.

Here are some reasons why it is important to niche down when you’re just starting out.

It makes you easy to hire

Picture this…

You have a well-established online apparel store. You want to get a cool design ready for the summer season, the peak season for your business. You want to create a print design that will get your buyers hooked at first glance. You are not exactly design-savvy so you outsource the design work. You plough through all the proposals you’ve received and narrowed them down to three professionals charging the same price.

 One calls themself a “graphic designer” and sends you his brilliant portfolio where he has created logos, business cards, brochures, …and one t-shirt design.

The other one also calls themself a graphic designer but focuses on logo designs. He sends you a variety of impressive designs, for businesses and brands, websites, and t-shirts print designs.

The last one, also a graphic designer, calls himself “T-shirt print designer” and he has made countless t-shirt prints for individuals, brands, and companies. He has many different concepts, he plays with textures, techniques, and colours. He even has a partner t-shirt provider who provides a variety of quality blank canvas t-shirts at a discount for his clients.

Which one would you choose?

Obviously, the last one because his service is exactly what you want. The other two might also have impressive designs and capabilities, but the last person is the one who speaks directly to your need and hence the one who gets the job.

That is what niching down does. You want to make your service speak directly to someone’s need so that when they come across your offer, they don’t think twice about hiring you.

So, when you’re starting, please pick a niche. This will also lessen the risk of getting overwhelmed and that’s another reason why you should niche down.     

Al little pressed on time? Pin this and read it later

                 

Niching down will reduce the potentially of getting overwhelmed.

A lot of people say they’d probably have started making money very early on their freelance writing careers if they’d just picked a niche and worked with that. I am “a lot of people.” See I chose to leave my options open. I thought, “why must I limit myself by picking a little niche to focus on? How will I get clients? I don’t even know what niches are profitable. If I just called myself “freelance writer,” I will appeal to many people and increase my chances of getting hired. There’s a lot of people looking for freelance writers.”

Can you guess how that worked for me? I did not make any money. And I don’t mean I made some 20 bucks from time-to-time like many people do when they say they never made money. I made no money. None at all. So if someone was to ask me whether to niche down or not, my answer would be, without hesitation, pick a niche. You can always expand or switch niches as you grow.

One huge problem I faced was with pitching. When I pitched, I had no idea how to structure my pitch and portfolio. A client would be looking for a beauty product description writer. I would get all excited because I know I’ve written a number of articles, only to find that I have only one beauty article and it was a blog post. So immediately, I was swallowed by the competition, before I even pitched. 

So, narrow down your topics and gradually build on that. It’ll help you keep your sanity through your journey of starting a writing biz.

Now if you’re worried that you might not know where the money is currently and the risk picking a niche that will not make you a dime, worry not. I’ve included a list of what is currently making people lots of money so read on and get ready to pick a profitable niche.

So, picking a niche will…

  • Make you easy to hire
  • Put you as an authority on your niche
  • Reduce the chances of getting overwhelmed

What’s the best way to pick a niche?

Well, I don’t know if I should call it best, per se, but here are some steps that you can follow through to pick your niche. Pick a pen and paper write through these steps.

Find out what topics are profitable

The aim is to start a business and every business must make money. So this is where you should start. Find out what writing niches are paying the most from the internet or by contacting some freelance writers you know. If you don’t know any freelance writers, Facebook groups are a very good resource. People there are willing to help you with the best advice, and you may find some clients there too. I’ve researched some profitable niches for you, I’ll list them at the end of this article.

Write down all the profitable niches you find on your paper.

Narrow down your list by doing the following:

Check your knowledge, professional or experiential

Consider what you know. It can be either something you studied at school, something you learned from a job, or just something you do continuously out of habit. Use this information to narrow down your list of professional niches and create a new list.

Consider things you’d love to learn about.

Also, from the list you made in 1., look for topics you’d enjoy learning about and add them to the list above.

Research the demand for writers and competition

From your new list, find out which niches have a need for writers and also consider the competition within each niche.  If the niche is profitable, and there are a ton of freelance writers offering their services, it’s going to be hard to gain traction in that niche. Ideally, you want to find a niche with a huge demand and low competition.

One way you can do this research is looking at job boards like ProBlogger and craigslist, and content mills like Fivver and Upwork. On content mills, Search for your niche and find out how many freelance writers are offering those services. On job boards, see how many jobs you can find in each niche. This will give you an idea of how saturated and in-demand a niche is.

Narrow down your list by taking out everything that does not have a lot of jobs.

Pick your niche

If you still have a number of niches at this point, that’s amazing. You get to let your preference guide you.

Your niche will not be written on stone so do not spend too much time trying to pick a perfect niche. Make a decision and run with it. When starting a business, you need to be proactive and get things done fast before overwhelm sets in and weighs you down. Besides, You want to get started creating your portfolio ASAP.

What are the most profitable freelance writing topics (September 2020)?

  • Email copywriting
  • Sales page and landing page copy
  • Sales letter
  • Tech writing
  • Business writing
  • Video and webinar script writing
  • Financial service writing
  • Academic writing
  • Ghost writing
  • SaasS content writing
  • SEO writing
This will be absolutely useless if you do not take action now. Pick your niche now when this information is still raw.

Next, we are going to create your portfolio. Stay tuned.