If you don’t current have a portfolio of writing samples, it is going to be extremely difficult to grab the attention of a prospective client. Think of it in terms of dating. If you don’t offer something that is attractive to them, they are not going to be interested in developing a long-term relationship with you.
So, where do you start?
First, you need to determine what kind of clients you are going to want to attract. This will determine what kinds of pieces you will need to develop. Build your portfolio around that specific area (ghostwriting, technical, copywriting, etc.). It is okay to choose more than one area. Just build a different portfolio for each aspect. Consider making your portfolio available offline as well as online.
If you have no writing samples at all, you are going to need to develop some as quickly as possible. Think about what kinds of clients that you would like to target. Then write a sample piece ahead of time specifically for them. Choose topics that you have personal experience with.
Think about what you have to offer. What sets you apart from other writers? How can your target client benefit from your skills and experience? This will be what you use to convince potential clients to hire you.
What do you include in your portfolio?
Include a minimum of 3 clips that highlight your unique skills. Make sure that the clips that you include are free from grammatical and spelling errors. If you are unsure, enlist the help of other writers to review your work. There are a number of writing communities that you can join both online and locally that can assist you with your efforts.
Include any copies of any diplomas, certificates, licenses, or letters of recommendation that you may have.
Also, include information concerning any professional writing organizations that you may be a part of. If you are not a member of any organization, consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce or the Freelancers Union website.
Update your portfolio on a regular basis to show clients that you are providing consistent high-quality work.
Make it super easy for clients to get a hold of you. Also, make it clear that you are looking for work in your About page so that clients know that you are available for hire.
Where do you find potential clients?
Freelance writers who are just starting out might want to consider checking out opportunities that are available to them locally. Typically, locally owned stores and professional and nonprofit organizations in your hometown have a small marketing budget and might be willing to let you write for them for free.
Check out their marketing materials. Do you see areas that could be improved upon? These are weaknesses you can use in your pitch that will help you get your foot in the door.
If you are brave enough, go and speak to them directly. Introduce yourself as a freelance writer who is looking for opportunities to build a specific area in your writing portfolio and let them know what you discovered about their marketing weaknesses.
Offer your services for free and let them know that it is a win-win for both parties. You will want to make sure that that will be willing to recommend you in the future if they are happy with the work you provide them. Make sure you get the credit for your work as well.
If at all possible, include that the prospective client will not mention that you did the work for free when recommending you in the future.
If you are not brave enough for this approach, call them on the phone or send them a letter of introduction by email.
If the prospective client agrees to take you on, get the following terms agreed to in writing:
Define the project details and the length of the project.
The client will not mention to anyone that you did the work for free.
The client will give you a testimonial upon successful completion of the project.
The client agrees to allow you to claim full credit for the work. Note: Do not sign a nondisclosure agreement. This will prevent you from being able to use the project as a sample in your portfolio.
Creating your portfolio is a critical step in your freelance writing career. Spend time carefully crafting it. The higher attention to detail that your portfolio receives from you will increase your chances tremendously in landing the clients you want to work for. Do it right and you will get your first client in no time.