How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio

How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio by Krissi Driver

When you’re looking for freelance writing opportunities, most potential clients will ask to see at least one writing sample before deciding to work with you. For newer freelancers, this can be a huge obstacle. After all, how do you build a freelance writing portfolio before you’ve actually gotten any writing assignments?

Luckily, you have a few different options when it comes to putting together a portfolio of writing samples. Here are 4 different ways you can assemble a freelance writing portfolio without a lot of experience.

 

1. Do some work for free.

While I’m a huge advocate for writers knowing their worth and getting paid for the work they do, when you’re brand-new to the freelance world, it’s not always a bad idea to do a little work for free. A business or website is much more likely to take a chance on publishing your work if they don’t have anything to lose by doing so. 

A great way to do this is to pitch your services to small or local businesses that are looking to expand their online presence. You can offer to write blog posts or web content for them in exchange for being able to use that work in your portfolio later on. 

If you’re having a hard time finding anyone in need of free blog posts or web content, feel free to take the lead! Conduct some research and write a few articles in your chosen niche to have on hand. You don’t have to pitch them to anyone; you just need to make sure they’re well-written and properly edited. 

While some potential clients will ask for links to published writing samples, many just want to see an example of your work to evaluate your skill level and writing voice before they hire you. You can find plenty of freelance work just by showing you’re capable of producing quality writing. 

 

2. Take some low-paying gigs to get your feet wet. 

An alternative to working for free is to accept a few low-paying gigs in order to fill out your portfolio. Upwork is a great place to look for these types of jobs. Upwork is a job board that allows you to create an account and apply for multiple jobs at once. It’s great for newer writers because it provides some security in terms of ensuring you get paid when the work is done. 

 

How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio at KrissiDriver.com

 

While you can make a bit of money on Upwork with some skill and practice, most of the jobs you’ll find there are pretty entry-level, low-paying, and in high demand. That said, if you write a killer cover letter, you can beat out the competition and snag these gigs even without a portfolio already in place. 

You can also check websites like Craigslist or job boards like All Freelance Writing, ProBlogger, and BloggingPro for low-paying or beginner-level writing work. As you apply for gigs and start communicating with potential clients, use your best judgment and try to target reputable people. 

Remember that if something sounds fishy or seems too good to be true, it probably is. Protect yourself by doing the smart thing and walk away if something doesn’t feel right.

 

3. Write for an agency.

Another option is to find an opportunity to write for a digital marketing agency. Many agencies specifically hire newer writers because they want to keep their prices low and less experienced writers can be paid a cheaper rate. 

While you won’t make as much money writing for an agency as if you were pitching clients on your own, it’s a great way to gain a lot of writing experience in a hurry. Agencies usually have clients across a variety of industries, so you can work on your research skills while putting together a diverse portfolio. In the meantime, you’ll be getting paid consistently for your work.

 

4. Guest post on other blogs and publications. 

Finally, you might want to look into guest posting on other blogs or online publications, especially if you have a blog for your freelance writing business that you’d like to advertise. Guest blogging not only gives you examples of published works to add to your portfolio, but also allows you an opportunity to link back to your own website and get your name out there. 

Seek out bloggers in a niche you feel comfortable writing about, then send a personalized email asking if they’d be interested in a collaboration. Mention why you feel that your writing would be a good fit for their website, and include some ideas for what you’d like to write about. 

In the case of online publications, look on business-targeted websites (for example, Business Insider or Entrepreneur Magazine) for instructions on how to pitch to the company’s editorial team and follow the instructions to a “T.” 

With both of these options, the more you can show you did your research, the more likely a blogger or editor will be to give you a chance.

 

While working to build a freelance writing portfolio might be a bit of an investment up-front, it’s worthwhile to spend some time assembling work you can be proud of. Not only will these writing samples help you gain experience as a writer, but they’ll also help you land higher-paying writing gigs as you grow in your career. 

 

Is Freelance Writing for an Agency a Good Idea?

Is Freelance Writing for an Agency a Good Idea? by Krissi Driver

If you’re a freelance writer, chances are you’ve seen job postings or heard about freelance writing for an agency as opposed to going it on your own. Digital marketing agencies usually look for remote copywriters to produce web content and blog posts for their clients. This practice is good for the agency, as it’s usually much cheaper to hire freelancers than to have an in-house writing team. But is it good for the writers as well? 

Before you apply to an agency’s writing position, there are some pros and cons to consider. Here’s what you need to know. 

 

The Drawbacks of Agency Work 

Your agency experience will largely depend on whether the company itself is trustworthy and reliable as well as how they’ve built their business model. There are some unscrupulous agencies out there that will try to take advantage of their freelance writers, especially if those writers are relatively new in their careers. Here are some things to beware of when considering agency work. 

  • Pay is often much lower than you can negotiate on your own. Agencies are looking out for their bottom line. They make more of a profit when they pay you less. Often, agencies pay close to minimum wage which isn’t enough for most people to live on. Unless you’re very experienced, it’s hard to make a lot of money at an agency.

 

  • It’s harder to guard your hours. Even with part-time agency work, you’re often expected to be online at the same time as the rest of the team. This helps the agency in case there are any last-minute requests. It can be hard to sign off at the end of the day if there’s still work to be done, leading to pressure to work overtime. 

 

  • You have little or no say in the work itself. Marketing agencies might take on a variety of clients in different industries, even ones you’re not interested in. With what I call the “lone wolf” freelance option, where you’re not working with a middle-man agency but finding gigs on your own, you have more opportunities to seek out niches you want to write about and pitch to those clients. 

 

  • Agencies can be incredibly fast-paced. Agencies often must turn content around on a tight deadline. You may only have a day or two to produce the work they need, which doesn’t allow for a lot of editing time. To succeed at an agency, you must have a keen eye for detail and be able to produce high-quality work on a limited schedule. 

 

 

Benefits of Writing for Agencies

On the flip side, there are plenty of agencies out there that would be great to work for. Plenty of writers choose that path. Ethical agencies can be a great way for writers to bring in a regular paycheck. Here are a few of the unique benefits of writing for an agency: 

  • The work is consistent. Freelancing can be unpredictable and you’ll need to spend a significant chunk of time pitching new clients and/or applying to job posts to guarantee a reliable stream of income. Agency work tends to be much more stable, with a set number of articles you’re expected to do each week or hours you can expect to work. 

 

  • You’ll get paid on time. Freelancers often face late payments or need to chase down clients when their invoices go unpaid. Agencies are much more likely to pay on a set schedule like an office job would. 

 

  • Agencies handle client communication. When you work for an agency, you rarely have to interact with a client one-on-one. This cuts down on time responding to emails and allows you more time to write. 

 

  • It’s a great way to gain experience. For those just starting out in the world of freelance writing, working for an agency will allow you to produce a lot of content, often across multiple platforms, to build a diverse portfolio of work. You can use that throughout your career as you move on to pitching clients later on. 

 

Is Freelance Writing for an Agency Right for You?

Whether agency work is right for you depends on what you’re currently looking for in your career. If you’re a newer freelancer, agency work can allow you to produce a large volume of work for a future portfolio while providing steady work and a consistent pay schedule. 

However, freelance writing is a competitive field; many agencies know they can get away with paying you much less than you could negotiate on your own. If you’re more well-established as a writer and have plenty of experience to help you land clients, you can make significantly more without tying yourself to an agency.

Still, the consistent work and regular pay from agency work is attractive even to writers who are further along in their careers. Unsurprisingly, there are exceptions to all of the cons listed above. If the reliability of agency work appeals to you, it’s worth looking around to see if you can find one that will allow you to work the way you want. 

 

There are pros and cons to client work and agency work alike. Ultimately, the path you take depends on what you want to get out of your writing career. No matter which you choose, you can eventually turn a significant profit by freelance writing from wherever in the world you are. 

 

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