How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio

How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio at KrissiDriver.com

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 6 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. Fiverr is a great place to look for these types of jobs. Fiverr is an online marketplace where “sellers” offer all kinds of services at varying prices and levels of experience. It’s great for newer writers because it provides some security in terms of ensuring you get paid and don't risk getting scammed or stiffed. 

That being said, Fiverr may not be the greatest place to stay for long. When the platform originated, gigs were literally all just $5 USD (hence the name “Fiverr”) and most sellers offer their services at pretty low rates and most of the jobs you'll likely find there are pretty entry-level, low-paying, and in high demand. Fiverr Pro might lead to more work at better rates, but Fiverr Pro success stories like this one are, in my experience, exceptions to the rule and not the norm.

How to Build a Freelance Writing Portfolio at KrissiDriver.com

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.

 

5. Use content from your personal blog or public writing account.

Using your personal blog content is a great way to showcase your work! Why? Because it's one of the places your unique writing voice and perspective will shine.

On your personal blog (or Medium profile or Tumblr, etc.), if you have one, you're likely not writing for anybody else. You don't need to try to match someone else's voice and you're probably expressing your own opinions and experiences. All of these things make you YOU and demonstrate your best writing skills. These are things that business owners, hiring managers, and editors are always looking for.

The one drawback to this option is that you're obviously not making any money for your work. But don't let that deter you from continuing to post regularly on your blog or writing profile. This is an invaluable place to let your personality do the talking and separate you from other writers vying for the same gigs.

PRO TIP: Medium is actually a great place to be found and possibly get some online attention. Check out this HubSpot article on how to use Medium effectively and possibly score yourself some exposure.

 

6. Write samples on your own freelance writing website.

You've got your own freelance writing website, right? Perfect. You have some amazing real estate you can put to good use.

While I don't advocate for putting personal stories on your professional website, generally speaking, I do think it's a great place to demonstrate what you can do. You should definitely have a portfolio page on your website with links to articles you've written. You can take it one step further and include a “kind of” blog, too.

Use a section of your website to write some sample articles on topics or niches that interest you. Better yet, write about writing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Write about the differences between copywriting and content writing.
  • Write about the types of writing you specialize in, such as social media posts, email newsletters, blog articles, or white papers, and how businesses can utilize them or why they need to be killing it with these content types.
  • Write about copywriting or content-specific things you're learning or know about to demonstrate your knowledge, such as SEO, email marketing, Instagram best practices, scheduling tools for social media or email, and so on.
  • Write a round-up listicle of things you find important to the success of your budding business – tools, habits, organization, anything you can think of!
  • Do some research, find an article that interests you, and write on the same topic with your unique spin.

 

Not only will these pieces give a clear indication of your understanding of the things you're writing about, but they're also great practice. Writing more makes you a better writer.

 

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. 

 

Freelance Writing Agencies: Good or Bad?

is writing for a freelance writing agency a good idea? from KrissiDriver.con

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 from an agency 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.

While you do get to set your freelance writing rate when writing for an agency, it's rare that you'll get what you ask for. This is especially true when you're starting out (unsurprisingly) as the agency editors will want to “test out” your writing skills and dependability. And even when you do get assigned pieces that come in at your asking rate, the agency is still going to take a cut of your earnings. Agencies like ClearVoice take a 25% commission on your earnings.

Moreover, agencies may have a limit to how high you can set your rate. As you gain more experience, you'll likely outgrow your agency.

Worst of all, some agencies pay close to minimum wage which obviously isn’t enough for most people to live on. Until you’re very experienced, it’s hard to make a lot of money at an agency. 

 

Working for a freelance writing agency can be time-competitive.

I recently started writing for ClearVoice to see what writing for a big agency is like. Once I was finally accepted into their “talent pool” of writers, my first few assignments were sent not just to me, but to a group of other writers. It was a first-claimed, first-won situation – whichever writer claimed the assignment first got it.

That seems fair, but here's the kicker: That first assignment got snatched up in less than a minute. I was online when the email alert came through, checked my account to see what the assignment was immediately, and it was already gone. I've since been offered assignments that aren't floating in a writer shark tank, but that first experience was a shock to me. 

 

You have little or no say in the work itself.

Marketing agencies take on a variety of clients in different industries, even ones you’re not interested in. When you set up your profile, you have the ability to note what industries you're most interested in or comfortable writing for, but that doesn't mean you'll always be matched with the kind of assignments you want.

I recently wrote a piece about 90s fashion trends coming back into style… And frankly, that's not a niche I'm interested in! I wouldn't have chosen it for myself.

With what I call the “lone wolf” freelance option, 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 kinds of clients. 

 

Freelance writing agencies can be incredibly fast-paced.

Agencies often must turn content around on a tight deadline. This is even more alarming when you have literal seconds to be the first to accept an assignment. You may barely have enough time to really review what you've been offered before you accept it.

To top it all off, 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 need a keen eye for detail and must 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. If you're going it on your own, you’ll 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, though. You generally set the number of articles you can commit to finishing each week or hours you can expect to work. You also have the option (in many cases) to turn assignments down if they interfere with your schedule or if you're not comfortable writing about a certain topic.

 

You’ll always get paid on time.

It's not necessarily always like this, but freelancers often face late payments or need to chase down clients when their invoices go unpaid. Honestly, clients forget sometimes and it's not intentional! But it happens and it's always a little annoying. You might even hear some horror stories of freelancers fighting to get clients to pay their overdue invoices.

However, agencies are much more likely to pay on a set schedule much like an office job would. They pay writers either at a specific time each month or once an assignment is completed and sent off to the client. Each agency is different, but you never have to worry about chasing down your hard-earned money.

 

Agencies handle client communication.

When you work for an agency, you rarely have to interact with a client one-on-one. Instead, you have a relationship with an agency representative who can help answer questions if you have them. This cuts down on time responding to emails and allows you more time to actually write. 

 

It’s a great way to gain experience.

For those just starting out in the world of freelance writing, working for an agency gives you a great inside view of what the work is like.

You have the chance to produce a lot of content, often across multiple platforms, and build a diverse portfolio of work. You can use that throughout your career as you move on to pitching clients later on. 

If you're not sure which niches interest you, writing for an agency opens the doors to dozens of very different industries. This helps you learn more about what you like and ultimately learn more about those niches. Later down the line, you can raise your rate based on your expertise in a specific area.

 

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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