We’ve already talked about why your freelance writer website is so important. But there’s another factor that you’d be wise not to neglect: your writing portfolio.
Your writing portfolio is your chance to showcase your best pieces and give potential clients a better idea of what they can expect when they work with you. Your portfolio is pivotal in landing high-paying clients, so special attention must be paid.
Wait, Why Do I Even Need a Writing Portfolio?
Writing portfolios especially come in handy when you’re just starting out as a freelance writer and don’t yet have any experience. “But… what’ll I put in my portfolio?” you ask.
Answer: Samples you’re going to make up on your own.
You don’t need to wait to get a freelance writing job to have something to put in your portfolio. If you’ve already picked your niche , then you should set out to create three to five high-quality pieces of content within that niche that clearly demonstrate just how fantastic of a writer you are. More on this in a minute.
If a potential client wants to see samples of your work, you absolutely cannot say, “Well, I don’t have any yet, but… ” Your portfolio is where you’ll direct them when they ask for this.
Okay, So How Do I Create a Portfolio?
There’s a really important distinction that we need to make here.
You’ve got your freelance writing website and you’ve got your writing portfolio.
The two are not the same.
I say this because when you’re creating your website, if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, you have the option to choose a template. And there are portfolio templates.
You do not want your whole website to be a portfolio. They’re two different things!
Rather, your portfolio is a part of your website, and you create it using your blog.
Yes, your blog is going to serve as your portfolio.
Exactly What Kind of Blogs Should I Put in It?
The short answer? Your very, very best writing.
Here’s the longer answer.
Your portfolio (read: blog) is going to be a game-changer when it comes to landing new clients. This content is going to help people decide whether or not they want to invest money in your services.
You should put as much time and energy into these posts as you would for client work.
So, here’s what you should do.
1. Get Really Specific About Who You’re Targeting
For the love of God, niche down. If you haven’t yet picked a niche and/or don’t understand why you need to, take a few minutes to watch this video:
Long story short, experts make more than generalists. It may seem counterproductive to write about one thing, as opposed to writing about lots of things.
But when you learn everything about one topic, you’re much more in-demand than a writer who knows a little bit about everything. Thus, you’ll land bigger clients who will depend on you more and pay you more.
So, pick a niche.
2. Research What Your Audience Cares About
Whenever you’re creating a piece of content, you want to be sure it’s something that your audience will care about. You do this through competitor analysis and keyword research.
For example, I’m writing this blog on creating a writing portfolio because upon doing a little digging, I learned that it’s something a lot of people are wanting to learn about.
Two tools that can easily help you find topics and keywords are the Google Chrome extension Keywords Everywhere and Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest — my new favorite keyword research tool.
Keywords Everywhere used to be free but now charges a very low price (totally worth it), and Ubersuggest is incredible and available at no cost.
As an example, here’s what Ubersuggest tells me about the keyword “writing portfolio.”
It’s getting roughly 1,300 searches per month, which has held fairly steady throughout 2019, save for a few small dips.
This is the kind of research that you’re going to want to do before you create your own writing samples. Show your clients that you understand how to track down topics that will bring them traffic. They’re paying you for results!
3. Write 3 to 5 Stellar Blog Posts on These Topics
Quality over quantity. Don’t aim to write 10 crappy posts. Select of few awesome topics and go to town on them.
For instance, you’re going to want to learn how to structure a blog post properly, as well as how to implement SEO for beginners. You don’t need to be an expert right now — the basics will do. In other words, learn how to use your keyword and where to put it.
(BTW, I have a free blogging course you can enroll in!)
Sprinkle in eye-catching images throughout, use headings appropriately, and include a call-to-action (CTA).
Once these are ready, whenever someone asks for samples, you can send them the link to your main blog page. Here’s mine, as an example.
4. Include Work That You’ve Done for Other Websites, Once You Have It
More on this in just a bit!
What About Writing a Guest Post for Free for the Sake of Getting Samples?
Meh. You can. But a few words of caution.
First: Don’t settle for anything. If you write a guest post for free, the website should still be in your niche and relevant to future potential clients.
Second: Make sure it’s a high-quality site. Does it work quickly and smoothly? Is it appealing to the eye? Is the rest of the content on that site high-quality? If you get work published there, then you’re going to be associated with it. Make sure it’s a professional and positive reflection of you.
Third: Don’t make it a habit. If you’re going to give it away for free, do it once, maybe twice. Then start charging. You’re not running a charity. Once you set the bar, it’s hard to get out of it. Make sure your clients understand your worth. This means that you need to understand your worth.
What if I’ve Already Been Published on Other Sites? Then What Do I Do?
If you’ve already been published, congrats! First, select a few of your very best pieces.
Then, you’re going to create a blog post for each. But! Here’s the important part. You are not going to copy and paste the content from where it was originally published. Duplicate content online is a big no-no.
Instead, post a short paragraph, a description, or an introduction, and then say something like, “To read the full blog post, click here.” Link to that page, so that people know where they can see that published piece.
Yes, you can also send them the direct links to these pages. But remember that we’re talking about how to keep all of it contained in your portfolio. Plus, it creates a backlink to the content you wrote (meaning a link that’ll send people there), which is good for the performance and SEO of that article. Bonus!
If you don’t yet have any published pieces, you can still follow this method once you’ve got some.
You don’t have to wait until someone else publishes you to have a portfolio. Take control, take action, and make one using your own blog!