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I was recently asked about building a portfolio of work samples by someone who is a new freelance copywriter. Since this is a topic I’m frequently asked about, I thought I’d share the questions and my responses here to help other copywriters starting out.
– Susan Greene
Do you ask your clients for permission to add their work to your portfolio? Your portfolio is amazing. I’d like to begin building mine now that I have some solid work to share, but I’m not sure when I need to ask for permission.
Thank you for your time and for the fantastic insight that you share on your site. I’ve just started reading your articles and look forward to learning more.
It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for the kind words about my portfolio. I’d highly encourage you to build your own. It’s become an effective sales tool for me.
I do ask my clients for permission before posting the work I’ve done for them. Most say yes, although I’ve had a few no’s as well. The ones that say no usually do so because they don’t want their competitors to find their materials.
Also, if I do work as a subcontractor for a digital marketing firm or ad agency, often they’ll ask me not to post their jobs because they don’t want their client to possibly find out I’m not a full-time employee of their agency.
How many samples should I include in my portfolio?
The quick answer is: as many as it takes to convert a prospect into a client. But how do you determine what that quantity is?
Ideally, you want your portfolio to show the depth and breadth of your capabilities, so that means showing more than just a few samples. You want the client to get the impression that you’re a seasoned copywriter who can handle any work they throw your way. You can find some fabulous examples of copywriting portfolios here.
I have to admit, for my own portfolio, I go a bit overboard and include loads of samples. I keep adding to it as I complete more jobs. If nothing else, the sheer volume of writing samples tells the prospect I have tons of experience.
Certainly if you’ve done any work for prestigious companies/clients, names your prospect will recognize, you’ll want to include those samples in your portfolio. They’ll help to give you instant credibility.
Lastly, think of your portfolio is a dynamic presentation. When you complete a client’s job and are pleased with how it turned out, by all means add it to samples. As your portfolio grows, eliminate some of the lesser samples, probably the ones that reflect your earliest work.
What if I’m new to the business and have only completed a few projects?
Well, we all have to start somewhere. Look for opportunities to do more sample-worthy work. Think of friends, relatives or coworkers who may have a business and could use some copywriting work. Offer your services for free or at a discount so you can get published samples. I know no one likes to work for free but think of it as an investment of time to begin building your business.
Okay, I get it. Any other tips for building a portfolio?
Yes. Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way. As I’m sure you know, the business world is constantly changing. Companies here today may or may not be here tomorrow.
So, if your portfolio includes websites you’ve written, be sure to grab a few screenshots to post in your portfolio. Don’t just give the link to the site. I made that mistake many times only to find out after a year or two that in some cases the company had gone out of business and therefore the website was taken down.
In others the company had been bought out by a larger organization and again the website I’d written was taken down. And finally in some situations the client ended up redoing the website to either make it more current or focus on a different aspect of their business. In those cases, the site remained but my copy was no longer being used.
Again, you can avoid those issues by grabbing screenshots so that down the road you can keep those samples in your portfolio even if they’re no longer being used by the client.
Hope that helps, and I wish you good luck in building your portfolio. If you want a bit more information, read my post, Assembling Your Freelance Copywriting Portfolio.
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