I am a freelance copywriter in London and have just enjoyed reading your post 10 Simple Tips for Creating an Exceptional Copywriting Portfolio. What I am finding difficult, however, is that as a newbie, I have nothing to put into my portfolio.
I’ve done some free work for a couple of contacts but their websites are poorly designed and so I don’t want to include them in my portfolio. However, this is all that I have. Would it be better to have something of less-than-perfect quality than nothing at all?
I look forward to hearing your advice.
Freelance Copywriter London
It’s nice to meet you.
With regard to your friends’ poorly designed websites, you can show your copy in draft form (MS Word). Don’t provide the actual websites. You can disclaim the fact that your copy is in draft form by saying the websites are currently in production, not yet online.
Having said that, you really do want to also show some published samples, so keep hustling to find opportunities where you can provide copy. You’ve already found some so you know the drill. You can’t worry about getting paid initially. No one likes to work for free but consider it part of paying your dues to enter the copywriting profession.
When you don’t have experience and a copywriting portfolio, it’s hard to land clients. So find people who need copy but may not have the money to hire a professional.
Think about friends, neighbors or relatives who own a small business or are considering starting one. Could you provide them with free or low-cost web copy, a sales letter, brochure text, etc.?
You can also look into writing guest posts for blogs. Many blog owners welcome those posts, which give them a break from creating all the content themselves. Look into blogs that are relevant to a subject that appeals to you.
For example, if you have a dog, you can write about some dog-related issue and seek to get it published on a dog-related or pet-related blog. You can also look into publishing on article sites like ezinearticles.com and articlecube.com.
Another idea. If you see a site that is poorly written (and there are no shortage of those), offer to create new, improved copy to the website owner in exchange for a testimonial and permission to place the work in your portfolio. Or offer to write the copy on a contingency basis. You write it. If they like it, they buy it. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to pay for it.
Nonprofit organizations/charities are often in need of help with their marketing efforts but lack a budget. Find some causes that you support and contact their offices with your offer.
Another option is to find a web designer who is just starting out. They may have designed a nice site but it lacks copy, and they don’t have a budget to pay for it.
One of my first freelance jobs I wrote a new web designer’s copy and in return he did the design for my website. We both ended up with quality websites for ourselves as well as samples for our portfolio. It was a trade that worked out well for both of us.
You can find “beginners” on sites like Fiverr and Upwork. For that matter, you can even try to find work yourself on those sites although I’ll warn you, the competition is steep. Lots of freelance copywriters bidding on every job keeps prices low so you won’t make all that much, but again, you can’t be focused on earnings at this stage.
An alternative to a portfolio in the short-term is to create a one-sheet with your experience, credentials, education and philosophy about copywriting. Include testimonials if you have any as well as your photo.
Think of the one-sheet as an alternative to a resume, since those are usually so boring and are specifically for obtaining a job, not freelance work.
A one-sheet can be sent to prospective clients to provide them with some background on you, create trust and help set you apart from competitors who presumably do not have a one-sheet.
I hope that helps, Melanie.
Thank you for your reply! You have some great practical advice which I am going to put into use straight away.
Freelance Copywriter, London
Want more tips for a career in copywriting? Check out Susan Greene’s detailed report entitled, “The Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Freelance Copywriter: Everything You Need to Know to Get Started, Build Your Freelance Writing Business and Achieve Sustainable Success.“