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One of the biggest struggles, when you are first getting started as a freelance writer, is trying finding quality samples to add to your portfolio.

After all, you need a portfolio to start landing jobs – but you need those jobs to build your portfolio!

So, what’s a new freelancer to do when faced with this paradox?

Lucky for all of us, there are many ways to build your freelance writing portfolio before you even land your first paying client.

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Why Do You Need a Portfolio?

If you’re only just getting started as a freelance writer, no doubt you’ve already realised by now that everyone wants samples of your work when you’re pitching for jobs. You need a strong portfolio to:

  • Showcase your best, highest quality writing

I started my freelance writing business as a side hustle alongside my full-time office job. I had to start my portfolio from scratch, and with zero experience behind me, I had to get creative with the ways I built up a strong portfolio that would help me land freelance jobs.

If you’ve been struggling to land jobs and build your portfolio,  know that you’re not alone.

This is a problem every freelancer faces at one point or another.

What really determines your success is whether you shrug and give up at this point – or if you take the initiative and create a brilliant portfolio even as a complete beginner!

Below are all the ways I expanded my portfolio with no experience – plus a few extras you might like to try!

7 Ways to Build Your Portfolio When You’re Getting Started as a Freelance Writer:

1) Start a Blog

When I decided I wanted to take my freelance writing side hustle and turn it into a real business that I could run from anywhere (aka, the beach!), I started blogging.

Starting a blog wasn’t about showing everyone how much I knew about writing, it was about showcasing my writing and my personality on an online platform.

What started as a hobby and as an addition to my freelance writing portfolio quickly became one of my biggest passions in life. Having my own blog makes me so focused and I love everything about it from writing my own posts to learning the ins-and-outs of digital marketing to promote my website online. It even now contributes to my monthly income!

If you’re getting started as a freelance writer, starting your own blog is one of the best decisions you could make – for your portfolio, for your business, and for yourself.

The key thing to know is this: within one month of starting my own blog, I was contacted by a popular travel blogger who wanted to hire me to write for his site.

How to build a freelance writing portfolio

That was the first of many clients that have come to me through my blog, and all because they like the style of my writing.

Those opportunities would never have come my way if it weren’t for my blog because these clients weren’t advertising on job boards or anywhere else – they were just keeping an eye out for talent, and my blog let them find it.

If your portfolio is looking a little sparse and you’re a beginner freelance writer, blogging should be your first step.

2) Ask Your Friends and Family

Aside from blogging, another way I bulked up my freelance writing portfolio as a new freelance writer was to ask my friends and family who owned their own businesses or side hustles if I could create some content for their websites.

For some, this was just writing a blog post or two for them to put on their websites. For others, I completely re-wrote the copy for their entire website.

Yes, this was time-consuming and I didn’t get paid for it. However, that investment was well worth it when I had a solid portfolio with samples of my writing for legitimate businesses. Plus, the paid jobs you’ll be pitching for later don’t need to know that you did all that work for free!

If you want to become a freelance writer, spreading the word about your skills and services to the network you already have is a must – even if it seems scary!

3) Guest Post

A guest post is when you write an article that is then published on another blogger’s website. It’s fantastic for when you’re first getting started as a freelance writer and perhaps don’t quite have your own website and social media set up yet.

This is a fantastic way of getting your writing published on high authority sites, and gives your writing credentials an instant boost when you have a big blogger’s name behind you!

Think about a topic you have specialist knowledge of, whether that’s writing or even a hobby you like to do.

Then, research blogs about these topics and find out if they allow guest posts on their site.

Some bloggers do prefer you to have your own blog first, so be sure to check their guest post guidelines before submitting a pitch!

4) Apply for Paid Guest Posting Opportunities

Some blogs and websites will even pay you to guest post on their site, so you could build your portfolio and make money!

This fantastic post from Make a Living Writing lists over 100 publications that will pay you for writing on their website, so you can start freelance writing and build your portfolio at the same time.

You’ll see that there are so many websites from a huge range of different niches that are willing to pay good rates for quality writing – but the key thing to remember here is that they want quality writing.

Paid guest posts are definitely harder to get because the person paying you for the post is going to want a high-quality, original article that is worth publishing on their site. This is worth bearing in mind if you are looking to build your portfolio quickly so you can start applying for paid freelance writing jobs.

Choose one niche to really hone in on (for example, you might already have a fair bit of experience from building your portfolio on finance), and target those publications with super well-researched pitches.

It can be a timely process and it might take a while for you to actually get paid, but there is real money in this if you take the time to really think about what that publication would want from you.

Check out my guide to writing the perfect pitch here to get some tips when you submit your guest post pitch!

5) Publish Articles on Medium

Medium is an online publishing platform that values a clean reading environment and original ideas.

If you don’t like the idea of starting your own website, you could post your articles to Medium instead, and then link to these pieces on your portfolio.

Medium is read by millions of people every year, so this is a good opportunity to potentially put your work in front of a lot of people (i.e. perhaps potential clients!).

6) Start Creative Writing

Another way you could build your portfolio when you’re first getting started as a freelance writer is to add some creative writing samples to your collection.

I would wager that almost everyone who wants to write for a living has experimented with creative writing at some point. Whether poems are your jam or short stories, showing your creative side can be a fantastic way of landing clients, especially if you want to write creatively for your job.

Note, if you’re trying to break into content writing for businesses, showing them creative writing samples may not be the best avenue for you. Consider the niche you want to break into and decide whether this is an appropriate way of creating your portfolio when you’re first getting started.

7) Create ‘Hypothetical’ Portfolio Pieces

Is there a big brand that you would love to write for? Or have you seen a campaign recently that has just fallen so short of what it could have been?

Use these opportunities to create hypothetical samples to add to your portfolio.

What I mean by this is to re-write that brands campaign, or even re-do the copy on a big brands website in a re-creation of the site. Although you won’t have published this work anywhere, it does show a lot of initiative and creativity – and that’s what will really impress future potential clients checking out your work.

When you’re first getting started as a freelance writer, this option is a great way of showing off your writing skills and your creativity – plus, you don’t need anyone’s permission to create your own content from scratch!