3 Proven Ways to Build a Writing Portfolio from Scratch

One of the most common questions I get asked from aspiring freelancers is how to build a writing portfolio from scratch. Many of them are just starting out and feel at a loss when it comes to creating a collection of writing clips.

I get it because I’ve been there. We all have. All the freelancers who write for this blog started with nothing and had to build their way up. The good news is it’s actually pretty easy to build a writing portfolio from scratch.

Start a Blog

Maybe starting a blog to build a writing portfolio sounds like beating a dead horse. Maybe you’re even rolling your eyes right now thinking, “Really? Another online entrepreneur telling me to start a blog?”

There’s a reason why starting a blog to build a writing portfolio is common advice – it’s because it works. Not only does it work, it also puts you well on track to beginning to build your own brand and it’s very low cost.

Just note that you’ll probably want to get your own hosting and domain for this. This usually looks far more professional than a free blog.

Guest Post

I recently joined an online community of location independent entrepreneurs and saw a thread about freelance writing. Someone was complaining that they were beginning their freelance writing journey and were astonished by the low rates on they were seeing on job boards.

Someone else responded with an interesting suggestion. They suggested that this person was better off guest posting on related authority niche sites for free than to waste their time on low wages writing for websites no one will ever see.

I stopped to ponder this for a second and concluded that the person commenting was right. By spending your time on sites that actually build your authority – even if you aren’t getting paid – you boost your credibility which can help you when pitching clients and building your business.

It looks much better to have “X Authority Site” in your portfolio than it does to show clips of work you did for irrelevant sites for low pay. People can usually tell when it’s the latter.

Start Pitching Strategically

Just because you may not have a beautiful portfolio yet doesn’t mean you can’t start pitching. Back in 2010 when I was just starting out I pitched to websites I was following all the time.

Did they all let me write for them? No. But some of them did and one of those articles I wrote even went viral.

When pitching you want to make sure you are being strategic. Speaking as someone who gets pitched all the time, there is nothing more annoying than receiving some blind pitch from someone who has clearly never even read my blog.

Furthermore, I would give an unknown person a chance if they came up with a good angle followed by quality content. Lots of editors would too.

Study the sites you want to pitch, see what angles they are missing and craft a pitch. You have nothing to lose.

Final Thoughts

If you’re just starting out in your freelance journey make sure to use these tips to help you build a writing portfolio from scratch. Some of these are strategies you’ll want to keep in place even as your career grows.