How to Build a Portfolio of Samples to Showcase Your Web Writing
By Sid Smith
I don’t lie well. That’s a good thing, I suppose… but there are moments when I think the ability to BS is underrated.
For example, when I decided to become a copywriter… my first step was to call everyone I knew. Many of my good friends referred me to connections they had a various businesses they knew who could use help with their copy.
I was just certain I was going to crack six-even seven-figures in no time at all. Then came the question.
“Can you send me some samples of your work?”
That’s when the ability to BS just a little bit might have been useful. But not me. Oh, no. I froze.
The first time I got that question, I actually ignored the email, I was so unsure of how to answer. Not a stellar marketing strategy. Boy, did I feel in over my head.
Since honesty is the best policy-even when other options are tempting-I finally just bit the bullet and answered the question with the truth. “I’m new and I don’t have any samples.”
I was amazed when my first client hired me anyway. I worked at a substantial discount, but I didn’t care. Hey, it was work, and I was glad to have the sample to show next time I pitched myself.
The entire process underscored something about marketing copywriting services when you’re new… a portfolio is nice. So nice, that you should spend a good deal of your initial time and energy building up a solid portfolio that shows off your skills writing for the web.
At then end of the day, your portfolio is as much for you as it is for marketing your web writing services. Eventually, most of your prospect won’t ask you for samples. They’ll have been referred to you by someone they trust, and under those circumstances, most people won’t be too worried about seeing proof of your work.
But that doesn’t mean building a portfolio showing work you’ve done writing for the web is a step you should overlook.
Marketing copywriting services online is easier with a portfolio
Building a solid portfolio builds your confidence as a copywriter-and confidence is an important marketing asset. When you’re new to copywriting, the challenge is to build your portfolio as quickly as possible.
I’ve put together a four-step formula that I used when I wanted to do more writing for the web. This is the quickest way I know to build your portfolio as a web copywriter… and land some new clients in the process! Plus you’ll sharpen your web writing skills. It’s a win-win-win process for any online copywriter.
1Find the fastest growing businesses in your neck of the woods.
Go to bizjournals.com/bookoflists and by the downloadable version of the Business Journal Book of Lists for the city nearest you. Inside, you’ll find a number of lists you can use to connect with local businesses. My favorite list is of the top 100 fastest growing businesses-you even get the contact information for each business. It’s pretty sweet.
2Focus on industries in which you have some expertise.
This step isn’t required, but when you’re just starting out as a copywriter or trying to offer a new service having some expertise in the industries you approach will help. For one thing, it helps you write faster, and this is all about building your portfolio fast.
3Re-write their website’s homepage copy and critique the entire site.
There are lots of ways to do this. I’m a techie, so I download their homepage into a “What you see is what you get” website editor. I can edit it just like I was working in Word, but then when I’m done, I can show them what the new copy looks like on their web page, leaving as little to the imagination as possible.
You don’t have to do it that way though. You can just copy and paste the web copy into Word and edit from there. When you’re done, put together a “Before and After” page and include it in your portfolio. Next, add some specific suggestions on how this company can improve their site by improving lead generation and conversion rates. Include this information in your portfolio with the “Before and After” page.
4Go one step further and try to land the client.
You’ve already put in a good deal of thought and consideration about this company’s website. Granted you did this to boost your portfolio, but you may as well approach the company with what you’ve come up with. Scary? Yes. But also potentially rewarding. Here’s what I do. I write a letter to the head of the marketing department and explain that as a web copywriter, I regularly analyze business websites in an effort to stay sharp. Then I say that when I analyzed their site I found noticed some things that could improve their sales.
I always offer some of my ideas in the initial contact, just to show them I know what I’m about. I don’t sell in the first contact. Instead I focus on building the relationship, and I’ve landed some nice clients with this way. The downside is that you might offend the marketing person, but I’ve found that happens rarely and that the upside-new relationships and new clients-is well worth the risk.
I’ve noticed that most business websites-I mean the VAST majority here have pretty bad copy on their websites. The sites themselves are usually very pretty, but the copy is an afterthought. Consider stepping in and offering your services to these companies. If you can improve their lead generation efforts and their sales conversions, then you’ll be a hero and your portfolio will grow till it’s bursting at the seams.