Four Ways to Create a Career-Building Portfolio

Is this you? You’ve taken AWAI programs on web copywriting, built your professional freelance web-writing website, and know all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). But, you haven’t landed a client yet, and now you’re wondering, what next?

A strong portfolio of your web copywriting samples can help you land your first project, but as the new kid on the block, you may not have anything to show. Don’t despair. I was recently in the same situation when I switched from working as a print journalist to a web copywriter focusing on the health and fitness industry. Although I have many published articles, there are few I could use for my copywriting niche. Even so, I was able to put together a solid portfolio that proves to prospective clients I have the skills they need.

You can create your own attention-grabbing portfolio even if your writing samples currently number at zero. Just choose one or more of the following four strategies, and you’ll have a portfolio you can be proud of in no time:

 1. Volunteer for nonprofit organizations and small businesses.

My area of specialization within the health and fitness industry is engagement marketing — such as writing e-letters, blogs, and social media. I decided to volunteer with the local public relations society because I knew it would be a good way to gain experience in the kind of writing I wanted to be doing.

I spent a few months writing the weekly e-letter for the society, and then was voted in as the new communications director for the coming year. Now I will have free rein to create a strategy that will get more members to open their emails. And, I’ll come away with plenty of e-letter, blog, and social media posts to add to my portfolio. The samples will not all be specifically in my niche, but they do highlight my writing skills and ability to engage with the audience.

Sound like a lot of work? It is! But it’s worth it because I get real samples for my portfolio, top-notch testimonials for my website, and recognition as an engagement marketing expert. And the public relations society gets a dedicated volunteer. It’s a win-win situation!

2. Use your AWAI samples.

Have you completed writing assignments for AWAI programs? Or have you submitted an article, autoresponder, or other type of assignment for a Bootcamp or Web Copywriting Intensive spec? You can use it as a sample even if it hasn’t been published yet. Just give it a professional look (I get a designer friend to help me), and then make it into a PDF.

After the Web Copywriting Intensive, I wrote an autoresponder for the paid writing assignment. As soon as it appears on the AWAI website, I will take a screenshot and post it on my portfolio page. It will give any prospective client a good idea of my ability to take on an email campaign.

3. Use samples of print articles if they are related to your niche.

Have you ever published an article in a newspaper, magazine, trade publication, or newsletter? It’s actually pretty easy to get published in local magazines if you know the audience and tone of the magazine and can write a creative hook that impresses the editor.

I recently pitched an idea for a health and fitness article, and the editor loved it! I ended up with a published article in the health and fitness section of a local magazine and can use it as a portfolio sample — until I can replace it with a sample from a website.

4. Start a blog.

Writing a blog is probably the easiest way to gain recognition as a copywriter in your niche (and gives you a reason to write regularly, too!). After years of toying with the idea of starting a blog, I finally began a copywriting blog instructing those with health and fitness businesses how to engage with their audiences. It gives me tons of exposure and an opportunity to engage with interested clients.

Once you start publishing regularly to your blog, it becomes an excellent source of samples for your portfolio. Make sure you provide a link to your blog on your portfolio web page.

Make your portfolio page look professional with thumbnails of your samples.

Once you have samples to put on your portfolio page, it’s time to give your portfolio a professional look. For each entry, include a thumbnail of either the website where your writing appeared or the magazine cover if you’re using a print article. Then, give a brief description of the project and add a link to the PDF of your writing. If you used WordPress to build your website, you can easily create website thumbnails and customize your layout with a WordPress portfolio plugin.

So, even though you’re just starting out as a web copywriter, showcase your best work, paid or unpaid, in the most appealing manner on your portfolio page. It won’t take long before you have more professional-looking samples from paid writing projects. The important thing is to get started so you can prove to prospective clients that you are the best choice for their web-writing project.

Linda Wilkinson specializes in engagement marketing for the health and fitness industry by writing for e-newsletters, emails, blogs, social media, and creating engaging SEO web content. Find out more at www.anvayacommunications.com

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Linda Wilkinson

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