You’ve probably run across hundreds of job advertisements for writers “with experience”. They’ll include those tell-tale phrases like, “Include Two Clips” or “References Required”. When you are just starting out in the freelance writing world, you probably don’t have any clips at all, much less references you can provide for prospective employers. So here’s the question: How do you get freelance writing jobs when you have no portfolio?
Some freelance writers will tell you that you can’t possibly land a job without a portfolio. They’ll tell you that before you market your work to potential clients, you should pursue publication in a magazine or trade journal so that you’ll have clips to furnish. However, many writers don’t have the time nor the resources to query magazines and trade journals before starting their freelance writing career, so you’ll have to pursue other methods.
Don’t Make Them Up
The first rule if thumb is that you cannot “make up” portfolio pieces to send to prospective clients. First, they will probably check up on the publication of your pieces, and secondly, it just isn’t a good way to start your career. Instead, use one of the following ideas for making yourself attractive to clients without a portfolio.
The website on which you are reading this article – AssociatedContent.com – is a great way for freelance writers to start a portfolio. I have been contacted more than a dozen times based on my writing here, and I’ve heard similar stories from other Content Producers on AC. Not only can you start to build a portfolio, but you can also earn money for your work while you gain experience.
I would never advise a freelance writer to work for free, so if a client asks you to write an article or promotional materials for free to demonstrate your talent, run the other way. However, you can write examples and post them on your website as a testament to your talent, which is almost as good as published clips. Most clients just want to know that you can write, not that you have been published.
Offer a Lower Price
While you should never ever work for free, you can offer a lower price than your competitors in order to build a portfolio. Let potential clients know that you are new to the freelance writing world, but that you are sufficiently confident in your own abilities that you are willing to offer a discount. Be careful, however, that the client doesn’t take advantage of you, and your discount shouldn’t be more than 10-20% off the normally accepted rate.
Outsource Your Skills to a Freelance Writing Company
This method has worked well for a few friends of mine, and it might work for you as well. Many of the larger freelance writing companies are always looking for other writers to whom they can outsource extraneous work. For example, if they find themselves overloaded with clients, they consider it more profitable to outsource the work than to turn down clients. Contact freelance writing companies that you find on the Internet and ask them if they are looking to outsource.
I’m not saying that getting freelance writing jobs will be easy without a portfolio, but it certainly can be done. Avoid misrepresenting yourself or your work, and someone will take a chance on your skills. Make sure that you are always professional with clients, and as soon as you get a job, begin to build your portfolio.