Ah, yes. The biggest freelancing catch 22 of them all. How do you build a portfolio if you don’t have clients… And how do you get clients if you don’t a portfolio? Trust me, there is a way.
5 in fact! Keep reading to learn my 5 tips for building a portfolio with NO experience.
Hey guys! It’s Alex.
And this week, I’m addressing one of the most frequently asked questions I get. Alex, how do I build my copywriting portfolio if I have zero experience copywriting?
Well, I’m here to assure you that there is a way, you are NOT stuck, and I have real life stories to prove it!
And if you want more strategies and starter kits from the world of copywriting and marketing, you know what to do — hit subscribe to my YouTube Channel and join the copy posse!
Every single week I share a new copywriting or marketing tutorial based on my own 8+ year journey of diving into this lucrative, creative, and innovative industry… And building a successful copywriting business of my own.
So let’s get into this week’s how-to — here are five tips for building a copywriting portfolio even if you’ve never been paid to do any copywriting!
Tip #1: Do An Experience & Skills Round-Up
A lot of the time, people tend to underestimate the experience that they already have in the books, and don’t realize that hey — copywriting is not just writing! In fact, I’d say that 50% of the actual work happens BEFORE copy ever gets written. It’s about researching, ideating, conceptualizing, and strategizing long before it’s about putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys.
And even if you’re young with little job experience, you weren’t born yesterday! If you were, you’d be a basically baby genius for understanding what I’m even saying…
So for example, if you have ever written an impressive report or contributed to a newspaper or online publication. Or, if you used to write memos or briefs or presentation decks in your previous job. Or, if you used to work in a related role such as a social media manager or project manager where writing was required. These are all related skills!
I recently hired someone to join my team whose background is mainly in research. She had zero experience copywriting but had a passion to learn and her previous work showcased her ability to research, framework ideas and effectively communicate, which became one of the main reasons I said yes and hired her!
So yes, carry anything forward from your previous work experience or education as you can. Even if they’re not specifically copywriting!
Tip #2: Join A Practical Copywriting Program
Great copywriting courses don’t just teach you the right techniques and show you the best templates — they also help you WRITE actual copy so that you walk away with key assets and samples that you can then add to your portfolio… Even if it’s not something you were paid to do.
Of course, you’ll want to be clear in your portfolio that these writing assets were from a program (and not a paid client) but trust me… The main thing your potential clients care about is your ability to hook, connect, engage, and compel them with your copy.
At the end of the day, they need you to be the voice and the messenger for their brand. So if you come forward with a portfolio of great copywriting pieces that showcases your ability, it doesn’t matter where they come from. You’re in like sin.
And, if you’re ready to commit to igniting your copywriting business this year and get some serious practical training so you can confidently put yourself out there… I’m here to help.
My Copy Posse Launch Pad program is designed to give you all the high-converting copywriting skills you need to scale your business and build your portfolio from scratch
Tip #3: Rewrite or Critique Existing Copy
There is absolutely no harm in reaching out to companies that are hiring (or that are potentially hiring) to offer some free copy editing or critiquing as a way to get their attention and lead with value.
In my recent webinar with copywriter Zach Browman, he too advised copywriters to send a quick copy review to potential clients so that they can get a preview of your work and expertise. It can be a short email that offers 3 tips on how they can improve their homepage copy, for example. Then offer to help them re-write it! The worse they could say is no thanks. And, if they accept your advice and agree to hire you great — that’s experience for you to add to your portfolio!
Many clients and companies looking to hire copywriters will ask you to complete some copywriting tests or samples as part of the recruitment process anyway. So why not beat them to it by getting it done in advance?
One of the copywriters on my team now once got hired by one of the top personal growth companies in the world by sending in her version of one of their best performing sales pages, without being asked.
It was a daring initiative on her part as she was new to copywriting at the time, and she did spend a lot of time on it, but the point is… She got their attention, and they hired her on the spot!
The rule of thumb here is to remain honest about your work. If you’re adding the copy piece you decided to rewrite in your portfolio, do NOT take full credit. Be clear that it was for a “rewrite” of an existing page.
Ok, tip #4.
Tip #4: Start A Blog
Even if you’re not looking to be a content writer, a public blog is a great way to showcase your writing abilities.
Blog writing, no matter the format, style or topic you decide to write about, still showcases an understanding of some of the key fundamentals of copywriting such as hooks and headlines. So it can still be used as a reliable writing reference!
In fact, when hiring a social media manager a few weeks ago, I interviewed a few different applicants, some with prior social media experience some without. The girl I ended up hiring actually had ZERO social media experience, but she caught my attention because she included a link to her personal pop culture blog in her application.
Although the blog content had nothing to do with the role she applied for, I was able to gauge her writing style, her tone, and her delivery, which was a huge plus because writing social media captions and supporting the content team would be a huge part of her role. I knew her flair for words and passion for writing was more important than having specific experience that I could easily train for. Lastly, tip #5…
Tip #5: Customize Your Portfolio
Once you have your writing materials packaged up and ready to send out to the world — here’s another very important tip that I even give to experienced copywriters: personalize your portfolio for the client you’re sending it to.
Don’t just blanket blast it out to everyone. Getting clients is NOT a one-size-fits-all approach. You must curate the content so that it’s relevant to the industry and the company you’re hoping to get in the door with.
Include a personal note and cover letter that shares why you’re excited about their brand and what’s unique about you offer. Share why you chose the pieces that you featured in your portfolio, and include some highlights or lessons that you learned from the experience.
And last but not least, keep it clean and simple. Send your portfolio in a format that’s easy for them to access, open or download. Don’t send a messy folder that’s not labeled or organized properly and is hard to navigate. And do NOT send an email with a bunch of attachments. I usually use Dropbox or Google Drive to share my documents, and make sure that access is given so they don’t need to request it!
And, no matter what, BE HONEST ABOUT WHERE YOU’RE AT. Don’t embellish and amplify your abilities. A lot of clients are looking for green writers. Fresh writers have the potential to grow with their company and shape their writing to fit the brand voice.
So just keep it real homies.
Watch This Instead
I hope this gives you some assurance that you have and can provide value even if you don’t have official copywriting experience yet.
If you want to find out more about the 101s of freelance copywriting — check out my video on How To Become A Freelance Copywriter & Get Your First Client here.
Thanks for watching and subscribing to my YouTube Channel guys, I’ll see you in my next post. Ciao for now!
Hi Alex, this is going to reveal just how green I am in this field but I must ask the question. I love to write and I believe I am a good copywriter. I have written content for one client and was pretty successful at it. However, I have a little secret and that is, I am not tech-savvy. Can I be a copywriter if I don’t know how to put a website together?
100% I have no idea how to put a website together 😉
This is very informative and helpful. I have been looking to get into copywriting for a few months, I’ll have to make up some sample copywriter pieces. I love writing and I have a great knack for research, my university degree was spent with 80% research. I’m great with creativity and thinking of new ideas, this field seems like I’d feel right at home!
Anytime! Thanks for being a part of the Copy Posse community 🥳
~Copy Posse Team
Thank you for your expert advice. I am relatively new to copywriting, much more familiar with content and creative writing for my Social and Art Blog. I sought copywriting as a way to grow within the field. Thnx
Awesome! So glad you’re loving it and applying the content 😀
I have been researching copywriting for almost a year and don’t know where to start?
My niche is poetry. How can I make this a copywriting career?
Hmm that’s a tough one! Do you want to be a poetry editor or write the marketing for poetry books/authors? The first one would be a different path and the second one you will want to work with publishing companies. Both are possible! Try and find gigs on indeed or upwork and see what comes up. One thing I will suggest is picking a niche that is indemand. Poetry is quite a small community and the more creative niches are more competitive and make you less money.
Hope that helps!
I have been watching your Youtube videos for at least a year. I gained a good foundation in English grammar after teaching ESL in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. While I was teaching in Kuwait, I wrote and self-published a silly little children’s book.
That’s so awesome! Well done 🙂