It’s a bit of a ‘chicken and egg’ situation.
You’re looking for work but everyone keeps asking to see your portfolio. The trouble is, you need to do the work… in order to fill the portfolio… in order to get the work…
So how do you get your portfolio off the ground, while you’re looking for those first few client projects?
Write for a local business
Speak to your friends, family and local community. See whether any local businesses or social clubs need help with their writing. This could be new copy for a website, a blog or even print items such as brochures or leaflets. Just make sure that everyone’s happy for you to include whatever you write in your portfolio.
Look for voluntary opportunities
Taking on voluntary assignments is a great way of building a portfolio quickly. Do a Google search and see if anyone is looking for writers. If you’re planning on specialising in a particular sector, look for opportunities in that area. If not, try to find a subject that interests you. I absolutely love theatre so I started off writing reviews for theatre websites. I got some great experience, a full portfolio and free theatre tickets- what’s not to love?!
Write your own blog
As a newbie writer, a blog is an important marketing tool to have in your arsenal. It shows you’re serious about your business, demonstrates your skills and builds your online presence, all in one hit. It’s also great content to tie-in with any social media or email marketing you may be doing. If you’re just starting out, now’s a great time to get those posts written. (You’ll be glad you did, when things get busy!)
Producing guest articles for established writers or organisations is a great way of getting exposure. It gives you credibility because they’ve chosen to display your work. It also gives you valuable experience of writing to a brief and a set deadline. What’s more, you’ll get your work in front of a whole new audience.
A couple of quick notes on working for free:
- Remember: it doesn’t mean your writing isn’t worth paying for. It’s just a simple case of supply and demand. They need some writing, you need a portfolio, so it’s a fair swap. Once you’ve got your portfolio in place, your priority will be to earn money on each job, and that’s fair enough.
- Be careful about advertising the fact that the work was voluntary. If people assume your work is paid for, it makes you appear more professional. It’ll also prevent too many people from expecting freebies later on. You don’t have to be dishonest about it. If people ask, then tell them. I’d just avoid putting a big, neon ‘this was free’ banner on your website.