How To Build A Copywriting Portfolio (Or Any Freelance Portfolio)

how to build a copywriting portfolio

There are a lot of questions surrounding copywriting portfolios and portfolios for all types of freelancers.

When I started freelancing, I didn’t really think about my copywriting portfolio. I still don’t to this day – it shouldn’t be a major thing that takes time away from your life. I think that people use the idea of “portfolio building” to seem busier than they are and to avoid doing actual work.

Some people will say, “Your portfolio sells your service.” I’ve never thought of it like that, and I think it’s dangerous to try and create a portfolio that sells your business. The reason it’s dangerous is that your copywriting portfolio (or whatever) can easily turn into a time-sink where you spend hours and hours trying to perfect the work in there.

This is not profitable in any way, shape or form.

Your portfolio is a collection of work – and not a selling tool. Let’s look at that thought in more detail.

What Is A Portfolio?

A portfolio is a collection of your work. It’s a simple explanation. More often than not, your portfolio is a set of your best work examples – but copywriting portfolios, web design portfolios and ghostwriting portfolios (among others) might simply be a collection of your sort-of best work due to NDA’s and the like.

Hopefully you’re with me so far. Where it gets tricky is when you’re discussing the role of your portfolio. As I said above, it’s not really a selling tool, despite most people thinking of it as such.

Instead, you need to think about your portfolio as evidence of your ability; something which you don’t rely on to sell your client but – should they ask – something available for them to look at if they want.

If you do this, then your portfolio – or the portfolio of the people you’re hiring – is not a sales tool but it is an important document.

When you think of your portfolio as evidence you have a clear roadmap for how to build a portfolio. You also have something that a lot of freelancers miss. Let’s take a detour and talk about that for a second.

What To Look For In A Portfolio When Hiring

If you run a business or website of any kind, you are inundated with tons of spam emails offering this, that or the other. These are usually related to getting you traffic, doing your marketing or increasing your website conversions.

I’m mentioning this because there are a lot of people who read entrepreneur forums and think that they are going to make a ton of money by using the cookie-cutter methods they find online.

They’ll buy a piece of software that “builds backlinks” and “auto-posts to Twitter” and they’ll market themselves as a marketing expert.

A lot of these people talk the talk really well, so unless you have direct knowledge of the service they’re selling, you might be taken in.

However, if you’re hiring, you need to ask for evidence that they know what they’re doing. A track record is something that a lot of would-be freelancers don’t have.

Essentially, the portfolio is evidence that you’re hiring someone who can bring the results that they promise.

Now we’ll move on to what that means for a freelancer.

When You Want To Be Hired

Unsurprisingly, when you want to be hired, you need to do the opposite of what the foolish freelancer does above.

You need to sell yourself with your sales chatter, and provide a portfolio as a piece of solid, non-salesy evidence to prove you can do what you are selling yourself as being able to.

The key rule to observe here is “don’t talk rubbish.” Don’t say you can do something when you can’t, don’t try and use the portfolio as a means of convincing someone further – if you’ve gotten to the point where they ask to look at your portfolio, then they are already sold. You just need to keep to the script.

Think of it like buying a phone (or, wherever you find an annoying salesman.) You go into the phone shop, you swat the salesmen off long enough to grab the phone you like, you go to a salesman and say, “I’d like to try out this one” and then you buy it.

During the buying process, there’s nothing worse than the salesman who sells you on warranties, upgrades and stupid phone covers with cats on them. It just irritates people and makes them more likely to bail at the last minute.

If you sell yourself well, then you don’t need to sell in your portfolio. You’re just crossing the T’s at the “we’d like to see your evidence” stage.

Now, as far as “I don’t have a portfolio at all, how do I prove anything?” goes, read on…

General, Simple Goals You Could Have

Demonstrating your experience in something is pretty straightforward when you stop assuming that you’ve got to wow, sell and impress the client.

Think of your portfolio as a simple set of case studies. This will vary depending on the sort of job you’re going for. Here are some things that you could include though:

  • Rank a single page for a decent search term – bonus points if it’s a sales page/page which makes actual money
  • Actually gain followers on social media in a short period. Bonus points if you do it multiple times across multiple accounts
  • Write an article that actually converts (as in you can demonstrate the figures. This means building your own projects.)
  • Design a decent-looking website or landing page.
  • Write a single short story or non-fiction e-book of a few thousand words.
  • Create a simple programming application that’s got a real world use – bonus points if it has a graphic interface

All of these things are real-world tested and will help you.

They’re also projects that you can do in a day at-most. You’ll only need a couple to a handful of examples of each.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up my thoughts on portfolios. Really, you can summarise this article in a key point:

  • Don’t use your portfolio to sell, use it as evidence.

Once you complete that simple mindset shift, everything falls into place. A portfolio demonstrates your work and potential. If you do this and leave the selling to your pitches, you’ll find it easier to build a successful freelance portfolio.

About the author

Jamie McSloy

My name is Jamie McSloy. I'm a writer from the UK. This site is about the business of being a writer. Copywriting, Content Marketing, Publishing and all forms of writing will be discussed here. Learn More About Me


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