Every beginner who decides to enter into a new profession is faced with the same conundrum:
To get hired, you need experience; but to get experience, you need to get hired.
As a freelance writer, you can prove that you have experience by showing potential clients your content writing samples in your portfolio.
But without getting hired, how do you get content writing samples?
I’m glad you asked!
You don’t necessarily need to be hired and paid to write your content samples.
You just need to be able to show potential clients that you know how to write the type of content they’re looking for.
Here are seven totally brilliant ways to get a few good content writing samples added to your portfolio without having to get hired first.
1. Use Previous Projects You’ve Worked On
Did you ever consider that some of your content writing samples might already exist without you realizing it?
Chances are you’ve had other jobs, or helped out on certain projects (perhaps voluntarily), or went to school.
Now is the time to reflect on some of the projects you’ve previously worked on to see if any of them are relevant enough to serve as content writing samples for your portfolio.
Examples might include:
- Marketing campaigns
- Press releases
- Blog posts
- Web page copy
- Email copy
- Instruction/how-to guides
Take an hour or so to go through your computer files, emails, and paper files to see if there’s anything you can find.
Just make sure that the content is relevant to the clients you want to target.
Obviously, if you want to write landing page copy, potential clients aren’t going to want to read an essay you wrote on one of Shakespeare’s plays.
And hey, if you find something you can use, but it’s not perfect, don’t sweat it.
At least you’ll have material to work with.
You can always take a previous project and make revisions to it before you add it to your portfolio.
2. Start Your Own Blog Targeted Toward Your Ideal Client
If you already have a writer website set up for yourself, then you have the perfect opportunity take advantage of it by including a blog.
Many free and almost all paid website platforms include blog sections, so you just have to find out how to integrate it on your site and perhaps add it as a new page to your main menu.
Just keep in mind that even though your blog is yours, your blog posts shouldn’t be about you at all.
Don’t expect to be writing blog posts about personal topics.
Like your website, your blog should serve your ideal client.
Make sure you research your ideal client well and find out what kind of content they’re really looking for.
Anything you publish on your own blog can also help you rank organically in the search engines so your ideal clients may stumble across your blog (and thus your website) just by doing a simple Google search.
Starting your own blog is especially helpful if you want to get hired to write blog post content.
And because it’s your blog, you can add a strong call to action at the very end, like a form for a consultation or a quote.
3. Submit Guest Blog Posts to Blogs in Your Niche
Becoming a guest post blogger on popular blogs is great for three big reasons:
- You can use guest blog posts as content writing samples for your portfolio.
- You can gain exposure to new potential clients who read those blogs.
- You can use your blog content and author bio to build backlinks to your writer website (which will help with your site’s search rankings).
In fact, guest posting is a such a smart way to market yourself that you should seriously consider doing it even when you already have a healthy portfolio of work.
The key to making sure you get all three perks is by targeting blogs that you’re ideal client reads and targeting blogs that get a fair bit of traffic.
Just like writing your own blog posts, you’ll need to do some research about your niche and ideal client to find out what kinds of blogs they read.
You can find blogs that accept guest blog posts by performing the following searches in Google:
[niche keyword] + blog + write for us
[niche keyword] + blog + guest post
[niche keyword] + blog + guest blog
[niche keyword] + blog + guest write
[niche keyword] + blog + writers wanted
[niche keyword] + blog + writers needed
[niche keyword] + blog + submit a post
[niche keyword] + blog + submit an article
Just plug your specific niche keyword(s) in the first part above.
These searches will show you search results for blogs’ guest post submission pages, which will help cut down on having to search blogs manually to see if they accept blog posts at all.
Tip: If there’s a particular blog you already know about and really want to guest post for, but there’s no information about guest posting, you can try contacting the site owner or editor about it.
And if you really want to impress them, pitch 1 to 3 post ideas that fit the blog’s audience and haven’t been written about before.
4. Publish Content on Medium
Medium is a publishing platform that combines self-publishing with the benefits of exposure to a built-in audience.
It’s like having your own blog on an already established platform, which means you can get your articles to rank in the search engines and build a network or readership from its already existing audience.
Medium is used by some of the most successful and renowned professionals in the world who specialize in a wide range of industries.
You can find some of the highest quality content on this platform and you may have even stumbled across a Medium article in Google search results.
While you won’t be guaranteed to get readers right off the bat, you’re more likely to get them if you categorize your published articles correctly and use the platform’s social features by following other users and liking or commenting on their articles.
You can certainly increase your chances of getting more exposure by pitching any one of the 43 active publications on Medium, which have lots of loyal followers and readers.
The biggest downside to using Medium?
There’s a paywall now.
Anyone can read up to three articles for free every month, but after that, they’ll be asked to upgrade to a $5 monthly subscription.
Despite the inconveniences of the paywall, it’s not a total dealbreaker.
Medium is still very much worth joining and publishing on if you’re looking to beef up your content writing samples and market yourself at the same time.
It’s also free to join and publish content — the subscription only exists for those who want to read more than three articles a month.
Just be aware that if you link to a Medium article you wrote in your portfolio, there’s a chance that visitors to your site might not be able to read the whole thing if they’re don’t have a premium Medium subscription.
5. Publish Content on LinkedIn Pulse
You can certainly publish something an on Medium and then go ahead and publish the same thing over on LinkedIn Pulse.
Lots of professionals do this to take advantage of each platform’s audience.
Then you ahave the option to link to the LinkedIn Pulse article over the one on Medium, because LinkedIn Pulse doesn’t have a paywall.
So, what is LinkedIn Pulse, anyway?
Well, similar to Medium, it’s another publishing platform — except it’s integrated with LinkedIn.
If you’re not totally sure what LinkedIn is all about, all you really need to know is that it’s like Facebook for professionals.
You make a profile, then use it to connect with past and existing colleagues or scope out new people of interest.
Many people swear by it for helping them build their professional network and advance their career.
LinkedIn Pulse is built right into your account.
All you have to do is select “Write an article” on the homepage (beneath the post composer) to open the publishing too and start crafting your content.
The extra benefit of publishing on LinkedIn Pulse is that your posts are automatically shared within your network through the feed.
Similar to how you see friends’ posts in your Facebook feed, your LinkedIn Pulse posts will show up in your connections’ feeds.
6. Create Your Own Copywriting Samples With Carrd
Your own blog, other blogs, Medium, and LinkedIn Pulse are all great for showcasing content-related samples that serve to inform, educate, or entertain readers.
They’re also fantastic ways to market yourself and your business.
But what about copywriting samples?
Let’s face it — sales or branding copy doesn’t exactly belong in a blog post.
That’s where the brilliant tool Caard comes into play!
Caard is a free and intuitive landing page building tool that you can use for almost anything.
If you’re looking to break into copywriting, I highly recommend picking an existing website, product, or service and crafting copy for it as if it were a real project.
Then you can use Caard to display your copy professionally as if it were a real web page, product listing, advertisement, or anything else.
Don’t worry — this won’t turn potential clients off.
Potential clients are more interested in seeing your skills in action than seeing a track record of past clients.
7. Free Trial Job Postings
I never encourage anyone to write for clients for free… unless you’re starting from ground zero.
If you’re a complete beginner and you don’t have any content writing samples at all in your portfolio, then writing for free can be a good opportunity to get a few samples.
You can go scour the gig listings on sites like ProBlogger and look for relevant gigs that are asking for trial pieces to be submitted first before the final candidate is chosen.
There are a few advantages to going for these types of gigs when you’re just starting out:
Potential Low Competition
Although competition is generally high on freelance writing job boards, it may be significantly lower for gigs that request trial submissions since many writers won’t go through the trouble of it.
Potential to Get Hired
If you do good work and the client likes yours the best, you could end up with an actual paid gig.
Potential for Feedback
Not being chosen for the gig doesn’t mean that your work was bad.
It just means that there were several submissions and the client chose someone else for reasons unknown.
You could always reach out and ask to get feedback on how you could potentially improve.
A Useful Sample Piece Regardless of Outcome
Whether you’re chosen for the gig or not, you’ll have a sample piece to add to your portfolio.
Once you have at least five samples in your portfolio, you have enough work to demonstrate your skills, so you can forget about applying for free trial postings after that.
So there you have it!
Seven unique and creative ways to get content writing samples from scratch, without needing to get hired first.
Make sure you check out my previous blog post on free portfolio sites if you don’t already have a self-hosted website.
How did you get samples as a beginner?
I’m curious to know how you build your portfolio from scratch.
Did you use any of the methods shared above?
Let me know by leaving comment!