Marketing

How Do I Build a Copywriting Portfolio?

You’ve heard that copywriting is a lucrative niche. You’ve thought about expanding your services to include web pages, ads, and direct-response campaigns, but something’s holding you back.

It’s your copywriting portfolio.

How Do I Build a Copywriting Portfolio?

For most writers, that “something” is not knowing where or how to begin. After all, how can you break into a competitive field like copywriting when you don’t even have a portfolio?

Can you break into a copywriting when you don’t have a portfolio?

I was in your shoes not too long ago. I started with an empty portfolio and zero experience. Sure, I had blogging samples galore but not a stitch of copy that would turn anybody’s head. Now less than a year later, I run a successful copywriting business from home.

And you can, too.

How to Start a Copywriting Portfolio from Scratch

True story:

After I built my first writer’s site, I started poring through the job boards. Desperate to gain experience and build a solid portfolio, I pitched to any ad that seemed within my ability. The vast majority of these were blogging gigs, but one day, I stumbled on an interesting job description on Craigslist (I know, I know…but keep reading – it worked out!). It was a freelance photographer needing an ad for his upcoming webinar. He had some boring copy and wanted it jazzed up a bit.

To keep it short:

I reached out to him. He responded. I got the gig. Guess what the pay was? $150. The ad was just over a paragraph long, and it took me a whopping 30 minutes. How’s that for an hourly rate?!

The moral of the story is this: It’s entirely possible to break into copywriting with no portfolio. You do, however, want to build one as fast as possible…if you want to make the big bucks, that is.

Here are a few tips to get your copywriting portfolio up and running, even if you’re a newbie.

1. Find Desperate Clients & Offer Free Services

I know nobody wants to work for free, but hear me out. When you’re trying to break into writing and build a copywriting portfolio, you have to start somewhere.

Enter: terrible websites.

It’s happened to all of us. You’re surfing the web and stumble on a site that screams “Help Me!” I’m not one to take advantage of someone when they’re down, but in this case, go for it! Show them their untapped potential by re-writing a (very) small section of their site. Focus on creating an epic headline and amazing content.

Then, contact them and explain how they’re losing business with boring copy (don’t say boring– be nice). After you’ve stated the problem, deliver a solution they can’t ignore – your totally FREE revised version, along with an offer to do the rest of their site for a modest fee.

Chances are pretty good they’ll go for it, and you have a quick clip for your copywriter portfolio.

2. Reach Out to Friends

This tip is an oldie but a goodie. Most of us know at least one person who owns a business. Hit them up, and offer to update their webpage, write a brochure, or throw together a quick ad for free.

They’ll appreciate the favor, and you’ll gain experience, another sample piece, and maybe even a few referrals. Plus, friends and family tend to pay up anyway for a job well done, so this option may just end in your first paid gig.

3. Respond to Job Ads with a Personalized Sample

When companies post ads, emails flood their inbox for weeks. And guess what?

Most of them look exactly alike. You have to find a way to stand out from the crowd, but how do you do that when everyone else is more experienced? By including a short sample geared to their unique needs and industry.

This can help you create a copywriting portfolio quickly.

I’m not talking about giving them a whole page or an entire email series. You can entice them with just enough to show that you can do the job and do it well.

For example, say you’re applying to a parenting brand who needs copy for their Facebook ad campaigns. Browse their site and Facebook page to get a feel for their voice. Then, craft an on-brand, extremely relevant sample. Advertisements are already short, so focus on that first, attention-grabbing sentence.

“But I’m new. I’ve never written an ad before!”

I hear you, but that’s nothing a quick Google search can’t solve. Run a search for “top Facebook ads for (industry you’re writing for)” to see samples of the best. Use those as inspiration, and write up a quick teaser to include in your application.

Remember, you don’t have to be an expert copywriter to land the gig. For applications, you just need to be the one applicant that stops them from scrolling. You’ll have plenty of time later to research great examples, how to write them, etc.

4. Create a Fake Copywriting Project

Finding someone to hire you without a single sample can be hard. The easiest way to build a copywriting portfolio from scratch is to make up your own! Having lots of samples is nice, but you really only need 1 strong, compelling piece to land a client – at least in the beginning.

With your niche in mind, check out some of the top websites in your industry, and see what they’re doing with their pages, ad copy, email marketing, etc. Use this research to produce a targeted sample.

Be sure to list the project type and objective above the copy. Something like this:

Project Type: About Us page for a home improvement store

Objective: To help us feel like the trustworthy, next-door neighbor – friendly, dependable, and familiar

When done this way, you subconsciously create a “problem-solution” connection in the mind of potential clients. The company brought you a problem (objective), and you delivered a solution (your copywriting).

5. Take a Course

If you’re convinced copywriting is where it’s at but still feel shaky on your ability, consider taking a copywriting course to help you figure our your copywriting portoflio. Being trained by industry professionals, you’ll learn in a matter of days or weeks what took them years to master.

Remember that fake sample we just talked about? Most copywriting courses walk you through each step of the copywriting phase. In many cases, you’ll write a sample, and the teacher will critique it with you until you’ve nailed it. And just like that, you have a pretty much perfect sample for your copywriting portfolio.

How about you?

Have you considered breaking into copywriting? What’s holding you back? Let us know!

Jordan Mitchell is an ecommerce copywriter & blogger for (mostly) health & wellness brands. After being diagnosed with Chronic Lyme and seeing improvement by eliminating toxins, she launched her blog Detox & Prosper to help families learn how to live well with less toxins. Follow her on Pinterest for practical ways to live healthy and thrive!

Leave a Reply

25 Comments

Hi Jordan, Thanks for the great article. I guess, am a bit late for the party. Landed with one customer, that’s it, no more progression. It seems to be a lot stagnant. I hope to work on the tips you shared and get going with it. Thanks, NikReply to Nik
Thanks for your insight. I’m 66 and looking into doing something like this. Also taking a course. Thanks again.Reply to Henry
It was really helpful, thank you so muchReply to Shivani
This article is very helpful to an inexperienced copywriter like me…Thank you Jordan Mitchell.Reply to Sheila
WOWZER I have been on overload with numerous buy this, take this, we are not like any other. I cannot Afford a risk. I lost my business to covid,im 63 passionate and experienced at many niche. I have no knowledge of the lingo of what each style of copywrote consists of. I want to dive fl on onto this. I need the steps to launch it properly fro step one. Possibly Domaine or new email associated with . Web site up first.?. issues geared toward those questions. What affordable mentor course is legit? Appreciate your t ime and effort. TReply to Tina
Tina, most people wanting to get into online marketing and copywriting are taught to get the job first, figure it out later, and don’t take the time to really learn the craft. This list for a copywriting education by copywriting legend Gary Halbert is a great place to start and sets you ahead of most wannabes who don’t want to do the work. If you’re looking for something led by an expert, John Carlton is another legend who learned from Gary Halbert himself and offers remarkably affordable options (compared to the leagues of inferior four figure courses out there). Here’s Gary’s list to get you started: https://www.thegaryhalbertletter.com/newsletters/zfkj_hands_on_experience.htmReply to Jessica
Thanks for all of the info! You make it seem a little less overwhelming for someone who literally started looking into this a few days ago! I like to write, I am not fantastic at it but hope to become better! It sounds like the start up is the toughest part. What is your best advice to someone a little overwhelmed with thoughts about this? I really appreciate all of your expertise and opinions!Reply to Christy
Oh girl thanks for this. My portfolio is empty right now. I’m just starting my business I going to ask a friend and start to offer my services like seo copywriting free for build my portfolio. Thanks for the tips Pd: I found you on pinterest. I’m followed u already. XoxoReply to Marcelle
Thanks Roberto! If you’ve been in real estate, you’re probably already familiar with persuasive copy. I’ll bet your transition into copywriting will be an easy one. Best of luck!!Reply to Jordan
Hi Jordan, Thanks for your great post. Copywriting is kind of intimidating but you made it sound so easy that I want to do it even more. I’ve been in the real estate industry for some years. Currently I am taking a copywriting course to breaking into copywriting arena. Have a wonderful day!Reply to Roberto
YES! I’ve been doing copywriting at my day job for years. I definitely want to add this to my freelance services. Great article!Reply to Melanie
You already have the advantage of experience with your day job. You would rock it in the freelancing world – go for it!Reply to Jordan
Awesome post, Jordan! I’m also an eCommerce copywriter…also named Jordan…and also a girl lol! It’s been tough breaking into copywriting, but I’ll be encouraged once I get that first client. Craigslist admittedly scares me a bit – did you just do a local search? Or did you search major cities? I searched locally and came up empty. Thanks for the great input here 🙂Reply to Jordan
Ha! Nice to meet you, Jordan! I landed all my early leads through a job board site called Listiller (formerly Writer Town). It’s free! I highly recommend it. They source job ads from all over – not just Craigslist. And the Craigslist jobs they show are also from all over. You can sign up to have a list of leads emailed to you every morning. I checked out your site. Your copy is great! A great sample in itself. Feel free to reach out with questions at any time!Reply to Jordan
Awesome! Thank you, I’ll check out Listiller 🙂 and thanks for the encouragement – it means a lot. Have a wonderful Memorial Day!Reply to Jordan
Thanks for this great post, Jordan! I am new to freelance writing and most of the things I see that pay what I would like to earn are copywriting. I like how you broke it down here and made it seem not nearly as scary. Thank you!Reply to Niccolea
It’s not nearly as hard as it seems, and the financial return you see compared to time spent is well worth it! Best of luck to you!Reply to Jordan
Wow, Jordan, what a great, inspiriting article! I’ve been focusing on blogging only because I know nothing about copywriting, but I think I might try to break into copywriting, too! Thank you for sharing your tips!Reply to Jessica
That’s how I started. Stick with what you know, ya know?! But I’m so glad I took that leap into copywriting, and I know you will be, too! Thanks for reading!Reply to Jordan
Thank you, Jordan, for this insightful post. I super appreciate this post as a noobie copywriter myself.Reply to Abigail
Thanks, Abigail! Best of luck to you as you start your career. That first step is the hardest – you got this!Reply to Jordan
OMG Jordan. You just made me want to look into copywriting. I will definitely look into it this week as an option. Thank you for such a thorough insight as to what copywriting is. Best of luck to you.Reply to Lois
Thank you! I’m so glad it inspired you to look into it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!Reply to Jordan
Hi Lisa! Thank you! There’s definitely money to be made in copywriting, but it’s just unfamiliar territory for so many. I hope this quick article helps at least 1 writer jump in there & go for it!Reply to Jordan