This is part one of my story about how I achieved freelance freedom through a myriad of side hustles and independent projects that have led me to where I am today. This is only part one, because this story has a lot of layers. But it all started here, with my decision to leave my full time job at a major international bank and have a go at freelance writing.
One of my “Smarter Fitter” philosophies has always been to work towards a life where work equals play. That’s why I delved into the world of freelance writing almost twenty years ago, a side hustle that’s still going strong. It also led to my other side hustle, Writer’s Residence, an online portfolio for writers that lets other writers create a website to market their work. But building that side business is another story for another day – another layer of the freelance cake! I know a lot of you out there dream of writing for a living. So in this post, I want to talk about the virtue of writing portfolios and how they can help anyone launch a successful career as a writer.
What is a writing portfolio anyway? Sounds old school!
A writing portfolio is a curated collection of a writer’s work that showcases their skills, experience, and range. It can serve as a professional representation of the your abilities and provides potential clients, employers, and editors with examples of your past work. Old school portfolios were printed, and may have been delivered in fancy binders. Today, online portfolios are the norm, and just like their printed counterparts, and typically include samples of articles, blog posts, essays, reports, or any other written content.
What did I put in my first writing portfolio?
When I first started out in freelance writing, I knew I needed to show potential editors what I could do. But how to do that when I hadn’t been published before? What a quandary! Here’s where self-publishing is handy, and I don’t mean books. Blogs have become almost the new normal in the publishing world, and those who blog to a high standard are totally justified in using those works as professional writing samples. When I first created my writing portfolio, the writing samples included were largely articles I’d written myself on this very blog. I also looked tangentially for other writing experience to include – research papers, copywriting, newsletters, press releases, and so on. (See how to create a writing portfolio with no experience.)
Amazingly, it worked…
How my writing portfolio helped me launch my freelance writing career
Once I took the time to build out a reasonably complete portfolio, it came down to pitching for work. The portfolio made this process a whole lot easier. When it comes to pitching, short and succinct emails (what some call “letters of introduction”) worked the best. Including a link to the portfolio, or better still, specific writing samples, was a straightforward way to quickly demonstrate my skills.
There’s a great example on LinkedIn, written by a hiring person, on the type of email they look for from a writer pitching for work…
Here’s one of their pitches:
I see you’re looking for writers in the CATEGORY space. I’ve written several articles on CATEGORY – I’ve included 3 links below. Hope you like them!”
Short, to the point emails, that were highly relevant.
(And they got my name right).
It took me 10 seconds to see if they were a good fit.
That’s why they moved forward.
Read more about how I got my first writing job with no experience.
You too can have a writing portfolio!
There are plenty of website builders for writers out there. Naturally I’m biased towards Writer’s Residence, which uses a 5-step framework the will show you how to create an online portfolio in a structured way with little hassle and razor sharp focus on your career objectives.
That said, there are other portfolio website builders out there. You can compare them all in my review of the best portfolio websites for writers.
If you want to learn more tips about making it as a writer, follow along in my Substack: Notes from My Desk at Writer’s Residence.
Got questions about becoming a freelance writer? Ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them either here or on Substack!