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How to Get Started as a Content Writer: Building a Writing Portfolio

How to Get Started as a Content Writer: Building a Writing Portfolio

If you’ve decided to dive into the world of content writing, you’re certainly not alone. You wouldn't be reading this article if I hadn't decided to pursue a full-time writing career after quitting my teaching job. Whether this is a side hustle for you or you want to work full-time, it’s easy to feel stuck when you’re starting out. You might ask questions like: Where do I start? Do I need a degree? How do I find writing jobs?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and remember it’s okay to be a beginner. As far as where to start–the first thing you need is a writing portfolio. Let’s talk about how to start building one.

Help! I Need a Writing Portfolio

Before you ever try to find a content writing job, you need a writing portfolio. A solid portfolio is going to be the most effective way to land freelance writing jobs. Don’t panic though– there are some ways to build a portfolio before you get your first freelance job.

Building a portfolio as a new writer feels so challenging because you haven't done anything yet! However, the portfolio is essential. One thing you can be sure of is potential clients are going to ask for writing samples. They may not care about your education (I can say this with confidence as an English major) but they will care about what you can produce.

Eventually, you’ll want to have published content with a byline to show, but for now, you may have to get creative. To start building your portfolio, you have a few options: you can find a way to get a byline, you can start your own site to give clients something to look at, or you can create your own samples. Let’s take a closer look at each option.

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Get a Byline

The first option is definitely the trickiest. You may not know how to get a byline at this point and without any previous samples or writing experience, you're unlikely to get a byline from a freelance job.

The most common way to get a byline as a new writer is to write an article for a site that accepts submissions. Since they get to see your work ahead of time, they're not losing anything and they’ll either accept and publish your piece or they’ll reject it. Depending on the site, it may or may not be a paid piece, but the byline matters more than the pay at this point.

This can be an effective way to get your first byline. It’s how I got started, and it only took me twenty-something years to gather the courage to submit my work (don’t be like me–just start somewhere!) But this may not be the best option for everyone.

The most challenging part about this option is your piece could get rejected and even if your piece is accepted, it could take weeks or months for them to get back to you. 

Start Your Own Blog or Site 

If you don't want to wait to get a byline, you can give yourself one. Creating your own blog or site is a great way to show potential clients what you're capable of.

Considering writing is a skill, this is also an excellent way to practice writing and become a better writer. Like any other skill, the more you write (and read) the better you’ll become. You can either choose to start a blog in a specific niche you want to break into, or you can start a website to market your writing business and create blogs for business owners there.

The biggest downside of starting your own site is it can take time and money if you're going to purchase your own domain. If this isn't an option for you right now, you can choose to start a blog on a site like Medium or Substack instead. It's not as much of an investment but it still gives you something to show potential clients and provides you with the opportunity to practice writing.

Write Your Own Sample

If you're ready to get started as a content writer and don’t have time to waste, the most practical option by far is to create your own sample so you can start landing jobs.

The easiest way to do this is to write a sample based on the type of jobs you're looking for. Let's say you want to create blogs for businesses. Think of a topic that would apply to a business you want to work for and write about it. If you’re feeling stuck, you can always search for sample topics online or even ask chat GPT to give you one.

It doesn't have to be incredibly extensive or lengthy but give it your best shot and write something that you feel accurately represents the work you'll produce for your future clients.

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Adding to Your Writing Portfolio

Even once you're a successful content writer, it may be difficult to add to your portfolio because when you’re writing blogs, most of the time you’ll be ghostwriting. Ghostwriting is when you write something for a client but it doesn't have your name on it. Spooky, I know.

There's certainly nothing wrong with ghostwriting but it can make it difficult to build a portfolio and gain more freelance work. If you don’t build your own site before you get started, you'll want to circle back to that option and set up your own site eventually, even if it's a blog on Medium or a free portfolio site like Contently.

Once you've established yourself as a freelance writer, part of building your portfolio is keeping it updated with your most recent work. If you don’t regularly contribute to any site, consider blogging on your own platform so you always have samples and can show how your writing has developed over time.

How to Get Started As a Content Writer with Hire a Writer

At Hire a Writer, we choose to see the best in everyone. Not everyone is destined to be a content writer, that's for sure. Writing skills take time to build and freelancing isn’t for the faint of heart. But if it is something you feel passionate about and you want to build a content-writing business, we're here for you. 

We help content creators like yourself build better writing and marketing skills–or if you need content for your own business, you can hire us!


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