Most freelance job posts receive hundreds of applications.
As someone who has hired freelance writers and sifted through hundreds of applications, I can tell you that I quickly weed out those who don’t provide a simple method for me to quickly assess their writing abilities.
While I don’t expect freelance writers to have a fancy website, I thoroughly appreciate a writer who makes it easy to quickly view relevant writing samples and understand the value they offer.
After viewing thousands of writer portfolios, I’ll share what I look for in a writing portfolio when I’m hiring freelancers and provide a step-by-step process to help you create a writing portfolio that will win clients. I’ll also show some writing portfolio examples to give you further inspiration.
What Hiring Managers Want In a Freelance Writing Portfolio
Hiring managers are strapped for time and want to hire a writer quickly.
They don’t care about portfolio design, your profile image, or other presentation details.
They really just want to see if you’re the right fit for their job.
So instead of stressing about details like design colors, optimize your writing portfolio to clearly answer the following questions:
- Does this person offer the services I’m looking for?
- Does this person have the writing skills I’m looking for?
- Has this person done similar jobs in the past in similar industries/niches?
- Is this person reliable (e.g., adheres to deadlines, consistently delivers results, etc.)
- Bonus: Does this person understand the larger business goal we’re trying to accomplish?
In addition, make sure it’s super easy for potential clients to navigate the portfolio site and quickly find the answers to those questions. If they can’t immediately find the answers they’re looking for, they’ll likely just eliminate you from the list of candidates.
Below, I’ll show you how to create a freelance writer website that clearly answers these questions and helps you win new clients.
Want us to
scale your traffic?
For the first time, The Copyblogger methodology is now available to a select few clients. We know it works. We’ve been doing it since 2006.
How to Create a Writing Portfolio: Step by Step
You don’t have to have a website to become a freelance writer, but it does help generate inbound leads and can leave an excellent first-impression on potential clients. So here’s a step-by-step guide to tactically set up your portfolio website and the critical elements to include so that you stand out to prospective clients.
1. Select an Easy-To-Use Website and Hosting Platform
You don’t need a fancy website or hosting solution to get started, so I recommend selecting the simplest solution possible.
You can use Siteground or Namecheap for web hosting, as they’re both cheap and reliable. As for a website builder, you can use a platform like Squarespace or Wix, as both offer simple visual editors and pre-made website templates.
WordPress is also a great option that offers more scalability. It might be a better option if you think you’ll grow your freelance writing business into an agency.
Alternatively, if you want the simplest solution possible, you can use Canva’s portfolio builder.
I recommend keeping everything simple, as many freelance writers never create a portfolio because they’re too intimidated by the tech.
If you still feel overwhelmed at the thought of creating your own portfolio, you can always hire someone on Upwork to create a professional writing portfolio website for you. Most of them only charge a few hundred dollars, and you can send them all the information in a document to post for you.
The key is to start working on this today. The longer it takes to complete your freelance writer portfolio, the longer it will take to close new clients.
I recommend setting a deadline of three to four days to complete your portfolio website so that you start closing clients quickly.
2. Identify Your Target Audience and Niche
Before adding any content to your new website, define your ideal client.
A common mistake most freelancers make is trying to target too many potential clients.
Unfortunately, hiring managers are looking for specialists, and you’ll dilute your credibility as an expert if you advertise that you service multiple niches. In addition, your messaging will be very generic and ineffective if you try to target multiple customer personas.
In this step, clearly define:
- The type of writing you offer (blog writing, sales writing, social media writing, etc.)
- The industry you want to serve (ecommerce, B2B, local businesses, bloggers, etc.)
- The company size you intend to serve (startups, enterprise corporations, etc.)
Once you’ve defined your ideal customer, do some research to understand their pain points and what they’re hoping to achieve by hiring a writer.
The best way to do customer research is talking to your ideal audience and asking them what they’re looking for in writers.
I did this when I was looking to scale from a freelancer to a marketing agency owner, and you can see that I received some very helpful feedback:
You can see that these responses are incredibly valuable as they tell me both how I should position myself and specific pain points these hiring managers experience.
You can also ask in Slack groups and other private groups for feedback. For example, I asked this group if anyone had hired a content agency for $30,000 plus and what they were looking for in that agency.
I ended up getting on a call with one of the people, and they showed me the entire pitch deck from the agency they hired and explained why they hired that agency. These insights helped better position my services to charge more and close more clients.
We’ll discuss positioning in more detail below, but for now, take note of:
- Your ideal customers’ pain points.
- The outcomes they’re trying to achieve by hiring a freelance writer.
- What they look for when reviewing different freelance writers.
- Key elements that make freelance writing portfolios memorable.
3. Select Your Best Writing Samples
A mistake that many freelance writers make is publishing too many writing samples from multiple industries.
There are a few reasons why posting a lot of sample writing pieces isn’t a great idea:
- Potential clients won’t see your best samples: If there are 20+ writing samples, clients probably won’t see your best 3-4 writing pieces.
- Posting from multiple industries dilutes your expertise: We discussed earlier that clients want to see you’re an expert in their field, so only include writing samples for your ideal customer’s industry/niche.
- Too many pieces overwhelms potential clients: Your potential clients are in a hurry to quickly find the best writer for the job, and offering too many sample pieces can overwhelm them.
So select only your best work to include in your portfolio. Usually, three or four writing samples are sufficient.
When you post the writing sample, include any business results it helped accomplish. You can go back to your customer research notes to remember what your customers are looking to achieve by hiring a content writer.
For example, if the goal is to increase traffic and conversions, include how your sample writing piece helped accomplish those goals. Here’s a great example from freelance writer Elise Dopson’s portfolio.
Instead of just posting the link to the blog post, she states the business goals (increase traffic and keyword rankings) it helped the company achieve:
She also includes screenshots, which is a great way to add proof.
4. Add Social Proof and Testimonials
Adding testimonials to your online writing portfolio can boost your credibility, but not all testimonials are equally compelling.
Who you get testimonials from and what those testimonials say can instantly help you pass on to the hiring manager’s next round of evaluation.
First, get testimonials from reputable brands/people your ideal clients probably already know and respect. If you don’t have any influential clients, you can reach out to a well-established industry influencer or brand and offer a free sample piece in exchange for a testimonial.
When you ask for the testimonial, ask them to highlight how you eliminate key pain points that your ideal clients typically experience with freelance writers. For example, common problems with freelance writers include missing deadlines and delivering shallow, poorly researched articles. So ask them to mention how you always hit deadlines and thoroughly research your work.
Elise Dopson again does a great job of creating compelling testimonials from well respected brands in her target industry. They show how she eliminates key pain points with most freelance writers (she hits deadlines and thoroughly researches her work).
5. Structuring Your Homepage
Once you’ve gathered your writing samples and testimonials, you have most of the materials for your portfolio page. Now, you need to structure your homepage and the messaging to clearly communicate that you’re the best person to help the prospect achieve their goals.
First, create a compelling headline that clearly states the value you provide and how you accomplish it.
You can use this framework:
“(your writing niche) for (your ideal customer) that need (pain point you’re solving.)”
For example, it could be “Freelance content writer for B2B SaaS companies that need more organic leads.”
I also highly recommend including a process section detailing how you work with clients. Most potential clients will take you more seriously if you show them you have a repeatable, proven process.
For example, if you do customer research, outlines, or anything else, create a 3-5 step process and include that on your homepage. You can always customize your services to your clients’ needs, but having a process will definitely make you stand out from other freelance writers as it shows that you’re experienced and have a method to consistently produce the same quality results.
You can also include an FAQ section with information on your rates, the deliverables, turnaround times, who your ideal customer is, and other questions prospects commonly ask.
Here’s a sample framework you can use to structure your homepage:
Below, I’ll walk you through several examples of great homepages.
6. Create Your About Page
Most freelance writers discuss their dog or places they’ve traveled to in their author bios. The reality is that clients don’t really care about this information.
Instead, a more compelling author bio that can help you win clients is explaining the pain points you struggled with that led you to become a freelance copywriter and how it has shaped your philosophy as a writer.
For example, let’s say you previously worked in enterprise sales and noticed that prospects who closed fastest usually read blog posts before coming onto the demo. As a result, you became a writer because you felt it was a higher-leverage activity that drove more quality prospects.
That’s an interesting story that shows your ideal prospects you really understand the pain points they’re trying to solve. They also get a better insight into how you approach writing and get to know a little bit about the personal side of you.
Boutique Japan, a luxury travel company, has a well-written and effective about page that does an excellent job of helping you get to know the founder and their unique story.
This story helps potential clients get to know you on a deeper level than just talking about your dog.
As a result, you’ll build more trust with potential clients and stand out as a company.
I’ll also add that it’s worthwhile to include a picture of yourself. Clients want to know who they’re dealing with, and adding a face to the words will help build trust.
7. Create Your Contact Page
Finally, add a contact page to your portfolio that includes your email address and links to your Twitter and LinkedIn profile (if you use them).
Keep your contact page as simple as possible and if you decide to offer a form fill, be sure that the form fill works and reliably sends emails to your inbox, as many contact forms send messages directly to your spam mail.
Here’s a great example of a simple contact page:
Great Writing Portfolio Examples
Here are a few examples from highly successful freelance writers to give you some inspiration as you create your own freelance writing portfolio.
I already mentioned her portfolio several times earlier in this post, but I highly recommend that you browse through it for inspiration on both structuring your portfolio and crafting effective messaging.
Here are a few things that I particularly like about Elise’s portfolio:
- Who she serves and what she offers is very clear from the headline – she creates journalistic B2B content for retail, ecommerce, and martech companies.
- She has plenty of logos from big brand names, and her testimonials highlight how she solves key problems clients often encounter with freelance writers (she never misses deadlines).
- She highlights the business results she’s helped companies achieve (e.g., increased website traffic, keyword rankings, etc.).
- She only includes her best work and separates it by industry so the right client can easily find the right samples.
- All of the messaging across the entire website is very clear.
Some things I might adjust if I were editing this profile:
- She targets multiple personas (retail, ecommerce, and martech). She has already established herself in the writing industry, but I’d choose just one industry if you’re starting your career
Brent’s website is slightly more personal than Elise’s website. Still, he does an excellent job of clearly articulating his value and then proves it with case studies and customer testimonials.
What I love about his portfolio website:
- You can clearly tell what he does and the value he provides to clients (high ranking B2B SaaS content). He also states specific services he offers, including ghostwriting and long-form content.
- He has one clearly defined target audience – B2B SaaS.
- He offers big name brand logos up top.
- You can clearly hear his voice shine through.
- The rest of the page details case studies to prove he can do the work, details on why he’s different, and a specific process to prove that he can deliver the same results for you.
Some things I might add/change:
- I would probably add a few more customer testimonials, though I like that he includes screenshots of client messages throughout the page, as seen in the screenshot above.
Marijana Kay has a great writing portfolio that is clean, neat, and clear. You can understand what she offers just by glancing at the headline, and she also offers a lead magnet, which can be helpful for building an email list and retargeting potential clients.
Here are a few things I love about this writing portfolio:
- She clearly states in the headline what she offers (freelance writing services) and who she services (SaaS and marketing brands).
- The tagline hits on the key customer pain point (hitting content marketing goals consistently).
- The brand logos she has worked with are clearly labeled at the top.
- She ties business KPIs to her case studies (increasing conversion rates, traffic, rankings, etc.)
- The customer testimonials are also compelling and state why she’s the ideal freelancer to work with (she always researches the topics thoroughly even if they are tough subjects).
Some things I might improve:
- I’d love for her to add a section about her step by step process to add credibility and confidence that she can produce the same results consistently.
Joshua Poh’s writing portfolio is also neat and easy to navigate. You can quickly see what value he has to offer and how he helps companies grow.
Here are a few things I like about his portfolio:
- The overall website is clear, easy to navigate, and simple.
- His picture at the top adds personality and trust.
- He adds credibility by including big brand name logos at the top.
- He has testimonials that highlight why he’s a good freelance writer.
- He clearly defines how he helps businesses grow.
- He includes a clear call to action to reach out.
Some things I might improve:
- His portfolio includes many blog posts, which may be overwhelming to a potential client. I’d probably cut it down to just the top 3-4 posts he’s most proud of.
- He specializes in multiple industries, which causes his messaging to be slightly vanilla. For example, this sentence dilutes his credibility as an expert: “No matter if you’re a small marketing team with a lot of ambition and no resources or a busy entrepreneur looking to get back to creating quality content, I can help.”
- I’d add a testimonial or two higher up on the homepage.
- I’d add a proven process and tie business results to case studies.
Ashely Cummings is a well respected B2B writer who has grown her Twitter audience substantially over the past several years.
She also has a compelling writing portfolio that you can use to inspire your own freelance writing portfolio. Her design is very simple, though it hits all of the key components a hiring manager would look for in a writer. In fact, she also has plenty of additional pages you don’t necessarily need, like a newsletter (which is excellent for customer acquisition if you have the time to create one), products, and more.
Here are a few specific things I like about this writing portfolio:
- She clearly states what she’s good at – articulating ideas you don’t know how to put into words.
- All of her samples are organized by the types of writing she specializes in (e.g., samples for ebooks, ad copy, newsletters, etc.), making it easy for clients to quickly find relevant writing samples.
- She includes highlights of business results she’s driven for clients (e.g., a blog campaign that produces over 500,000+ website views/year, etc.)
- She highlights her differentiators (research skills, marketing expertise, etc.).
- She has great testimonials from name brand clients.
- She has clearly visible social media links. As she has a thriving Twitter audience, this is smart because people browsing her Twitter profile will quickly see that she’s quite credible.
Here are a few things she could probably improve on:
- I would move the customer testimonials up higher on the page and include notable brand logos (Deloitte, Salesforce, etc.).
- I’d like to see a proven process that supports the key differentiators she mentions, like “skilled researcher” and “marketing expertise.”
- For each sample post mentioned, I’d add a blurb about what that post accomplished from a business results standpoint.
Need More Help With Your Writing Portfolio?
Once you’ve completed your writing portfolio, it’s time to send it to your ideal customers and land your first client!
I realize that acquiring clients is the real challenge, so if you want more support, or even just another peer to look over your portfolio, consider joining the Copyblogger Academy. It’s a community of other creators building their own businesses and side hustles through writing. Members have direct access to me, exclusive interview content with some of the most successful independent creators of the day, and most importantly, a peer group of like-minded individuals.
You can join today risk-free to see for yourself if the Academy will help you achieve your goals as a writer.