How to Creating an Impressive Copywriting Portfolio for Beginners
Your Portfolio: The Launchpad For Your Copywriting Career
Your copywriting portfolio is the difference between an excited, pay-in-full client and a lead that turns into a “maybe later.” Your copywriting portfolio is a collection of your best work and shows potential clients the kind of work they can expect from you.
And, ideally, your portfolio leaves your potential client imagining how great their copy will be when they work with you.
But, how do you build a copywriting portfolio, especially as a beginner?
3 Ways to Beat the Catch 22 and Create Your Copywriting Portfolio with No Experience
You know the saying: “You can’t get a job because you don’t have experience, and you can’t get experience because you can’t get a job.”
Well, we’re here to smash that into a million pieces and throw it into the garbage where it belongs. Because today, I’m going to give you the workaround:
Create your own experience.
If you’ve made the decision to launch your new career as a freelance copywriter, you’ve already got an entrepreneurial mindset. And you know what’s cool about entrepreneurs? They’re resourceful and they INNOVATE.
Let’s talk about how to create a copywriting portfolio with no actual experience by creating it yourself.
Write Copy for a Fictional Business
For the purpose of creating a copywriting portfolio with no experience, you’re going to take on the role of the client AND the copywriter.
(And this one’s two-fold, so get ready!)
For your portfolio pieces, you’re going to create copy for a fictional business. Create the “copywriting business” from scratch:
- What’s the brand’s purpose?
- What’s their unique value proposition?
- What are their core values?
- What are their brand pillars?
- What is their voice and tone?
Create a document and go into detail. Not only can you use this to create portfolio pieces for your fictional business, you can use this as a portfolio piece! Copywriters are often hired to write brand guidelines.
Next, you’ll create multiple pieces of copy for your fictional business:
Think: website copy, company bio, sales pages, service pages, email sequences, social media copy, digital ads, brochures––anything that strikes your fancy.
You can do this as many times as you choose, in any industry. If you need prompts or want to fast-track your career with a portfolio builder.
Include Your Own Published Pieces
Do you have a blog on Medium? Do you post articles on LinkedIn? This can count towards your portfolio, especially if you’re writing about your chosen niche.
For example, let’s say you want to write in the renewable energy space. You can write an article about trends in wind energy and include it in your portfolio.
Write For a Friend’s Business
Now, this is the only time you’ll ever hear me say you should write for free (ever), but if you’re just starting out and need to create a portfolio with no experience, reach out to a friend who owns a small business. Maybe they aren’t in a position to pay you (yet), but you know their copy needs work. Offer to rewrite their sales pages, their email sequences, or something else that you really want to include in your portfolio. Not only will this give you real life experience, but you’ll have something live and published to direct potential clients to.
And, who knows, maybe your friend will see SO much return on your copy skills that they’ll end up hiring you long term!
But seriously, outside of creating a copywriting portfolio with no experience, don’t ever write for free. Ever. EVER.
Write Copy for a Recognizable Brand
Now, this one is a bit tricky, because it’s super unethical to claim that you’ve written copy for famous brands you haven’t written copy for. But, you can create ads, sales copy, or other portfolio pieces for national or international brands FOR ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES ONLY.
If you do this, be very, very clear that you wrote the copy for illustrative purposes and that X brand isn’t one of your clients.
How to Format Your Copywriting Portfolio
Unpopular opinion: For a number of reasons, I am not a fan of putting your copywriting portfolio on your website. First, because you can actually use your portfolio as a lead magnet, which means collecting data from potential clients. Second (and I hate to say it) copywriting portfolios notoriously get “stolen.” And third, SEO is a messy beast and publishing duplicate content makes all kinds of things screwy.
So, how do you format your copywriting portfolio for optimal experience? Let’s look at three portfolio types: I call these the Library Portfolio, the Dream Client Portfolio and the Custom Portfolio.
Portfolio I: The Library Portfolio
This portfolio is a collection of ALL of your best work, organized into subcategories. This will help you keep track of your favorite pieces AND is the basis of your other two portfolios.
This type of portfolio is best for submitting to agencies or to clients who ask for a wide range of copy formats.
Let’s look at Library Portfolio examples for both copywriting generalists and niche copywriters:
The Library Portfolio For Generalist Copywriters
If you’re a generalist, your portfolio library should include top-level organization that is easily navigable and divided into different industries.
Each folder within your industry folders will need to be sub-divided into copywriting formats like the example below:
Note: You could do this inversely, with the copy formats as your main folders and your industry folders as subfolders.
My personal opinion on this is that for copywriting agencies or clients who ask for a variety of work (like a marketing company) seeing a wide range of industries first is more impressive.
The Library Portfolio for Niche Copywriters
Obviously, as a niche copywriter, all of your content will be about a singular topic, so your top level folders can be copy formats.
When your potential client clicks on “Email Copy,” the subfolders are further organized to show the different types of email campaigns written by the writer. Potential clients can peruse each folder for anything applicable to them.
Within the subfolder, files are organized and titled. The writer’s name is included. This is important if samples are shared between decision-makers; you don’t want your samples mixed-up with someone else’s if your samples get downloaded.
Organization and structure shows care for your work and attention to detail.
Portfolio II: The Soulmate Client Portfolio
This portfolio type is designed to attract ONLY your dream clients. The Soulmate Client Portfolio is perfect for niche copywriters OR generalist copywriters who want to start on their journey towards niching down.
So, how do you decide what goes into your Soulmate Client Portfolio? You need to know who your Soulmate Client actually is.
Do you want to work with coaches or consultants? Start-up tech companies? Local Mom + Pop businesses?
Whoever your Soulmate Client is, you’re going to include ONLY pieces that are hyper-relevant to them.
Determine ALL of the types of copy that your ideal client needs (and narrow that down to what you WANT to write).
Structure your portfolio like a niche copywriter, but (and this is important) label your folders with the specific type of copywriter you are. YES, it matters. Even the smallest details show your ideal clients that you are aligned with them.
Of course, it’s most important what is WITHIN each one of these folders.
This is where the “Soulmate Client” samples come in.
If you have any samples of work from previous “Soulmate Clients,” include these and ONLY these.
if you’re a brand-new copywriter, you’re going to create samples for an imaginary soulmate client.
Get as specific as possible. The more specific you are, the more your dream clients will resonate with you.
If your Soulmate Client is a women’s business coach who specializes in women who are at the “launch” stage of their business, you would include samples that mirror EXACTLY what this client would need.
For example, you might write a sample sales page for a group coaching program called “Ready to Launch Accelerator” that would appeal to your dream clients’ dream clients.
When your ideal client reads your samples, they’ll see that YOU completely understand what that they need and YOU become THEIR dream copywriter.
Portfolio III: The Custom Portfolio
This type of portfolio is best for clients who ask for specific samples or have specific requirements.
Instead of sending over your Library Portfolio or your Soulmate Client portfolio, you’ll create a custom portfolio. This is where having your Library Portfolio up-to-date and organized comes in handy: you can easily access samples relevant to the specific job or gig you’re applying for.
Tip: Include the name of the company or potential client in your portfolio file name. Remember that the details really do make a difference!
And, give them specifically what they’re asking for. Even though your Library Portfolio might have what they need (and more), decision-makers looking for something highly specified don’t have time to sort through samples that aren’t applicable to them.
For example, let’s say you have a discovery call with a potential client who is looking for email copywriters in the tech space. Your Custom Portfolio might look like this:
Don’t Stop at a Traditional Portfolio!
Remember, if you’re gunning for a copywriting job, 50 other people are, too. Make your portfolio stand out.
Include a folder with references, social proof, recommendation letters, and once you start getting clients, add analytics reports that show web traffic and conversions.
You CAN Create an Impressive Copywriting Portfolio With No Experience
You’re an entrepreneur. And you’re a copywriter. You have what it takes to innovate. Even if you have no experience, you CAN create a copywriting portfolio. So, smash that “catch 22” and start your path by forging it yourself.