No Freelance Writing Portfolio? Use Guest Blogging to Create Client-Worthy Writing Samples
Learn how to create targeted writing samples that will impress your first client.
I don’t have a portfolio because nobody will hire me and nobody will hire me because I don’t have a portfolio!
Building your portfolio is one of the most challenging roadblocks when starting a freelance writing business. It’s also where most writers get stumped… and quit.
Starting your freelance writing portfolio doesn’t have to feel like sitting in limbo, waiting for somebody — anybody — to hire you.
You can take action now. With guest blogging.
Guest blogging can help fill the white space in your freelance writing portfolio
Guest blogging is featuring your article as a guest on another blog. As an aspiring freelance writer, there are advantages to this:
- You don’t have to wait for clients to come to you. You can start pitching articles and building your portfolio TODAY.
- It helps to establish your expertise within a niche.
- It adds credibility to your writing abilities.
There is one drawback to note — you will likely write for free. Instead of money, you’re “paid” with a portfolio writing sample (along with the above advantages).
Some writing gurus discourage writing for free, even as a beginner. But this is what I did and what worked for me.
Keep that in mind as you read on.
Step 1/ Choose your target blog
You’ll want to write for blogs within your target niche, or writing specialty. I started in self-improvement. A simple Google search kickstarted my research:
Here is a shortlist of which self-improvement blogs I wanted to pitch:
- Tiny Buddha
- Positively Positive
- Pick the Brain
- Purpose Fairy
Of course, you’ll want to tailor your research to your target niche.
Articles published in Medium publications also make for professional-looking writing samples. Examples of Medium publications include:
- The Startup (business and entrepreneurship)
- The Ascent (personal development)
- Blank Page (writing)
- Better Marketing (marketing)
Quick side story: one of my articles published in The Startup helped me land my first client in the small business/entrepreneurship niche.
Step 2/ Read the submission guidelines
After compiling your list, read the blog’s submission guidelines — easily found with the following Google search:
“[blog name] submission guidelines”
Here’s an example of submission guidelines from Tiny Buddha:
Tiny Buddha provides specific instructions on:
- Word count: 1,000 to 2,500 words
- Topic: personal growth, not gender-specific
- Topics to avoid: parenting, religion, productivity
- Writing style: keep paragraphs three sentences or fewer
Note: Some blogs may request you to pitch a handful of headlines and a brief 1- to 2-sentence description. Others may require a fully completed blog post.
When you’re working with clients, they may provide you with the writing style guidelines — consider this step as practice for that.
Step 3/ Write your guest post
Brainstorm article topics that will showcase your subject expertise to prospective clients while meeting the submission guidelines.
If your niche is in personal finance, consider sharing actionable tips on eliminating college debt. Fitness writers can compare the effectiveness of compound exercises versus isolation exercises.
Get specific. “Top 10 Saving Tips” is too generic and likely overplayed. Deep dives into a single topic show prospective clients you know the subject and industry jargon.
Here’s an article I wrote for Tiny Buddha (accepted and published):
Don’t stop at writing, either.
Go above and beyond by including visual aids (if allowed). Tables, charts and quotes can add an aesthetic and professional touch to your writing.
After drafting your article, do an editing sweep for grammar, clarity and style (refer to submission guidelines).
Step 4/ Craft your author byline
If somebody asked you to explain who you are in 10 seconds, what would you say?
You might stammer. You might share where you were born. Your college degree. Maybe activities you enjoy on the weekend.
This information might be great for your dating profile. Your author byline… not so much.
You will need to provide a byline — a summary of who you are — with your article. However, not all bylines are created equal. There are tons of lousy bylines that ramble about irrelevant things.
As a freelance writer, your byline should tell readers:
- Who you are (title/credentials)
- What you do (skills)
- How to contact you
Here’s an example of a freelance writer with a financial background.
Jane is a financial consultant that helps people tackle debt, spend wisely, and plan for retirement. To hire Jane to write for you, contact her through her website.
Most bylines are 2 to 5 sentences long. With limited real estate, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck.
Step 5/ Submit your guest post
After finalizing your article and byline, it’s time to submit your guest post. Revisit the submission guidelines for exact instructions.
Let’s look at Tiny Buddha again:
These guidelines tell you exactly what format to send your article. Not Google Docs. Not in the email body. Not in HTML text. Send your article in a Microsoft Word document to this email address with this subject line.
Editors are busy people. Failure to follow simple instructions is the only reason they need to toss your submission!
If you’re pitching to a Medium publication, the process is a little different. You need to apply to become a writer for a publication. Here are two helpful articles to get you started:
While you wait for a response from the editor…
Envision how awesome your portfolio will look with all those writing samples.
Writing samples that tell prospective clients…
- You know your stuff
- You know how to write within their niche
- This is why they should hire you
Gone are the days of twiddling your thumbs, waiting for somebody to hire you despite your empty writing portfolio.
With guest posting, you can create targeted writing samples that impress prospective clients TODAY.
Keep growing. Keep hustling.
About the author
Dan Marticio is a freelance writer specializing in SEO content for FinTech and B2B companies. From startup guides to business loan reviews, Dan loves making complex concepts easy to understand and apply.
Considering freelance writing? Be sure to grab his free guide: 19 Profitable Freelance Writing Niches.
Dan is a freelance writer specializing in small business and personal finance. He works with FinTech and B2B companies and has written extensively about small business, from startup guides to payment processor reviews. Hire him to write for YOU at danmarticio.com.