When you’re setting up your writing portfolio, you will probably run into a problem: how am I supposed to put together writing samples when I have no paid experience writing?
Should you go out and offer your work for free so that you can show you’ve worked with actual organizations? While it can’t hurt, it definitely isn’t necessary, and it’s probably a waste of time in the long run. My advice is to get up and running and applying to paid jobs as soon as possible.
What is the goal of a portfolio for a new freelance writer? To show you can write.
Your pro-bono experience with a local organization or little-known business isn’t going to be much more impressive than something you wrote on your own. And it’s a lot more work.
If you use your own ideas to create 3-5 writing samples in your niche, you can get your first portfolio created in a matter of days rather than weeks or months. I advocate for getting the ball rolling sooner rather than later. You will learn so much in your first writing jobs that you will outgrow your first samples very quickly anyway.
You have more control over the content. If you use your own ideas and write for yourself, you can curate the content to be relevant to the job you want, rather than having to shape the content around what someone else needs. Don’t let someone else decide the content of your portfolio.
Creating your first writing portfolio is one of the biggest roadblocks to getting out there and applying for jobs. It doesn’t need to be a massive undertaking that becomes so overwhelming that you quit before you even get started. All you really need to do is:
Choose a niche
Come up with 3-5 ideas for short content that is relevant to the industry and style of content you want to write
Write! (And, ideally, get feedback.)
And voila, you have created your first portfolio.