Whether you’re starting out as a copywriter or have been in the business for a long time, you’ll know that keeping a list of your previous successes to help attract new clients is a major part of the business.
What’s harder to decide on is how to create, design and maintain that all-important copywriting portfolio. In this article, we’ll share some of our top tips on how to create a copywriting portfolio, so that you can showcase your copywriting skills in a way that helps you stand out from the crowd.
Consider adjusting your rates at first
When it comes to building your portfolio, the hardest part is getting started. It’s a classic catch 22 situation: you want to fill your portfolio with examples of your work, but you can’t get work unless you have a full portfolio.
One option is to be upfront with your potential clients and offer to work at a cheaper rate to keep you in the running for the job, even without a portfolio.
The key here is to ensure that you only do this until you have enough items in your portfolio to score jobs at the market rate, at which point it’s vital you raise your prices. Otherwise, you could lock yourself into low pay for a much longer time than you intended.
Settle on a number of pieces to include
He writes that 12 is the standard, but advises having 20 pieces that are worthy of inclusion in your portfolio, so that you can swap pieces around, depending on who your prospective client is.
This means that you should treat your portfolio as a living document, something to be adjusted or updated to appeal to whoever you’re talking to. Rather than having a static portfolio which you send to everyone, you should find a way to easily remove certain clippings and add others in as you go.
This is more difficult for a portfolio website, but you can always keep a longer list of clippings and mention anything relevant in your pitch, or while you discuss specifics with your potential new client.
Keep it relevant and up to date
You might find, as your career develops, that you want to specialise in a certain type of copywriting, such as financial or legal.
If this happens to you, there isn’t much point including lots of articles you’ve written about other niches when you’re trying to establish yourself as a specialist. For that reason, it’s a good idea to keep your portfolio as relevant as possible – and that means having the confidence to prune irrelevant portfolio clippings whenever you have the chance.
Set aside some time once a month or so to do this task. Be disciplined with yourself about it: while it may seem like a job that can wait, it’s the sort of thing that must be done in order to get yourself and your brand in top shape for scoring new work.
Optimise it both for online and print
While it’s definitely true that many copywriting contracts are sourced and completed just using the internet these days, there are still some jobs which are negotiated in person, even for freelancers.
For that reason, you should keep a couple of copies of a well-designed print portfolio in your bag, just in case you get chatting at a networking event. This is a surefire way to mark yourself out as a committed and professional freelancer, too!
If the majority of your clients come from the web, there’s no point investing too much time or cash in a print portfolio. But it’s always worth having one on hand, and it should look professional.
Get it professionally designed
If you’re really looking to impress potential new clients, it’s a good idea to invest in a professional design for your portfolio. Instead of simply throwing it together using a plain HTML page or an automatic portfolio builder, you can really stand out from the crowd by making your portfolio gorgeous, as well as indicative of professional success.
You can hire talented designers on sites like Upwork to do this for you, if you don’t have the skills yourself. If money or time is an issue, you don’t have to abandon your dreams of a beautiful portfolio altogether. Why not use a ready-made website builder to host your online portfolio, such as Squarespace?
With easy drag and drop functions to make building a slick and attractive website a breeze, you, too, can have your very own corner of the internet in just a few minutes.
Mix things up a little
As the writer John Mello has noted, it’s vital to get some diversity in your portfolio.
Even if you’ve specialised in a certain type of content, you still need to show that you can create a wide range of formats, as well. This means you should include some longer blogs and articles, as well as short pieces, and even catchphrases or slogans, if you’ve created them.
If you have experience with non-article based formats, such as sales pages or email copywriting, that’s even better. Remember, these formats work well across lots different varieties of industries, so, no matter what your specialism is, you’ll be able to show that you have a handle on the major types and structures of writing that clients want.
A diversity of formats can also help keep your portfolio crisp and easy to navigate. If you’ve written a particularly long article, for example, you might be left wondering whether you should cut it down for your portfolio. The best thing to do is to highlight a really good section and create a small excerpt for your portfolio, then provide a link to the piece in its entirety, so that your potential client can check it out if they want to.