When starting out as a copywriter, getting enough copywriting samples together to make a portfolio can seem like a mammoth task.
It’s now that the jobhunter’s age-old dilemma comes into play: you need samples and experience to get the job, but you need the job before you get samples and experience!
But luckily, there are plenty of things you can do in order to get that all-important copywriting sample under your belt and start your journey towards working for yourself as a writer. In this blog post, we’ll share some of our top tips for acquiring copywriter samples and building out your portfolio until it looks tip top.
Work for free – at first
When you’re trying to build a business as a copywriter and earn your own way through self-employment, it may seem counter-intuitive to make the conscious decision to work without payment.
But sometimes it’s got to be done, and when done properly it can act as a great way to build your portfolio and pad out your offer to those with the cash available to pay high rates.
Often, leading websites will have so many applicants and writers that there simply isn’t enough money to pay them all. This means that when you appear offering to write a piece for free, you’re likely to be able to jump the queue and secure that all-important byline.
The key thing to do here is to keep your free work in check. You should only accept briefs with no payment very infrequently and with the express intention of getting a byline for your work and including it in your portfolio.
Make sure you don’t fall into the trap of working for nothing on a repeated basis: there should always be something in it for you!
Make the most of online tools
One great thing about being a copywriter in the digital age is that there is a wealth of tools out there designed to help you create excellent copywriting samples.
When it comes to writing for a client, it’s essential that you develop excellent spelling and grammar skills. Although the client’s main aim is always to get a conversion or raise awareness, it’s also vital that they look professional – and there are plenty of tools out there to assist with this.
Once you’ve ensured that your copywriting sample is top notch in terms of spelling and grammar, you might also want to make sure that it follows a certain style guide. This is useful for ensuring that any specific usages you go for are used consistently: a common style guide followed by many copywriting agencies is that of The Guardian, so it may be a good idea to familiarise yourself with this.
Here at Copify, we also have a few content creation checklists designed to help you along as you write that killer copywriting sample.
With a little bit of planning and a lot of double checking, your copywriting sample is bound to look great!
But as any seasoned copywriter will tell you, that’s far from the truth. Copywriting is both a skill and an art requiring very specific abilities, and that’s why copywriting samples are so important.
For example, the average visitor only reads around 20% of a web page’s content – so you need to ensure your writing is as appealing and concise as possible to get your message across.
And as the team over at Kissmetrics have pointed out, big brands like Apple often use soundbites or nuggets of information in their sales copy rather than long-winded paragraphs.
As a copywriter, you need to demonstrate specific skills such as these, as well as excellent grammar, persuasive vocabulary choices plus a flair for business and commerce. And if you can’t prove these abilities through your copywriting samples, you’ll struggle to get hired.
That’s why taking a course in copywriting is a good idea. It will give you the skills you need to craft that killer copywriter sample when you start pitching to agencies and businesses, and it will also mean you’ll be able to put yourself inside the head of the client much more easily.
Keep the client’s priorities front and centre
When clients order a piece from a copywriter, they often have a clear set of aims in mind.
Some may simply want to get sign-ups on their mailing list, while others are hoping to target new customers to purchase their products.
So when you write your first copywriting sample, it’s a good idea to get a very clear idea of what your client needs. That way, you’re more likely to get positive feedback you can include alongside the clipping!
And when you present your sample either in your written or online portfolio, you should list alongside it what the client’s priority was. For example, if you were crafting an email marketing piece designed to get conversions, you should make this clear.
Create some conceptual work to show off your skills
If you’re finding it really difficult to secure either paid or unpaid copywriting samples, you could also consider drafting an experimental brief for yourself in order to show off your skills.
The beauty of this idea is that you don’t have to have an actual client in place in order to demonstrate what you can do. All you need is a bit of creativity.
Before beginning, you should be clear in your mind what your particular strengths as a writer are. That way, you can mould your conceptual brief around what you’re good at. Just remember to make it clear that the piece was written as an experiment and not directly for a client.