What to Put in Your Freelance Writing Portfolio


Photo Credit: Austen Distel on Unsplash

If you’re thinking about freelancing or even if you’ve been freelancing for a couple months or longer, you know you need ways to demonstrate your abilities to a potential client.

No matter what type of freelancer you are, whether you are a writer, web designer, copywriter, programmer, or ghostwriter, clients want proof you can handle their project.

For those of you using Upwork or another third party freelance platform, you’ve likely been asked to do a paid trial or provide free samples of work for potential clients.

Like many people, when I first started freelancing, I didn’t have any writing samples that I could show potential clients.

It was so frustrating. I mean how can you show clients what you can do if you’re new and don’t have any previous freelance work?

So I struggled at first. I agreed to do sample projects, in some cases unpaid sample projects. I was desperate to find clients and I just thought doing sample work was a standard thing.

Once I had a couple projects under my belt, I copied and pasted the content for each article into a Word document to send to potential clients.

After I stopped ghostwriting and had articles published with my byline, I copied those links into a Google document to share with potential clients.

It wasn’t ultra professional but it got the job done.

But then I learned about a better way. A digital portfolio.

What is a portfolio?

A portfolio is a notebook or some other organized way of displaying your previous work to show potential clients or employers.

It’s not that I didn’t know about portfolios.

I knew what they were and they’d been around a long time. In fact, I had done one of these when I worked in the brick and mortar world. I put examples of printed work like newsletters, brochures, and promotional flyers, along with letters of testimonial, in a 3-ring binder. I used clear plastic protector sheets to keep the ink on the printed materials from fading.

Back then, I used it to remind myself of everything I’d done in my career. And more than once I took it with me to an interview to show a potential employer proof of what I’d done.

But I always thought of portfolios as something that was more for visual creatives such as artists, photographers, and fashion designers.

When I decided I needed a portfolio as a freelance writer, my 3-ring binder wasn’t going to cut it.

The clients I was working with were now all online. Some of them were in other countries.

I didn’t have my own website at that point and I wasn’t making enough money to pay for web hosting services.

So I went in search of a digital portfolio tool or app to showcase my writing samples to potential clients.

Portfolio Tools and Apps (not affiliate links)

Clippings.me was one of the first apps I found. I used the free version for several years and then upgraded to the paid version which had unlimited slots for projects and a customized URL.

What I liked about clippings.me is that I could create a section at the top with a short bio and links to my social media accounts.

The top looked almost like a website homepage. And down below that, I could add the links to the sites where my articles for clients were published.

When potential clients asked to see samples of my writing, I sent them the link to my clippings.me portfolio.

Journoportfolio.com is another portfolio site I considered then. It’s very similar to clippings.me but more targeted to journalists and writers.

Their free version is good and they offer two paid versions with additional features such as a customized URL, themes to choose from, and unlimited clippings.

There are tons of options out there, but the two above are the ones I found the simplest to setup and the easiest to customize for a professional look and feel.

Of course, the ideal way to showcase your portfolio is as a page on a self-hosted website that you own, using Wordpress.org.

But if you aren’t yet making money from your freelancing, one of the two options above will do the trick for the time being.

What to put in a freelance portfolio

One mistake I made as a new freelancer was thinking I needed to include ALL my previous writing work in my portfolio.

I wrote about a variety of different topics for many different clients. I wanted to make sure that potential clients could see the breadth of my writing experience so I included it all.

But I’ve learned that including everything isn’t the best way to showcase your work.

In fact, it actually has the opposite effect.

When a potential client looks at your portfolio and sees a twenty or thirty different articles, it can overwhelm them.

Instead of including all your previous work, aim for about three to eight published clips. Choose the pieces you feel are your best work, the ones that make you proud and highlight your skills.

Before you add each piece to your portfolio, make sure there are no errors in spelling, grammar, or content. You want to put your best foot forward for potential clients.

Your portfolio should show potential clients you are an expert in your topic or type of writing.

If your primary niche is mental health, you don’t need to include the project you did on technology or the book review you did, unless it relates to mental health.

If you are new to freelancing and don’t have any published projects yet, look for a platform, such as this one, where you can create some sample articles, blog posts, or case studies and publish them.

You can then link to those projects on that platform in your portfolio.

What are you currently using when clients ask to see samples of your work?

Do you have a portfolio?

Let me know what’s working for you or what you’re struggling with about it in the comments below.

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With fifteen years of freelance experience, Meg founded Freelance Filter in 2019 to help writers and small business owners learn the technology needed to do business better online. She currently offers private coaching to writers and small business owners. Her favorite nonfiction writing projects deal with marketing, SEO, freelancing, productivity, and technology for writers and small business owners. She's currently working on an SEO guide for beginners and a series of short stories. She's a mother of four and "Grammi" of ten.

Madison, OH

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