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How to Build a Writing Sample Portfolio

Simple Ways to Start Collecting Writing Clips

“How do I build a writing sample portfolio?” a newbie copywriter asked. “People won’t hire me without first seeing my work. But I can’t get clips unless I write.”

How to build a writing sample portfolio with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter

It’s one of the questions I hear most often. And it’s a problem I faced, too, when I first started writing. A potential client always asks that pesky question: “Do you have any clips?”

Surprise: you probably already have a writing sample or two (or more) tucked away in your files and you don’t even know it. 

Writing samples – clips – are examples of your copywriting or content writing. You needn’t have been paid to write them for you to use them as clips. They simply need to be good enough so that someone would have paid you to write them. 

There are simple ways to find them or create them and build your portfolio quickly. Read on …

Simple Ways to Build a Writing Sample Portfolio

Check Your Files

Dig through your files and find the cover letter you wrote to go with your resume … a project summary or PowerPoint presentation you created …. a short announcement or article you wrote for a newsletter … a page of web content that you wrote for your child’s soccer club.  Edit these pieces (or overhaul them, if need be.) Presto. You’ve got some clips.

Finish a New Project

What are you writing right now – an article? A friend’s resume? A blog post? Whatever you’re working on, finish it and then add it to your collection. Two reminders: (1) If your work is for someone else, ask permission to include it in your writing portfolio and (2) If you’re not working on a writing project right now, then hop to it. Remember:  ABW. (Always Be Writing.)

Go Local

Nonprofits and small businesses are always looking for free copywriting. Always. Create a simple, one-pager that offers your services to local organizations and includes your contact information. Ask friends and family if they know a local organization or business owner who could use a brochure, postcard, guest blog post, guest column … you get the idea. Share your one-pager. Follow up.

Write for Your Niche

This is a terrific way to get contacts and first clips and build experience in an area that you’re passionate about. For instance, if you’re an animal lover, go to the local animal shelter and offer your services in writing a brochure, appeal letter, newsletter, or in managing their social media for a few months. 

This is how I got some of my first clips. Because of my passion for faith-based organizations, I wrote articles for my church’s newsletter. The saved copies became some of my first clips. When our church paid off its mortgage, I sent a press release to the local paper. It was published word-for-word and I added to my stash.

Save Everything You Write

Hard copy. Digital copy. Back it up to the cloud. You never know when a client may ask to see a sample of a lesson plan, a speech outline, an abstract, a bio summary, or anything else.

Write well. Write a lot. Edit yourself. And you’ll have plenty of clips for your writing sample portfolio before you get hired – and along the way, too.

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