How to get your copywriter portfolio up fast and easy

Eager to hop on the freelance copywriting train, but don’t know where to start? Start here.

Sometimes, you’ll come across copywriters who argue against showcasing your portfolio online.

Their argument rests on 3 reasons:

  1. You can’t showcase only relevant samples. (In other words, prospects are bound to see irrelevant samples too, in addition to your relevant samples.)
  2. When you visit your doctor for a checkup (or your lawyer), do you ask them for samples?
  3. Lastly, you don’t need an online portfolio or a website to get work.

I admit, I used to fall for this reasoning. It’s cost me a lot of money. And it was a great excuse to stay “lazy”.

Except lazy meant wasting more time chasing and trying to convince cheap prospects to hire me.

 

Why you absolutely need a freelance copywriter portfolio online

So you’ve asked yourself this question: 

Can you score gigs without a copywriter portfolio?

Sure, you can.

Can you get by even without a website?

Sure.

But then again, why risk it? Why not invest in yourself?

If you can’t showcase samples from your portfolio, many potential prospects simply won’t even bother to reach out to you.

If you can’t direct them to any website at all, in this day and age, how are they meant to reach you, or even find out about you? Let’s not forget, lurkers exist, and they’re lurking everywhere.

(One copywriter I know claims he doesn’t have a website or a portfolio, but makes US$10,000 per project. So yes, it may be possible. But again, why risk it? It’s like starting a race with no legs. Weird! You’re crawling from the starting line.)

In other words, the time and money you put in upfront into a website isn’t a cost. It’s an investment in yourself and your business.

And I guarantee your return on that investment will pay off.

It will help you land more (and better-paying) clients.

Because whenever anyone requests samples, you just send them the link.

It’s that easy.

 

The technical aspects of setting up your copywriter website

Setting up a website can be a complicated and intimidating venture.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I’ve been building websites since I was a wee child. (Remember Geocities and Lycos?)

I’ll keep this brief and straightforward. (I’m not going to provide you with an in-depth review of all the hosting options. Feel free to do your due discretion. All the information in this guide is based on my years of experience, hard-earned money and time spent investigating, and trial and error.)

 

A host of bad hosting options

When shopping around for a host, you’ll see the name Bluehost pop up a lot. (They’re on the official recommended list by WordPress.org, along with Dreamhost, Flywheel, and Siteground.)

Apparently Bluehost and Dreamhost are fine alternatives, although I’ve read about many shortcomings.

The other 2 options (Flywheel and Siteground) are just better, and offer a wide gamut of customizable functionalities, including for marketing. (For example, Siteground provides you with custom email addresses and an SSL certificate, 2 major trust signal boosters.)

Although Flywheel appears to be an excellent option, for freelance copywriters who are just starting out, the price tag isn’t attractive. (I’ve also never used it.)

Despite doing fairly well financially, I’ve never been tempted to upgrade to Flywheel.

And that’s because, as a freelance copywriter, I’ve found the perfect host that suits all my needs.

 

If you want to read a more in-depth comparison, Winning WordPress has an excellent article on hosting options.

 

Siteground hosting: The best choice for freelance copywriters

Tools to make your site installation a breeze

 

Siteground is the only host I recommend. (This is the one I use for all my sites.)

It offers 3 plans, but you can safely ignore the most expensive option.

The only one you really need is the most affordable one (at US$3.95/month when billed yearly, for the first year).

A small caveat:

I do have the slightly more expensive GrowBig plan, because it allows me to host numerous websites on my server. (I run several businesses.) If you’re feeling entrepreneurial as well (and can spare $5.95/month), then this plan is definitely worth looking into. 

(You must also purchase a domain name, but if you want to go cheaper, go with Namecheap and have your DNS point to your site. If you need help setting this up, just ping me directly on Facebook. In the meantime, I’ll try to write up instructions for this, or find a reliable resource.) 

Here’s a quick list of features for the Startup Plan on Siteground. (Keeping it relevant to you, copywriter!)

  • Approximately 10,000 visits per month (Unless you’re planning on blogging and driving serious organic traffic over the long term and know exactly what you’re doing, this amount of traffic will suit you just fine for starters.)
  • 10 GB of web space (Again, as a copywriter, it’s plenty, especially if you remember to optimize all your images, which will help with site speed as well.)
  • One site

 

Amazing features that come with every plan include:

  • Unmetered data transfer (so you never have to worry about data caps)
  • Automatic WordPress installation (Sweeeeet)
  • Free email accounts (Yesss)
  • Free SSL certificate 
  • Insane speeds (This is where Siteground gets seriously impressive, even for the most affordable option)
  • World-class support (Near-instant ticket responses and the best customer support, bar none)

If you want to review the complete list of features, click here for an in-depth comparison

 

Which website-building platform do I choose?

 

A platform you can trust

 

For website building, you have 3 options: WordPress, Wix, and Weebly.

But as a freelance copywriter, you really only have one: WordPress.

That’s because of the three, WordPress is the only real CMS (Content management system).

There’s a reason more than 35% of all websites on the Internet run on WordPress.

And that’s WordPress.org, not .com.

 

A WordPress Dashboard at a glance

 

Don’t be intimidated by the interface. The learning curve is low, and you can get acquainted with the main features quickly.

 

Your site’s super-simple structure

Before you begin to write all your marketing materials, take a look at the overall structure of your site.

At the very least, your website should have 4 main pages.

These are your “Homepage”, your “About Me” page, your “Copywriter Portfolio” page, and your “Contact Me” page.

We’ll cover what you need to include on your “Copywriter Portfolio” page in a later section.

 

Your Homepage

Your homepage is where you’re going to post your pitch.

Pay special attention to your above-the-fold area. (The area first displayed on your screen, without needing to scroll down.)

 

Don’t assume people will “start” on your homepage. Today, it’s just as likely a prospect will land on the most relevant page according to the algorithm of the search engine used (most likely Google, ey?).

 

And don’t focus too much on your image here. In fact, if you’re feeling gutsy, you can omit the image entirely and let your copy do all the talking.

And be sure to include a high-quality photograph of yourself, preferably taken and polished by a professional photographer.

 

Your About Me page

Despite what it’s called, your “About Me” page isn’t about you at all.

In fact, it’s the perfect page for positioning yourself as the solution to your ideal client’s needs.

In other words, here you tell your visitor why they should hire you—but not directly.

You still talk about yourself, but while always relating it back to your ideal client’s needs.

So at the end of every sentence, ask yourself, “Who cares? Why should my potential client care?” In other words, What’s in it for them?

A good exercise is to ask your own clients (or even visitors who contact you) what about you made them decide to reach out to you in the first place.

If you can identify this decision trigger on your site, consider highlighting this selling point, or even moving it to a more prominent position. (Consider featuring it in your headline.)

 

Interesting Fact
Sumo conducted a research study last year, and after analyzing 650,000 hits, they found that visitors read only 25% of the content on a given web page.

 

Your Contact Me page

This is an easy one.

Include a stellar headline, a brief hello, your contact info, maybe even a map (Google ❤️ maps), and a contact form.

That’s it.

 

What to include in your Copywriter Portfolio

What you include in your copywriter portfolio must reflect your best work.

If you’re just starting out, there’s a good chance your portfolio is empty. But building a portfolio from scratch doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. 

Here’s what you need straight away:

4 to 6 strong copywriting or content samples, depending on what you think you’re better at, or wish to pursue.

That’s it. 

This is seriously all you need to get started and land your first client.

 

How to come up with a quick copywriting sample

I assume you have a passion. A hobby. Something, anything that interests you and holds your attention from day to day.

And if you’re not a recent college grad, there’s a chance you have a background in something. What did you do before this?

Lastly, I’m pretty sure you’ve got an ad or two you recall from a while back (or even from recent memory). Something that caught your eye, or some copy you just can’t shake off. Maybe it’s what inspired you to get started in the first place. 

Either way, all of these make a great starting point when seeking inspiration to churn out a few quick samples. 

 

Motivational side note

If you’re having doubts about whether your portfolio’s good enough to showcase, it’s important to remember that your portfolio is, and always will be, a work in progress. Because your portfolio will never be complete, it will never be “ready” to show.
So just show it.

 

A live example

 

The writer’s portfolio as an example

 

Let’s take a look at my own copywriter portfolio as an example, although admittedly, mine is a bit cluttered, and there is a lot of emphasis on design.

But I want you to notice 3 things here:

  1. I showcase a lot, but they’re all in fields I know I’m good at. (Keep it relevant to your strengths.)
  2. I present each major project as a mini case study. The minor projects are linked to another page below, where if you click through, they’ll appear as a list.
  3. I don’t display product descriptions. (I have no interest in writing them.) In other words, when you showcase your work, make sure it’s something you want to be interested in working on. You don’t want to attract email clients if you can’t stand writing emails, right?

And don’t sell yourself short. 

To some extent, every copywriter is a creative copywriter. So be bold and get creative! 

Don’t worry if you’re lacking years of experience under your belt. Study your favorite ads, and you’ll come up with a few great copywriting samples in no time.

 

Sample writing tip

Make effective use of bullet points, and try to include a call to action in your samples.

 

To generalize or to niche

There is no correct answer to this question. It’s a broad question, and the answer depends on a multitude of factors.

The 2 most common ways to niche are 1) by industry; and 2) by specialization. 

 

By industry 

What’s your background? 

Were you a journalist? (Great.) 

Were you an accountant or working in the finance industry? (Great.)

Were you in real estate? (Great.)

All of these are profitable niches. 

 

By specialization

What do you like writing for most? 

Do you enjoy writing mostly web copy?

Do you want to write only whitepapers?

Do you want to specialize in email copywriting?

Again, all of these are profitable niches.

The main argument for niching: You can easily command higher rates, and it’s easier to position yourself as an expert.

Example:

A whitepaper writer for the CBD industry is better than positioning yourself as a general copywriter. A CBD business owner looking for whitepapers will always choose the first option over the generalist.

The main argument against niching: You’re severely limiting your pool of clientele. Personally, I prefer niching down.

But once you write copy for long enough, your niche will find you anyway. For example, I started off writing web copy for SAAS and tech startups, and I quickly found that it didn’t appeal to me at all.

Anyway. If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about niching just yet. Focus on improving your skill set first. Complete enough copywriting projects, and you’ll discover what you’re good at, and more importantly, what you enjoy working on most. (No point being your own boss if you’re doing something you hate!)

 

To blog or not to blog

If you’re a fervent SEO like me, you should be a serious content strategist. 

That’s because authoritative content is the single best approach to generating long-term organic traffic.

The best part is, you don’t need to post 4 to 6 times a week (or however many times the “gurus” tell you to post.)

In fact, posting numerous low-quality posts can actually hurt your rankings, and consequently, your website’s visibility suffers.

So here’s what you do instead. (If you specialize in a niche, this part should be easy.)

 

How to write your first (and possibly only) blog post

First, think about your ideal client. 

(Who do you want to work with? What are their characteristics, traits, quirks? Do they have loose deadlines, or are they strict with you and themselves? Each of us possesses a unique working style, which means there isn’t a “best” copywriter for any business. It does mean, however, that you can be the best-fit copywriter for a specific business.)

Now take some time reflect on your ideal client’s business needs. 

Specifically, which of their most common needs could you fix quickly and yield the most obvious and dramatic results?

In addition, how would they describe these problems, and how are they researching them online?

 

Getting inside your prospect’s head

Let’s dive a little into SEO. (Don’t worry. If you want your target audience to find your article, read it, and hire you, you’ll need to know just enough of the fundamentals to get started.)

Let’s think in terms of keywords. 

Here’s an example: 

Your ideal client is a CEO in the blockchain business. What type of writer would she be looking for?

If you’ve been working in this industry for some time, you know the most in-demand content for blockchain businesses is blog articles, press releases, and whitepapers. 

So you conduct a little research, and you arrive at some conclusions. After browsing forums where your prospects post frequently and ask questions about how to find decent writers, study the terminology they use. If any of them strike you as commonly used, swipe them for your own copy and try to leverage these terms in your headlines. 

After you realize such businesses require a ton of writing and are an extremely deadline-sensitive industry, you might produce something like this:

“How to hire a high-volume blockchain content writer who’s never missed a deadline”

 

A few quick SEO-friendly writing tips

  1. Keep your post URL short.
  2. Include your focus keyword in your H1 headline.
  3. Write for humans. It’s 2020. Google’s algo is smarter than ever, and emphasizes quality content for humans, not for machines.
  4. Don’t neglect your post’s readability. Use a tool like Readable to determine your article’s readability. (Aim for 65% and up.) 
  5. Make sure your post is comprehensive (and at least 1,890 words long, according to Backlinko founder and SEO Brian Dean). 
  6. Include internal and external links, which tell Google this content is “connected”.
  7. Use only one H1 title. Use H2 (and even H3) titles to create a navigation-friendly visual hierarchy. 

Lastly, do NOT neglect backlink outreach. This is, in my view, the most important component of getting people to find your work online. Think of it as networking. The more people can find your content and consume it based on their intent, the more Google will regard it as important.

 

Need help?

Building a copywriter portfolio and website can be overwhelming. This was my attempt to compile a comprehensive step-by-step guide that streamlines this process.

If you’ve got any questions, leave me a comment below. (I love questions!)

Valerio Puggioni

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