Here’s How to Build Your Freelance Writing Portfolio from Scratch

build freelance writing portfolio

Even if you think you have no writing experience.

Are you struggling to build your freelance writing portfolio? If you can remember what it was like to get your first job in high school or maybe in college, every interviewer asked about your previous experience. But when you’re looking for your first job, how can you talk about your experience? The same thing is often true for freelance writers.

You don’t have experience getting paid to write and every gig or writing job you find wants samples of your writing. And what if you want to get paid to write in a different area than your work experience or your degree?

How do you show potential clients you have experience when you’ve not yet been paid to write? How do you build your freelance writing portfolio to demonstrate experience to your very first clients?

You can’t get experience without a job and can’t get a job without experience. It can often seem like a no-win situation.

But I’m here to tell you it’s not. If you’re new to freelance writing, there is hope. I work with and coach many writers who thought they were stuck in this impossible situation. It can be done and I’m going to show you how.

Forage through your past

Most people I work with are surprised to discover they actually do have more experience with writing than they realize. So, the first step to building a writing portfolio when you have no experience is to forage through your past. I know you think you don’t have writing experience, but I bet you do have something you can translate and use. So bear with me.

Create a list of each job you’ve had in the past. Every single one. There is no job too small to be on your list. It doesn’t have to be writing related.

Make sure to put down volunteer experiences and anything else you helped with for your church, for school, for your neighbors, etc. Did you and your sister have a lemonade stand every summer? Did you sell girl scout cookies? Were you in the church choir? Put that on your list.

Now that you have your list, we’re going to look at those jobs and projects with new eyes. Every experience counts, paid or unpaid, formal or informal..

I want you to look at your list and think about everything you did while in that role. If you think of anything writing, sales, or marketing related, write it down.

  • Was it up to you to gather the news every week or month for a staff newsletter?
  • Did you have to talk to people and either give them information about something or persuade them to do or participate in something?
  • Did you write or publish a church or school newsletter?
  • What about school or university? What writing and writing related experiences did you have there?
  • Have you ever worked on any part of a website?
  • Did you write or publish a newsletter for your local parent/teacher organization, your university, or your local service club?
  • Did you work on procedure manuals, lesson plans, or write up monthly or annual reports?
  • Did you tell new bedtime stories for your kids, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews when they grew bored with their printed books?
  • Did you write and send letters or poems regularly?
  • Maybe you were the one who wrote or edited the instruction manual for the new video conference system at work.

Just about every job or experience you’ve had in the past will likely have some type of writing involved in it. You won’t be able to use every instance but it’s good to do this exercise so you can be aware of the fact that you do have more writing experience than you think you do.

Discover your writing sweet spot

Now that you’ve thought about your writing experience from your past, find your writing sweet spot by making these four lists.

  1. What are you good at? What’s the thing that comes easy to you? (whether you like doing it or not)
  2. What would you like to be good at? The things you’d like to learn or develop.
  3. What are your interests? Are you a Walking Dead superfan, have you seen every episode of Outlander more than twice? Do friends/neighbors commend you on your garden, landscaping, or home decorating?
  4. What’s interesting about you? Think about your family life, places you’ve lived, or any other experiences you’ve had, positive or negative.

Now that you have your lists, circle three to five topics you’d like to write about. Check those topics for viability through a keyword search tool like Keywords Everywhere or UberSuggest to see just how popular they are. Look for the ones that have a high monthly search volume and low competition.

Learn More

There are so many types of freelance writing to choose from. Pick one or two areas and learn all you can about the expectations and standards for length of content, headlines, level of detail, format, etc. Determine whether you will write content that is primarily business to business (B2B) or business to consumer (B2C).

When you write, do you want to be known by your personal name, a business name or do you need/want to consider a pen name? If you can’t image your business existing without you, then you want a personal brand and to be known by your name.

If you can imagine building a writing business and then selling it to someone else or hiring multiple people who work with you, then you likely want a business brand.

Once you’ve chosen your brand name, find some contract templates you like, set up your invoicing and customer management system (CMS), and start getting your social media accounts setup, or if already setup, make them uniform and branded.

Build your freelance writing portfolio

(This post contains affiliate links for products I’ve used and recommend. I may receive a commission at no additional cost to you if you purchase)

Most experts will tell you the best way to build a freelance writing portfolio is to have a website dedicated to your writing services or at least a website with a portfolio page to visually show your writing to clients. And in some ways the experts are correct. If your website is properly optimized, it attracts potential clients for you and all you need to do is respond and close the deal. But getting that website properly optimized has a learning curve and takes time. In addition, you may start out writing in one area and evolve into a different type of writer.

Use a freelance writing portfolio service

For that reason, I often recommend that instead of spending the time to build a full-fledged website at the start, use a portfolio service such as authory, or Get started with these for very low cost and upload your portfolio pieces. If you want to further customize, buy a branded domain name (less than $20 annually) and connect the portfolio app to that domain until you create your website. It’s also essential to get a domain email ( as soon as possible. I used a portfolio with a custom domain on for over ten years and it worked just fine.

Come up with three to five ideas and write those pieces. If time is of the essence, create an account and self-publish them on a blogging platform such as Medium, Quora, or Vocal. You’ll use those published links in your portfolio until you have other published pieces.

Once you have a professional email address and three to four high-quality pieces perfectly polished, you’re ready to start looking for clients. There are many different ways to go about this. Work on getting that professional website up gradually, as you start earning more money and building up more published clips. Here’s how to find write for us opportunities for your niche.

I offer 2-hour webinar for $47, where I share my tips and tricks live and you can join us. Register for How to Find Freelance Clients and Get Paid to get information on the next session.

Meg Stewart has been freelancing for nearly two decades. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. Freelance Ladder was founded to help writers get paid and help solopreneurs do business better online. Meg and her family, (along with two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos), live in Northeast Ohio.

What’s in a Freelance Pitch?

pitch idea

My answer to the most common question I hear from freelance writers.

The one thing to understand before you search for freelance writing jobs is that editors who are reading your freelance pitch are busy. It’s the same for CEOs, website owners, and solopreneurs. Their schedules leave them very little time to peruse their email inbox for article ideas.

If you want your freelance pitch to be accepted, make it easy for a potential client to see your idea in their magazine or publication or on their blog. Clients are people just like you and I, they’re often just as busy if not more than we are.

Make it easy for a potential client to read your pitch and see the piece will be a good fit for their audience so they can hit reply and say “yes”.

Send a Freelance Pitch not an LOI

Please stop sending LOIs (letter of introduction) to hundreds of companies or publications if you’re a freelance writer. This may work for other types of freelancers but for writers, it adds an extra step to the process and can increase rejections from busy decision-makers.

Sending an LOI puts the work on the client to review your portfolio and then take time to think of an article idea you could write for them. They’re too busy for that. And they don’t know you well enough so they’re basically guessing.

Instead of an LOI, send a specific pitch for an article you know their audience will love.

Do Your Research Before You Pitch

This means you need to do your research before you pitch. You should be able to answer the following questions about any potential clients before you write your freelance pitch:

  • Who is their target audience?
  • Do they already have a blog and/or a newsletter? Are they posting content consistently?
  • What is the average length of blog posts or articles? What formats/styles are popular? (i.e How-to, Listicle, Guides, Interviews, etc.)
  • What special elements are used? (infographics, pull quotes, resources, other)
  • What topics or trends are current or popular right now for this subject?
  • What’s happening in the world right now that could impact this topic/subject?
  • What issue or angle isn’t written about that interests readers? Where’s the gap if any in what’s being covered.
  • What questions or information will target readers be interested in about this topic? ( or a People Also Ask box for your keyword can help with this)
  • Has this topic been covered in the last few months with the angle you are pitching?
  • Why am I the best writer to write this article right now?
  • What insight or perspective can I offer that most writers/freelancers might not be able to offer?
  • Does this company, publication, magazine work with freelancers or only staff writers?

You aren’t going to use all the above information in your pitch by any means. Your pitch will only be half a page, maybe three to four short paragraphs. But all the above information helps you make sure your pitch is targeted and relevant.

Email Subject Line

If the submission guidelines indicate what format to use for the email subject line you should follow the suggested format for that publication or company.

If there’s nothing listed in the guidelines for the email subject line, use something like new pitch: article title/idea, from your name.


Use the editor’s name whenever possible. If the tone and appearance of the magazine/publication or website seems casual, fun, or quirky, use Hello or Dear First Name. For journalistic publications or more formal magazines, use Dear or Hello First Name Last Name

Engaging Introduction

Your first paragraph should introduce your pitch idea and show that you’re familiar with the audience and tone of the magazine or publication or blog.

If you are responding to a specific job posting or call for submission you should indicate that in your intro. Tell the editor how/why you think this article/idea will resonate with their readers/audience. Avoid starting a pitch with your writing qualifications or talking about yourself. Start with the article idea!

Body of Freelance Pitch

Give suggested titles for your article and outline your approach using suggested subheadings or points you will cover. Your outline should include approximate word count/range which fits with guidelines or average article length in the publication.

Provide a few sentences indicating how/why you are the best writer to write this article. You can then give a brief summary of your qualifications but only the ones most relevant to the topic or article you are writing.

If the submission guidelines indicate how to provide samples of your writing, follow those. If nothing is listed in the guidelines, provide a link to your published clips or portfolio. Double check to make sure your contact information is current on your portfolio.


Make your closing sentences positive in nature and provide a way for the client or editor to respond to you. I suggest something such as “I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience so I can add this to my schedule.” or “I look forward to working with you in the coming month.”

Your closing should indicate you are waiting to hear from them in a way that assumes they will want to move forward with the project rather than asking them if they are interested.

Don’t close with statements like “let me know if you are interested”, “reply if you like this idea” or let me know if this idea works”, etc. These are wishy-washy and don’t project confidence.

Instead make it easy for them to say “yes” by letting them know you are ready and waiting to begin. Project confidence in your article with the words you use and the tone. Something like “I look forward to adding your project to my schedule” is great.

Pitch Follow Up

After about 8–14 days with no response, follow up by opening your original sent email and hitting forward. Address the email to the appropriate person and then saying something like “Just wanted to follow up on this pitch before I submit to other publications.”

Follow up once or twice with each publication or client and then move on but keep them on your radar to pitch a different idea in the future if they don’t respond.

A lot of experts will tell you to send hundreds of cold emails to get clients. Trust me you don’t have to do that.

If you start with my no blindfold system for finding freelance clients and then you customize your pitch for each client, you can save time and get better results.

Now go get paid!

Need help finding freelance writing clients? I offer 2-hour webinar for $47, where I share my tips and tricks live and you can join us. Register for How to Find Freelance Clients and Get Paid to get information on the next session.

Meg Stewart has been freelancing for nearly two decades. She’s a multi-passionate skill hoarder and the intersection of freelance writing, technology, and teaching is her sweet spot. Freelance Ladder was founded to help writers get paid and help solopreneurs do business online better. Meg and her family, (along with two dogs, two cats, and two leopard geckos), live in Northeast Ohio. Follow her on Medium or become a Medium member and get unlimited access.