When you’re starting out as a copywriter, not having a portfolio can make you feel like you don’t belong in the profession – like you have no right to advertise your services, and that sooner or later you’ll be exposed as a fraud.
Ok, so you have no copywriting experience. But even the highly paid copywriters of the world had to start somewhere when it came to creating a portfolio to show potential clients. And it’s a sure bet the vast majority of them started with this tip…
Don’t wait for work to come to you.
Put simply, BE PROACTIVE. Be prepared to go hunting for and create your own opportunities.
Attitude is important. But, it’s also vital to have a plan. Because a good attitude without a good plan almost always leads to a waste of time and energy. Here are two excellent tips for creating an action plan for starting a portfolio…
1. Talk to your friends
The best place to start is to ask friends and acquaintances who own a business for an opportunity to write copy – or for introductions to their colleagues or business partners.
The first step is to make a list of EVERY potential lead – from your closest friend to someone you met at a networking group meeting that you went to a year ago and you exchanged business cards. The business they run could be anything from an occasional weekend wedding photography service up to a large corporation.
Next, you need to create opportunities to have conversations with them about copywriting possibilities. But what should you say and do when an opportunity presents itself?
• Do some research beforehand to show that you have some understanding of what they’re all about.
• Have a list of probative questions ready to ask so that you can identify ways in which you can offer support.
• Be prepared to listen for at least 70% of the time when you have a conversation. It’s all about them, not you.
• Take any opportunity, no matter how small.
People talk. If you do a good job with your initial opportunities, you’ll get referrals. Then you’ll quickly be able to build up your portfolio.
2. Make up your own project
While you’re looking for actual clients, you could also create some fake clients, with fictional copywriting briefs. You might well find this disconcerting…
‘But is this ethical? Can I just make something up?’
Yes, it is. And yes, you can. Potential clients don’t usually care about who you’ve written for previously or why. They just want to see something – some evidence of your writing skill, some content that they can examine. So, let’s look at the process involved…
a) Create a copywriting brief
A brief is an outline the company gives you about what their requirements are.
We’re getting a lot of traffic coming to our website but this is not translating into the number of sales that we’re looking for. We want to implement a marketing strategy that gets pre-qualified, preferred prospects to our site that are ready to buy.
It is ideal to focus on an industry that you have some knowledge about. This will make what can be a difficult task somewhat easier.
b) Decide on which kind of service to provide
For the above brief, you might decide that blogs are the way to go. But, there are of course many, many kinds of copywriting services available. Before you decide on which one to choose, think about which services you have experience in, that you’re good at, that you enjoy.
Choosing a niche area early on sets you up as an expert with a higher long-term earning potential.
c) Look at other examples
If you did decide to go with blogs, have a look around at other blog posts that are written about the same kind of business. Try to determine which ones are really well written and why. Make some notes and then use them as a guide.
Whatever type of copywriting you focus on, it’s a good idea to create a swipe file – a collection of excellent copy examples to use as inspiration later on.
d) Complete the project
Now you’ve done all the necessary preparation – and you can actually start writing. You should not only complete these four steps for your made-up projects, but also for ALL of your real copywriting clients as well.
If you’d like to read more about the art of copywriting, look out for more blogs in this series. Or if you’d like to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected].