You know you can write well and have decided to work as a freelance writer. But you find yourself stuck—you don’t have a portfolio! All you have are a few pieces of writing — essays and stories — that you wrote for your school magazine. If you’re wondering how to approach prospects without a portfolio, well, well—there’s some good news for you! You can still bag projects and make your mark as a freelancer even if you haven’t yet created a portfolio.
10 Things You Can Do To Get Hired Without A Portfolio
Communicate With The Prospect In An Open And Honest Manner
You know you love to write, want to make a career as a freelancer writer, and you’re desperate to get your first project. We get it. But the first virtue of being a successful freelancer is being honest. If you haven’t done similar work in the past, don’t hesitate to say so. Instead, highlight the skills that can help you do the job better.
For example, if you need to write case studies and don’t have any case study writing experience, you must be honest and upfront about it. Instead, highlight your skills like “I have interviewed experts before for my newsletter, and I am good at it”—that can help the prospect gauge your abilities.
Whether you want to take up freelancing as a side hustle or a full-time writing career, your ultimate aim is to monetize it. There’s nothing wrong with it either. But if you’re starting, prioritise gaining experience rather than emphasising the pay cheque.
Does a client agree to offer you some work, but the pay is low? Don’t reject those opportunities. Instead, see if you can negotiate a byline in exchange for low income. You can include it in your portfolio and pitch it to the next client!
Offer To Do A Paid Test
I don’t have a portfolio to share, but I’m happy to do a paid test”—say this to your next prospect if you are keen to get the job without a portfolio. This works because you get to showcase your skills, get paid for them, and even get hired if you can match the client’s expectations.
This is also a way to test your pitch to a genuine prospect. Clients who are honest and want to be hired will happily agree to this proposition. Give it a try!
Subcontract With An Established Freelancer
Working as a subcontractor with established freelancers is a great way to get mentored, earn experience, and build a portfolio. As these established freelancers have already walked the path you are on now, they can guide you and help you get started.
Know that these freelancers have already earned their reputation in the industry and have a good flow of work they often want to subcontract. To work with them, choose a niche you want to focus on, and reach out to these niche freelancers, expressing your wish to work with them. Don’t forget to mention why you want to work with them and what you can bring to the table.
Tap Your Network Of Freelancers
Word-of-mouth marketing can be a game-changer in taking your freelancing business off the ground. When you get recommended by established freelancers in the industry (remember, clients, trust them!), clients are more willing to try you out even though you don’t have years of experience.
So, lean on your network, and let them know that you are now freelancing and looking for projects. You will be surprised to see who your network might know!
Check out the networking tips to make your inner circle more stronger.
Finally, remember that you keep building and refreshing your portfolio as you move up the ladder. So once in a while, go back and check your portfolio.
Is there a new byline that you just received? Add them! worked for a prestigious brand? Include them in your portfolio. And keep reaching out to prospects. Remember, freelancing needs a lot of patience, so hang in there.
You know Where To Search For Your First Few Freelance Clients
There are many freelance marketplaces that you can consider exploring to win your first few clients without experience or a portfolio.
As you gain experience and establish yourself, you might want to move away from these marketplaces that take a significant pay cut as commission. Plus, most buyers on these marketplaces are looking for the cheapest work.
Offer A Discount
This tactic can also get you some initial projects to help you get started. You can offer a discounted price to pick your first few projects and trade them for a byline that goes straight into your portfolio.
Optimise Your Social Media Profile
If you want to attract new clients for your business, you need to be present on social media where your prospective clients are present.
Optimize your profile by adding a professional headshot photograph, mentioning your niche and your skills, and clearly stating what services you offer. Engage with your prospective clients through their social media posts. Adding a thoughtful comment to someone’s post is a great way to start a conversation.
Freelancing is hard, and getting a new job without a portfolio is even more challenging. But if you follow the tips shared above and work hard towards it, getting hired as a freelancer is not so difficult! Once you set your foot in the business and start getting booked, don’t forget to negotiate for higher rates.
Create Your Portfolio
If you don’t have a portfolio, create one for yourself. Many new freelancers do that, and apart from showcasing your skill, it also highlights your proactive nature and sincerity, which will add some brownie points to your portfolio.
Check out the 15 elements you must include in your portfolio.
If you’re venturing into writing, you can pick up topics that you want to write about and explore on different publishing sites like Medium, your blog, or as a LinkedIn article. Guest posting is another way of building your portfolio where you contribute your articles to established websites in your niche.
You won’t receive any money for it, but you will get a byline that you can showcase. You can create mock-up designs and a portfolio on Behance if you’re a freelance designer. You may also want to take up an internship to create a portfolio.
Chayanika is a freelance writer for B2B Tech and SaaS companies. When she’s not writing, you can find her practicing dance lessons, engrossed in a book, or traveling.