When you’re just starting out as a copywriter, your empty portfolio can feel like a neon sign telling potential clients “I HAVE NO COPYWRITING EXPERIENCE.”
You feel like it’s the only thing they will notice about your beautifully written website.
There are a few ways to fill up your copywriting portfolio while you’re filling up your pipeline with actual clients.
One is approaching local businesses and offering your services in exchange for a testimonial and use of the piece in your copywriting portfolio.
Another is working with not-for-profit organisations, which are often crying out for help with their marketing efforts.
You can also accept copywriting projects from any number of freelance job sites. However, I do not recommend getting too embroiled in these sites. Some freelancers do very well, but when you’re competing against low prices, it’s a race to the bottom.
The option I want to explore in this post is making up samples for your copywriting portfolio. Yes, you read that correctly. Making up samples.
This actually came up in a recent coaching call for my Copywriting Master Class, and a student asked, “Is that legit? Can we just make it up?” Yes. You can just make it up.
Potential clients just want to see that you’ve written something. In most cases, they don’t care about the businesses behind the pieces they see in your portfolio. They just want to see something in that portfolio!
A quick aside: Don’t lose your mind over having an empty portfolio. The easiest way to get around it is to just leave that page off your website until you have something to show off!
Where do you even begin making up copywriting samples?
Whipping up an advertisement, brochure or website page sounds relatively easy, right? I mean, you’re a copywriter. How hard can it be?
When I tried to do this as a newbie copywriter, I remember staring at a blank page wondering where the hell to start. My mind was blank. I questioned my skills as I struggled with this simple task.
I can confirm, with more than a few years of copywriting under my belt, that writing about a client who has given you a real copywriting brief is MUCH easier. So creating a copywriting brief is the first step.
1. Write a fake copywriting brief
My copywriting brief is very detailed. I ask clients a lot of questions because buried in the details of their responses is the gold that helps me differentiate their businesses.
This is where to begin your made-up project.
Choose a business from a local business directory or your hood. Pool supplier. Accountant. Bakery. Whatever. Just keep it relatively straight-forward. Then fill out a copywriting brief for the company.
2. Choose a type of copywriting project
Will you write an advertisement, brochure, flyer, email or website page? These aren’t the only options of course, but they are the most common copywriting projects asked for and so make a great start for your fictional client.
You don’t want to make this harder than it needs to be, so keep it simple.
If you choose a brochure, make it relatively short. If you choose a website page, just write one page.
Remember, most clients just want to see something.
3. Look at examples for inspiration
I broke into a sweat the first time I had to write a small ad for a newspaper.
So much to say and almost no space! But looking through other ads gave me some reminders about the key elements to focus on. The same applies for a short brochure, flyer or an About page. This is exactly why copywriting swipe files are so damned useful.
If you feel a bit vomity when you start to write your made-up sample for your copywriting portfolio, just have a look at other examples and let the words flow from there.
4. Write and edit
This naturally is the hardest part of the process, but all the research you’ve done for your imaginary client will make the writing easier. And not just for this copywriting portfolio sample—for all your copywriting projects.
5. Format it for your portfolio
You might be wondering how much design work you have to do for your made-up copywriting sample. Don’t stress. Your focus is on the words, so formatting your sample in a word processing tool is just fine. However, if you’re whizzy with a design tool, go crazy!
Include a header that explains the business and some information about the project. For example,
Project: Website About page for a bakery
Objective: To help customers feel like they know us when they walk into the store.
Project: Flyer for a newsagent
Objective: To promote a sale on back-to-school stationery
When you do this, you are showing off that you write copy to achieve objectives!
Your copywriting portfolio has its first piece!
It’s nowhere near as hard as you might think. And once you go to the trouble of filling out that copywriting brief for your imaginary client, you may as well create a few pieces for them!
Then you can sit back and concentrate on bagging new clients knowing that neon sign in your copywriting portfolio has been taken down.
Will you use this process to create your first portfolio piece? Let me know how you do! And copywriters who already have a portfolio, how did you get your first pieces?
The Copy Detective