There are some copywriters who argue against showcasing your freelance copywriter portfolio online.
Their argument rests on two reasons:
- You can’t showcase only relevant samples. (In other words, these prospects are bound to see irrelevant samples, in addition to your relevant samples.)
- When you visit your doctor for a checkup (or your lawyer), do you ask them for samples?
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 might be asking yourself this question:
Can you score gigs without a copywriter portfolio?
Can you get by even without a website?
But then again, why risk it?
If you can’t showcase samples from your portfolio, in my experience, about half of your prospects will disappear.
If you can’t direct them to any website at all, think closer to 70%.
(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!)
In other words, the time and money you put in upfront into a website isn’t a cost. It’s an investment.
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 try to 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 review them yourself. All the information on this page is based on my years of experience, tons of money and time spent investigating, and trial and error.)
A host of hosting options
When browsing the web in search 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 many shortcomings.
The other two options listed are just better, and offer a whole range of customizable functionalities, including for marketing. (For example, Siteground also provides you with your own email address and an SSL certificate, two 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.
Feel like reading more about hosting?
If you want a more in-depth comparison, Winning WordPress has an excellent article on hosting options.
Siteground hosting: A good choice for freelance copywriters
Siteground (my affiliate link) is one of two hosts I recommend. The other is WPEngine, although I haven’t tried it yet. I just hear only the best things (pricey though).
Siteground offers three 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).
On a personal note, I do have the slightly more expensive GrowBig plan, because it grants me the ability to host numerous websites on my server. (I run several side 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, and if you want to go cheaper, you can go with Namecheap and have your domain name point to your site. If you need help setting this up, just message me or comment below. I’ll try to write up instructions for this ASAP, or find a reliable resource.)
Here’s a quick list of features for the Startup Plan on Siteground. (Keeping it relevant to copywriters.)
- 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 well.)
- 10 GB of web space (Again, as a copywriter, it’s plenty, especially if you remember to optimize all your images.)
- One site
Features that come with every plan include the following:
- Unmetered data transfer (so you never have to worry about data caps)
- Automatic WordPress installation (Sweet)
- 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 great customer support)
If you want to review the complete list of features, click here for an in-depth comparison.
Which website-building platform do I choose from?
For website building you have three main 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 30% of websites on the Internet run on WordPress.
And that’s WordPress.org, not .com.
Don’t be intimidated by the interface. The learning curve is pretty low, and you can get acquainted with the main features fairly quickly.
Your site’s 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 contain four pages. These pages 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 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 scrolling down.)
What’s a “homepage”?
Don’t assume people will “start” on your homepage. Today, it’s just as likely that your prospects will land on the most relevant page they were searching for according to the algorithm of the search engine used.
And be sure to include a high-quality photograph of yourself, preferably taken and edited by a professional photographer.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.
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, you should ask yourself, “Who cares? Why should my potential client care?”
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 over someone else.
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.)
A cool UX fact
According to the Nielsen Norman Group (industry leaders in UX research), visitors typically read only 20% of content on any given web page.
Your Contact Me page
This one’s easy. Just make sure you include a headline, a brief hello, your contact info, maybe even a map (Google loves maps, although this is no longer free), and a contact form.
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:
- Four to six strong copywriting samples
- Four to six strong content writing samples
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 can hold your attention daily.
And if you’re not a recent college graduate, there’s a chance you have a background in something. What did you do before?
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 can’t shake. Maybe it’s what inspired you to get started in the first place.
Either way, all of these make a great starting point in looking for some inspiration to churn out a few quick samples.
Motivational side tip
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 show it.
Live copywriter portfolio example
Let’s take a look at my own copywriter portfolio as an example.
I want you to notice three things here:
- Because my main focus is on website copy, I include landing page and social media samples. (Keep it relevant to your strengths.)
- I present each copywriting project as a mini case study.
- I don’t display product descriptions. (Admittedly, I’m terrible at writing them.) In other words, when you showcase your work, make sure it’s the best representation of what you can do.
And don’t sell yourself short.
To some extent, every copywriter is a creative copywriter. So don’t be shy, and get creative!
And 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.
An easy way to immediately improve all your samples
Make effective use of bullet points. Each bullet point carries considerable persuasive power. And be sure to include a call-to-action in your direct response samples.
To generalize or to niche
There is no correct answer to this question. It’s a broad question whose response depends on a multitude of factors.
The two most common ways to niche are 1) by industry; and 2) by medium specialization.
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.
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.
The main argument against niching: You’re severely limiting your pool of clientele.
What do I think? Write copy for long enough, and your niche will find you.
If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about niching 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 use attempting to niche early and pigeon-holing yourself as the “something” copywriter, only to be unable to shake that label later on.
To blog or not to blog
If you’re a fervent believer in SEO, you should seriously consider blogging.
That’s because authoritative content is the 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 lower your rankings, and consequently, your website’s SERP visibility suffers.
Here’s what you do. (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?
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 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 basic keyword 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:
- Keep your post URL short.
- Include your focus keyword in your H1 headline.
- Sprinkle LSI (related) keywords in your body text, but avoid “keyword stuffing”. (Write for humans.)
- Don’t neglect your post’s readability. Use a tool like Readable to determine your article’s readability. (Aim for 65% and up.)
- Make sure your post is comprehensive (and at least 1,890 words long, according to Backlinko founder and SEO expert Brian Dean).
- Include internal and external links, which tell Google this is important content.
- Use only one H1 title. Use H2 (and even H3) titles to create a navigation-friendly visual hierarchy.
Lastly, do not neglect backlink outreach. Think of it as networking online. The more people find your content and consume it, the more Google will regard it as important.
And don’t forget to submit your sitemap to your Google Search Console. (Without it, Google won’t rank your site.)
Building a copywriter portfolio and website can be overwhelming. This is my attempt to compile a comprehensive step-by-step guide that streamlines this process. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below. Alternatively, you can join the Freelance Copywriter Collective to receive free tips and recommendations on how to grow your copywriting business.
See you there!