Landing good-paying freelance writing jobs without a portfolio is nearly impossible.
If you’re lucky, you might get some great referrals from past clients that lead to new jobs. However, if you’re new to freelance writing, you need to be aggressive about pursuing jobs.
That means sending a lot of pitches to potential clients – those are your hooks. If they bite, they’ll take a look at your portfolio, and things can move along from there.
If the idea of setting up a portfolio sounds intimidating or expensive, don’t worry – it isn’t. You have a ton of options to set up a freelance portfolio for cheap. I’m going to walk you through my favorite approaches – most of which are free!
1. Medium (Free)
Medium hardly needs an introduction. It’s one of the most popular blogging platforms on the web. Millions of people already use it to share their thoughts on anything you can imagine, and it can also double as a professional portfolio. Let’s break down why:
- People know Medium, so it doesn’t look unprofessional to host your work there.
- The design is simple and clean, and it doesn’t take attention away from your articles.
- It’s easy to use and you can publish articles in a matter of minutes.
There is, however, one big downside to using Medium – you can’t reproduce content hosted on other websites.
Let’s say, for example, client A pays you to write an article for them under your byline. You do an amazing job and you want to showcase that work as part of your portfolio.
With Medium, you can’t link to external content, which means all the work on your portfolio needs to be original work.
It’s a great option if you’re starting out and you don’t have any bylines yet, but not so much if you’re already somewhat established.
2. Pinterest (Free)
That’s right, Pinterest isn’t just good for food porn or gazing longingly at pictures of cool apartments. You can also use it as a way to showcase your freelance writing work, as seen below:
It’s an unorthodox approach, but I kind of like it, and it works on a few levels:
- It’s a bit quirky, so it sets you apart from other freelancers.
- Pinterest is all about visuals, so you can showcase your article’s featured images (which they should have!) as a way to grab a client’s attention.
- You can use boards to categorize your content into different categories, making it easier to browse.
Pinterest is also a great option if you have a very extensive body of work. Unlike Medium, you can link to as many external pages as you want, so it works perfectly if you’ve written for dozens of websites.
Here’s the downside – it’s very hard to lead a client’s attention where you want it to go if you’re using a Pinterest portfolio. The platform is all about visuals, so people are just going to click whatever catches their eye.
In my experience, no one is going to go through dozens of your bylines. Prospective clients will check out one or two pieces at most and make a decision based on that. That means you need to be picky, which can make your Pinterest portfolio look a bit bare.
3. ClearVoice (Free)
ClearVoice presents itself as a freelancing platform. You put together a portfolio using their website and they email you if they have job opportunities that fit your profile.
Personally, I don’t have much experience working with ClearVoice on freelance writing assignments. However, I do like the way they let you set up your portfolio. To give you an idea, if using ClearVoice, you can:
- Link to as many external pieces as you want and the platform will automatically pull featured images
- Add a lot of information about what kind of work each article entailed (i.e. what industry you wrote for, if it was a ghostwritten assignment, more)
- Include brief synopses for each piece in your portfolio
- And the platform keeps an eye out for new content under your name and reminds you to add it to your portfolio!
Here’s what a full ClearVoice portfolio looks like:
For a while, I used ClearVoice as my primary portfolio because adding new content to it was so simple. Plus, it looks pretty professional and clients never seemed to mind when I sent across pitches.
Some people also have a lot of luck finding work within the platform, but your mileage may vary. I wouldn’t count on using ClearVoice as a reliable source of income, but it’s free and the freelance portfolios look great, so that’s good enough for me.
4. Self-Hosted WordPress (Paid)
Let me start off by clearing up two misconceptions you may have about setting up your own WordPress website:
- It’s expensive. It can be if you overpay for hosting or buy add-ons you don’t need. However, these days you can easily set up a website for less than $15.
- It’s too complicated. Yes, building a website can be complicated, I’m not going to argue that. However, the process is easier than ever nowadays thanks to platforms such as WordPress.
I’ve been using WordPress on and off for years, both for personal projects and work, and I don’t have a lot of complaints. WordPress is perfect if you don’t have any web development experience. Plus, there are a ton of resources that explain how to install it and configure a basic website.
In the past, we’ve published our own guides on how to use WordPress to set up a blog.
It’s also a great option for a freelance writing portfolio because – unlike the other options we’ve gone over so far – it gives you full control. You can customize your portfolio’s design any way you want, add customer testimonials, link to external work, etc.
On top of that, few things make you look as professional as having a portfolio with a custom domain name. Saying, “You can check out my portfolio at JohnDoeFreelanceWriter.com,” reads much better than “You can check out my Pinterest portfolio.”
That domain name might not be what sways clients over, but it can certainly give you a leg up.
Returning to the theme of costs, you have a ton of options when it comes to hosting a portfolio. You don’t need anything more robust than a shared plan.
Bluehost, for example, offers shared plans starting at less than $5 per month. Installing WordPress is free. From there on, the only additional cost is registering a domain name (.com domains usually go for around $10 per year).
If $5 per month seems like too high a cost for your professional calling card, then you may want to rethink your strategy.
A lot of professional freelance writers have fancy portfolios with their own domains and fully custom designs. I like the approach because it lets you impress potential clients from the get-go, but it means spending a bit of money upfront.
Purchasing a domain and hosting is not as expensive as you might think. For example, you can find shared hosting for less than $5 per month, set up WordPress, and customize your portfolio in less than a day.
If you’re on a tight budget, there are also free options you can use. I’ve met professional freelance writers who use Pinterest boards (that’s right, boards) to link to their work or host it on Medium. Some platforms, such as ClearVoice, can enable you to both find work and showcase your best pieces.
You have plenty of cheap options, so there’s no excuse not to set up a portfolio if you’re serious about being a freelance writer.
If you have more questions, you can check out the Paid to Blog course, which walks you through all the basics!