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The Purpose Of A Portfolio: Showcasing Usefulness

Without a good portfolio, any attention you get will be useless

Gig work is not an oligopoly, there are plenty of opportunities to get clients and there is plenty of competition. The challenge we all have as freelancers is discovering the best approach to standing out. That’s where your portfolio comes in, the purpose of your portfolio is to showcase your usefulness.

 

If you want to make a portfolio that is useful to both your clients and yourself, it needs to clearly capture your work. Your portfolio has to answer, “What kind of work do you do and are you good?” The purpose of a portfolio is to show your clients that you can consistently produce quality work, under any conditions. Your portfolio should be tailored to the type of work you are best at and the type of work you want to do.

 

You can accept other types of work to get supplemental income or for more experience, but you don’t need to add all of your previous work into your portfolio. The work you do add to your portfolio has to include the work you’re most interested in doing. And when you are an amateur, you need to design your portfolio to distinguish yourself from the sea of other competitors out there.

 

A portfolio that separates the amateurs from the professionals

The difference between an amateur and a professional is mainly based on time spent working. Amateurs work on a creative task during their spare time, usually doing said creative work as a hobby or as a side-hustle. A professional does their creative work full-time and it is their main source of income. An amateur can sometimes be better than a professional, but they simply haven’t made the transition into full-time work. Often times this transition can’t be made because of an inadequate portfolio.

 

A portfolio has to let your prospective clients know they can trust you with their money. Your portfolio has to give your leads confidence when they contact you to begin the negotiation and hiring process. The clients that end up paying you do so because they don’t believe that you are a risk. Before any negotiations are made, the client has to be willing to spend their money on you. Your portfolio convinces them to start a conversation.

 

Portfolio design takes time to master

Your portfolio has to be able to describe your process and the skills that you can bring to the table. Therefore, there are many design considerations that you have to consider when creating your portfolio. Can your portfolio describe your process? What types of services do you provide? How you decide to answer these two questions will either make your leads click to learn more or leave your portfolio page.

 

Amateurs have many services whereas a professional has one to two main services that they provide based on the industry they work in, market size, experience, preferences, and established credibility. When deciding which services you want to pursue, think about which types of services can let you cross-pollinate your skills. In copywriting, for example, one key skill that cross-pollinates amongst many types of services is research.

 

Additionally, you can and should describe your process for how you start and how you will deliver your assignments if hired. Whether that is stated at the beginning or at the end of your portfolio, this is an essential element to a successful portfolio.

 

A prospective client may be impressed by your work but, having your process clearly displayed will also let them know if you’re the right person to hire. Perhaps how they do their own work doesn’t align with your work process. Describing this ahead of time, in your portfolio, will reduce friction and future headaches for all parties involved.

 

Here is what you can do if you are just getting started

If you’re seeking the best way to start a freelance career in copywriting, you need to take matters into your own hands. If you are struggling to find work so that you can build a portfolio, try giving yourself assignments. Searching for writing prompts, rewriting a landing page you found online or creating a sample newsletter based on the emails you click on the most are great ways to start building your portfolio. You can also use the assignments and tests given to you when you’re applying for copywriting positions as portfolio items.

 

Even if you’re new to freelance work, having an empty or nonexistent portfolio is much worse than having a portfolio with a few self-assigned samples. At least with sample work displayed, you can show your skills to leads that are open to hiring someone who is just getting started. Also, by completing assignments you get better at your craft and the core skills that go along with it, which is necessary to grow your career. How else are you going to get better without doing the work?

 

If you can’t get hired by clients right now, hire yourself first.

 


Image Credit: Unsplash

For an example of how my portfolio looks like, click here.

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Do You Want To Get Paid For Your Writing Services? Here’s What You Need To Know

Business owners still need writers for their marketing

The first step in getting paid for your writing services is understanding that people will pay you. There are clients out there who want to save time and hire a professional writer to create content and sales copy. Video creators, graphic designers, and other freelancers certainly have it easier when starting out because their work does require the use of more tools and seems more difficult than simply writing.

 

Some business owners do believe that they don’t need to hire a professional writer—that they can just do it themselves. Just remember that these business owners are never going to be your clients.

 

The clients you are searching for have already acknowledged that they need to hire a professional if they want their marketing to be optimized and effective. The real challenge that you will have is figuring out where to find them. Once you do that, then all you need to do is sell yourself.

 

I suggest using these places to find your first set of clients:

  • Facebook Groups
  • Craigslist
  • AngelList
  • LinkedIn job search (and hashtag search)
  • Monster
  • Ziprecruiter
  • And good ol’ Google

 

There are a ton of websites and platforms online that provide job postings for freelance writers. You may need to do some spec work in the beginning, either working for free or taking on writing gigs that pay $0.03 per word just to start building a portfolio. However, after four to five assignments you can definitely start charging by the project or by the hour.

 

What you don’t want to do is start searching in the wrong places. You definitely don’t want to focus your efforts on finding work through platforms like UpWork, Fiverr, or Guru. Although these platforms make the search for clients faster, they incentive that you price your services as low as possible. They also take a cut from what you make. The better approach is to do the hard work yourself and create a dedicated time in your schedule to manually search for clients.

“But what if I just can’t seem to get clients? I have no experience.”

 

The best way to showcase your writing style, even without a portfolio, is to create a blog. By creating a blog, and ideally an entire website, you are not only showcasing your ability to write clearly and persuasively—you are also showcasing your ability to promote your ideas. Clients want to see that you can provide more than copy or content writing, your competition definitely has more to offer than that.

 

It’s important to write as much as possible, as websites that publish 16 posts a month get more traffic than those that post weekly. Writing every day is a great strategy as it pushes you to explore more topics and creates a set schedule for you to practice your craft. Your prospective clients can use your blog as an alternative to a portfolio, especially if the client doesn’t need you to have years of writing experience.

There are ways to get exposure

What if you want your clients to come to you? The best way to start getting projects coming into your email inbox or LinkedIn messages is to collaborate. Guest posting is a sure-fire way to get people’s attention. If you have publications that you’ve written for on your website, it validates you as a professional and it makes you more attractive to clients.

 

It is difficult to start guest posting for websites like Forbes, FastCompany, Wired, or Mashable but, it is not impossible. I’m personally going through this stage of my freelance writing journey myself.

 

I have to note that it is best to start with guest posting on small publications that can be found on Medium. At the very least, even if you don’t immediately get incoming leads for your services by guest posting, it will increase the overall traffic that you get on your website.

Save yourself time by learning how to structure your business

As a freelancer, you run a business. You will have to be responsible for every aspect of that business, from how to get your clients to how you charge them. One thing I definitely recommend you do is to create a client questionnaire to ensure you understand the scope of work before taking on any project—especially your first project.

 

A client questionnaire can help you understand what is required of you and it can help you know if:

  1. You’re qualified to take on the work,
  2. How much time you’ll need to dedicate to the project,
  3. If this client is worth your time,
  4. And if you will benefit from the experience.

 

I put a list of questions I ask my prospective clients below. I don’t ask them all of these questions during the first interaction but, I make sure that all of them get answered before I begin tackling any project.

Questions to ask before submitting a bid or proposal

  • What are the specifications of this project and when do you want it to begin?
  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • What is your payment method?
  • What are the hard deadlines for this project? Do you need me to set up the specific dates for each deliverable?
  • Have you worked with freelance copywriters before?

Questions to ask before the work begins

  • Can you describe your business in 50 words or less?
  • Who is your target customer (age, gender, location, job role, etc.)?
  • What do you want people to do when they visit your site? What is the #1 thing?
  • What are the key features of your product or service?
  • Describe your current process for making a sale?
  • What are your current content assets?
  • Do you have direct competitors?
  • Can you list any pieces of content, websites, or profiles that are similar to what you are hoping to achieve from this project?
  • How many people from your team will be involved in the feedback process for my copywriting?
  • If the copy/content is published online, may I get a live link to my site?
  • Will I be allowed to use this piece as a sample in my portfolio?

 

And let’s not forget the documents that you will need to make to make sure you get paid without any hassles. Most contracts, invoices, and other freelancer necessities can be found online as templates. You do not need to (nor should you) make anything from scratch. Just Google “Freelancer contract/Freelance invoice/Freelance proposal/etc. template” and there will be a ton of sites that provide them for free!

There will be a learning curve

If you feel like you aren’t confident enough to write content or create sales copy for a business, there are many resources available so that you can start learning. Youtube is my favorite resource, as there are hundreds of copywriting and content writing professionals who are promoting their expertise by teaching other writers.

 

There are obviously books that can also help you too, my favorite being On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.

 

Whichever resource you use, just know that you shouldn’t use the fear of being too inexperienced as an excuse to not get started. I blogged for five years before ever getting paid for a word I wrote. Yet, those years of not getting paid taught me and I am certain your learning curve will be much faster than mine.

 

If there is anything that you take from this article just know that you can get paid for the words you write—you just have to use the tools and advice from other successful freelance writers and take action.

 

If you simply start by setting up a blog (you can start writing for free both on LinkedIn and Medium), you’ll be well on your way to becoming a professional writer.

 

To give you some extra help, here’s a list of resources I use to keep my skills up-to-date and to help me grow as a freelancer:

 


Image Credit: Unsplash

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Focus On Owning The Category: A Not-So-New Approach To Building Your Personal Brand

Promote A Category, Not Your Name

The purpose of a slogan is to promote a brand that your prospective customer can identify with. You want the slogan and eventually your brand’s name to become so synonymous with the product or service that you’re selling, that you become generic.

 

Band-Aid is a company that sells bandages. Scotch Tape is a company that sells tape. When you hear the phrase, “Just Do It,” Nike is the first thing that comes to mind. When you hear these brands’ names, they appear to be the most generic in their categories: bandages, tape, and shoes. They own these categories.

 

These companies don’t only focus on promoting their logos, they focus on promoting the utility of their product categories. That’s what we all need to do if we are seeking to expand the reach of our personal brands. Thinking of ourselves as large corporations, it is better for us to promote the category of services rather than our brands themselves.

 

To give an explicit example, Tim Ferriss explains in  Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, that he focused on selling the category of Lifestyle Design. He did this so successfully that after the launch of his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, many other copycats came out of the woodwork. Now there are thousands of people who promote themselves as lifestyle designers on Youtube and Instagram.

 

Now we may not be as lucky as Tim in both owning and creating a phrase that ends up becoming a whole category of service providers, but we can learn something from his approach. Your prospective customer is being sold to every minute of every day. They aren’t only being sold to by your direct competitors, hundreds of other brands outside of your industry are also trying to get their attention.

 

Instead of doing what everyone else does and promoting your services as, “Look what I can do for you,” the better approach is, “Look what this type of service can do for you.” You come off as more educational, rather than promotional.

 

How To Implement This Idea For Yourself

I’m currently trying to own the category of copywriter. I am not the first nor will I be the last copywriter. My main challenge right now is that I am working uphill, competing with every single copywriter in the world.

 

Even if I were to hone in on a niche, that currently being product review writing, I am still in fierce competition with other copywriters who write the same type of content. The only way to distinguish my personal brand to stand out more is by modifying the title of copywriter, promoting content on why businesses need copywriters, and showcasing my expertise — what I know.

 

People only remember the top three to seven brands in a given category. We have to aim for becoming, at the bare minimum, the number three person in our field if we are going to even have a chance at having a client consider hiring us.

 

Creating content for your personal brand is only the first step in this process. While you create your online footprint, you have to constantly keep in mind, “How am I creating or owning this category?” The older and bigger the category, the more difficult it will be to do this.

 

If you’re trying to build your personal brand as a newcomer in your industry, the most accessible option will be to promote the category you are in. For the more seasoned professional, Tim Ferriss approach might be the better option. Try creating a new category and have others copy you so that you become the leader in that category by default. This is certainly harder to do but, it beats trying to stand out in a sea of other professionals who have the exact same title as you do.

 


 

I just recently finished reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Taking the ideas proposed by the authors, I wanted to know how I could actually retain the information more. I want to make the book more useful. They cover a wide history of how several companies gained prominence (or lost it) within their industries.

 

I’m taking what I’ve learned from the book and applying it to my personal brand. If you’re interested in learning more about marketing in general, I highly recommend buying this book. It’s a fast read and it is certainly an enjoyable way to spend a weekend at home.

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How To Charge A Client: Time, Creation, Or Results

Unclear Pricing Doesn’t Get You Clients

A freelancer’s hardest task is getting clients. You can be the best vendor or consultant in the world, yet if you cannot attract and retain a clientele, your work doesn’t matter. Part of gathering clients is determining how much you will charge them. You can only calculate how much to charge a client by using three methods of measurement:

  • Through time spent working
  • By what you’ve created for them
  • Or by using measurable results.

 

You may use a mix of all three of these methods but, there will always be an anchor. The anchor will be the main method by which all negotiation revolves around. In my field of copywriting, I charge by what I create. Instead of charging for my services by hourly rate, I charge by article or word count. I could charge by the time it takes to write an article or by the number of page views an article generates, but I personally don’t like those pricing models. The exact method you use is large in part, determined by the type of services you are providing.

 

Always Keep Your Pricing Flexible

When pricing your services, consider the exact dollar amount you will use as a starting point in your negotiations. You always want to be open to negotiating the price, as clients often provide you with more than just money in exchange for your work. A client’s value also comes from their network, as referrals are often the best way to grow your business and your reputation. A client’s value can also come from the project they are inviting you to contribute to, as certain projects are better for your portfolio than others.

 

Regardless of which of the three methods you decide to use, it is important to experiment with all three of them. Certain clients will only hire you if they can clock your hours, while others will only care about results and charge you a commission from actual revenue made. If your services necessitate it, you may want to include a retainer fee in your contract.

 

The retainer fee is a percentage of your services that you will charge before working for your client, which is used as proof that the client is committed to working with you. The price is usually between 5-10% of the total service fee but, you can charge more if your reputation allows for it. Some clients don’t accept retainer fees and you should use your best judgment when deciding to work with them. I would only work for a client without a retainer fee if they have a big network that I could leverage in the future.

 

Having a clear pricing model and a way of showing this to your clients before starting your work for them will always save you time in future discussions. You always want to make sure that your clients understand what it is you are doing for them and why they are being charged the price you are setting. If either of these are vague, you are doing your client a disservice. If you are shy about this topic of conversation when sending project proposals and setting initial client calls, there is a way to tackle that fear.

 

Questions Are The Best Starting Point When Explaining Your Pricing Structure

The best way to become more confident in talking about your fees is by showcasing your ability to understand your client. Instead of selling before naming the price of your fees, ask as many questions as possible. This will provide you with information necessary to tie your fees to their needs. When describing why you are pricing your services using your time, output, or results — bring the topic of conversation back to what the client needs from you.

 

If a client truly needs your services and if you are able to demonstrate how your services will clearly solve their problems, the conversation of setting your price will be easier to navigate. Hopefully, you will be able to communicate that you are charging not only for your services but, for an ongoing relationship with the client. You are charging to solve their current and future problems.

 

Lastly, finding the right price for your clients comes with experience. Additionally, you don’t need to leverage your own experience. Researching the advice of expert freelancers in your field can give you a ballpark figure to start working with. At the end of the day, play with the numbers.

 

If you find that prospective clients aren’t receptive to the current prices you are setting, perhaps you are charging too much or you need better clients. Experimentation will be the only way to determine which of these two scenarios is the real one.

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How To Get Remote Work As A Writer (An Opportunity To Make Money While Traveling Or At Home)

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

There is an opportunity right now for anyone who wants to work from home. This opportunity is also for anyone who wants to travel the world and get paid at the same time. Before I begin explaining how this can be done, I want to start off with what this post is not about.

 

This post is not about:

  • Creating a popular travel vlog,
  • Creating an e-commerce site,
  • Being a remote coder,
  • Doing graphic design as a side hustle,
  • Or becoming an influencer

This post is about how to use a universal skill, the ability to write, to make a living. And yet, just because everyone can write, that doesn’t mean everyone is good at writing. I would also add that anyone can become a decent enough writer to get paid, given enough practice and time.

 

The First Step In Becoming A DECENT Writer: Defeating Writer’s Block

One of the most prolific writers in the world, Seth Godin, doesn’t believe in writer’s block. He explains that what writer’s block really is, is a fear the writer has of not being perfect. If you want to be a professional writer, you are going to eventually write bad work. This is why most writers, whether you’re a content writer or copywriter, have editors. It is the editor’s job to fix any bad work you make, it is your job to write. It is as simple as that.

 

Writer’s block is the most accessible excuse to use when you don’t want to fully commit to the craft of writing. What I have done to get rid of my own writer’s block is to write every single day. This is a practice that Seth Godin suggests to anyone struggling, whether they are an amateur or a seasoned veteran.

 

The famous author Ernest Hemingway purposefully stopped writing mid-sentence so that during the next day, he knows how to continue. I could badger you with a whole slew of techniques and practices on how to tackle writer’s block but, to keep things short and sweet: writer’s block goes away by writing. Don’t be afraid to write badly. Just plow through and write each sentence knowing fully well that you can always go back and edit them or have someone edit your work for you.

 

If you are considering how to start gaining experience, know that you can write about anything. The best way to start is by creating a blog. The easiest topics to write about tend to be your obsessions, so that’s where I suggest you begin. Once you get a handle on what your topic is, the next step will be figuring out whether or not you want to write for the sake of entertainment, to educate your audience, or to sell something.

Do You Want To Write Content Or Create Copy: Content Writers VS Copywriters

Content writers and copywriters serve two different needs. Content writers write for publications to drive traffic to a website and gather readers. Copywriters sell products or services in order to convert people — to have them spend their money. The best way to know which type of writer you want to be (and you can be both) is by trying each role out.

 

Try experimenting with writing articles and blog posts that try to entertain your audience, educate them, and sell them on an idea. You’ll get a feel for what you’re best at based on your audience’s responses. Even if you don’t an audience, the simple act of writing these pieces will give you a sign on what you like to write about.

 

You can also find inspiration by reading! The best writers are great readers and they read regularly. Make sure that throughout your writing journey, you always take the time to read. Read books, read blog posts, read the newsletters that are in your email inbox. See what you like and dislike, and why. This will also help you figure out what you want to write about and how you want to write.

Here’s a list of resources I’m currently using to help me become a better writer:

How To Get The Gig: Don’t Pitch, Ask Questions

After you have created a large body of work, showcasing your ability to write consistently with your own unique voice, the next step is getting hired. Finding remote work as a writer isn’t as hard as it may seem. It took me three months to find my first job. And in the grand scheme of things, three months isn’t a long period of time.

 

Note that before you even begin searching online for your remote content writer or copywriter job, know that you’ll be searching for clients — not a boss. It is important to make this shift in thinking if you’ve never worked as a remote worker before. You work for your boss. You work with your client. That is the key difference to consider when sending your CV/resume to businesses that are hiring.

 

I mention this key difference between bosses and clients because the interview process you’ll experience will be different from a typical in-person interview. In any remote job interview, especially ones for remote writing positions, you’ll stand out more if you don’t sell yourself and your skills. I’ve found that clients tend to hire writers who understand them: their expectations, their needs, their concerns,  and the needs of their customers.

 

The only way to understand your potential client is if you don’t sell yourself and instead, focus on asking them questions. If you got the interview, the selling part is already over. Some jobs will require that you take a written-skills test or a writing assignment. This may be the hardest part of the interview process. However, if you write regularly you will have a higher chance of successfully passing these tests, as they usually are used to access your ability to write grammatically. They were sold on your skills when they saw your CV/resume. Now what they want to see is that you are professional and that you understand what is expected of you. The best way to do that is to show an earnest curiosity in their business and asking questions helps you with that.

 

Some example questions I have used include:

  • Have you ever hired someone for this position before? Were they also working remotely?
  • What communication problems have you had in the past with previous writers?
  • Do you use a writing manual?
  • Do you examples of past posts or copy that showcases the brand’s voice? What are the best examples?
  • How often do you need to be on a call with me and what times work best for you?
  • What are your monthly, quarterly, and annual goals for website traffic, sales, etc.?
  • What calendar and task management tools do you use?

Where I Found My Remote Writing Jobs

I found all of my copywriting jobs on both AngelList and Craigslist.

AngelList is another great platform I’ve used to find writing jobs. I prefer to use AngelList over LinkedIn because remote writing jobs posted on LinkedIn require years of experience. AngelList is a platform where start-ups are posting open jobs, so the opportunity to find a gig where you don’t need actual professional experience is much higher! If you want a specific recommendation, I suggest searching for the unpaid internship positions first. Once you’ve done two to three of them successfully, you can then use your past experience to get paid positions and ask your previous clients for referrals.

 

Using Craigslist surprised me because I wasn’t expecting that much when I first started searching for opportunities. Then I realized that there are a bunch of businesses outside of the United States that need native English speakers to create content and sell for them. As of writing this, that is where the low-hanging fruit is, any country that doesn’t have English as its first language. If you’re looking for specific recommendations, search for writing jobs within Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong. I have had great luck with these three countries.

 

Becoming a remote copywriter or content writer is only difficult if you are searching for an easy way to start. The difficulty tends to go down the more you write and build your body of work. I have been blogging for five years so, even though I didn’t have any professional experience, I still stood out whenever I applied for a position.

 

Perhaps becoming a remote writer is something you want to do. If so, know that I am not the only resource out there. I learned from resources available on the internet and so can you. I hope this post becomes a starting point for your journey to becoming a remote writer.

 

“The key to preparation is to strike a balance between knowing what’s out there and being optimistically ignorant.”Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts, Page 50


If you’ve read up to this point, I want to thank you for your time. Please share this article with someone you know who might like it too. If you have any questions, you can send me a tweet or a message on Instagram. I hope this article helped you in some way! Thanks again for your time and attention.

 

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