Copywriting is the most lucrative arena for a freelance writer. How lucrative it is for you however, depends on the strength of your portfolio. Your copywriting portfolio is your body of work: the direct mail pieces, brochures, advertisements, and Web sales pages you’ve written for clients over time.
When you first start out as a copywriter, Creative Director your portfolio will be slim: it will consist of writing samples you’ve created. As you get clients, your copywriters’ portfolio will fill with clients’ pieces. One point: always get a clients’ permission before you add the work you wrote for them to your portfolio – most will be happy to give it to you.
Should You Write For Free To Build Your Portfolio? I’m often asked whether you should write for free, in order to build your copywriting portfolio, and my answer is always a firm “No”. The only exceptions are when you’re writing for a good cause: for your church, or a charity.
Beware of those prospective clients who ask you to write for “exposure”. Writers attract jackals and wolves who’ve worked out that many writers are woefully unbusinesslike. Refuse all these offers. None of them are legitimate. You’re more than capable of writing your own marketing materials – press releases, Web site copy and articles – which will give you all the exposure you need. You don’t need any faux exposure.
Take every opportunity that you can find to build your portfolio – it’s your gateway to a six-figure copywriting career.
Working As An Intern Helps You To Build Your Portfolio A legitimate way to build your portfolio to get well-paid copywriting gigs is to work as an intern for a local copywriter, or agency. Both copywriters who work alone with just an assistant, and agencies (such advertising, graphic design, and Web marketing agencies etc) often welcome another pair of hands.
You’ll receive just a token payment in most cases, but the experience you gain will be priceless. Be up-front about why you’re looking for an internship, so that your new employer can help you. You’ll make contacts and gain valuable experience, even if you only intern for a month or two.
Another way to build your portfolio is to work with an established copywriter as a sub-contractor. Many copywriters sub-contract out work, acting as project managers. The copywriter who was commissioned by the client is responsible for the work, so you will be asked to do research, and perhaps even an early draft.
Learning how a skilled copywriter puts together a direct mail campaign, or a Web sales letter is priceless experience. You won’t be able to add the resulting copy to your portfolio as your own work, but you will be able to claim that you worked on a particular campaign.