If you build it, they will come.
This little mantra worked out pretty well for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams. He simply built a baseball diamond (a ball field, to most) and sure enough, Shoeless Joe Jackson turned up with his baseball posse to play in Kevin’s fields and the day was saved.
The good news is: if it’s copywriting work you’re trying to conjure up and not dead baseball players, this adage still applies.
You have to give potential clients a reason to be attracted to you. You need to showcase your skills. You need to build a copywriting portfolio and show them what you’re made of.
But here comes the the tricky part…what do you do if you’re just starting out and are lacking in evidence? You have enough raw talent, passion and determination to make your vision a reality, but you barely have any work to show to entice big-time clients.
It’s the Field of Dreams equivalent of Kevin Costner building his baseball diamond in his backyard…uninspiring and doubtful.
Luckily, there are some ways around this obstacle. I’m about to reveal 5 simple ways to build a winning copywriter portfolio from scratch…
1. Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends
Your first port of call should be to dig deep into your little black book of contacts…it’s likely that you know at least one person, if not several, that run their own business.
It could be anything from a high-turnover commercial company, straight through to a simple market stall on a Sunday. It could be your best friend, or it could be a tenuous link of a friend of a friend of a friend.
The truth is, it doesn’t matter. You need to find your own starting point to kick-start your portfolio and the most important thing is you find someone to give you a chance.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. At this point, you’re going to need to offer to help them out with your services for FREE. Look at their business and its marketing set-up and consider what copy they regularly need…then put the proverbial pen to paper.
Write a brochure for them, some website copy, a press release or whatever you feel would best showcase your talent and impress potential clients.
Look at this way, you’ll be doing them a favour, while simultaneously building that all-important archive of copywriting samples for potential clients to check out.
And who knows? Best case scenario – if they love it, they may end up paying you anyway. But at the very least you’ll have written your first piece of copy for a fully-fledged company.
2. Bring out your inner-sherlock
Creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, once said:
The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
Granted, he was talking about crime clues. But this little tip can come in handy for you too…you need to search high and low for companies who have an obvious benefit to market, but nobody is observing because their copy is lacklustre.
Let’s be honest, how many times have you stumbled across a website and thought ‘wow that copy is pretty shocking…and not in a good way’.
So, why not show them that you can do a better job?
Take that piece of copy that’s making you cringe. Rewrite it and make it awesome, attention-grabbing and hypnotic. But don’t ask beforehand, just do it!
You can then approach the company yourself and tell them they’re losing customers through badly-written content. You can even throw in a few facts about conversion rates to strengthen the impact.
Lastly, it’s time to reveal your brand new powerful version that will knock their socks off, and that they can have as a freebie.
(That’s right, free again. But bear with me, there’s method to the freeness).
Now, you’ve wowed them with your copy and they’ve seen how their unobserved company can now become observed, with any luck they’ll be blown away and will want to pay you to rewrite the rest of it (at a low rate that you’re offering).
TIP: It’s important at this stage to be honest about your experience. For one, people appreciate honesty, but also they can see from the high quality of your sample that you have raw talent and they’ll be enticed by the low rate that they’ll benefit from. It’s a win-win situation.
3. Show how you think
As a copywriter, the process you go through to create powerful copy is pretty much hidden from the world. The end result is visible, but those late nights tapping away at a keyboard on your fifth cup of coffee remain your secret.
That’s how it should be. However, what you should reveal to clients is why you approached a project in a certain way.
They need to understand how you think. It’s an insight into your analytical mind and the journey you go through to create concepts.
Contrary to popular belief, the words don’t always just simply appear in our minds and tumble out through our fingertips (unless you’re having one of those ‘nothing can touch me’ days).
Back up each sample of work in your portfolio with a rationale which includes:
The Job: Company X needed a conceptual ad campaign that would be rolled out across their global brand.
The Challenge: The copy needed to be dynamic and powerful, yet able to be translated into 7 other languages. I was tasked to create ad copy that would work across multiple platforms and capture the attention of customers from varied backgrounds and cultures.
The Strategy: I created concise, but powerful conceptual ad copy that steered clear of individualised cultural references and terminology. I focused on weaving a storyline for customers to follow that drew them into the concept and emotionally connected with the product.
The Results: Since the rollout of the campaign, the sales leads have increased by 12% with a 35% rise in online engagement.
For an in-depth glimpse into how this could appear visually, watch this handy video by The Business Author Edge.
4. Visual appeal
Imagine you own a company. You get an email from an unknown writer on a mission sending you a portfolio of manuscripts.
Ouch. Their head is already hurting, which is not a great start.
The potential client needs to see your work in action to see its true impact. You can’t expect a client to comprehend the power of website copy from a humble Word doc. They need to witness the final version in all its glory.
The obvious answer here is to showcase it on your copywriting website. However, if that’s still a fair way off into the future then it makes sense to get it beautifully designed by a pro.
Check out this article by Copify before you start creating. They’ve have put together a collection of winning copywriting portfolio examples to inspire you.
5: the power of knowledge
Even the most talented and experienced copywriters are a work in progress. The foundations are constantly shifting, with new technologies and platforms changing the game every day.
On top of that, copywriting is not only an art form…it’s a discipline. It comes with its own set of rules (albeit, that are made to be broken), techniques and tricks.
The best thing you can do is learn them.
Enrol on a copywriting course – not only will you learn invaluable skills from amazing, experienced copywriters, but you’ll also produce a body of copywriting examples that have been fine-tuned to imperfect perfection. The best bit is, that these examples can then be added to your portfolio and showcased to future clients.
There are a ton of awesome courses out there, that can be completed in your own time and you’ll be tutored by experienced copywriters who really know their stuff.
We’ve put together the cream of the crop to choose from. Trust me, we’re a picky bunch so these really are the best in the business.
There you have it. Our top tips on creating a copywriting portfolio to put you firmly in the running for big jobs and kick starting your copywriting career.
Remember, keep your rates low, start small at the beginning and take your time to collate work that really showcases your talent. When your portfolio gets even bigger and better, you can start to reel in those big-time clients you’ve been dreaming about.
Good luck. And don’t forget to check out our very own copywriting portfolio while you’re here!