Copywriting: How do you create a portfolio from scratch?
Even if you’ve never had a client — this still works.
The most infamous question almost every freelancer ends up asking:
“How do I create a portfolio with no real work yet?”
And the REAL question in the back of their minds…
“How can I get my first client and actually get paid to write?”
Well — as someone who had NO provable work or data (despite having written for an extremely well known YouTuber, an extremely well known businessman who had their own movie, a 9+ figure business who Astra Zenica wanted to acquire, an extremely well known dating coach, etc.) the issue was… I had no provable data!
I had experience that I couldn’t prove.
I had no “results” to actually show because I was a “ghost writer.”
Yet — I knew these companies were still using the copy and principles I had either taught their teams or shown to them.
But with my non-existent self-confidence, there was NO WAY I was going to try and use any of that on a portfolio.
“What if the client asks for the numbers?”
So that’s when I knew I had to figure out how to “start from scratch.”
Here’s what I did…
I started applying to everything that came across my desk.
If I saw someone was looking for a copywriter — I applied.
When Ben Settle used to pass on jobs that came across his desk that he didn’t want… he would pass it off to his Email Players subscribers.
*NOTE: HE DOESN’T DO THAT ANYMORE.
So I applied for a job with Truegenics.
I was up against Ben Settle’s entire list — which includes guys like Gary Bencivenga.
Now, I can’t see a world where Gary applies for a job… but Ben’s list is no joke.
So I was scared shitless applying for a job like that where I knew the company was a big one and that others would want this position.
But I did it anyway and followed the instructions to a T.
I submitted my work and…
I didn’t get the gig.
But the chief copywriter took the time to let me know I was in the top 10% out of all ~350 applicants.
And that gave me a little bit of confidence that maybe my work was okay.
So instead of just letting my “homework” and “spec assignments” that put me in the top 10% of those copywriters…
I took and made it into my portfolio.
It was short and sweet.
6 Pages, but huge font (like 24pt+).
In reality, this was basically a 1 page portfolio.
I had written a headline, some subheadlines, some bullets, and explained what “leptin” is and what it does. I basically wrote a mini sales letter and just called it a “portfolio.”
And that “portfolio” would make me tens of thousands of dollars fairly quickly through one-off jobs and retainer gigs.
And here’s why it worked (in my opinion):
Business owners are BUSY — so a short, powerful portfolio is crucial in my experience.
In this case, size DOES matter and bigger IS NOT better.
Instead of giving clients a massive portfolio to filter and sift through (like my old portfolio which had well over 30 “samples” some of which were better than others)… I just used a single powerful piece.
It’s like a shotgun vs a sniper.
The shotgun approach hopes that the client:
- Goes through all your stuff
- Likes what they see
- Finds your best stuff
But that’s putting a lot of responsibility on the client and leaves too much up to chance.
That’s why I prefer a “sniper” approach.
- Have or create a sample (1–2 pages, NOT using tiny font)
- Show off your headline, lead and bullet skills (key elements of copy)
- Show that you understand the niche you want to write for
So — let’s dig a little deeper.
Creating a sample isn’t hard.
Just find a product you’re interested in.
Then try to sell it in your mind. Do research and pretend you are the buyer. What would make you buy this product? Bonus points if you CONVINCE YOURSELF to actually buy the product.
Then show off the skills you know the client needs.
If they run lots of FB ads and short form, make your sample short form orr like a FB ad.
But some copywriting 101 is to just write a headline, a lead and some bullets.
If you can do that — you’re miles ahead of other copywriters.
And then lastly — try to make your sample about something in the same niche.
So if you want to write in health — write about a supplement, a molecule or an ingredient, etc.
If you want to write for financial, talk about crypto, stocks, or investments.
If you want to write for a dating coach — write stories and show that you understand the pain points of a lonely dude who wants a girlfriend.
If you aren’t confident in your skills…
Just practice and get started while you learn.
You can’t get better if you don’t practice.
After your write your portfolio — all that’s left is for you to start going after clients.
One thing you can do to get started is to go on LinkedIn and make connections with people who might need copywriters.
But don’t spam their inboxes with those cheesy premade messages.
Don’t be weird either.
None of that:
Are you interested inn Forex? / Have you ever traded crypto? / Do you need a copywriter?
Even if I NEEDED one, I’d make sure to NEVER hire anyone who sends me something like that.
It’s about just making connections.
Be their friend and get to know what their needs are.
Would they even benefit from a copywriter?
Do they know anyone who would?
Don’t be super needy.
I get it. That’s hard. I really do know what it’s like.
But the problem is — if you’re needy and creepy, you come across as desperate and that’s a red flag.
“Why is this person desperate? Why doesn’t anyone else hire them?”
You don’t want to fight an uphill battle like that.
So you can try cold emails — LinkedIn messages — and just getting to know people.
You can also buy your way into higher quality job boards, but you’ll still need a portfolio and strong copy skills to win those jobs.
But those are some of your options there (so I don’t leave you hanging dressed up with nowhere to go).