How to Build a Winning Online Writing Portfolio (Even If You’re a Newbie)

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Want to break into the online writing space but feel stuck? Clients often want to see samples of your work, but how do you land your first clients without samples? Welcome to the classic chicken-and-egg dilemma faced by new writers! Don’t worry, with some creativity and strategic thinking, you can build a portfolio that showcases your talent and lands you those coveted gigs.

Beyond Published Work 

Think outside the “published article” box! There are a few other ways to improve your portfolio, even if you don’t have many traditional clips. Here are some;

  • Polished Papers: Did you ever ace a college research paper or write an insightful analysis essay? Don’t let those gather dust! They demonstrate your ability to craft well-structured, grammatically sound pieces with a clear thesis or point of view. If you want a portfolio, you can simply update your old essays with fresh perspectives to make them even more relevant.
  • Blog Posts: Launch your blog on a free platform like Medium or Blogger. This allows you to experiment with different topics, and writing styles, and even hone some basic SEO skills. Plus, it shows initiative and passion.
  • Social Savvy: Don’t underestimate the power of well-written social media content. Did you write a compelling LinkedIn update that sparked engagement? Or a series of insightful Twitter threads? Curate your best posts and use them to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively on different platforms. You can even expand successful social media posts into short blog articles, providing more value and showcasing your versatility.

You’ll transform existing writing into powerful portfolio additions by repurposing, refining, and providing context for these diverse samples.

Strategic Guest Posting

Guest posting, where you contribute articles to established blogs or publications, is a powerful way to showcase your skills and build credibility. Here’s how to make this strategy work for your portfolio:

  • Target Quality: Don’t just aim for any outlet. Seek out blogs and publications within your niche that have a good reputation and engaged readership. Start by targeting smaller, niche-focused publications, as they might be more receptive to new writers.
  • Read and Respect Guidelines: Most websites have specific guidelines for guest contributors. Read these carefully to ensure your submission aligns with their expectations.
  • Personalised itch: Avoid generic pitches! Personalise each one, demonstrating your knowledge of the publication’s audience, content focus, and how you can provide unique value. Highlight relevant skills and offer specific article ideas that align with their existing content. Include a short bio and links to any existing writing samples, even if they aren’t on major platforms.
  • Link Love: The goal isn’t just getting published. Make sure you negotiate a byline and a link back to your website or online portfolio. This boosts your visibility, demonstrates your expertise, and helps with your overall SEO.

Work on Your Online Writing Platform

Creating your online writing platform offers unparalleled control and flexibility for your portfolio. Here are a few approaches to consider:

  • Portfolio Platforms: Websites like Contently,, and others allow you to upload your writing samples, create a professional profile, and potentially attract clients through their network. These are fantastic for getting your work seen by a wider audience.

  • Blog Platforms with Subdomains: Platforms like or Blogger let you create a free blog on their subdomain (e.g., [invalid URL removed]). This is a great starting point to showcase your writing, build an audience, and practice your online writing skills.

  • Self-Hosted Website: For ultimate control and customisation, a self-hosted website ( provides flexibility and long-term ownership. While it might involve some initial setup and cost, there are many beginner-friendly website builders (, Wix, Squarespace) making this accessible for new online writers.

Regardless of which platform you choose, consider these:

  • Showcase Central: Curate your best writing samples, demonstrating your niche expertise and diverse styles.
  • Findable: Optimize your content with keywords relevant to your services, helping potential clients discover you organically.
  • Start Simple, Expand Over Time: Focus on clean design and showcasing your writing. You can always upgrade and add more features as you gain experience and resources.

Volunteer Your Writing Skills

Gaining experience and building your portfolio doesn’t always require paid work. Volunteering your online writing skills offers multiple benefits and diverse opportunities:

  • Community Connection: Approach local non-profits, charities, schools, or small businesses that might need writing support. Offer services like website copywriting, newsletter creation, social media content, or grant proposal writing.
  • Practice with a Purpose: Volunteering for friends’ or family’s projects allows you to experiment, receive honest feedback, and hone your skills in a low-pressure environment.
  • Influencer Outreach: Do you admire a particular influencer or blogger? Offer to assist with content creation or social media management on a volunteer basis. Be aware, however, that this will be a higher-stakes environment, as your work directly reflects on the influencer’s brand.
  • Valuable Experience: Regardless of the context, volunteering provides real-world projects, allowing you to apply your writing skills to meet specific needs and deadlines.
  • Samples You Own: Even with volunteer work, make sure you negotiate the right to use these pieces in your portfolio. Having full ownership adds to your credibility.
  • Testimonials and References: Going above and beyond with pro-bono work often leads to glowing testimonials and potential references. These are incredibly valuable for building credibility as a new online writer.

Showcase Your Online Writing Process

When you lack a vast collection of published work, demonstrating your approach to online writing projects can be incredibly compelling. Here’s how to turn your process into portfolio pieces:

  • Behind the Scenes: Create samples that highlight different stages of your writing. This could include:
    • Detailed Outlines: Showcase your ability to organize ideas and structure content.
    • Research Notes: Include source citations and summaries to demonstrate your research skills.
    • Draft with Edits: Share an early draft with your revisions and comments, providing insight into your self-editing and improvement process.
  • Why It Works: Explain the rationale behind your choices, showcasing your critical thinking and understanding of what makes effective writing. This is particularly valuable for showcasing niche-specific knowledge and expertise.
  • Tailor to the Client: If you’re applying to a specific project, demonstrate how your process would align with the potential client’s needs. This shows you’re adaptable and client-focused.
  • Presentation Matters: Use screenshots, annotations, or even brief video walkthroughs to make your process samples visually engaging and easy for potential clients to understand.


Building a compelling online writing portfolio from scratch takes initiative and creativity. Remember, it’s an ongoing process. Start by implementing a few of the strategies outlined in this guide, and consistently add new samples as you gain experience. Persistence and adaptability are key!

Have you encountered unique challenges building your portfolio? Share your experiences in the comments below!

For more guidance on overcoming common hurdles faced by new online writers, check out our post: 7 Challenges Every New Online Writer Faces (And How to Conquer Them)

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