Don't Panic If You Don't Have Any Writing Samples in Your Portfolio

Students often say to me, "I've never done any commercial writing and I don't have any samples for my portfolio. What should I do?"

Don't panic if you don't have any samples in your portfolio. First of all, you probably already have a few good samples to show clients. Think about things you've written for your current or previous employers. Maybe you've written sales letters, press releases, business letters, memos, or bulletins that look good. Or maybe you've contributed to your department newsletter, company magazine, town newspaper, or church bulletin.

Plus, you can get good samples fast by offering to do pro bono work for an animal shelter or another local business. Tell them that if your letter works, they have to let you use them as a reference and give you 50 copies.

And whatever you do, don't let not having experience stop you. Believe it or not, having a portfolio is helpful, but not vital. Most clients are more interested in talking with you about their projects than in looking through a bunch of samples. Most of the companies that hire me never ask to see my portfolio … and I never show it to them.

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Published: June 16, 2003

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