The "No Portfolio Portfolio" Strategy

Yesterday, master copywriters Jen Stevens, John Forde, and I had a call planning what we’d be presenting in our exclusive Circle of Success Bootcamp sessions.

This got me thinking about Job Fair and your portfolio.

Why? Job Fair is the centerpiece of Bootcamp for many members. It’s a great way to get the attention of potential clients. But Job Fair always brings up a question from many AWAI members that go something like …

What if I have no writing samples? All I have is the restaurant letter that I redid. I was told it was good for a writing sample. I've been working on specs, but so far haven’t submitted any.

Here’s my “no portfolio strategy.” It applies to you whether you plan on going to Bootcamp or not. Use it anytime you contact a potential client if your portfolio is a bit thin … or empty.

Having no writing samples doesn’t mean
you can’t have a great portfolio …

This strategy relies on the fact that businesses that will hire relatively untested copywriters do not expect to see samples that have mailed. What they’re looking for is someone who’s willing to work hard. They want to work with someone wiling to go beyond what other copywriters are willing to do.

You can’t offer promos you’ve written for other clients. So instead you provide sample promotions, ones that show you understand the core concepts of power copywriting … And that demonstrates clearly that you’re willing to work hard to grab his attention.

There’s portfolio gold in the Accelerated Program …

Start by doing “Exercise 9” in Installment #3 of the Accelerated Program. This exercise is called “Writing Your First Direct-Response Copywriting Samples.”

The exercise asks you to create sales copy for three different fictitious products AWAI has invented. These include a health product, a financial product, and a product in a niche industry.

The exercise says you can create either a sales letter “and/or” web copy samples. But take that extra step and do both. Most of the really hard work on any promotion is the research. Once you’ve done the research on these products, writing convincing copy for a sales letter and web copy won’t take that much additional effort on your part.

If you’ve already written these samples, congratulations! But I’ve heard from many AWAI members who say they’ve put this part of the Accelerated Program off “until later.” Don’t put it off. Do it as soon as you hit that part of the Program.

If you’re already past Installment #3 (or if you’ve completed the Accelerated Program) and haven’t done this exercise yet, go back and do it!

Reveal your skills with powerful, clean copy …

Make sure all the copy you write for these exercises is as strong as it can be. Ask other AWAI members on the Member Forum for suggestions for strengthening your samples.

You want to have strong, convincing copy, certainly. But you also want “clean” copy –copy that’s free of typos, spelling errors, and the like. So once you have your copy as strong as you can make it, let it sit for a few days. Then go back and proofread it.

Once you’ve completed these exercises, you’ll have added 6 samples to your portfolio – print and web copy for three different products. Your portfolio isn’t so thin anymore!

You get detailed instructions for exactly what to do for Exercise 9 in the Accelerated Program. I won’t go into those details here. I recommend you take a look at those instructions as soon as you finish reading this letter. Immediately set up a schedule for getting the copy written. (And stick to that schedule!)

And for those special, dream clients …

Let’s say you’ve identified two or three clients you’d love to write for. Go through exactly what you’ve done for the Accelerated Program samples. But this time do it specifically for one of their products and for their web copy.

Approach this carefully, though. If you have the opportunity to present them with this client-specific copy, do not tell them you want to make their current copy better (even if it stinks).

You never know who wrote the copy and you might be insulting the very person who could hire you. Instead, tell them you’re using current promos as a "jumping off point" for your samples.

Another approach is to remake copy in the same niche from one of their competitors. Don’t comment adversely on that copy either. Word on your professionalism travels quickly in this industry, so “be nice.” But be sure tell the prospective client what you’ve done so they realize what you’re showing them is a sample and not an actual promotion.

Do not shortcut this process. Front load your work with tons of research. Use all the secrets and strategies you’ve learned and are learning from AWAI.

Will this take a while? Yes. Is it worth the time you put in to it? Most certainly. Start now!

Until next week, keep writing.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: May 27, 2013

1 Response to “The "No Portfolio Portfolio" Strategy”

  1. Very nice! It is straight to the point with some very good advice. I will be using this advice when it comes time to do my samples.

    jsm532012June 14, 2013 at 11:48 pm


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