How to Get Writing Samples When You’re Just Starting Out

Handwriting text My Portfolio on a notecard surrounded by wood buttons with alphabet letters

At first glance, it may seem like a catch-22 …

“How will I get experience, if I don’t have a portfolio of samples to show prospective clients? And how will I get samples, if I can’t get any experience?”

Yet, in reality, it’s just a misunderstanding many new writers have when getting started in this business …

Assuming clients won’t hire you without proven experience working for other clients.

So first, let’s set the record straight …

You don’t need to have experience to get hired as a professional writer … or to charge professional fees.

In fact, how much experience you have doesn’t even need to come up if you’re the one in control of the conversation with prospective clients.

Prospective clients simply want you to demonstrate your ability and sell them on what you can do for them — how you can either solve a problem or help them achieve a goal.

“Samples” can be any examples of your writing …

They don’t need to be actual assignments from a past client, or anything that was mailed, published, or broadcast.

The client just needs to be able to see what you can do with your words.

Here are some great ways to show off your skills when you’re just starting out …

1. Program Assignments and Exercises

All AWAI programs include assignments where you’re asked to put what you’ve just learned into practice (and many come with feedback on how to improve them too!).

You can easily turn them into samples simply by polishing them up and making them look professional — like work you’d actually submit to a client.

We’ve heard from plenty of writers who launched their copywriting businesses using the final assignment in The Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting.

2. Spec Assignments

This one is a great way to get samples AND real-world experience …

Offer to write on spec.

“On spec” just means the client doesn’t have to pay you unless they use what you wrote.

Here’s how it works …

You approach a prospective client and offer to write something for free. And if they’re happy with it and want to use it, they pay you. If they end up not using it, no worries …

You still benefit because you have a sample you can show the next potential client, and experience writing copy for a real company and a real product or service.

Just make sure you change the company’s name to a fictitious one if they didn’t hire you in the end. You don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking someone was a past client of yours if they weren’t.

(For more on Spec Assignments, check out this article by AWAI Success Elizabeth Blessing. Elizabeth had lots of luck landing clients with Spec Assignments, and shares her insights on how to use them to launch your career too.)

3. Your Website

Think of your website as the ultimate sample …

Not only does it demonstrate your professionalism and sell your value, it proves you know what you’re talking about — and gives visitors a direct inside look at just how well you can write.

In fact, according to B2B copywriting expert, Steve Slaunwhite, most B2B clients won’t even ask for samples. Instead they’ll ask for your website.

Many marketers feel they can tell if you’ve got the goods, simply by seeing how well you market yourself.

So, even if you’re just starting out, put up a website and make it great!

Think of yourself as your very first client … you’re writing website copy that sells the services you offer. Then follow these basic copywriting principles:

  • Write in a conversational tone …
  • Highlight the benefits of hiring you …
  • And be persuasive!

Just remember …

You don’t need to tell people you’re “new.” I know plenty of writers who studied hard and were very capable of writing good copy for their very first client.

So, pull together a couple of “temporary writing samples” in case a client wants to see what you can do …

Pretty soon you’ll be loaded up with more winning samples from actual clients than you’ll know what to do with!

Interested in learning even more? Check out our free webinar on creating a portfolio of winning writing samples.

Do you have any questions about creating samples? Share with us in the comments below so we can guide you to more resources.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: February 20, 2019

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