How to Build a Web Copywriting Portfolio FAST
I’m not a very good liar by nature … apparently my mother did something right.
So, when I decided to become a copywriter, I immediately called people I knew. Being good friends, they referred me to business people they knew who needed help with their copy.
I was beside myself with visions of a seven-figure income. Until, that is, I got “the question” …
“Can you send me some samples of your work?”
OMG. I froze.
The first time I was asked that, I pretended to get really busy for a few days and ignored the email … not the best way to market yourself as a professional. I felt like a total idiot.
Finally, I got up the nerve to say, “I’m new and I don’t have any samples.”
Either out of sheer desperation or terminal niceness, they hired me … at a substantial discount, of course. But, hey. It was work, and now I’d have “a” sample.
Things worked that way for several months until I had an actual portfolio I could send people. The irony is that I hardly ever get asked for samples anymore, and I believe there’s a really good reason why.
The thing about having a portfolio is that it’s as much for YOU as it is for prospective clients. The best clients don’t ask for samples because they already know about you and your work from other clients with whom you’ve worked.
Build a Portfolio, Become a Better Copywriter, and Make More Money
Building a solid portfolio is as much about building your confidence as a copywriter as it about having something to send a prospect when you’re just starting out. The challenge for everyone new to copywriting is how to build your portfolio as quickly as possible.
Here’s a simple 4-step formula I used when I wanted to do more internet marketing consulting. This is an extremely fast way to build your portfolio as a web copywriter … and the best part is that it’s also a good way to land some new clients! (Not to mention REALLY honing your skills fast)
Get a list of the fastest growing local businesses.
Invest a few bucks in the Business Journal Book of Lists (bizjournals.com/BookofLists). Get the downloadable version – it’s easier and cheaper.
This little gem will give you a number of lists you can use to find local businesses. They list the fastest growing (my favorite), top 100, and will list all the top businesses by industry. They’ll give you the web site URL, mailing address, and even a contact person or two. Nice.
Pick a few businesses from industries in which you have some expertise.
While this step isn’t totally necessary, the fact that you have some expertise in that industry will help. For example, I wouldn’t select a business that sells maternity clothes. While I could eventually write some darned good copy, what I’m looking for here is SPEED, coupled with effective writing.
Re-write their web copy and critique the entire site.
This is the critical step. What I like to do (because I’m a techie at heart) is to download the entire web page into a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) software program called “Coffee Cup HTML Editor.”
It’s a one-click process to download the ENTIRE code for the site, and I can then edit the page in software that works just like MS Word (I don’t have to know HTML). Then, I’ll “show” them their web page completely redone.
But don’t worry … you won’t have to do any of that. Just copy and paste the web copy into Word and edit from there.
Put together a “Before and After” page and add it to your portfolio as a sample of your work.
Now, add to that page some specific suggestions on how this company can improve their site. Focus on two aspects:
- How can they improve lead generation (capturing visitors)? Most companies don’t do this at all.
- How can they improve their conversion rates (converting visitors into buyers)?
And … voila! You’ve got a portfolio with samples of your work!
(Optional). Write a letter to the company.
This is where it gets a little scary. Write a letter to the company (preferably the marketing person) and explain that as a web copywriter, you routinely examine business web sites to hone your skills. In your examination of their site, you noticed some things that could improve their sales.
Then, offer a couple of ideas, no strings attached. You’re not selling yet … just building a relationship.
I’ve landed some nice clients with this technique. You run the risk of offending the marketing person, but in my book it’s well worth that risk.
How to Dramatically Improve This Process …
The VAST majority of business web sites have lousy copy. They’re designed by graphic designers who care more about how it looks than making sales. Or, they’re designed by a marketing pro who’s never written a lick of winning copy.
You get to step in, become an immediate hero, and build your portfolio in a matter of weeks, not months.
I can honestly say that I NEVER would have had the confidence to tear apart and rebuild an existing website without first studying Nick Usborne’s Copywriting 2.0: Your Complete Guide to Writing Web Copy that Converts. It saved me hours upon hours of time, and gave me the confidence I needed to tackle website after website.
Do yourself a huge favor. Get Nick’s program. Then, get out there and write some copy!
Join the Professional Writers’ Alliance for $29
PWA is a professional organization dedicated to helping writers improve their skills, network and find exciting projects. Along with a long list of member benefits that include thousands of dollars worth of professional content, learning events, paid projects, premium writing tools and more … all dues can be applied dollar for dollar toward AWAI’s programs and events. Register by September 26 to lock in the special rate!