How to Get Your First Paid Portfolio Piece

Brand new freelance writers ask us over and over again: I don’t have a portfolio, so how do I get started?

The good news is that you don’t need a portfolio (I’ll address this in a minute).

However, this leads to the second question that is very common: Can I use unpublished work in my portfolio?

Whenever we hold a Q&A session, we almost always get this question. It’s on a lot of new writers’ minds, and so I wanted to answer it conclusively in this video.

While having a large portfolio and lots of experience is great, you don’t need any of that to get started. You can get published without any prior experience––you just need to find the right publications.

Typically, you’ll want to look at small- to medium-sized blogs. There’s a certain sweet spot to look for. You want to find blogs that don’t require previous experience, and ideally, you should get paid for your work. (If you’re still working for free, watch this.)

If you’re struggling to get started, don’t worry––we’re here to help!

Here are 3 tips for getting published without any experience at all.

1. Refine your search.

When most writers start out, they don’t exactly know where to look, so they end up looking all over the place.

However, it’s much better to take a targeted approach. This will save you a lot of time and effort, and you’ll have a higher chance of getting published.

First, consider your niche. Try to find blogs that are directly in your niche to start with.

Second, don’t consider the top tier of publications. I’m talking about publications like the New York Times and Better Homes & Gardens. (I’m not saying that you can’t ever get published at this level, but when you’re starting out, these kinds of places are simply out of your reach.)

Third, make use of keywords and search operators. (I go over these in the webinar linked at the bottom of this post.)

2. Browse blog lists.

Many writing-based sites will compile tens and sometimes even hundreds of blogs into one big list. This makes it much cleaner and easier to find the right blog for you. Many of these lists are even organized by industry, so you can easily find blogs in your niche.

Freedom With Writing has hundreds of blog lists, and it’s a wonderful place to start your blog hunt. Our members also have access to a database of over 1,200 publishers.

Also – if you sign up for Thursday’s webinar, we’ll be sending you a very relevant bonus after the webinar. (Yes, you’ll have to wait a bit!)

Sign Up Here.

3. Don’t make a big deal out of your lack of experience.

When you pitch your ideas, it might be tempting to include a note explaining your lack of publication, but don’t do it!

As I mentioned earlier, many editors don’t mind if you don’t have experience. If you draw attention to it, you’ll only be needlessly emphasizing your shortcomings.

Instead, lead with a fantastic pitch. If your pitch is compelling, it’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

So don’t be discouraged! You don’t need years of experience to get published.

One last thing: Pitching is mostly a numbers game. You have to do it over and over to get good at it. Even great writers can get rejected nine times out of ten. The more you pitch, the better off you’ll be, so get out there and start pitching!

I’m going to go into a lot of detail about all of this in Thursday’s webinar. If you want to keep learning, be sure to sign up for it here.

14 comments on “How to Get Your First Paid Portfolio Piece

  1. Barbara Grubaugh on

    There are many comments I know, but if you could take the time to answer more of them it would be so helpful! Thanks!

  2. Maureen Anne Gioia on

    I’m interested in getting started with developing a portfolio, but with so many personal issues to attend to, I’m wondering if I’ll have time to get time to actually write anything worthwhile. Can you please help me?

  3. Susan B Anderson on

    I believe the stories behind my vintage jewelry and the women who owned it previously is what makes my artwork intriguing and more valuable. I want to write each story and associate it with my bead art. How can I accomplish this effectively?

    • Ian Chandler on

      I admittedly don’t have any experience writing about jewelry or antiques, so I’m a little confused as to what you mean. Are you writing articles about bead art? Forgive me for my ignorance––you might need to explain it to me like I’m five!

      • Antoinette Moses on

        I had my graduation ring stolen years ago. I.wish someone would fine it an return it to me.i have always wished for this.

    • Janine Getty on

      I can probably help you with this, I write, and owned an online jewellery shop for several years. It sounds as if you want to write the stories of the women who owned your jewellery before you and their relationship with the jewellery. Is that right? You could write the stories and then create a corresponding piece of bead art inspired by the story or which has some other connection to that piece of jewellery.

    • Alyssa on

      Hi Susan,

      I work with women new to writing and I would suggest a blog. You could eventually assemble into a book. Look into museums – they often have their own publishers who could possibly help as well!

      Absolutely love your idea!

      Many blessings on your work!

  4. Siobhan Gallagher on

    Thanks for this great information. I’m curious about what a good portfolio looks like. Is it always simply a webpage with links to your work or are there other formats? I know businesses in the UK that have recently had issues regarding social media posts with pictures of their articles in certain publications; they are being challenged over copyright issues. This information would make a great post.
    Thank you!

  5. Corinne Corley on

    I am interested in finding out how to get people to want what I write, not “how to write what people want me to write” — if you follow. What course or webinar do you offer which might address my query?


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