You may be confident in your writing skills, but learning how to become a copywriter may feel challenging at first. Taking it step-by-step will help demystify the process and get you started on your copywriting career, beginning with something every professional copywriter needs—a portfolio.
How to become a copywriter? Build a portfolio.
Your portfolio gets you hired. It is a compilation of your best work that highlights your writing skills and tells the story of who you are as a professional copywriter. Portfolios give potential clients confidence that their copy will be just as impressive when they work with you.
Learn the three key elements every great copywriter incorporates to create a dynamic portfolio, gain clients’ attention, and establish your professional copywriting career.
Your portfolio needs: an audience.
Your portfolio is an opportunity to market yourself to your target audience. To build a successful portfolio, you must clearly understand what services you’re offering and who you want to target. Depending on your goals, your portfolio might take a different shape than other copywriters. For example, solopreneurs and freelancers might pursue leads they can convert into long-term clients. Copywriters with the goal of landing a full-time job may need to focus on appealing to a different audience in their portfolio.
Know what you’re selling.
When you became interested in learning how to become a copywriter, you likely noticed that copywriters aren’t only skilled writers. Copywriters are masters of persuasion. They become their client’s advocates and help connect them to their customers. Well-written copy makes readers feel understood, provokes their thinking, and deepens their trust in a brand. Copywriters are selling the ability to generate a response with their words.
Know your niche.
It’s not uncommon to get hung up on niches when first learning how to become a copywriter. A niche refers to the particular industry you’re interested in or a specific type of copywriting you like to do.
You don’t have to settle on a niche right away. It’s okay to try different kinds of writing and see where it leads. You may find you’re wildly talented at writing product descriptions or that your sweet spot is writing copy for the renewable energy industry. But, narrowing down your focus is beneficial.
Having a clear niche will help you attract your dream client. When you strategically build your portfolio, you demonstrate that you are an expert in the type of writing they need—increasing your chances of getting hired.
Your portfolio needs: writing samples.
Your portfolio won’t attract your dream clients if it doesn’t include writing samples that showcase your skills. Make the most of their attention while you have it. Choose selections that appeal to their needs, and if you don’t have any relevant experience to share, write some!
Know what your clients want.
Discover what copywriting services your future clients tend to use most. Who are they targeting with those services?
Determine the type of writing you should present to encourage them to hire you. Your niche may be highly customer-facing, so more blogs or social media writing opportunities likely exist. Your clients may rely heavily on well-written case studies to appeal to a B2B market. Don’t put together a portfolio full of B2B writing samples if your potential clients are heavily consumer-facing. Show them what they need to see to hire you!
Make it by faking it.
Are you short on the type of copywriting experience you need to appeal to your target client? No problem. A copywriter’s portfolio demonstrates how well they write—so write! There’s no rule that says a copywriter’s portfolio can only include work they were hired to do.
If you need more pieces to showcase, consider publishing your own blog and selecting a writing sample or two, offer to write for your friends and family members’ businesses (exchange your work for testimonials as a bonus), and make up imaginary businesses to write the pieces that are more niche-specific.
Be sure to include a variety of work in your portfolio, but don’t overdo it. It’s great to have around 5 or 6 pieces. Still, quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to your professional portfolio.
Your portfolio needs: Visual appeal.
It might surprise you to learn how important design is when learning how to become a copywriter. Your portfolio needs to show clients that, while you’re not a web developer or graphic designer, you know how to appeal to an audience. Luckily there are plenty of resources to help you along the way.
Places to build.
Where you host your portfolio might depend on your comfort level with design. For example, you could opt for the simplicity of a Google landing page, or you might be open to building an entire website.
Your portfolio presents far more than just examples of your writing. It tells the story of your copywriting career. Take care when choosing the order in which you arrange your writing samples. Consider your portfolio’s overall flow. How does each sample look on your page? For example, you can showcase your writing samples by niche, copywriting genre, target audience, chronologically, or in any combination that makes sense to you and your audience—just as long as it is intentional.
Be sure to download your pieces to display on your portfolio instead of just dropping in links that redirect visitors to other websites to review your work. Giving prospective customers a reason to stay on your webpage for longer can increase their likelihood of investing in your business, so give them a reason to stay—and don’t forget your call to action! The next step is to let your potential clients know what they need to do—and how they can contact you.
Create, maintain, and edit continuously.
The more you learn about copywriting, the fewer questions you will have about how to become a copywriter. There are fantastic resources available to help you grow as a professional copywriter, but no matter what fantastic new skill you pick up along the way, updating your portfolio will always be the first step.
Improving your portfolio will boost your marketability and give you more opportunities to write outstanding copy. As your client roster grows, you may consider building multiple portfolios, tailor-made to appeal to different audiences.
Jo Gore-Wright is a copywriter and marketing strategy consultant based in Atlanta. She spent years working in business development, operations management, and marketing strategy in the corporate sector but was ready to make a splash on her own. Jo launched Copysplatter and hasn’t looked back since.
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