If you want to work as a blogger or web writer and by work, I mean make a living, then you have to start somewhere. Of all the email questions I get, “How do I actually get started without a portfolio” is probably the most common question. It’s true that clients want to see clips but most don’t care what sort of clips they care more that you wrote the clips well.
Are there clips in your past?
If you honestly feel you have zip in the way of a portfolio, the first thing to do is take another look at your past. Did you write anything useful in college, and by useful I mean tech paper, proposals, or serious research pieces. Have you ever written copy, proposals, care plans, or company newsletters at work? What written requirements have all your past jobs had? Are you such a wiz at writing resumes and cover letters that people come to you for help? Most people who want to write for a living have some sort of useful clips in their past. If you think you don’t you may not be looking hard enough. Once you find some clips you can place them on a website or if a client allows send them by email when you apply.
Do you have a blog?
I’m always a little surprised at people who want to blog for a living who say, “I’ve got no clips,” to which I say, “What about your blog,” to which they say, “What blog?” Sigh. If you want to blog or write for the web, then start a blog.
What sort of blog…?
Start a useful blog, one that offers real info that readers can use. You don’t have to choose a niche, but if you have a niche in mind that you’d like to eventually write for, i.e. you’d like to be a travel blogger or travel web writer for pay, it’s naturally smart to start a travel-minded blog. If you’re not sure which platform to choose I’d start with WordPress. 90% of my clients use WordPress. I’ve had a few use TypePad, a couple use (gulp) Drupal, and some use a few other random platforms. Note that I’ve never ever had a client who uses Google Blogger although Deb and I both started out on Blogger blogs and we’re ok. For more tips read choosing a blog platform.
If you don’t want to start a blog but want clips should you try sites like Associated Content, other article marketing site, or cheap-o places like e-How through Demand Studios?:
I’m gonna say no. First of all it doesn’t make you look all that credible. A published piece at a content site where anyone can publish a piece is not the same as a piece written for a paying site or even a blog post that lends to your niche credibility. I’ve had my own pieces stolen and plagiarized at some of these sites and I’m sure others have as well which takes away from the credibility. Also, Deb recently told me that “Colleges don’t allow AC to be used as a source for papers because much of the writing isn’t more than other Google stuff regurgitated.” I didn’t know this, but it makes sense. If you don’t believe me start running content site pieces through copyscape and you”ll see how many pieces are copied in part or entirely.
If you’re going to work for free, better choices include guest posting at an already popular blog, or contacting an editor of a blog network or reputable website and writing one to three free piece. Another credible route to go would be to offer some free pieces to a non-profit for their website or even for a print newsletter. Then you get clips and look nice too.
If you see a job NOW that you want and don’t have your clips set up yet…
So your blog is brand new, you haven’t found any clips from your past, and you see a blogging gig you’d like to apply for. First of all you may not get the gig without the clips to back you up (hence starting a blog or guest posting asap). It’s possible, just a little more tricky. Hopefully the job is writing about something you have life experience in. If you don’t have a genuine interest and background in a topic, it’s unlikely you’ll get the gig clip-free. Next you can offer to provide a sample. I don’t usually advocate new sample for writers, but if you don’t have clips, this is your only option. A writing client is not going to hire you without seeing how you write.
Can you think of any other useful ways to build up clips if you’re new to writing?