How I’d Build My Writing Portfolio If I Had to Start From Scratch in 2024

Set in motion what could one day become a full-time career.

How I’d Build My Writing Portfolio If I Had to Start From Scratch in 2024
Photo by Nicole Wolf on Unsplash

Set in motion what could one day become a full-time career.

I started writing online without realizing it could blossom into a full-fledged career that would allow me to live my dream life.

It all began with writing answers on Quora in 2014, followed by long-form articles on Medium in 2020. Back then, not many people were into content creation, so I had the early-mover advantage:

  • Got 1000+ new followers every day
  • Received 100k+ views, thousands of upvotes and comments.
  • Bagged top writer badges on Medium and Quora.

Fast forward to 2024, the competition in the digital landscape has grown massively, with more than 400 million people creating content online.

Standing out today would require more than just a way with words.

If I had to start from scratch, I’d invest time in building a stellar portfolio as a writer that would benefit me as a beginner.

  • Give an upper hand while pitching to freelance writing clients
  • Increase chances of getting accepted into websites that pay per article
  • Prove my expertise in writing and bringing in traffic
  • Build credibility that helps in selling digital products, courses, and consultations.

A strong portfolio can take you places as a writer.

Want to know how to build a portfolio that’s hard to miss even in a saturated industry? Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Step 1: Knowing what you’re an expert in

If you start by writing articles on topics you aren’t an expert in or curious about, you’ll be stumped by the hours it takes for you to research.

At the beginning of my journey, I took a freelance writing gig for a tech company that needed research-heavy articles. I had no interest or experience in that field, but being a beginner, I took the opportunity without thinking it through.

After spending hours learning about the subject and technical jargon, I felt exhausted. The ROI was so bad, it was impossible to continue writing for them.

On the contrary, when I write articles on topics that interest me, like self-improvement, writing, or books, it hardly feels like work.

It’s always better to pick a niche you’re already curious about.

Here are some questions to help you brainstorm and choose the best niche for yourself:

  • 10 things your friends come to you for advice
  • 10 things you enjoy reading/researching about
  • 10 things you can talk about non-stop for 30+ minutes
  • Top 10 most-searched items on your YouTube search history.

Step 2: Practicing in public

Hitting the publish button is scary due to the instant feedback you can get on online platforms.

“What if I made a mistake in my content?”

“I might get trolled for putting out an opinion”

“What if nobody even cares to read?”

Many more such doubts haunted me at the start of my career.

Writing in isolation sounded like a “safe” bet. But the chances of improving my skills were too slim if I didn’t start sharing my content.

Writing in “stealth mode” has a lot of disadvantages:

  • Without feedback, you don’t actually know how good or bad your writing is
  • You have no chance of understanding platforms or how algorithms work
  • No one knows about you or your writing and you can’t build a community.

The best way to overcome all these is to publish your work on a platform. Gather feedback and iterate. Always aim to keep improving and connect with your readers.

I started publishing online, and it helped me track my growth, improve in the process, and build a strong community of 179K+ readers.

Step 3: Focusing on publishing more at the start

Most new writers struggle with the perfectionism trap.

I was no exception. 

I got stuck in the loop of making my article error-free in one go. I couldn’t accept having even one comma out of place or a simple spelling error in my content.

Chasing perfection while writing kept me from publishing, which delayed the process of building my portfolio.

Realizing how much time I’d wasted refining my drafts, I had to let go of the perfection mindset while writing.

Doing so helped me increase my publishing frequency and receive audience feedback. It ultimately improved my writing skills.

Publishing a lot at the beginning of your journey is crucial as it helps you–

  • Improve as a writer as you iterate based on feedback
  • Understand what your audience wants from you
  • Refine your niche further based on trial and error
  • Become the algorithm’s favourite as your articles start gaining traction.

Your goal as a writer is to write as much as you can.

Pro tip: Write your first draft like you’re the only one who’d ever read it. Keep the editing for later to save yourself from getting stuck in the name of writing the perfect copy.

Step 4: Attaching your name with reputed publications

Having reputed publications in your portfolio builds an impression on your clients. It’s a quick way to build up credibility.

It reflects your expertise in your work and what you can bring to the table for someone who wants to work with you.

Hunt for reputed websites or publications in your niche and start pitching to them.

This process will take time before the editors start responding to you, so don’t give up if you don’t see results from the first pitch you send out.

Stay consistent in reaching out to publications following their guidelines.

Some key mindset shifts that help:

  1. In the first few months, no one’s going to care about you or your work. Be in it for the long term.
  2. Write with a vision in mind — Where do you see yourself in 5 years as a writer? How can each article take you closer to that goal?
  3. Aim to help at least one person with your words, rather than aiming to be the best writer in the world.

Final Words

Your portfolio is like your ticket to success as an online writer.

It’s the first thing potential clients will see, so put your best foot forward in your portfolio to make a lasting impression.

The more effort you put into showcasing your skills, the higher your chances are to get high-ticket clients.

Here are tried-and-tested tips to build a strong portfolio, even as a beginner:

  • Pick a niche based on your interest to stay consistent in creating without getting exhausted
  • Practice in public to build a community and understand how algorithms work
  • Focus on publishing as much as you can without chasing perfection
  • Pitch to reputed publications to gain credibility and prospects’ attention.
“There are 2 types of writers today: those who use data to inform and improve their writing, and those who fail.” –Nicolas Cole

Leverage the internet to become the former one, and build your portfolio for a winning writing career.

I just launched Freelance Superheroes: A training program for writers who want to earn from writing online without leaving their job, attract gigs outside Upwork/Fiverr, and become irreplaceable. Get it today!

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