How To Start Freelancing With No Samples

Here are five ways to start freelancing without published samples or a fat portfolio.

What if I want to freelance but I don’t have any samples, you ask?

It’s a question a lot of people have.

The good news is there are a number of options to get you started. The other news is not all opportunities are going to be open to, and you should be aware of that going in.

1) Use Work From Work

A lot of people have work samples, they’re just not freelance work samples.

If you were writing for your company’s newsletter or blog, creating product descriptions or drafting your employer’s press releases, you can use that work to create a portfolio. The same thing applies if you’ve done similar types of work for your church, a community organization or your child’s daycare.

You need a digital portfolio, and there are a lot of free portfolio options online. For example, you can use a service like Contently that lets you import content from the web by simply pasting a link.

If you have documents, photos, or paper samples you’re going to scan to create digital files or you have a mixture of file types, you can use Google Sites. Here’s a brief video that gives you an idea how to do that.

That video creates a portfolio for school but it’s the same principle for a freelance portfolio.  If you want to use Google Sites but that video doesn’t work for you, let me know in the comments, and I’ll try to create one specifically for freelancers.

Otherwise, if you don’t like either of those options I provided, search online for “free digital portfolio” and look for something that suits you.

2) Create A Business Image

If you want to be a freelance article writer, create well-researched, well-written articles in the niches you plan to apply for. If you’re trying to get established as a freelance newsletter writer, create sample newsletters with all the bells and whistles you’ll offer your clients. And same goes with any other freelancing avenue you want to take.

Once you have your samples, create a website use it to create a professional presence.

For freelancers aiming for articles, newsletters or graphic design, I suggest you put at least five samples on your website and I wouldn’t exceed eight or 10. For photographers, I suggest a minimum of 10 samples for each niche. So if you’re aiming for events, street fashion and art, you need 30 samples.

Having a website makes you looking like you’re a business providing a service. Many prospective clients aren’t going to ask you for any additional samples because they’ll feel like they’re in a business-to-business relationship. Plus, they’ll have clear examples of what you’re capable of doing.

Some people will still ask for samples, especially if you’re trying to get work with a prominent media brand or a Fortune 500 company. It’s your call whether you want to try to reel those clients in. Personally, I wouldn’t invest too much time or effort if I can clearly see they’re focused on experience.

Below are some samples of freelancer’s websites I found by doing a Google search. I don’t know any of them. If you don’t like their formats, just search. You’ll find a ton of examples.

Freelance example sites:  Elise Moreau   Elna Cain   Justin Merriman

Related: Website in an Hour? Yeah Right

3) Write A Strong Pitch

Sell yourself with a strong pitch or cover letter. Say, for example, you find a company looking for freelance finance writers. Research that company. Research the hot topics in finance that are relevant to what they do. And create a thorough, well-written response to their ad.

Make sure to specify how you will address the needs they outlined in the ad and emphasize skills that they have asked for. But avoid (like the plague) outlining and explaining any qualifications or skills they want that you don’t have.

Put yourself at the other end of that email. If you were looking to hire freelancers, what would it take to get your money? Be convincing and sound confident.

Newbies are often hesitant to offer their services to companies that aren’t advertising. But I strongly encourage you to consider it. There are several advantages to looking for work with companies that aren’t running ads.

One is that you can often avoid going head-to-head with a lot of experienced freelancers. Number two is you can often eliminate competition altogether.

A third reason to reach out is that you can connect with companies that don’t know anything about working with freelancers. So, they may not know to ask for samples. They may not care if or where your work was published From the start you can position yourself as more established than you are.

Whether you are going to reply to ads or pitch companies on your own, it’s still wise to create relevant samples that you can submit if asked.

4) Work for Content Mills

I can already hear some experienced freelance writers gasping or giving me the um-um-um like I can’t believe she is recommending content mills.

Content mills are companies that are looking for quantity over quality. They usually focused on a building out a massive site–think Wikipedia– or they’re selling the content to other low paying companies whose main concern is that the writing relate to a certain topic or contain certain keywords.

The work is often formulaic and freelancers have little control or creative leeway. But these companies are usually open to working with entry-level freelance editors and writers. And although they don’t pay much, they usually pay often.

A lot of seasoned writers turn their noses up at content mills even though some of those writers have worked for these companies before. Whether you choose to use content mills to break into freelancing or not is up to you. But if you do, go into it understanding, that I’m only recommending that you use this option for what it is—a stepping stone.

Examples of Content Mills: Internet Brands Online Writing Jobs Hire Writers

5) No Experience Required Clients

Another option for freelancers without published samples is to be on the lookout for companies that don’t require experience. And yes, I can promise you that they are out there. One example for freelance writers is Money Pantry.

Be prepared that many companies that work with unexperienced freelancers will require you to work on spec—meaning you do the work and if it’s acceptable they pay, if not they don’t—or they may require you to pass one or more skills tests to prove you can do the work.

Here at KnowGoodWords, I publish a jobs list on Fridays, and also some special editions, such as the recent media jobs or cryptocurrency jobs lists during the week. That’s a good place to start your search for entry-level freelancing jobs.

Here’s a sample. Sign up for direct connect on the right side of the page to get the list delivered to your inbox.

See Also: How to Find Freelance Jobs on Craigslist