How to Create a Writing Portfolio When U Have Zero Experience

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

How do you gain experience when you have no experience? It is a question that has befuddled college graduates and career transitioners for years, and which is only getting worse in our gig economy. Companies no longer invest in employees from the get-go, they no longer have an interest in improving the people they hire, but instead, seek someone pre-trained and perfect for that one piece of work they need. This is making it even harder to get started when you have no experience.

This new landscape has the frustrating consequence of reinforcing social inequalities because when no one will pay you until you can prove your ability, that means that your first experiences have to be done for free. Kids from richer families can afford to do an unpaid summer internship and land their first byline, or volunteer at a local paper — those that are less well off will meanwhile be working full time to pay for their next semester.

This is an annoying reality, but luckily, whatever your background, even with 0 experience, it is possible to catch up. After all, all you need is to land one writing job, and from then on, you will have experience to showcase.

The question is how do you get that first job. Say you have seen a perfect gig on Upwork, and you need to show your portfolio to apply. Or you’ve got a response from an editor about that pitch you sent, and they’re asking for writing samples.

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1. Create Your Medium Page

If you write as a hobby but have so far not shown your work to anyone, Medium is a great place to start posting. You get feedback, you grow more comfortable sharing your work, and you enter a community of other writers. Plus, it encourages you to finish your pieces, and polish them. You can even make money from your work straight away — it might just be a few cents, but depending on how you market and how much you write, you might also start making a solid amount from your writing. However much you make, your Medium articles can be an ideal starting point for your writing portfolio.

2. Create your blog

3. Think Back

4. Write mock pieces

5. Write pieces on spec

Other important tips for beginners

Presentation is particularly important as a novice, to make your work seem more professional — even when you have no paid writing to show. Check and double-check your spelling and grammar. Post your articles on your website — making sure it is neat. Minimalist is fine. Messy is not. Rather than sending PDFs, put the titles of your piece in your email with links to your work.

Landing your first paid writing job does require a little effort, but with these hacks, you should be able to produce a small portfolio in less than a day. And once you have your first paid writing job, you may never have to write for free again!

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