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4 Steps to Getting the Job Without a Portfolio

4 Steps to Getting the Job Without a Portfolio

January 30, 2014 | By Steve Slaunwhite | 7 Comments

hire me chalkboardWhat do you do when a potential client asks to see your portfolio of writing samples — and you don’t have any?

That was a challenge faced recently by two copywriters in my coaching program.

“Dave” (not his real name) is just starting out in the business. He has taken a couple of copywriting courses and is very talented. But he hasn’t built much of a portfolio yet.

“Janice” (not her real name either) has many years of experience as a copywriter but in a different industry. She wanted to change direction and work on healthcare-related projects but all her writing samples were about financial services.

Here’s a 4-step “no portfolio” strategy I recommended to them.

Step 1. Be honest.

Never try to fool prospective clients into thinking you have more experience than you do with a particular type of project. They’ll see right through it.

Instead, say something like, “I haven’t worked on this specific type of project, yet. However … ”

Notice that word “yet”? It’s important. See Step 2 …

Step 2. Be confident.

All things being equal, clients will tend the hire the copywriter who is confident in his or her abilities. It’s human nature.

Interestingly, the best way to show confidence is to simply say you’re confident.

So, continuing the script I started above, you could say, ” … yet. However, I’m confident I can craft an excellent white paper for your company. And here’s why … ”

Notice that phrase “and here’s why”? Also very important. See Step 3.

Step 3. Match your skills and experience to the project requirements.

When clients ask for a writing sample, what they’re really asking is: “Can you do the job?” So, in lieu of an ideal portfolio piece, explain how your current skills, knowledge, and experience match the project requirements.

For example, white papers require the ability to interview content experts, flush out the facts, organize information, explain complex topics clearly, and so forth.

So you might say something like: ” … and here’s why. I’ve crafted several email newsletter articles for similar clients which require the same set of skills: interviewing, organizing information, and effective editorial-style copywriting. May I make a suggestion?”

What suggestion? See Step 4.

Step 4. Eliminate risk for the client.

Once you’ve matched your skills and experience to the project requirements, suggest a way to make it less risky for the client to try your services.

For example, you could say: “May I make a suggestion? Hire me to get started on an outline and one sample page of the white paper. I can get that done for you in about a week. Then, if you’re happy with the work, I can proceed with the rest of the project. But if you’re not, then you’ll still have plenty of time to find another writer. Sound like a good idea?”

That’s it. 4 simple steps to persuade a prospect that you are a capable writer. So, to recap, just keep this “no portfolio” strategy script handy …

“I haven’t worked on this specific type of project, yet. However I’m confident I can craft an excellent white paper for your company. And here’s why … I’ve crafted several email newsletter articles for similar clients which require the same set of skills: interviewing, organizing information, and effective editorial-style copywriting. May I make a suggestion?

“Hire me to get started on an outline and one sample page of the white paper. I can get that done for you in about a week. Then, if you’re happy with the work, I can proceed with the rest of the project. But if you’re not, then you’ll still have plenty of time to find another writer. Sound like a good idea?”

This 4-step strategy is simple to follow and works like a charm. Both Dave and Janice got the projects they were after, even though neither had the “right” portfolio samples to show.

Nothing beats a great portfolio piece. No doubt about that. But if you don’t have one, go for the job anyway. Your honesty, confidence, and other complementary skills and experience might just win the client over.

About the Author

Steve Slaunwhite

Latest in B2B Copywriting

7 Comments

  • Great advice Steve – thank you! I’ll be using this while I build my portfolio – appreciate the reasoning behind the strategy too.

  • This is a great approach for beginners, I really like the creativity in pulling it together. Thanks for a very valuable “Trade Secret”, one that will surely help many land their first client.

  • Shakirah,

    The outline and first page are presented to the client in place of a sample, so there wouldn’t be a fee for it. Once the client decides to move forward, the usual fee for the white paper would be charged.

    Charlotte

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