How to Build a Copywriter Portfolio (When You’re New to Copywriting)

Screenshot of a freelance copywriter's portfolio

Post updated: 03/04/2017.


It’s a catch 22. You need a copywriter portfolio to find work but you can’t build one without having the work in the first place. It’s a situation that every freelance copywriter has had to face at the start of their careers – I know I’ve been there. So how exactly do you build a copywriting portfolio when you’re just starting out? Here are a few ideas…



Ask Friends and Family That Could Use Your Services


Who better to turn to for some copywriting experience than your nearest and dearest? Approaching friends and family who run their own businesses (or know people who do) is a great way to get your foot in the door and get some real copywriting work under your belt.


Perhaps their website copy needs freshening up, or their newsletter made more engaging? Reaching out to people who know you and telling them about your new career can yield some pretty good results.



Approach Businesses You’d Like to Work With


Of all the copywriters I’ve met, I’d say that the most common hurdle everyone says they face when starting out is breaking free from that uncomfortable feeling of putting themselves out there. So I understand if the idea of cold emailing companies and asking for copywriting work makes you feel a bit queasy.


When I first started out, I was the same. I didn’t like the idea of selling myself directly (even now I prefer clients to come to me). But in the beginning, this is exactly what I did. I chose a handful of start-up companies whose brands I genuinely admired and sent them this email:


Hi [insert name].


First of all, apologies for contacting you out of the blue.


My name’s Jamie and I’m a freelance copywriter. I’ve been following [insert company name] for a while now I’m a big fan. I love [insert an observation you’ve made about their business].


I was wondering if you have any need for a copywriter to help out with your website content/blog articles/product descriptions [delete as appropriate].


I’ll be honest, this would be a bit of a passion project for me and I’d love to be able to showcase my work for your company in my portfolio.


I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.






You’d be surprised at how many companies appreciate a personalised email and an offer of help especially when it’s at a discounted rate, or for free. Which brings me to my next point….



Working for Free: Yay or Nay?


It’s a highly-debated topic in the freelance world – should you ever work for free? Personally, I’ve never given away a freebie but when I first started out, I did write for almost next to nothing for the sake of gaining experience.


However, I do see the benefits of offering a freebie when you’re new and I’d imagine that most clients would see it as a fairly risk-free arrangement. If you do take on a project for free, I’d suggest that in return, you ask that the client lets you showcase your work in your copywriting portfolio and that they agree to give you a testimonial if the work is good.



Out of Luck? Make it Up


If, despite your best efforts, you don’t manage to land any copywriting jobs (or as many as you’d like), why not create a brief for yourself?


Make up a copywriting assignment and do the work as if it were for a paying client. It could be a few pages of website copy for an imaginary company, or a series of taglines for a made-up brand in an industry you’d like to have clients in.


Not only does spec work show initiative and creativity but it gives you the chance to showcase your strengths.


Hint: set yourself an assignment that you know you’ll be good at.


When it comes to showing ‘made-up’ work in your copywriter portfolio, make sure you explain that the work is conceptual rather than commissioned.



Portfolio Etiquette: Do You Need Permission to Showcase Your Client Work?


Hmm…this can be a bit of a grey area. On the one hand, it was your work, so why should you need permission to show it off, right?


Well, I get you, but as I understand, once a project is signed off, the copyright to the work automatically transfers to the client.


So where does that leave you as the original creator?


No man’s land – that’s where (although I’d gladly update the post if anyone knows the proper legalities).


One thing you could do is add a line to your terms and conditions explaining that unless the client states otherwise beforehand, you intend to showcase their work on your website.


However, to be on the safe side, I’d always advise that you ask the client’s permission to show the work before you begin, that way you’ll know for sure whether or not they’d mind.


On a side note, if the work is available to view on the client’s website, be careful not to duplicate the content in your portfolio as Google may not index your client’s copy.



What to Show in Your Copywriter Portfolio


If the aim of having a portfolio is to win clients, then you’ll want to show your best work. When you’re just starting out, understandably, you won’t have as much work to choose from and so you’ll probably show everything you have, which is fine. As you win more work though, you can be more selective in what you show.


If you specialise in a particular type of copywriting, or write for a specific industry, you’ll want to make sure that your portfolio reflects your specialisms. At the same time however, showing your diversity can help you branch out into other areas and build up additional specialisms through time.



How to Write a Copywriting Portfolio


Surely this one doesn’t need answering. After all, we’re copywriters, right? True. But sometimes writing about our own work doesn’t come easy.


Think of your portfolio as a mini case study where you explain how you approached the project and what the outcome was.


I tend to split my own copywriting case studies into three sections:


·       The brief

·       The process

·       The outcome


In each section, I provide some background info before adding any relevant photos, images, or links.

And don’t forget to include any client testimonials you received.



Keeping Your Copywriter Portfolio Up-to-Date


This should go without saying, but as you take on more copywriting clients, be sure to include the work you do for them in your portfolio. The more examples you have to showcase, the more impressive you’ll look to potential clients. Remember, there’s always the chance that someone might contact you looking for the same type of work thatbyou produced on a previous project.



5 Copywriter Portfolio Examples for Some Inspiration


To round things off, I thought I’d include some copywriting portfolios that have caught my eye while checking out the competition admiring the work of others.


Gari Cruze

Screenshot of Gari Cruze' copywriting portfolio


Gari’s visual portfolio made up of print ads, videos and website screenshots perfectly showcase his talents as an advertising copywriter.


Robin Catalano


I love how Robin showcases her work in a grid-style using photographs and screenshots while her detailed explanations demonstrate her process.


Colby Spear

Screenshot of Colby Spear copywriting portfolio


One of the most creative copywriter portfolios I’ve seen. The further you scroll down the page, the more entertaining the portfolio becomes and the more of Colby’s work you get to see.


Benji Shaw

Screenshot of Benji Shaw's copywriting portfolio


Benji’s visual approach to showing off his work has a real impact. The context he provides through his photographs does all the talking.


Kathryn Slater


Kathryn’s logo approach to her portfolio landing page provides an instant snapshot of the clients she’s worked with. Refining her process into ‘Brief’ and ‘Answer’ shows she’s a real problem solver.


Joe Coleman

Screenshot of Joe Coleman's Copywriting Portfolio


Just as Joe’s homepage has received many a compliment, his portfolio is equally as impressive. The visual layout perfectly showcases his work for digital and print mediums.


Need any more advice on how to build a copywriter portfolio? Ask a question in the comments section below:


Related post:

13 Copywriting Tips to Improve Your Marketing

How to Choose a Copywriting Course That Meets Your Needs

Jamie Thomson

Jamie Thomson is an award-winning senior copywriter and the owner Brand New Copy copywriting studio. With over 15 years professional writing experience, he helps companies engage with their target audience through tailored content strategies and exceptional copywriting.

  • Hi, your blog is inspiring.
    I’m yet to get my first copywriting customer, and I’m confident but inexperienced.
    Have a coach dough, or should I say “a course”, rather…
    from which I’m hoping to get the basics and transform them on to something meaningful.
    Any advice?

  • Excellent piece of work by the author! I would like to have full support to Jamie for discussing some much-needed topics related to copywriting. If someone is serious about the practice, he/she should never go working free. For me that’s unethical. Another important insight that I would like to add is to be patient and never stop making efforts.

  • Never work for free.
    If someone said: you’ll get something to portfolio…
    You answer should sound like: FUCK OFF.
    Btw, great article ;)

  • Thanks for an insightful post, and the email template idea for reaching out to potential clients I’d like to work with. Copywriting is always more fun when it’s writing about a topic you love. Mine’s travel and tech. Cheers Jamie.

  • Jaime,

    As someone who is still very new to copywriting I’m having trouble finding information about formatting and structure for building copywriting portfolio. I was able to find some info on Briefs that was helpful,but what do the Process and Outcome look like(more or less I understand there is likely to be variation)?


    • Hi Les.

      Thanks for commenting, and good question.

      I do plan on writing a post that outlines the copywriting process (as much as it can be), so I’ll let you know once it’s live. I do think that there’s variation in every process though, and the outcome can be influenced by many external factors. I’d say that referring to the copywriting brief is probably the best way to determine whether the outcome has been achieved, whatever that may look like.


  • Hi Jamie,

    I just came across this post while I was doing some research and I just wanted to say thanks. I’m just beginning my copywriting journey (I have just finished an internship) and am now trawling through endless lists of copywriting jobs which invariably need a portfolio attached to be considered. I found your article and tips super helpful.

    One question: do you think it’s worth applying to junior copywriting roles and including in the cover letter that, whilst my portfolio isn’t full to the brim, I’d be willing to do a free trial so they can see if it might work between us? Or do you think it’d be better to stay well away until I have the experience under my belt before I approach these brands?

    Thanks so much again.


    • Hi Kiera.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment :)

      I think offering a free trial could work initially but may not be the best long-term strategy. I’d imagine that a fair few brands/agencies would be willing to let you work for free but I think you’d run the risk of only getting minor jobs. I think working for free also brings up the issue of value. Will the client see you as being worth the money afterwards if you’ve already worked with them for free?

      What I’ve found is that the professional copywriting world is smaller than you might think. Approaching clients, or agencies in particular, and offering a free trial might devalue your services if you were to approach them again in the future when you do have a portfolio.

      If you do opt to contact clients without one, I’d recommend being specific about the types of jobs you’d be looking for and then perhaps offer a discounted rate for an agreed period? This way, you know you’re working with clients that value what you do and have the budget to pay for it.

      Like you said, it’s a tricky one. Perhaps start off by approaching a handful of clients to gauge their response initially?

      Hope some of this helps Kiera. Any more questions, just let me know.


  • I am just learning to copy write and wish to prepare some print ads sample.I am not a graphic designer. Can I take help of professional graphic designer?

  • This post is really useful for me as it describes exactly where I am at the moment. I have one point to make and one question.

    Working for free – while it’s far from ideal, I think it can be worthwhile if the website/company involved would make a significant improvement to the copywriter’s portfolio/profile.

    Finding Work – I’m keen to have some real examples of product descriptions in my portfolio. Would you suggest looking finding online retailers who don’t seem to make much of an effort with their descriptions and showing that I can do better?

    • Hi William.

      Thanks for your comment.

      Yeah, I think working for free if it’s a prestigious project can be a smart move, especially if it helps you secure similar work in the future.

      With the product descriptions, I have heard of copywriters rewriting copy on spec and sending it to companies for their thoughts. I’d imagine that if you make it clear that you admire the company and would like to help, they’d at least entertain the idea of having you re-write a few descriptions for them. It may also be worth targetting companies who you don’t think have a copywriter but do have the budget for one.

      Hope this helps.


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