Archive for July, 2010

How do you get writing samples?

July 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Say you want to be a freelance writer. But you’re not the kind of person who just fell into the business by chance when you were on the high school paper and then naturally had contacts for bigger and better things eventually ending in a lucrative career with clients calling you and not the other way around. (Run-on sentence. Deal.)

Instead, say you’re the person who has fiddled with their life for years doing one thing or the next without much drive, or with a vague sense that you’d like to write for a living but somehow didn’t know where to begin. Say you’re like a lot of other people who are just like that, and you wake up one day to realize that writing would make your life complete, but maybe the window has closed, leaving you staring out it wondering if the train had already left the station. (Run-on AND mixed metaphors! Sheesh!)

The problem with getting a writing job is that it requires you already to have written. Whether you are applying for a gig writing articles for cheap online or trying to convince the local ice cream shop to hire you and write their advertising, without fail they all want to see a sample of what you can do. If you’re like that cartoon character who pulls his pockets inside out only to reveal the starving moth, you are wondering where the writing sample comes from when you have never been hired to write in the first place.

Good news, buddy. Getting writing samples is a piece of cake. Here, take notes:

  • Just start writing: Does the client really care if you are already published? Maybe, and maybe not. What they do want to know is that you can write. Sure, it’s more impressive if you can send a copy of a published article or a link to some major online work. But when you don’t have that, make your own articles. Start with a list of your favorite subject, then write some statements that focus on a specific idea in that subject. A good article will offer a different slant on a familiar subject. Voila! Writing samples.
  • Apply to those online writing sites: Most or all of the many online content mills and magazines (Suite101, Examiner, Demand Studios, etc.) ask you to provide a brief article in their style or using their subjects. They will probably suggest an article topic. Take a moment and write a solid article for them. But here’s the trick: save the article for your portfolio. And why not? You put the effort into it. View it as your first writing assignment for a client. But you’re not working for them yet. As far as I know you can keep and use the article as a writing sample for another potential client. (Just don’t take my word as gospel on this. Check out the client’s rules first!)
  • Write a blog. Yes, just like this one. Maybe better. If you are writing a blog you are creating writing samples with each post. Now, I’m not talking about your blog where you tell your peeps how you told off the guy in the car ahead of you. Instead, write the kind of blog that is creative and showcases your professional style and the kind of subjects you like to write about.

Keep everything. Post them on your blog. Post them at or any of 100 free article hosting sites. Point potential clients them. Link to them from your own site if you have one. Before long, you will have a portfolio to be proud of, one you may add to when the clients come knocking on your door.

Categories: article, freelancing