Creating a Professional Freelance Writing Portfolio

When you begin looking for freelance writing gigs, many clients will ask to see your writing portfolio. There are a few reasons why they want to see a professionally presented portfolio:

1. Clients need to check that you're able to write in a logical, coherent style across a few diverse topics

2. Clients also need to know what level of quality they can expect for their money

3. A portfolio showcases your abilities

4. The type of websites and publications included in your portfolio tells a potential client a lot about the type of writer you are

Your writing portfolio is one of the most important parts of building your freelance writing business. If you're not careful, a badly presented portfolio or an unprofessional attitude towards your freelance business can mean clients are by-passing your talents in favor of other writers.

Don't worry if you're still new and don't have much to add to your portfolio yet. We'll look at some ways to build your portfolio the right way as your business grows.

Let's look at building a professional freelance portfolio that will help you win those higher paying freelance jobs:

1. NEVER Include Links to Content-Producing Sites

It amazes me how many writers submit porfolios to potential clients that contain only links to their work on Helium or Associated Content or eHow. This is NOT a portfolio that represents your professional freelance writing abilities. You are admitting to your clients that you've self-published all your work on the lowest paying sites you could find rather than having the courage to submit your work to more professional markets.

Technically content sites are paying you (pitifully low amounts, but still pay), which means they're a client - but they are not a showcase of your work and definitely not a portfolio.

Most reputable clients and editors of professional writing gigs already know that the short articles on content sites are unedited, self-published work. The quality of writing is often not as high as they're searching for or willing to pay good money for. This means you'll often be overlooked for a real freelance writing gig if your portfolio contains only links to content sites like these.

2. Displaying Your Freelance Writing Portfolio

If you don't have your own website or blog, get one. Create a separate page and list the places you've been published to date. Having your own site shows potential clients and editors that you are serious about your writing business. It's also a lot more professional than directing clients over to a content-producing site.

On your portfolio page, include links to any of your published work. If you've been published in magazines or newspapers, write the name of the publication down along with the publishing date or issue number.

If you don't want the hassle of registering a domain name and figuring out how to upload website pages to it, then a blog is just fine. Don't panic if you have no paid writing credits so far. We'll work on that later.

3. Writing Samples

Showing a client a few samples of your work allows them to see your style and what level of quality they can expect. While many clients may click over to view your previously published pieces, you should also offer a few samples of your finest work on your own website somewhere.

4. Detail Your Services

Include a list of your professional freelance services on your website or blog. This is not a part of your writing portfolio, but it is a great way to show prospective clients your range of skills and abilities. It's important that your new clients understand that you're capable of writing in various styles for different specifications.

There's a lot more to freelance writing than just slapping together a few paragraphs and calling it web content. Some clients want press releases or sales pages written. Other clients want informative feature articles. Still other clients want business presentations or advertising copy written for them.

Showing a list of your available services can often lead to a client contacting you for more than they originally wanted. For example, I have one client who only wanted a little web content written. After seeing my list of services available, I now write all his press releases and advertising copy as well. This created an up-sell situation for me - which also meant more items to include on my portfolio once they were done.

Building Your Portfolio

So... what do you put in your portfolio if you haven't had anything published yet?

Your first option is your own blog or website. While this isn't paying work, it is enough to show clients that you're passionate about what you're writing and it shows your writing style at the same time.

If you have spent some time submitting articles to content-producing sites (such as those slave-labor revenue-share sites), then it's acceptable to link to a few articles on these, but only if you display one on each different topic you've written about. The moment you do have some professional, paid credits to add to your portfolio, you'll replace those content-producer links over time anyway to make sure your portfolio appears as professional as possible.

Your next option is to seek out some paying markets. Don't feel bad if you're only seeking out lower markets to start with. These can be really important while you're building your confidence. Take a look at the list of categories in the right hand column of this blog. You'll see one there that says 'paying freelance markets'. Browse through these and try your luck applying for some.

Visit plenty of real freelance writing job boards or browse the freelance guidelines databases and only aim at work that interests you or that you feel you can write comfortably.

Writing For Dollars Markets Database: http://www.writingfordollars.com/ArticlesDB.cfm

Worldwide Markets Database: http://www.worldwidefreelance.com/masearch.asp

Freelance Job Openings: http://www.freelancejobopenings.com/

Online-Writing-Jobs: http://www.online-writing-jobs.com/

Accentuate Services: http://www.accentuateservices.com/xmb/forumdisplay.php?fid=70


Creating Residual Income From Freelance Writing

There's a lot of talk about creating residual income from freelance writing, and I seriously agree with the basis behind it. Residual income, or passive income, is money that keeps coming in, month after month, long after you've finished the work.

There are lots of great reasons to create residual income. Any freelancer who's serious about turning a love of writing into a lucrative career should learn very quickly how to maximize passive income whenever possible.

I personally have several forms of residual income coming into my freelance business. It's this passive income arriving each month that pays my mortgage payment and my utilities bills each month.

As with every other area of freelance writing, there are ways to seriously boost your residual income through the stratosphere and then there's slave-labor version of residual income. For those writers already determined to stick to the slave-labor versions of making money online, then I suggest you stop reading this post now. I'm about to TRASH Associated Content, Helium, Triond and sites just like them a lot.

Before I get into my slave-labor site-bashing, I will remind you that I did conduct an experiment at Helium to verify my findings. You can find my original experiment here: http://ravens-writing.blogspot.com/2008/10/writing-at-helium.html

I read a post on a networking site from a writer who only writes on revenue-share sites. This writer's logic went as follows:

100 articles written and submitted could bring you $100 per month in residual income. Wow. That's $1,200 a year! You just need to get 10,000 page views of your work to make it happen.

Um... I don't know about you, but getting 10,000 page views takes an awful lot of work, time and effort. You also have NO guarantee that you're going to reach that massive amount of page views, which means the average writer is going to earn significantly less than $100 a month from these options. What happens if you only get 100 page views? That adds up to a princely sum of UNDER $10 for 100 articles. That's hardly 'passive' income any more is it?

Besides, 100 articles sold at $50 each should have made me closer to $5,000 in upfront payments that could be paid off my mortgage right now, which would save me significantly more than $1,200 in interest payments in half the time. Or I could go on a nice vacaction with $5,000. Or I could buy a new computer. And that's without me having to worry about getting ANY page views!

Or I could aim at even higher paying markets and sell them for $100 each. That's $10,000 for 100 articles. Yes, that really is possible. I've already pointed at lots of places for you to find markets that pay this high - and higher.

Gee - I could even be contrary and aim at the really low-paying end of the market and still earn more money. Even at $10 per article, that's $1000 in guaranteed upfront payments without worrying about promoting it or finding page-views.

Writing so much and working so hard for a pathetic amount of a few cents per article at a revenue-share site is also nothing to do with creating a real, reliable residual income.

There are much easier ways to make residual income than writing hundreds of articles for a few cents each.

Types of Residual Income

Passive income, or residual income, doesn't have to come from writing activities. In fact, investors have been generating residual incomes for themselves for decades. Here are some ways to build residual income.

- Rental Income from buying investment properties

- Dividend Income from shares/stocks you own

- Interest Income from savings at the bank

- Royalties from selling a book/ebook or writing music or inventing things

- Recurring commissions from selling affiliate products on the internet (affiliate marketing)

- E-commerce websites or online stores

- Advertising revenue from creating effectively, correctly monetized websites

Hmmm... from what I can see, none of those methods of creating and building residual income have anything to so with slaving away, day after day, writing, submitting and promoting hundreds and hundreds of articles for a few cents IF you can generate thousands of page views.

However, if you read those options carefully you would have also noticed that four of those options have to do with working smarter online instead of harder. One of them is directly related to freelance writing.

Freelance Writing and Residual Income

Writing and selling articles is the 'bread and butter' of my freelance writing business. I write an article and then I research markets until I find one that will pay me properly for my time and effort. I receive an upfront payment for the highest amount I can possibly find. That's not residual income. That's bringing cash flow into my freelance business NOW so I can continue to pay my bills on time. That's making sure I have enough money in my accounts so that I don't have to go back to a day job any time soon.

Residual income is the 'cream and sugar' of my freelance writing business. I do receive quite a lot of residual income each month as well as my upfront payments. My residual income comes from ebooks, affiliate sales, paid ads on several blogs, royalties from anthologies as well as a few well-placed investments. It's a vital part of my total freelance business income.

Writing and selling short stories and fiction creates both a little bit of upfront money as well as residual income. Most short stories sell for between $40 - $100 upfront, plus you get paid royalties if you sold the story to an anthology that sells well.

Writing entire books or ebooks can generate a very healthy residual income for a long time. You complete the work once and then you continue to receive royalties for as long as that book keeps selling. No hassle about getting enough page-views. No difficulties in finding something else to write about tomorrow. Just royalties coming in month after month.

Advertising income can generate quite a significant amount of residual income. I see a lot of people complaining about not earning enough from Google Adsense or Bidvertiser or Adbrite - yet imagine how much you COULD be earning if you wrote 100 articles and put them on your own blog? Instead of a few cents per page view, you could actually be keeping all the profits for yourself. (I'll give you a hint: this post is number 83 on this blog. I reach payout with Adsense every month.... )

I'll also write an entire post on creating ebooks in a later post - there's too much to add here.

So the next time someone advises you join a revenue-share site, think carefully about it. If you're willing to write hundreds of articles and spend large amounts of time generating more and more page views in order to earn a few extra dollars a month, then try it.

If you're willing to learn about real ways to create residual income that don't involve slave-labor, then perhaps direct your time and energy to options that can double your income without even a fraction of the work involved in working at those slave-labor sites.


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Plagiarism is THEFT

I was happily looking around Google to see what I could find and I ran across a Wordpress blog that looked very familiar. I knew I'd never been to this ugly green blog before and I didn't know the name of the Indian thief (Harshajyoti Das, also known as 'jr_sci' on most forums or Gudugudu), so that wasn't what I was finding familiar.

What was familiar is that EVERY SINGLE BLOG POST I've ever written was stolen, plagiarized and reproduced there exactly.

How stupid are some people to post a blog that says "My name is Bianca Raven" - but posted on a blog by someone who's name is Harshajyoti Das instead of Bianca? Surely that would be a hint?

I work hard to put together the words I offer on this blog for other writers to learn from. I try to find valid resources for you all. These words are free for you to READ anytime you want - but they're not free to be copied, reposted or otherwise stolen from me.

When I emailed this ugly green blog's owner and politely asked him to remove my content from his page he responded with the following email:


Binaca listen. There are numerous blogs over the internet that has the same content as yours. If you want then I can provide the link of your blog in my freelance blog. Thus, I shall give a link of the original posts. Are you okay with this deal?

Actually I have no profit making intention. Your content is awsome so had taken to my blog. I am sorry if I have offended you.

Harshajyoti Das

Hmmm.... plagiarizing my work and then saying you think my content is awesome doesn't make it okay to steal it and pretend that it's your own work. That's THEFT!

So I responded with the following:


There are not numerous blogs all over the internet with my original copyrighted content. I wrote that content for use on my own blog only. I have not given permission for this content to be stolen by anyone.

If you wish to steal original content from writers, then you need to ask for permission from the legal copyright holder. If you don't ask for permission, then this is called theft.

I'm glad you think my content is awesome - thank you for the compliment - but this doesn't give you the right to automatically copy it.

Please remove my legally copyrighted content from your blog at once.

Thank you for your prompt attention to fixing this theft problem.
Bianca Raven

Of course nothing was done to remove MY content from this plagiarized ugly-green blog. In fact, when I searched for the thief's name on Google, I noticed that he has an Associated Content account and a Squidoo lens. Hmm... No profit-making intentions from stealing other people's work huh? Sure buddy.

So I reported his lack of action to Wordpress (where the ugly-green plagiarized blog was hosted).

Here's the amusingly rude email I got this morning ...


My Wordpress account got suspended because of you. You are such an asshole. I challenge you that I shall make a much more better blog than yours with a double traffic and show it to you.

Just keep fucking with your fucking blog. Just see to it how I am going to fuck you and your blog.

Harshajyoti Das

Um... let me think. The last time I looked, Harshajyoti - YOU WERE THE ONE WHO STOLE MY WORK. That means you got your own Wordpress account suspended - not me!

Have a nice day and remember - if you take something that doesn't belong to you without permission of the owner it's called theft.

I wonder if he'll steal this post?



What IS Freelance Writing Really?

Do you know what the word 'freelance' really means? I'm sure most of you do. You're all bright, intelligent people (I can tell by the correspondence I get!). But there are one or two out there who seem to insist that just being online and earning a few cents makes them freelance writers.

Here's the real meaning.

Freelance = self-employed

The word 'freelance' by itself does NOT mean anything to do with writing. It has nothing to do with being online. It isn't about articles and it's not about revenue-share. It means self-employed.

'Going Freelance' means you've decided to work all by yourself with no boss but you. You can be a freelance photographer, a freelance graphic designer, a freelance architect, a freelance web creator, a freelance mortgage consultant, a freelance wedding planner, a freelance nose picker... whatever you want to do on your own within your own home business means you're a freelance whatever. Fill in your own blanks.

What's Freelance Writing Then?

Freelance writing is the term given to a person who is self-employed as a writer, running a business in which they must write in order to earn income. It makes no difference how big or small your business is - as long as you realize that freelance IS being in business for yourself.

I am a freelance writer. I own a small freelance business in which I write for a living. This means I work for myself as my own boss in my own home business where my primary product for sale is writing. I do the work I want to do. I choose which work assignments to accept and which ones to decline. I research new markets to submit work to. I write for offline magazines, I write for online clients and I often write just for myself too. I don't receive any other income from anyone or anywhere else.

Your freelance business could be big or small. You have the freedom to choose what you want it to become. Write just the fun stuff and avoid the crummy stuff you don't enjoy. It's your business after all.

My amazing, wonderful mentor is also a freelance writer (Hi Lee!) Her freelance business makes my own full-time enterprise look like a beginner. She's nothing short of amazing. She earns all her income from writing for clients, websites and magazines. She has staff as well as a personal assistant and she even owns her own magazine!

Many of my closest friends are also self-employed freelance writers who earn their entire income from writing activities (but they don't have staff LOL) Three of my own proteges are freelance writers and fast becoming good friends. They actively work hard to increase their skills and knowledge while they build their freelance businesses. They seek out new clients, they actively avoid the low paying markets in an effort to keep increasing their income until it reaches the level they need to pay the bills (Hi to Linz, Jhellie and Amalia. You know who you are)

When Are You NOT a Freelance Writer?

I'm a member of several community sites where newer writers tend to hang out. I spend time here trying to help those new writers with real talent to break free of the low-paying ranks and build a profitable income for themselves.

Many newer writers seem so proud of themselves when they earn 5 cents per forum post and earn 23 cents per month on page views on useless revenue-share sites. They immediately begin calling themselves freelance writers, immediately start up little blogs and attempt to teach others how to make easy money from 'freelancing'.

While it is possible to make a few extra dollars a year from posting in forums or submitting your thoughts about your own life on revenue-share sites like Associated Content or MyLot, these little musings don't make you a freelance writer. They make you a hobbyist.

Hobbies Are Great Fun

Never feel bad for being a hobby writer. Enjoy it! It's a lot of fun and you can earn a bit of extra pocket money. Be proud to tell people that you're a hobby writer part-time.

While my own business was still growing, I was a hobby writer in my spare time while I worked full time at a very large bank. I had fun with my hobby for 2 years before I decided to take it seriously and build it into a business instead of a hobby. The day I quit my job and earned my entire income from writing I became a freelance writer instead of a hobby writer.

How Do You Become a Freelance Writer?

When I was learning and growing and still in the hobby-phase, my mentor was very fond of nagging me endlessly about treating freelancing seriously and professionally. This means actively working to improve your confidence levels, honing your talents and aiming at markets that will pay your bills. It also means learning to prioritize your time carefully so that each day is filled with activities that bring income into your business.

Prioritization was the hardest thing I had to learn. My mentor looked at what I did during each day and asked me to create a spreadsheet. Then I learned to track my activities and what percentage of income was earned for how much time spent on doing them.

What I noticed very quickly is that spending four hours on a networking site like MyLot might earn $2 - but four hours worth of article writing could see at least 4 or 5 articles written. So I immediately began submitting articles hoping to earn $5 or $6 per article. I was ecstatic about the increase in income! I learned to spend more time doing things that paid more money and avoided those that ate my time for very little return.

This one simple lesson tripled my freelance income and increased my productivity massively at the same time.

Developing Confidence in Your Freelance Writing

You know I'm going to tell you my mentor wasn't happy with me aiming at low paying $5 article markets like this. In fact she was disgusted and promptly sat with me as I looked for higher paying options.

My first argument to Lee was the same one I hear from people regularly when I tell them to aim a bit higher. "I'm not good enough to submit to big markets". Does that sound familiar to you?

She rolled her eyes at me in exasperation and pointed out that magazine editors have NO idea how long you've been writing. All they care about is how good the idea is in front of them. If they like the idea for a story, many of them will suggest a format that they want to see.

I didn't believe her at all, but I submitted a query letter to an editor at a magazine and simply told him about my idea for an article. He loved it and offered to pay me $800 for the article at once.

Yep - it really is as easy as that.

(see this post for ideas about improving confidence)

Avoiding Freelance Burn-Out

I met a really talented writer on a forum last year. He wrote great articles and always knew exactly what the client wanted. His name was Taylor and he had a really bright future in writing ahead of him.

Unfortunately Taylor refused to look outside of the low-paying markets. He spent all his time on Digital Point Forums charging $2 for a 500 word article. He would write and write and write all day, sometimes writing 8 or 10 articles just to earn $20. He worked 6 days a week on this same routine. He was so mentally exhausted that one day he woke up and simply couldn't face writing another thing the rest of his life.

He was a brilliant, talented writer and he'll probably never write anything again. I hate hearing stories like this. It's a waste of perfectly good talent. The sad part is he could easily have earned $50 or $100 per article with the quality he was producing. He just didn't have confidence in his ability.

If Taylor had actively broken up his writing activities into profitable sections and 'just-for-fun' sections and then looked more carefully at prioritizing his time, he would have been able to turn a hobby into a lucrative full-time income by writing only 2 or 3 articles per day, 5 days a week. He wouldn't have burned out and wasted all that talent.

Phew! I didn't realize I'd written so much (grins sheepishly). I hope some of you are realizing by this post that no matter what level of writing you're at, where you take it and how you build it is all up to you. Enjoy the hobby stage. Have fun with it. Be proud to be a Hobby Writer.

But the moment you decide you want to be a professional Freelance Writer, go ahead and quit those low paying, slave-labor, revenue-share hobby sites and come out and play with the real paying sites! You'll be glad you did.

Happy writing.


Researching Your Freelance Articles

I received an email from a reader saying "In a previous post you mentioned being able to churn out 5 or 6 short articles in an hour. How? I have the hardest time because I have to research the articles. I do find myself spending about an hour or two for a $5.00 article. It doesn't seem worth it."

Freelance writing really can be a very lucrative career. It's possible to earn a great income from the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately it's also possible to reduce your income drastically by accepting the wrong types of assignments or by not organizing your day or your writing assignments for maximum efficiency.

Let's look at some ways to increase your income and reduce the amount of time you spend researching and writing.

Researching for Assignments from Content Mills

Content mills are those sites that offer writers with a steady stream of article work. They don't pay very highly - generally between $5-$15 per article - but they are a nice inclusion for any online freelancer needing a bit of consistency with cash flow.

When you accept writing assignments from content mills like Text-Broker or Demand Studios or even from Need-An-Article then you're not always going to be thrilled about the subject matter. You may need to search around on Google or through Wikipedia to find enough information to write a logical article.

If you find yourself spending an hour or 2 researching to find enough information to write a $5 article, then you need to ask whether you should have accepted that assignment in the first place.

Understanding What Content Mills Want

The biggest difference between an assignment from a content mill and an assignment from a private freelance client is the level of quality they expect. The people who order articles written through content mills are mostly seeking keyword-focused articles that center around the general topic they requested. These articles are only to fill up websites and attract search engines. This means they're not after in-depth articles. They want information that covers a topic.

To understand a little more on how I write according to the differences between content mill work and my own work for private clients, check out this post from last year:


Cutting Down On Research

One option I use to reduce my research time in these situations is to verify how many articles on the same or similar topics are available. If I can see more than 5 articles available then I'll happily spend 10 or 15 minutes researching for enough topic points to talk about. Obviously I'm going to need 5 topic points for 5 intended articles.

(tip: if you can't limit your research quickly, then set an alarm and stop when it rings)

Remember - if this research is for an assignment with a content mill only paying a few dollars then you can't afford to be spending hours looking up the information you need. Find a few pointers to write about and get writing.

Writing 5 or 6 Articles an Hour

If you've accepted an assignment for 5 articles, then research the basics before you begin writing. Write the article topics one beneath the next. Then make notes about your research as you work beneath each title.

For my own style, I tend to write all 5 at once, making notes I want to remember about each subject title. When your research is done, go back through your notes and add sentences to expand on your meaning and say what you want to say.

By the time you've expanded on your notes and clarified your meanings, you should easily have several hundred words. You're almost there.

Re-Use Your Own Research

After you've written the article you needed to write, ALWAYS save your articles to a separate folder. Because content mills buy all the rights to those articles, you can't sell them again anyway - but you can re-use the research within those articles whenever you want. Make sure you label the article according to the topic it covers so you can find specific topics easily.

Hint: NEVER re-use the same words you've already used. Someone else has already paid you for the use of those words. You can re-write, re-slant, re-hash and re-edit your original work all you like - just be sure you never use the same words twice or your favorite content mill will suddenly decide they have no more work to offer you.

Don't Take It Too Seriously

While it is still important to write legible, logical articles for content mill assignments, they're not masterpieces and they're not being entered into the category for a literary award. These articles are web content.

Of course you should still be careful to keep your spelling and grammar correct. Your facts should also be correct and your writing should convey the information you want the reader to know.

Then you need to learn to save the file to your separate folder, close the word processing program you're working on and begin the next assignment. Immediately.

Don't be tempted to go back through every word painstakingly editing each sentence until it gleams. Save this kind of attitude for the high paying markets who are paying for your time and effort.

Content mills provide much-needed cash flow for freelancers needing a bit of extra cash in between waiting for the bigger markets to send out their checks. Keep this in mind next time you're tempted to spend any longer than 15 or 20 minutes writing an article for $5 or $10

I hope this helps


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