Hands at keyboard - How to get new writing samples when you're switching niches

When you’re switching from one niche to another, or choosing a niche for the very first time after years of being a generalist, it can feel like you’re starting all over again.

Even if you’ve been a copywriter for years.

Even if you have dozens of writing clips from other niches.

If you don’t have a lot of writing samples from the niche you’re aiming for, it can leave you feeling like a total newbie.

If you’re in this situation, the first thing I want to do is reassure you. You’re NOT a newbie. You’ve been at this a while. You know what you’re doing. Writing clips from your new niche are simply a visual aid to show prospective clients that you know what you’re doing.

Let me put that another way.

You have the writing skills. You just need to put them in a context your new prospective clients will relate to and get excited about.

So instead of panicking because of the old catch-22 scenario we writers often get trapped in – “you need clients to get samples, but you need samples to get clients” – let’s reframe this thing right out of the gate.

You don’t need to get client work to get writing samples.

You just need published work.

Enter: Guest Posting

I always advise my content-writer students who are switching to a technology-related niche to use guest posts for those first few writing samples while they’re making the switch.

(This is all good advice for any niche – but since my focus is on training content writers in the technology space, I’ll use the tech industry for the purposes of this article.)

Just make sure you’re guest-posting for an outlet that represents your new niche well. Something that your new clients would see and get excited about.

For example, if your new niche is marketing automation companies, you would pitch to places like ConvertKit or Pardot. Or if your new niche is IT, you might aim for sites like ZDNet or TechCrunch. Here are 80 other tech-related sites to consider.

Once your guest post is published, take a screenshot and add that sucker to your portfolio. No caveat necessary. No one needs to know it wasn’t a paid gig. Even today, I still have a couple of guest posts in my portfolio – they’re great examples of my work and they’re for really recognizable companies/sites, so why get rid of them just because I have plenty of examples of paid work?

Remember, these clips are to showcase your skills. A well-written guest post does that just as well as a paid project would.

A Note on Working for Free

Many experts will tell you to offer to work for free if you need new writing samples. It’s an option … but not one that I recommend very often. At least not in a potential-client scenario.

Here’s why: We human beings value what we pay for. Conversely, we don’t value what we haven’t paid for.

When you work for free, the recipient will appreciate it. Don’t get me wrong. But they won’t be champing at the bit to pay you a fair rate for your next piece.

If you want to offer to work for free, do it for a business that you don’t necessarily want a long-term, paid relationship with.

Or, make sure you’ve got an arrangement where the first post is free, but the rest are paid – and you have already agreed on the rate for the paid pieces.

There Is No Catch-22

It’s simply not true that you need to get clients to get writing samples.

You just need to have published work.

A well-written guest post can serve as a writing sample in your portfolio. And if your guest post is for a well-known publication, even better.


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