What to do When… Clients Won’t Let You Use Work for Your Writing Portfolio

A short post this week to address an issue raised by one of my students recently. It was a good question, and it instantly gave me the sense that others may be stuck on the same thing as they begin building their freelance writing portfolios…

The question:

“I’ve just started out as a freelance writer and followed the advice in your free eBook and signed up for fivesquid. The trouble is, very few clients are agreeing to me using my work in my writing portfolio – a couple have cited the T&Cs, which say they own all rights to the work. Is there anything I can do about this?”

This is an incredibly relevant question, and one (to my shame) I haven’t addressed anywhere yet! Here’s the answer – I hope it helps, as this is a tricky one…

The answer:

First of all, if the company is using you as a ‘ghost’ writer then I suppose this makes sense, as they wouldn’t want anybody to know that they didn’t write their own content. For these particular clients, you would need to respect this.

Oh. Dead-end then? Not quite…

One way around this is to ask if you could use a quote as a testimonial on your site instead. You don’t have to say who the client is if they’re not comfortable with it – instead you could say something like:

“Ghost writing client – anonymity always assured” before citing their glowing review of you. I actually did exactly this in the early stages of my writing website (and career).

Do you have a question?

I hope this helps, and thanks to Bec for asking such a pertinent question and bringing it to my attention.

If you have any relevant and/or tricky questions about anything I teach in my freelance writing Udemy course or in blog posts on this very site, please feel free to ask them in the comments section below (or email them to contact@freelancewritersonline.com with the subject heading: “What to do when”).

I’ll then create a series of mini-posts to answer all those burning freelance writing questions gnawing away at that brain of yours.

Image courtesy of Duncan Hull on Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

5 thoughts on “What to do When… Clients Won’t Let You Use Work for Your Writing Portfolio

  1. Hi Kirsty,

    What a great question and answer!

    When I first started out, I would offer clients a price break for allowing me to publish under my own name with a link back to my website.

    (Even if that link was “nofollow”…)

    Obviously, it didn’t work in every case — especially if the client required the work to be ghost written.

    But in some cases, the client was happy to save a few bucks and it got me extra exposure.

    Your testimonial method certainly works well, too.

    Also, I believe this is my first time commenting on your blog.

    I plan to return in the future, so allow me introduce myself. 🙂

    My name is Brent Jones and I’m a freelancer. I offer writing and social media management services and have earned my full-time living that way for the past year or so.

    I’ve also spent the last year building an audience through my own blog…

    But it’s only in the last month or so that I’ve really figured out who I want to serve through my blog — other freelancers!

    There are a ton of people in the exact same spot I was just over a year ago… people wanting to leave their full-time career positions to begin building online service-based businesses. And I want to help.

    So I guess you could say that my own blog is going through a bit of a transformation at the moment.

    In the meantime, I thought it would be a good idea to start connecting with other freelancers, such as yourself. Pleased to virtually “meet” you and I intend to keep in touch!

    All the best,


    1. Hi Brent,

      Thanks for your extra tips. It’s good to virtually meet you too. Feel free to add more tips and advice throughout the site where you see fit!

  2. Hi Kirsty,

    How are you?

    I really like the idea of providing a series of mini post that answer questions of followers and community members. I have noticed that usually this is done strictly through email correspondence, but the idea of sharing with your entire community and Tribe, I think, is a very helpful idea.

    However, just like a client not wanting their name mentioned in a testimonial or not wanting you to use the article that you write for them in a portfolio, some community members may not want their question and situation shared to the whole world.

    And I think that you have given a great response to Bec’s question. What I have observed in my freelance writing career is that clients aren’t this scary monster that we tend to create in our heads. If we simply ask them what we want, more often than not, they are willing to help. The worst thing they can say is “no”.

    And a “no” is really no big deal, just deal and move on. I am sure you have heard the saying, “Every no is just one step closer to a yes.”

    Nonetheless, thank you for sharing this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top