How to create niche UX writer portfolio projects for freelance

A niche-specific UX writing portfolio shows a potential client you intimately understand and have experience in their industry. Learn how to create one from scratch.
niche ux writing freelance portfolio
niche ux writing freelance portfolio
In: Freelance

If you’ve made it here, hopefully it’s crystal clear that UX writing freelance clients want to work with experts, and your portfolio pieces are sales pages.

That’s right — your UX writing portfolio pieces aren’t just to show off what you got; they’re to sell potential clients that you can solve their problems and have a track-record of doing so.

Because potential clients want to work with people who have direct experience solving their problems, we need to create niche-specific portfolio pieces to have the biggest impact.

A niche-specific work sample shows a potential client you intimately understand and have experience in their industry. A generic work sample shows them you know UX writing, and a technical CEO or CTO doesn’t really know how to evaluate “good” UX writing beyond how it’s relevant to their own problems.

So how do you create a niche-specific portfolio piece? We’ve been building toward this, and you’ve actually already done most of the work here.

By looking at your messaging canvas, we’re gonna piece together 3 portfolio pieces that’ll have a high impact on your potential clients.

If you haven’t defined your target client or defined your messaging, go back to those lessons — they’re foundational to what we’re about to do here.

Where to start if you’re coming from a UX writing job

If you have existing UX writing experience from a full-time job with corresponding portfolio pieces outside your freelance niche, don’t scrap them. While they won’t be hyper-relevant to your target client, they’ll still add credibility since they’re from “real” experience with “real” companies.

That said, I recommend adding 3 additional niche-specific portfolio pieces, so you get the best of both worlds

Where to start if you’re brand new to UX writing

If you’re brand new to UX writing, I got you. We’re gonna walk step-by-step how to create a niche-specific portfolio piece from scratch, even if you have no experience. Just keep reading.

Let’s get started 💃

You need to have at least 3 niche-specific portfolio pieces. You can have more, but 3 is the minimum.

The key is to make these portfolio pieces hyper-relevant to problems your target client is facing. And to do that, we’re gonna whip out our handy messaging canvas.

Here’s an example:

In our messaging canvas, we already used our target client profile to map out what our target client needs and how they feel about it.

Using your messaging canvas, here’s what we’re gonna do:

  1. Identify the “Results” you’re going to solve
  2. Map that to “Products” you sell
  3. Find 3 companies that fits your target client profile
  4. Identify 1 opportunity per company to use your “Products” to achieve the “Results”
  5. Use those opportunities to create your own projects

Let’s walk through it…

1. Identify the “Results” you’re going to solve

This is the first step, and probably the easiest.

Pull out your messaging canvas, and look at the 3 results you listed in your “Results” square.

I’m going to walk you through this step-by-step with a fintech example. So here are the 3 results for that example:

So, we’re going to develop UX writing projects where we:

  1. Increase sign-ups
  2. Increase conversion
  3. Increase retention

Easy, right?

2. Map that to “Products” you sell

So, in our fintech example, we know each one of our projects will either increase sign-ups, increase conversion, or increase retention.

Now, we’re gonna look at our “Products” square and map what we sell to the results we can help our target clients achieve.

For the fintech example, here’s the “Results” together the “Products”:

And we can map “Results” to “Products” like this to form portfolio project ideas:

  1. Increase sign-ups x Sign-up flows
  2. Increase conversion x Websites
  3. Increase retention x New product experiences

If you need to make revisions to your messaging canvas to make this work, go for it — this is all written in (digital) pencil, not ink ☺️

3. Find 3 companies that fits your target client profile

Now we know what our 3 projects will cover. The next step is to source those projects that we’re gonna do on our own.

Go back to your target client profile, and note the size of the company your target client works at and where they’re located.

For the fintech example, that’s seed stage startups in major US cities.

Then, you can either ask Google for companies in that space, or head to LinkedIn and do some digging. Crunchbase is also a good resource to find these companies.

For example, by Googling “seed stage fintech startups,” I found this list of recently funded seed stage fintech startups on Crunchbase:

Now, not each of these companies will work out perfectly. So make sure to explore 5+ companies, and then narrow it down to the 3 that are the best fits.

4. Identify 1 opportunity per company to use your “Products” to achieve the “Results”

Go on each of these companies' websites. Sign up for the products (and take screenshots every step of the way.) Play around with the product (and take screenshots every step of the way.)

Evaluate opportunities to achieve the “Results” with your “Products.”

For the fintech example, by signing up for Retirable’s product, I identified their sign-up flow could use a lot of help. I could help increase sign-ups by improving their sign-up flow, one of our identified portfolio project ideas.

Do this until you find 3 solid projects to pursue.

Once you do, you have a choice:

  1. You can run solo, and do the projects on your own
  2. You can reach out to your target clients at these companies and offer to do the project for free in collaboration with them

The first option will go faster, but it’ll still be theoretical, which isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as working with the company.

If you go with the second option, it might take longer, but it’s a win-win. The company gets free work, and you get a real-life case study with a real result. It could even lead to paid work afterward.

5. Use those opportunities to create your own projects

No matter if you chose option one or two, it’s time to do the project.

If you’re working with the company, there’s a chance you’ll get access to resources and Figma files, which will be a big help.

If you’re flying solo, this is where those screenshots come in. You’ll need to capture the entire experience.

Here’s the high-level process to create your portfolio project from scratch:

  1. Take a million screenshots, capturing the experience
  2. Put the screenshots in Figma, so they’re somewhere safe
  3. Understand the problem the product and flow are solving, what goals the product is trying to accomplish with the flow, and who the user of the product is (and write it all down)
  4. Conduct a content audit of the flow, so you gain an understanding of what content to keep, what content to edit, what content to cut, and what content to add
  5. Conduct a competitive analysis with 2 – 3 of the product’s competitors to learn from what’s working for them and capitalize on where they’re weak
  6. Form a hypothesis for your approach and define what you’re tackling (a good hypothesis formula is, “By [what you’re improving], I will [effect you’re going after], improving [result you’re after.]
  7. Go back to the screenshots you put in Figma and rewrite them equipped with your content audit and competitive analysis. To rewrite screenshots in Figma, put boxes over the existing copy and make them the color of the screen background. Then, put a text box over that box, and match the font.

If you’re flying solo, there are two additional steps:

  1. Find 10 people. Show 5 people the before flow and 5 people your revised flow. Ask them if they’d convert. Then, do some math, and figure out which flow is higher converting (psst… this is an A/B test.)
  2. Summarize the whole process in a simple, overview-based UX writing case study (more on that coming soon)

As you solve the problem, make sure you’re utilizing your “Features,” so your “Results” deliver your “Value” from your messaging canvas. That’ll tie it all together and put the cherry on top 🍒

That’s it!

The next step is to create a polished portfolio piece for each of your three projects.

Happy UX writing 🖖

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Written by
Slater Katz
As founder of The UX Gal, my mission is to make learning UX writing fantastically-simple and landing a job easy. I've held UX writing jobs at companies like Netflix, Fitbit, Verizon, Afterpay, & more.
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