Every freelance writing job you happen upon wants previous writing clips, yet, how can you get sample clips if no one will give you a job? How frustrating! However, there is one way that you can generate clips without being paid pennies by online content generators like Associated Content and Suite 101.
Write for free.
That's right. Write for free. Now, this is not generally an accepted idea in the freelance writing world, but stick with me for a moment.
What I'm talking about here is volunteer work. Every non-profit, every charity, every cause needs a way to get their message out. Sometimes, such as in the case of a small charity, there is no one on staff that specializes in copywriting and marketing pieces. Other times, there is a department, but they can always use an extra hand.
Find a cause, charity or non-profit about which you are passionate- one that carries a message that you can get behind and that you can lend some passion to. Volunteer to help with the organization's publicity message, putting your writing talents to work. Who knows, it may lead to paying work someday, but either way, once you've got a few done projects in your portfolio, you'll have something to attest to the fact that you are, indeed, a writer!
One caveat: I don't advocate "using" a charity for your own ends. In fact, I personally still do volunteer work for a non-profit that I got involved with as an unpaid intern. That's why it's important to choose a message that you care about.