So, I am of the opinion that you don’t need a website or portfolio or anything to get started as a paid writer. I purposely didn’t have any of that when I started looking for clients. I wanted to prove people would pay me before I spent time and effort and money doing anything like that.
Instead of a self-hosted blog, you can use Medium. I give my medium pieces as writing samples all the time. Medium has a built-in audience, which makes it easier to get exposure instead of having to promote your site/blog. Even now, I have a website (jyssicaschwartz.com) to list my services and media and stuff, but I rarely promote it or do anything with it.
Also, in the beginning, I just took 3 pieces I’d previously written on my personal blog (I had a Blogspot) and for myself and put them in a PDF as writing samples to send people.
You can reach out to potential clients in a direct message and say “Hi, my name is Saadman Firoz and I’m a freelance writer and blogger. Did you know having a regularly updated blog on your website will organically raise you in the Google search rankings and encourage site visitors to stay longer? I’d love to work with you.” type of thing. I did this a lot on Instagram and LinkedIn, and that’s where I got my first few clients.
Once I had a few clients, THAT’S when I created my website and started putting together an email list and going for more clients, etc. Because I proved people were willing to pay me for writing.
You can also submit articles to online publications, and those articles will be great for writing samples, too.
Mostly, it’s about less pre-work and more just jumping into it! I love blogging and continue to do so, which raises my exposure and potential opportunities.