For writers, it can be overwhelming to think about creating a portfolio, but it's absolutely necessary to have a prepared set of clips to showcase your past work. Not only do freelance writers need them as a means of drumming up new clients, but new and established writers should maintain a current portfolio of writing samples as well as their resume.
Tip #1 • Personal branding in your bio
There’s lots of great examples of portfolios and writers out there (more on some specific examples, later), but it’s important that you differentiate yourself by being yourself. Your personal brand is an asset to your ability to sell your story as a great writer. Start by branding your bio in your portfolio. You should create a strong bio that is true to your personal brand and is memorable. How you describe and brand yourself in your bio should be strongly represented throughout your entire profile. Stand out from the pack by putting your own spin on any template or page.
Tip #2 • Edit
Your portfolio doesn't have to (and really shouldn't) include absolutely every little thing you've ever written. You should be thoughtful to include a range and variety of work to best showcase what you've accomplished. Does it feel a little thin? When you're just starting out, you might write a few sample pieces to fill in gaps in your portfolio. Think of them as personal assignments. You can collaborate with designer friends who are also beginning to boost both of your portfolios, and to add some color and depth to both of your pieces.
Try to include your best pieces that can inform a potential employer about your strengths. You can adjust your pieces depending on the position/industry you're looking into, say, putting journalistic pieces at the beginning if you're submitting a portfolio for a magazine job, or annual reports and white papers for a corporate assignment.
Tip #3 • Organize
Use the "30 second rule" and think about how your portfolio can best color your writing abilities if you're not present to preface everything with a backstory setup. If you had 30 seconds to make a great first impression, what would that look like?
Some quick ideas you can choose from:
- Use headers/subjects/types to divide
- Use employers/projects to divide
- Use years/circumstances (college years, first job, second job, etc.)
- Use lengths of writing to divide (headlines, short blurbs, catalog samples, medium-length, long-form writing)
- Divide by digital vs. print work
- Divide by awards won
- Create a backstory with a short (1-3 sentence) setup paragraph before each section
Tip #4 • Make it Digital and Print Friendly
Some potential employers will want a link to a digital portfolio (which doesn't have to be a full website, necessarily) and some will want a PDF emailed as an attachment to an application or with a cover letter and resume. You should keep all versions up-to-date so you won't be scrambling when a potential job comes up.
Here are some online portfolio options you might consider, depending on your type of writing or needs:
Editorial/Journalist portfolio hosting sites:
General writing portfolio sites:
- Even Pinterest can be of help if you keep a professional, clean account.
- LinkedIn now allows you to upload to a special "portfolio" section which can be daunting for established writers with a big portfolio, but is great for newbies.
Social media writers/managers:
To explain your social media strategy and performance of accounts, it often needs more setup/metrics shared. Try using Slideshare or create your own portfolio website to best explain your tactics and results. That being said, make sure you're keeping tabs on your social site performance, and taking screenshots as things move on to keep tabs and have visuals to back up your claims on followers, shares, etc.
Creating a portfolio website:
You can always use a blog (try the Wordpress portfolio plugin) or create a personal portfolio website to host your work.
See our WunderLand blog post on personal branding for some ideas on templates and more.
Don't forget about print!
If possible, bring a nice print version to interviews to have examples to review/share that you can elaborate on. This can be a bit of a challenging task when all of your samples are digital or encompass websites. Take care to make printouts as clean and readable as possible. Simple clear plastic portfolio keepers are easy to find at office supply stores and let you move items around easily to suit your needs.
Tip #5 • Don't rely on someone else's website to host your work
Digital samples can disappear in the blink of an eye, so you should host your own work, even if you choose to also use someone else's site to host your portfolio. Read more about personal branding and controlling the message about your excellent work. If you only post to someone else's site, or only use 3rd party links to your posted work as your portfolio and the site goes away, so does your entire portfolio.
You can use an indexed, searchable portfolio site:
You can also choose to post to a portfolio site that's indexed (and searchable by potential employers). Though just kind of hitting the market, you can post to these kinds of sites like Coroflot to help potential employers find you. Do what you think is best for your job search!
Tip #6 • Ask a friend or surf for samples you like
Keep tabs on favorite portfolios by asking to see others' "books" to compare samples, design, and organization principles. It's not a bad idea to keep a running list of online portfolios you like (a private Pinterest board is great in a pinch, or just save a set of bookmarks in your browser for reference). Trade books with other writers to get feedback. Asking neutral third parties is also great.
- Need feedback? Ask your WunderLand engagement manager to review your book and give you tips.
- PROOFREAD PROOFREAD PROOFREAD! Writers don't have any room for typos or grammatical mistakes.
- Update frequently to keep your samples current. Remove outdated samples or replace them as your work improves.
Just a few samples of good writing portfolios to get you started:
General portfolio samples:
Cabonmade template sample:
Slideshare social media sample:
Need more advice on your writing portfolio? Reach out to any of us at WunderLand to get help.
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