Each week it happens. A Twitter follower messages me or a colleague reaches out and asks how they can land writing projects. I chat about networking, creating a professional social media presence and contacting the publications they want to write for, but I rarely remember to mention their writing portfolio.
What? If you don’t have a writing portfolio yet, GET ONE. Seriously, it serves as a real-time online resume of your work that hiring managers and decision makers are actively looking for and reviewing when hiring a freelance writer.
Not that long ago a community manager for a marketing platform I work with stressed the importance of not only creating, but regularly updating an online portfolio. Why? It shows you’re actively writing and are currently available to hire.
How Do I Start a Writing Portfolio?
There are so many options for showing off your wordy skills. Here are the most effective ways based on my experience and chatter among members of the content marketing community.
- Use a portfolio plugin on your professional writer’s website to showcase current clips.
- Manually create a portfolio page/tab on your website to highlight published articles. This is what I do because I’m not so savvy with plugins.
- Create a blog on your website and update it regularly with fresh writing. More than once I’ve been contacted based on something I wrote on my own website — no assignments or other publishers involved — because it shows initiative and dedication to my writing.
- Start a free portfolio with a content marketing platform. I use Skyword, Contently and ClearVoice. All three have landed me repeat writing work opportunities.
Once you get something set up, maintain it. It’s not good enough to lay the groundwork, add a few samples, then disappear. I make time each week to add new writing to my portfolio. I write full-time and have new things publish each week. If you write part-time, aim to update your portfolio monthly or each time something publishes, whichever is more often.
What if I Haven’t Been Published Yet?
I hear this often from budding writers. If you don’t have writing work to show, how do you land new writing work?
Think beyond paid work for others and build up a portfolio with posts from your own blog. Of course you should use well-polish entries that showcase your writing (not ranting) skills. You can also use link to engaging well-crafted social media posts, guest posts published by other bloggers and websites and even clips from previous offline work. Many of my early samples were scans of yellowed newspaper clippings!
Which Samples Should I Include?
Everything. I’ve been told that showing a variety of writing styles, published by an array of outlets covering multiple topics is just fine. It shows versatility and the types of work you like to do.
If you have a specific writing niche, and only want work in that vertical, then, by all means, limit your portfolio to content that reflects that topic.
And yes, it’s OK to include things from your personal blog as long as it’s professional. If it’s filled with typos, incomplete sentences and photos of drunkenness, it’s not exactly the content you would present in an interview, so don’t include it in a portfolio.
Good grammar and a polished presentation go a long way to woo potential clients.
Think of your online writing portfolio as a living, breathing work-for-hire recruiter. It showcases your talent, dedication and passion for your craft. Give your portfolio the attention is deserves, and it will work for you!