A writing portfolio is a collection of your best writing samples, which can be used to showcase employers or potential clients what you’re capable of.
Now, creating a writing portfolio doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive — there are plenty of free and low-cost tools available that make this process simple and straightforward.
In this article, you’re going to learn how to create an online writing portfolio that turns heads and moves the needle!
What Is the Purpose of a Writing Portfolio?
A writing portfolio is a collection of writing samples that demonstrate your writing skills and abilities, organized in an easy to navigate way with the purpose of removing barriers to the sale when you’re outreaching to employers or clients for freelance work.
For your portfolio to be effective, it not only needs to showcase your best writing but it also needs to be focused on a single niche or area of expertise.
Now, it’s totally fine if you specialize in multiple niches. For example, say marketing software, fitness, and health food are three things you’re passionate about and you possess extensive knowledge in all of them.
However, what you don’t want to do is to create an all encompassing portfolio with a marketing section, a fitness section and a health food section — that would just be too confusing.
See, when clients and employers are looking for a freelance writer, they likely have a very specific need in mind.
If they see portfolio examples that are totally unrelated to what they’re looking for, they may label you as a jack or jill of all trades and pass you over, even if you have deep knowledge in all niches you write about.
So, in order to increase your chances of success, create multiple portfolios, each specializing in a single niche.
How to Create a Writing Portfolio
Back in the day, writing portfolios were presented in a big binder with a table of contents and dividers.
Later on, when text composition moved to computers, portfolios migrated to PDF files with hyperlinks taking readers where they wanted to go.
Today, everything has moved online and there are a number of easy to set up platforms you can use to showcase your writing talents.
One way of presenting your writing portfolio is by creating your own writer website. Nowadays, there are a number of low-cost or no-cost website builders with professionally-designed templates for virtually any look you can think of.
The fancier the features the more you’ll pay in monthly hosting fees, but the better looking your portfolio will be.
Next in line are social media portfolios, where you can take advantage of these free ubiquitous platforms to develop your writing showcase. Examples of portfolio-friendly social media sites are Medium, LinkedIn and Pinterest, depending on the clientele you want to target.
Another solid online option are gig websites that cater to people looking for writers (e.g. Fiverr, Problogger, and Upwork.)
Although these sites are job marketplaces, in order to pitch your services you need to create a marketing portfolio page showing a large number of writing samples.
Finally, there are sites that specialize in portfolio content management, like Clippings.me, Writerfolio and JournoPortfolio, where you can just upload your work instead of having to create and maintain your own portfolio website. The downside is that all portfolios look similar.
Regardless of what type of platform you choose, here are five simple steps you can follow to create your writing portfolio:
Step 1 — Divide and Conquer
Separate all your writing samples into physical piles, file folders on your computer’s desktop or both. Each grouping needs to focus on a single niche. You’re not vetting your content yet, just categorizing it.
Here you can include anything from articles, book chapters, blog posts, essays, white papers, research papers, anything and everything goes.
Step 2 — Curate
Now is the time to pick one of your niches at a time, re-read your content and decide what your absolute best written pieces are — these are the ones that are going to make the final cut.
Then, repeat the process for each niche.
Step 3 — Choose Your Platform
As stated earlier, there are a number of platforms available for creating your freelance writing portfolio. Which one should you choose? The one you’re the most comfortable with.
If you’re tech savvy, then a good website builder like SquareSpace or Wix will offer you the most design flexibility for portfolio sites, but they’ll also require the most time on your part to set it up — there are just a lot of options to choose from, from hundreds of templates and fonts to dividers and color palettes.
If you’re not tech savvy, then it would be a good idea to choose a portfolio creator like Clippings.me. These are designed for those who are not technically inclined (and don’t wish to be!)
Finally, if you’re a social media native, this might be your jam. Here, it’s not so much about whether you’re tech savvy or not, but whether or not you know how to navigate the intricacies of social media platforms.
Step 4 — Create Your Design
Before prospects get to see your written work, they’ll have to navigate through your portfolio’s different pathways to find it.
If your portfolio site design is uninspiring or, worse yet, looks amateurish, people will then assume that your writing will be sub-par as well.
So, make sure to create a pleasing design with professional-looking fonts and a color palette that suits your niche — for example, a playful-looking font might work well if you’re a food or travel writer but will likely backfire if you write about enterprise software.
Last but not least, when you’re done creating your portfolio make sure every link works and points to the expected place! There’s nothing more detrimental to an online portfolio than broken and misdirected links.
Step 5 — Promote, Promote, Promote
You’ve now created an awesome display of your work, packaged irresistibly and full of the best writing you’ve ever done!
Problem is, it won’t really do anything for you if nobody sees it — so promotion is key. Now, I’ll grant you this: most writers want to spend their precious time writing, not marketing and self-promoting.
The thing is, unless we make a significant effort to spread the word about our portfolio, chances are nobody else will — save for close family and friends.
So, make sure you tap into your close and extended networks to get the word out about your portfolio.
Include a link in your email signature, your LinkedIn profile and all the about pages on your social media accounts. And last but not least, make sure you share, share, share on those social media platforms where you are the most active.
What Should You Not Put In a Portfolio?
While it’s important to highlight the best samples of your writing in your portfolio, there are a few pieces you should avoid, including:
- Personal writing that does not showcase your writing skills or abilities (e.g. diary entries, private journal writing)
- Writing assignments from school or university
- Plagiarized work of any kind (even if it’s a teensy tiny bit that was copied from somewhere else — these days there are many free online anti-plagiarism tools that can easily check to see if any portion of your writing has appeared anywhere else on the web)
- Unpublished writing that has not been edited or proofread
- Writing that does not fit the scope of writing services you offer
- Ghostwriting done on behalf of a client when you have signed a non-disclosure agreement
Your writer portfolio is a reflection of your skills and abilities, so make sure to only include samples that show your writing in the best possible light.
Avoid putting anything in it that does not accurately represent the kind of writing you’re capable of or things that could potentially harm your reputation as a writer.
Tips for Maintaining Your Writing Portfolio
Once you have created your writing portfolio, there are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining it:
- Update it regularly with writing samples that show the progress you’ve made over time
- Add samples of any new writing services you may have started offering since last updating your portfolio
- Add samples you’ve landed recently in highly authoritative sites (e.g. large newspapers, well-known blogs, etc.)
Wrapping Things Up
Having a writing portfolio is an invaluable tool for any writer and can make your job search much easier and a lot more profitable.
Investing time into creating and updating it regularly will be worth it in the long run. Employers or clients are more likely to take notice when they see a well-organized writing portfolio that gets better over time.
With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to create an impressive portfolio that’ll help you stand out from the crowd!
Harry Wallett is the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing. Combining his entrepreneurial background with a love of great stories, Harry founded Relay in 2013 as a fresh way to create books and for writers to earn a living from their work. Since then, Relay has sold 3+ million copies and worked with 100s of writers on bestselling titles such as Defending Innocence, The Alveria Dragon Akademy Series and Rancher’s Family Christmas.
Harry oversees the creative direction of the company, and works to develop a supportive collaborative environment for the Relay team to thrive within in order to fulfill our mission to create unputdownable books.
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