Freelance writers need a writing portfolio to present to potential business clients, editors and publishers. If you are just getting started as a freelance writer and have no completed assignments to showcase, this post will give fire your imagination with ideas on how to get started. Every writer begins with a blank page so don’t despair.
What to include in your writing portfoilo
Your portfolio is a showcase of your professional writing and can include:-
- guest posts and blog articles
- content you have written for websites
- Linkedin articles
- newspaper and magazine articles
- brochures, flyers and ads
- reviews and testimonials
Guest posts are a great starter for your writing portfolio. Many large websites and blogs rely on guest posts to grow their content and are always looking for new writers. Get started by googling ‘write for us xxxxx’ (and your niche) or browsing the content of some of your favourite blogs.
Choose something professional looking with credible content and make sure they’ve published something in the last 15-30 days. Read their submissions page carefully to find out exactly what type of articles they accept. Also make sure they display an author byline as some websites pass off guest posts as their own writing. Ideally the byline will show the writer’s photograph as well as a short bio, plus links to a website and social media.
Remember you are looking for something that’s going to make you look like a professional writer. My first guest post was for an online network of small business owners and I actually received a lot of traffic back to my blog from the article. They had a nice looking author byline that also linked to all my social media.
Websites to avoid
- Spammy looking sites with lots of banner ads
- Sites that don’t display an author byline
- Sites with no recent posts
Pitching and Submitting
Some websites want you to send a completed article with your submission, others prefer you to pitch them first. For my first few guest articles I contacted websites that requested the article up-front, that way I didn’t have to provide examples of writing to get a start. It’s a great feeling when you get that first ‘yes’ email.
Linkedin is a great place to showcase your writing to potential clients as well as build a following. Being the world’s largest platform and publisher of business-relevant content, writers have a huge audience for their work.
Publishing articles regularly and consistently supports your writing portfolio too. Even if your network doesn’t comment much (or even ‘like’ your posts) they do notice that you publish every week.
For your writing portfolio you could write a series of articles around a niche topic and use the most popular one in the portfolio. By ‘niche topic’ I mean a topic or industry that you know well, have professional experience, and where you could specialise as a writer.
The other great thing about Linkedin,it has its own portfolio section. You can actually attach different media samples of your work to your Linkedin profile. Word documents, scanned articles, links to websites, photographs: you can even make a video.
Blogs and Websites
You can absolutely use material from your own blog or website in your writing portfolio. Choose something well written (obviously) which received a lot of likes, comments and shares. If you’re writing something new and specifically for the portfolio choose a topic likely to appeal to a prospective client. Remembering that clients are less interested in how well you structure a sentence and more interested in how your writing is going to help them land visitors on their website or sell their products.
If you’ve written copy for websites you could include them in your writing portfolio but be really careful. After you spend all that time crafting beautiful text for their website (text that uses just the right amount of keywords and lays out nicely on the page) the client changes their services profile and adds a few extra sentences or an additional paragraph. The grammar is wrong, the paragraph widows or orphans, and the person viewing your portfolio thinks you’re inept and careless.
Just recently I experienced this exact situation. I had written an entire grant program for a client who had published it in full on their website. It had been in my portfolio for a few months when I went back and checked to make sure the link was still working. To my dismay the client had added poorly worded (and grammatically appalling) intro text at the top of page. I removed the link from my portfolio immediately.
Though there are many places for emerging freelancers to create online writing portfolios for free or at low cost, I personally think that having your own writer website is essential for a successful writing business. Your own writer website is a not only a place to present the content of your writer portfolio, but the entire site content acts as an example of your work.
Also, if you don’t have any freelance writing gigs to showcase, a writer website can boost your credibility. Create product descriptions, services pages and email opt-ins that demonstrate to clients your ability to write persuasive copy. At the same time prove your attention to detail by using crisp images that lay out beautifully; and write clean copy, free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Online portfolio tools
Ideally create your own writer website, but if you are on a tight budget there’s still plenty of online places to display a great writing portfolio. Here’s a few …
Pinterest is an easy way to start a writing portfolio. You can upload, save, sort, and manage images—known as pins—and other media content (videos) through collections known as pinboards.
Pinterest is completely free and pinboards lay out quite nicely. You can use your own engaging images or just auto-capture the image directly from the source website. You can also add your own customised text to each portfolio item.
The downside is you can only include web links or links to videos.
Linkedin allows you to attach samples of your work to your Linkedin profile. You can use word documents, PDFs, scanned articles, links to websites, photographs: you can even make a video.
With a premium membership you can track who’s been looking at your profile, but prospective clients not connected to Linkedin won’t be able to view all your portfolio items
Jobsites like Upwork, Freelancer, Guru and Airtasker all have decent a portfolio section in their profile areas and allow you to include a variety of media. You’ll be able to create a professional presentation of your work but the only people who will see it are the users of each jobsite.
Other Portfolio sites
Here’s a list of online portfolio software and websites. I haven’t used any of these as I have my own writer website. (note: these are NOT affiliate links).
Revise and review your writing portfolio
Like any website and social media profile, your writing portfolio is a journey not a destination. It would never be considered finished. A portfolio should demonstrate to a client you are an active writer with a handle on current markets. So you don’t want your newest projects dated two and three years ago.
As you gain more writing gigs add them to your writing portfolio, you’ll be able to showcase a wider range of projects to prospective clients. Also the more you write the better you write, so don’t be afraid to delete out older works that are no longer the best examples of your writing.
A professional presentation
Finally, make sure your writing portfolio is completely free of errors and looks great. Rigorously proofread every sentence. Double-check the spelling of names and places. Ensure all images are a decent resolution, sized proportionally for the page and display nicely. Test all the links.
Your writing portfolio is an extension of your reputation as a writer and your writing business so take the time to keep it up-to-date, accurate and professional.
© 2018 Melinda J. Irvine