If you want to get high-paying writing jobs, you absolutely need a portfolio. After all, a portfolio is much more than a way to display your writing––it’s a way to gain social proof and show potential clients that you’re worth your salt.
However, if you’re a newer writer, you’ve probably struggled with building an eye-catching portfolio. If so, read on to learn exactly how to create an appealing portfolio from scratch (and how to avoid common portfolio mistakes).
Step 1: Assemble 2-3 portfolio-ready pieces
One of the biggest portfolio myths is that you need tons of articles. In reality, you can have an amazing portfolio with just a few pieces. And, if you’re new to writing, you probably only have a few bylines to your name anyway. That’s completely fine––use what you have.
However, make sure you follow the most important portfolio rule: The pieces you use in your portfolio must be published. Why? Because you’re proving to clients and editors that your writing is worth publishing. Anyone can upload their own writing to a blog or portfolio, but it takes a good writer to get published.
This means no self-published blog posts or old essays you have lying around. Instead, choose published articles that have bylines explicitly crediting you (i.e., no ghostwritten work). These articles are going to be representative of your niche(s) and writing style, so choose wisely.
Step 2: Choose your portfolio host
You’ll either need your own website, or a dedicated portfolio hosting service. If you’re just starting out, it typically makes more sense to use a portfolio host.
Here are a few of the most popular hosts:
Contently is what I use for my portfolio, but it’s worth noting that I only use the service for the portfolio feature. I don’t use their job marketplace. *
Step 3: Arrange your portfolio
Take some time to get comfortable with your portfolio hosting service. Then, go ahead and set up your portfolio by first focusing on the arrangement.
You want your portfolio to look nice, and be easy to navigate. If prospective clients can’t find their way around your portfolio, you might as well kiss the deal goodbye.
In particular, think about two things:
- The order of the articles
- The accompanying images (if your portfolio host supports images)
Usually, your most impressive article should go first. This could be an article that you feel exemplifies your style, or that’s been published on a popular website.
Choosing the right image is also huge. Having a big, juicy photo accompanying your article looks great to clients and editors. Often, you can grab an image that was published alongside your article. Otherwise, find a nice royalty free picture that ties into the theme of the article.
Step 4: Put on the finishing touches
Finally, finish off by including a good headshot, a short bio, and any social media links you have.
Your headshot should be clear, and high-quality. The more professional you look, the better. Don’t have a nice camera? Use your smartphone!
And here’s a pro tip: Make sure your bio is short and substantial. Don’t list a million accomplishments. Instead, focus on your recent achievements (such as publications), and include a brief remark that describes what you write about.
For reference, here’s the bio I use for my portfolio:
I’m the co-founder of Writing Launch, where we teach writers how to get paid and published. I also write about men’s hair and fashion, business, and marketing.
Follow these steps and you’ll have an amazing portfolio with which you’ll probably surprise yourself! Remember, your portfolio can often be what makes or breaks a job opportunity so make sure yours is as compelling as possible.
Ian Chandler is a freelance writer and Head Instructor at Writing Launch.
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